Every year the story of Jesus being born is celebrated as the holiday, Christmas. It tells about how he was born in a manger and how the three wise men each brought a gift for him while he was still in the manger. Books, cartoons, and movies all portray this story. However, this is not what really happened. To find out what really happened on the day of Jesus’ birth read “The Real Nativity Story.”
Now let’s find out what happened concerning the wise men, which is shown in Matthew 2.
The Short Version
When Yeshua (Jesus) was born a star shone brightly in the eastern sky. Some Magi saw it and began a journey westward to find the King of the Jews. They followed the star to Jerusalem and inquired of King Herod as to where they could find this new king. Then they continued following the star until it stopped over the home of Mary and Joseph. Seeing that they had finally arrived they rejoiced greatly. After they had entered the home, they saw Jesus, a young child. He was not a baby. He was with his mother, Mary, in a house. He was not in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. They fell down and worshipped him. After that they presented him with treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Who are the Magi?
The word Magi is plural for Magos, the Greek word used in Luke 2:1. Magos is “the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, and sorcerers.” 1
The Magi, being a group of men, most likely consisted of astrologers, priests, and the other job titles listed above. They were not kings as some supposed, but they did work for a king. Usually the king would call them all together to answer whatever question eluded him.
The Magi studied the stars, history, politics, religion, and everything else. This is why they are sometimes given the general title wise men. Also, this is why they knew what to look for in the sky and what the star meant.
The Bible doesn’t specify how many magi there actually were. Most people conclude three because three gifts were named.
How long did their travels take?
The moment Yeshua was born a star in the heavens announced his birth. Everyone who watches the skies and read about the prophecies of a Jewish King being born knew what to look for. When the Magi saw it they set out to honor the King that was just born. They probably walk some and rode camel back. Regardless to how they got there it took them about 1½ – 2 years.
They followed proper protocol and visited the current king, Herod, to inquire about the new king. King Herod had to ask the people himself about this new king. After finding out that prophecies spoke of this new king, he wanted to make sure this new king died. Therefore, there would be no problems between the Jewish and Roman people that he governed.
Why did they seek out Jesus?
The Bible says that they came to worship and honor the King of the Jews. However, we do not know if they were sent on assignment by their king or they went on their own. If a king sent them then it was likely that he was trying to gain favor with the new king by presenting gifts to him.
If the Magi went on their own, then maybe they saw this new king as the true king who was worthy of honor. The studied the ancient scriptures and knew a Savior was coming into the world. They were looking for the Savior and when they saw HIS star in the sky they followed it.
What is the significance of their worship?
It’s amazing that when the King of Kings was born the first people to come and worship him were shepherds of Israel. They held no great status. They did what every shepherd did – kept watch over their flocks, cared for them, protected them and directed them. And if need be, they would die for them.
I believe this first worship signified acknowledgement from his own people that he was the Messiah that Israel was looking for. John 10:14 says, “I am the good shepherd and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” It is only appropriate that his own worship him first.
I also believe that having shepherds to be the first to worship him signified his true role in the earth. He was sent here to gather his sheep back to the Father. His response to his mission was, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) He did what was necessary to redeem what the Father had given him as any good shepherd would do.
The second group of people to worship Yeshua was the Magi from another kingdom. This showed us that he not only had people in Israel, but all over the world. They were in other countries, under other kings, and they had to be redeemed also. He tells us in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
The Magi’s worship represented everyone else who was not of the first fold, the Jewish kingdom. Thus, now it makes sense why the Magi were never at his birth. They could not worship him first because Jesus came to his own people first. Also, it shows us that there was a gap in time before they actually got to worship him. Just like when Jesus started to minister. He went to the house of Israel first. They had a time period with him before his message went worldwide.
So the order is Israel first, the world second. Let’s try to remember this the next time we tell the story of Jesus’ birth.
What’s the significance of the gifts?
In follow up posts, we will talk about why the gifts they bought were significant and why telling the real story matters. I’m doing it this way because there is much to write about on these topics, thus they deserve their own posts. Until then study the scriptures and ask God to give you understanding.
Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
Thank you for your word and everything you have given us. Help us to tell the whole truth concerning your word.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.
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, 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.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 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.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘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.’ ”
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 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.”
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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 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. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. (Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV)
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16 NKJV)