Matthew 2:1–12 (NKJV)
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, 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 inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”
The nativity story of Jesus Christ is one replete with prophetic fulfillment. Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus was a Nazarene. Shepherds would worship Him. On and on it goes. In this passage, we read the story of the wise men visiting Jesus. It is presumed that this part of the nativity may have happened long after Jesus’ birth, perhaps even two years. The wise men traveled from afar, and they did follow a star, perhaps being astronomers as well. This would explain why Herod would have had all Jewish children from 2 years old and under killed after speaking to the wise men. Bethlehem was honored to have been the place where Jesus was born. Although small, the city now carries weight and significance in the salvation history of the Bible. It was where everything changed physically. Bethlehem was not the least among Judah any longer, for the ruler of the world was born there.
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen 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 exceedingly great joy.
11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Herod’s inquiry into this phenomenon (the star and the trek of the wise men) was handled with intrigue and manipulation. He questioned his own astronomers and wise men, then had the three wise men on their way to Jesus questioned, hoping to find out where the king would be born so he could kill his competition. The wise men went on their journey, finding Jesus and worshipping Him, bringing Him gifts. The gifts have been said to represent gifts fitting for Christ’s various roles as He walked upon the earth. The gold was an extravagant gift, fit for a king. The frankincense was a gift to God, a sweet-smelling aroma of worship. The myrrh was an anointing oil, symbolizing His purpose as a sacrificial substitute, destined to die for His people. These gifts were symbolically a microcosm of Jesus purpose during His time among men: Kingly leadership, Godly work and redemption, substitutionary sacrifice.
An interesting twist here is that although Herod had detained the wise men and had sought all types of counsel and investigated the situation fully, he could not thwart the work of God. God warned the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod and report the Christ-child’s whereabouts to him. Instead, they went home by a different route, and once again God’s will would be accomplished. You cannot stop the work of God by human means. You cannot keep God from fulfilling His purpose. Joy came to the wise men, and joy comes into our lives today. They saw a star that led them to the baby Jesus. We see that star today through the work of the Holy Spirit. God will not be stopped. God is sovereign. God is mighty. God is God. Thanks be to God for His redemptive work in the history of mankind!