The Apostle Matthew recorded the visit of the “wise men.” (Matthew 2) Tradition suggests that there were three wise men. Scholars are not certain of the number. It is suggested that there were more than three. The original word from which English translations of the Bible translate “wise men” is the word magi (magoi in Greek). The number three is likely assumed because three royal gifts were listed as being given to the Christ Child and Mary. “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
This narrative creates a great scene. It is usually part of depictions of the Christmas Story. Much has been written on the three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus. Yet the main point of this episode in the life of Jesus is God’s will to manifest the Savior to gentiles. It is a foreshadowing of the universal call of the gospel to all men not only those of Israel.
These wise men traveled from the east. They were possibly from ancient Babylon or even further east. They may have been court advisers to kings who “read” the stars. God led these men to the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Pictures often show the wise men kneeling before the baby Jesus. But, it was more likely that they arrived during the time that Jesus was a toddler. Herod set out to destroy Jesus by killing all the male children up to two years old. He based his assumption on the timing of the visit of the magi.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord and they were far from the reach of Herod. This is one of many revelations from God that His plan of redemption cannot be thwarted by man.
The visit of these men holds an important place in God’s plan of redemption as it demonstrates what Isaiah prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. In addition, Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16)
The visit of the wise men has been viewed in the church as so significant that a special feast day was established. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the church every January 6th. The word “epiphany” means manifestation. All who are in Christ know that God is not a respecter of nationality or social status. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Why is this divine manifestation so important? It is important because of who was manifested! Jesus Christ is the only Savior. He is the God-Man. He lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. God made Him known.
John’s Gospel says that the One who made all things came into the world and the world did not know Him. (John 1:10)
After all the presents have been opened and family dinners have been enjoyed, receiving the truth of Jesus Christ is crucial. John wrote, “to all who received him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
The grace and mercy of God are so great that He chose to make known the truth to those whom He calls. None of us is capable of seeing the truth of Jesus on our own. We all depend upon God’s grace.
My prayer is that the word of Christ will pierce your heart and you may know the one who has the words of eternal life even Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.