Scripture teaches that when Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem inquiring the whereabouts of the one born King of the Jews. They had seen His star in the east and were come to worship Him (Matthew 2:1-12). These wise men, called magoi in the originals, were men of renown. They were men of great intelligence and influence. They had both prestige and power. They were intellectuals and rulers; thus they are referred to as “wise men” and also as “kings.”
They were from the east, from Persia. Yet, they knew about the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth, most assuredly from studying the writings of Daniel, who himself was a wise man in both the Babylonian and Persian empires. His influence as a godly man spread through the generations of his successors. The wise men in our text traveled the several hundred-mile journey to coronate the newborn King. We do not know for certain how many wise men traveled to Palestine at the birth of Christ, but tradition supports three. What we do know is that they offered three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold was a gift associated with royalty; thus they recognized Jesus as King. Frankincense was an ointment used as incense offered to deity. They knew the Christ child was God. They also gave a gift of myrrh, an embalming agent used in burial. Hence, the humanity of Christ was in view and that He would die for the sins of the world. These wise men had remarkable understanding of the nature and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and offered to Him gifts consistent with who He is and what He would do.
The Bible says that they worshipped Him. Here they are kings themselves, yet they recognized the King of kings; and in humility and reverence, they gave the Lord Jesus the honor and glory that He deserves. They understood who the Christ-child was, made great effort to be where His earthly presence was, and then worshipped Him in humility and reverence, offering Him gifts (sacrifices) consistent with His nature.
What a prescription for us today! However, most today care nothing for the Christ born 2,000 years ago. Their interest is not in honoring Him, but in denying His Lordship. Worshipping Him where His special presence is (in church) is of no desire to them. When they do, the so-called worship is casual and sensual, not at all consistent with His holy, righteous, exalted nature.
Why did the wise men get it right? Because they were looking at Scripture, framing their understanding of God and their subsequent worship from holy writ. Over 30 years later, Jesus said in John 4:23-24 that the Father is seeking for true worshippers. “And they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” True worship, worship that the Father accepts, is sincere and it is Scriptural. If one or both aspects are missing, the worship does not count. Sadly, most people today are not concerned if their worship lines up with the Bible. The standard has become what they like and what they want.
The wise men were concerned with true worship, and we know this because of what they did. Jesus Christ received glory and honor from these wise men, something Mary and Joseph would have recognized and agreed with. Our obligation is the same today: recognize Christ correctly and worship Him Scripturally.