Matthew 2 v 1-12
The Magi, the ‘wise men’ who bowed to the infant Christ were the ‘select committee’ of academic heavyweights of their day. I wondered if many highly qualified people still revered Jesus today so I Googled ‘scientists who are Christian’ and discovered a long and prestigious list! Below are just three examples.
I’m persuaded that we should not fear study or learning for the more we understand the working of the universe the more reverence we can gain for its Creator. More, we should be sceptical of those who say science has somehow disproved the Bible and faith. The professors here would disagree!
We can’t all be scientists. We don’t have to be. Testimony like this should make Christians unashamed of our faith, and the Saviour worshipped in Bethlehem by scholars like these.
"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.’
So wrote Albert Einstein, widely regarded as a great genius from the 20th century. Einstein was not a conventionally religious man, but he was too wise to be an atheist.
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, puffing us up with pride in ourselves. Wisdom brings us back to humility and a willingness to acknowledge those higher and greater than ourselves.
Wise men bowed down and worshipped the infant Jesus.
Nowadays the world is flooded with information. It’s quite easy to be knowledgeable about many things. Your average ten year old can Google the distance to the stars with one swipe of their phone or tablet, but as a race are we humans any more wise? Are we any better as people than those in past ages?
We can send a spaceship to Mars and dream of finding life there but refuse to acknowledge or protect a clearly living child in the womb. We knowingly kill unborn children. We enslave young people in the sex industry. We ridicule our Maker and change His laws. We profess ourselves to be wise but frequently behave as immoral fools!
And we have the brass neck to celebrate human pride. Have we forgotten that pride was the first sin of Lucifer the devil, leading to his downfall and expulsion from heaven?
I say again, wise men bowed down and worshipped Jesus.
‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ wrote Solomon in the introduction to his collection of Proverbs. We are beginners on the path of wisdom when we humble ourselves before God and put our trust in the Saviour he has given.
Like the ‘wise men’ in Matthew 2.
Who were these ‘magi’?
It makes sense for a king or queen, a president or prime minister to employ trained and qualified people to give advice for governing. As early as in the book of Genesis we read that Egypt’s Pharaoah called for his ‘magicians and wise men’ to help him interpret a disturbing dream. Magi would often specialise in astrology and understanding omens.
Six centuries BC we read that Jerusalem was overrun by the Babylonians and many of her young people taken captive and made to serve their king Nebuchadnezzar. The king invested significantly in their education and training so that he would have top notch advisors. These were the scientists and experts, the ‘select committee’ of their time. They studied to learn all there was to know.
Daniel, a young exile from Jerusalem so excelled among his peers that he was made the leader of the magi in this huge ancient empire. It was a pagan culture, yet such was Daniel’s godly influence and legacy there that all these generations later magi in the east (that’s where Babylon is) looked to the heavens and perceived Daniel’s God was moving, and came to Jerusalem seeking.
Matthew 2 is actually a profound fulfilment of Isaiah 60.
Isaiah predicted that the foreignors who had destroyed Jerusalem and robbed the Temple of its treasures would one day restore Israel and what do we see? Royal advisors from the region of Babylon bringing costly gifts to Jerusalem in homage to the new king promised by God. A Saviour King, not just of the jews, but for all races and nationalities.
These highly qualified and high-ranking royal advisors bowed down and worshipped Jesus.
Let’s consider three things about this.
Firstly here was a fitting tribute.
Consider the gifts they presented. There was gold fit for a king, and Jesus is later described as ‘king of kings and lord of lords’. Daniel predicted his kingdom would never end and neither it has. Jesus Himself would later commission His followers saying ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ Even as some in western countries try to renounce their Christian foundation His kingdom continues to spread rapidly elsewhere. Jesus promised, ‘This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations’ before the end comes.
The magi brought frankincense. Incense is burned in various religions, the sweet smelling smoke taken to symbolise prayer rising to God. How fitting a gift for the One in Whose name we offer our prayers and requests to God! The wise and learned bow before the Fount of all Knowledge, the creatures before their Creator, limited human beings before the infinite God!
They also brought myrrh, a spice used in embalming the dead. With uncanny insight, they bring a gift suggestive of how this divine King will establish His eternal kingdom. As Priest, Jesus would bring God to people and people to God. He would do so through the sacrifice of His own life on the cross. Wise people bow in penitent faith before the One on Whom our life and salvation depend!
The magi brought fitting tribute to Jesus, but let’s observe here secondly a bitter irony. The royal advisors in Jerusalem knew these prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah. They were able to tell the king where the Christ would be born. Yet we don’t find any of them coming seeking or bending their knee to their Saviour King. For now they ignored Him, later they would contrive to have Him silenced. King Herod sunk to multiple infanticide to try and eliminate Him.
Those who should know best, sometimes behave the worst, a bitter irony.
Thirdly and finally let’s consider simply our current challenge. Wise men bowed and worshipped Jesus then and have done through the ages. What will we do?
The times are no less challenging, the needs of the world no less great. Yet still there remains no greater Saviour or Governor of human hearts and society than the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.
What will we do? Make excuses based on our limited knowledge and perspective? Or humbly trust the One Who knows all and gave all that we might joyfully share it all with Him?
I think we know what advice the wise men would give.