Theme: What the Wise Men Learned
In this week’s lessons, we focus on the wise men’s route back home, and look at what that means for us today.
Scripture: Matthew 2:12
The story doesn’t tell us a great deal about the change that must have taken place in them. The story breaks off, and we’re not told what they did differently once they got back to their own country or even what they talked about on the way. God, who revealed the birth of Christ to them by a star, and then later spoke to them directly in a vision or a dream, no doubt gave them enough illumination to understand that the one whom they had seen and worshiped was indeed God’s Son, the Savior of the world.
If that’s not the case, we have to imagine that God simply brought these wise men from a distant country to make the point that one day the gospel would go to the Gentiles and that he did it entirely apart from any concern for them as individuals. But I don’t believe that this was done apart from God’s work of grace in the lives of these men. Undoubtedly, they were changed as a result of all these things, even though we are not sure how much they understood.
In spite of some uncertainty about how they were changed, there are details we do know. Certainly, they learned something about the kind of king they had come to see. I think there’s no doubt at all that they came to find a political king. They had seen this star in the heavens, which signified a birth of somebody important in the land of Judea. And they traveled there to find this king, whom they would not have thought for a minute would be of humble birth.
They expected to find this new king in the palace of the old king. The very fact that they came to the capital city of Jerusalem indicates this. Surely, they expected to find him when they asked where this king of the Jews had been born. Much to their surprise, nobody knew anything about it. Eventually, news of all this got to the palace of Herod, who then sent for the wise men. At this point, they must have said to themselves that now they would find out where this king is because if anyone knows, it’s King Herod. When they got there, they found out that Herod didn’t know either, and so he sent for the chief priests and scribes to get the answer from them as to where the Messiah should be born. It was not in Jerusalem, where one would expect a political king to be born, but in Bethlehem, as the prophet Micah had foretold.
Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem to see what they could find out, but he didn’t go. Nor did the scribes and the chief priests go. And when the wise men went, what they found was not a political king, but a spiritual one, the same king who would say years later to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
I am sure the wise men learned something from this encounter with Herod. They learned that God does not evaluate the affairs of this world as we do. The king of the Jews was not found in the palace with great pomp and celebration, but in a humble abode. In addition, the wise men learned something about taking guidance from this world’s leaders. They had gone to Jerusalem and made inquiries. But Herod didn’t know, nor were the religious leaders even interested in what the wise men had to say. Later, the wise men even discovered that there was hatred on the part of Herod toward this king.
So they experienced some important changes. They expected a political king, but found a spiritual king born in humble surroundings. They expected information from the mighty of this world, but they received it from the Scriptures, as well as from a dream, directing them how to go home. They must have had a different view of this world as a result, and a much higher and exalted conception of our God.
From the lesson, how did the wise men’s view of Jesus’ kingship change?
What strikes us about Herod’s and the religious leaders’ reactions toward the message from the wise men?
Reflection: What tends to characterize the attitude of the rich and powerful toward Christianity?