The Wise Men from the East
(1) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (2) Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (3) When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (4) And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. (5) And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, (6) And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (7) Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. (8) And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. (9) When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. (11) And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (12) And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (13) And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. (14) When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: (15) And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (16) Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
The word "Magic" was derived from the Persian word "mag" meaning "a priest." The Persian priests were "wonder-workers or magicians." The latter word being derived from the word "Magi" the name of the hereditary caste of priests of ancient Persia and Medea. This Magian order, or esoteric cult of the Zoroastrian priesthood, represented the centre of Ancient Occultism at that period of the world’s history, and their influence was felt in all parts of the world, and continues down to this time. So highly were its members respected and considered that the term "Wise men" and "Magi" were synonymous. The "Wise Men" mentioned as appearing at the birth of Christ (Gospel of Matthew chapter two) were known as the Magi or "wise men from the East.
From the word "Magi" came the term "magic" which Webster has defined as follows: "The hidden wisdom supposed to be possed by the Magi; relating to the occult powers of nature; mastery of secret forces in nature; having extraordinary properties; seeming requiring more than human power, etc."
And these extraordinary men from the East, men who were feared and respected, came to Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king. Who are these men?
These were the wise men from the East. Matthew is making us to take notice of this, when he says: "behold" in Matthew 2:1
These men were crying out aloud as they marched into Herod’s court: "Where is He – who is born King of the Jews. Who are these men?
These men I believe came from those were sent away from Abraham. (Abraham’s other sons) as we find this in Genesis 25:1-6
(1) Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. (2) And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. (3) And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. (4) And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. (5) And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. (6) But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
Abraham sends his other sons away from Isaac, the one whom he loves the most but when Jesus God’s only begotten Son was born, He calls those who were sent away to the East by Abraham to come and worship His Son. God did not forget the other sons of Abraham. Abraham gave gifts to his other sons but when Jesus was born, they came from the East, wise men, bringing with them gifts.
"From very early times men have seen a peculiar fitness in the gifts the wise men brought. They have seen in each gift something which specially matched some characteristic of Jesus and his work.
(i) Gold is the gift for a king. Seneca tells us that in Parthia it was the custom that no one could ever approach the king without a gift. And gold, the king of metals, is the fit gift for a king of men.
So then Jesus was "the Man born to be King." But he was to reign, not by force, but by love; and he was to rule over men’s hearts, not from a throne, but from a Cross. We do well to remember that Jesus Christ is King. We can never meet Jesus on an equality. We must always meet him on terms of complete submission. Nelson, the great admiral, always treated his vanquished opponent?, with the greatest kindness and courtesy. After one of his naval victories, the defeated admiral was brought aboard Nelson’s flagship and on to Nelson’s quarter-deck. Knowing Nelson’s reputation for courtesy, and thinking to trade upon it, he advanced across the quarter-deck with hand outstretched as if ne was
advancing to shake hands with an equal. Nelson’s hand remained by hi.% side. "Your sword first," he said, "and then your hand." Before we must be friends with Christ, we must submit to Christ.
(ii) Frankincense is the gift for a priest. It was in the Temple worship and at the Temple sacrifices that the sweet perfume of frankincense was used. The function of a priest is to open the way to God for men. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest is the man who builds a bridge between men and God.
That is what Jesus did. He opened the way to God; he made it possible for men to enter into the very presence of God.
(iii) Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead.
Jesus came into the world to die. Holman Hunt has a famous picture of Jesus. It shows Jesus at the door of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He is still only a boy and has come to the door to stretch his limbs which had grown cramped over the bench. He stands there in the doorway with arms outstretched, and behind him, on the wall, the setting sun throws his shadow, and it is the shadow of a cross. In the background there stands Mary, and as she sees that shadow there is the fear of coming tragedy in her eyes.
Jesus came into the world to live for men, and, in the end, to die for men. He came to give for men his life and his death.
Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for one who was to die. These were the gifts of the wise men, and, even at the cradle of Christ, they foretold that he was to be the true King, the perfect High Priest, and in the end the supreme Saviour of men." Barclay’s Daily Study Commentary