Of all the characters in the Christmas story, the wise men are the most enigmatic. We know very little about them. They appear out of nowhere from an unnamed country. Because of their aristocratic background, sometimes pictured by their long-flowing robes and ornate crowns, they seem as out of place in the nativity scene as a tuxedo at a summer cook-out. Yet it is their search for Christ and their response when they found him that reveal to us the essence of true wisdom.

The "magi" first appeared in the seventh century B.C. in the Median Empire, which is Iran today. 
Because of their knowledge of astronomy, agriculture, mathematics, and history, they became the most influential advisors in their part of the world. From history we learn that no one could ever become a king in Persia without having mastered the teachings of the magi and having been crowned by them. They were the kingmakers of the day, which explains Herod's reaction to their arrival.

When they arrived, these men went around everywhere asking "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2) We don't know exactly how they knew of the birth of Christ, but their question indicates that God had given them a star as a guide to lead them to Bethlehem.

Contrary to what tradition has led us to believe, these magi did not come quietly on the backs of camels into Jerusalem. As nobles from another country they probably entered the city riding powerful Arabian horses or Persian steeds. As one popular Bible teacher notes, they also probably had a small army of soldiers and servants with them, as well, since they were considered royalty. And there is no reason to think there were only three of them, even though only three gifts are mentioned.

No wonder the arrival of this group caused Herod and the Israelites to be troubled. After all, the magi were king-makers, and when they came asking about the new king of the Jews, Herod felt threatened. After all, that had been his job title, conferred by Caesar Augustus.

They continued to follow the star until they found the Lord Jesus (Matthew 2:9). Notice their response in Matthew 2:10: “And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” As one commentator notes, Matthew is at a loss for words to describe the excitement of the magi when they discovered Christ, so he just piles superlative upon superlative.

What does this account tell us about the nature of true wisdom? 

1. They were wise enough to search for the King.

How did the magi first learn of the true God and of the Old Testament Scriptures that foretold His coming? As we’ve seen, the magi were advisers to the rulers of Babylon, and later Medo-Persia. As such, they were in existence in Babylon when Daniel and the other Jewish exiles were captured and brought to Babylon. You may recall that when King Nebuchadnezzar had that dream that the magi could not interpret, he was so angry he was going to kill the magi.

But Daniel, whom God gave the ability to interpret the dream, begged the king not to kill the magi. As such, Daniel became their hero and no doubt used his influence to teach them the truths of God's word about the coming Messiah.

Thus, there were some magi who had knowledge of the coming Messiah. But these who came to Bethlehem had the wisdom to understand that if what the Scriptures said was true, if there really was a Savior, then it only made sense that they should seek Him personally. So laying aside their tradition, their nationalism, their native religion, and their prejudices, they set out to find the truth.

Isn't that the essence of wisdom—searching for the truth? And any honest search for the truth—the real meaning of your existence and being—will always lead you to Jesus Christ. True wisdom will always lead you to the true God who has revealed Himself in the Jesus of the Bible.

2. They were wise enough to worship the King.

When the wise men found Jesus, Matthew does not say that the magi studied Him, debated about Him, or postponed deciding what to do about Him until a more convenient time. The Bible says they fell down and worshipped Him.

That is the only rational response. If Jesus is who God says He is, our Savior as well as our King, then we owe our unconditional allegiance to Him and to His commands. Our proper position is on our face before Him.

What was true two thousand years ago is still true today. Wise men still seek Him, and when they find Him, they worship Him.

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