When I consider what we hear about the wise men, the magi, following the star, it seems puzzling to me that if the star were so evident why did Herod ask when the star appears. Was it not seen by the naked eye to other people?
Is it possible the Lord allowed a star to be seen by only the wise men possibly via an astronomical tool known to them and not others?
Or was “the star” a sign in the heavens of the miraculous sort for their eyes alone by God’s design?
What Matthew tells us is that they left Herod and the star they had seen went before them and they followed it. This is certainly significant curiosity or interest in this sign from heaven to wise men who do not appear to have been Jews. Even so, they may have known the sign was of importance or some aspect of ancient prophecy spoke of such a sign.
The sign appears to have led them to Bethlehem and now is leading them again. Their commitment to follow where it leads is evident.
How committed am I to follow where He leads? How committed are you?
If these wise men were astronomers, they would be aware of the constellations, the galaxies, to the extent their instruments allowed them to see.
What made this sign significant enough for them to follow it from the east?
What a testimony of who this was! Jesus was born not only in this small town of Bethlehem in seeming oblivion, greeted by lowly shepherds, but his birth brought men from other parts of the world to honor Him and acknowledge the significance of His birth who were not Israelites.
If the sign in the heavens had been visible to just anyone, certainly they would not have come alone, but as with the shepherds, God had designed and set in place those who would first see Him and then tell the news both near and far. God knew Herod was cunning, a tyrant, and the babe born in the manger needed protection from his potential schemes and designs.
But follow the star wherever it would lead them, they did. And Matthew tells us the sign led them to where it “rested” over the place where the child was. This passage does not say He was a baby, but a child. It leaves me wondering as I move on in the passage what the timeline was between the manger scene and this one because I read the wise men went into the house where they saw the child and Mary.
Carefully reading this tells me there is no reference to three wise men or even camels. Scenes depicted on cards, in plays, and in paintings of three wise men riding on three camels that arrive at the stable sometime after the shepherds have gone doesn’t exist in the text. Perhaps these were efforts of men to tie the story together between Luke and Matthew’s accounts.
The sign from God clearly spoke to the magi for when they went into the house where the child was, scripture tells us they fell down and worshipped Him. They also brought Him gifts worthy of a king, standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world.
Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.
What do many suggest about the gifts presented?
Gold was a precious metal in those days even as it is now and symbolically it represented kingship. Frankincense was a perfume or incense, which served as a symbol of his priestly role. Myrrh was anointing oil and symbolically prefigured his death and embalming.
Some others wonder if the gifts were also a bit more practical since researchers have learned that frankincense has an active ingredient that inhibits inflammation and was used as an herbal remedy in communities of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where the trees grow that produce this aromatic resin.
The detail and symbolism God set in motion evidenced from the angel’s visit of Mary onward in conjunction with Old Testament history causes me to choose and believe the symbolical representations of the gifts.
After the gifts were presented and worship had ensued, the wise men went on their way. But it was not back to Herod to tell him they had found the child. A dream warned them of Herod and they returned to their own country.
Joseph also had a dream and was warned to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt and remain there until they were told to return home, By this time I would guess Herod had figured out the wise men were long gone so in his rage, he sent his henchmen to kill all male children two years old and under.
So I come to the end of the beginning of the Christmas message given first to Mary and Joseph, then lowly shepherds, and then wise men.
But the very best news of all is those who were entrusted with the message of the gospel did prevail and brought it to me and also to you so we might also with them more than two thousand years later glorify the King of kings and Lord of lords.