What Made the Wise Men Wise?


Who were the wise men in the Christmas story? The answer is we don’t know. We do know that the Bible calls them “magi.” Magi were kind of a combination of philosopher, scientist and astronomer. They were quite wealthy. They were well educated. That’s really about all we know about them.  

Where did they come from? We don’t know. The Bible says they came a long way from the east. Maybe they came from Persia. They could have come from India. They could have come from China. We don’t know. We just know that these were very educated and wealthy people, and they made a very long trip to Jerusalem from the east.

How many of the wise men were there? Everybody always says three.  But that’s not what the bible says. The bible doesn’t even say how many wise men there were. There could have been a dozen. There could have been eight, there could have been ten, there could have been twenty.  They could have had a whole caravan of wise men. The only reason people think three is because the Bible mentions three gifts that they brought gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The story of the wise men is found in the book of Matthew

Matthew 2:1a Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea during the time that Herod was king. Herod was not really the true king of Israel. He was appointed by the Roman Caesar, and everybody hated his guts. He was a puppet king. Herod was scared to death that his throne would be overthrown. He was so paranoid about this he had all of his own kids killed, he had his wife killed, he had other relatives killed. He wouldn’t let anybody get close enough to the throne, because he was afraid he would be overthrown. So when he hears about a king of the Jews being born that’s going to scare him.  

Matt 2:1b-2a About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  

There’s only one way they could know this. They had to be students of the Bible. They had the Old Testament, and they were studying the prophecies. They obviously knew this even though they weren’t Jewish.

Matt 2:2b We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

For thousands of years, whether on land or on sea, travelers have used the stars to chart their path.

Matt 2:3-7 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’” Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

Yeah right! He wants to kill this baby. He wants to kill off any competition.  In fact he did send his legions to Bethlehem and they killed every baby boy under the age of two. By the time Herod did this, Joseph had been warned in a dream by God and he and Mary and the baby Jesus had escaped and had gone down into Egypt. So Jesus actually lived in Egypt for a while as a baby or young boy.

Matt 2:9-11 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

Notice they didn’t worship Mary. They worshipped him. “They came to the house.” I want you to notice that Jesus is not in the stable any more. The baby has been moved to a house. I know your entire life in every nativity scene, every manger scene that you’ve seen, it’s got Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the cows and the sheep and the donkey and the shepherds and the wise men over here. The only problem is it didn’t happen that way. The shepherds and the wise men never met because the wise men did not come to the stable. They came a few days later or weeks later maybe even months later. Up to 2 years later, in fact. By this time Joseph has moved Mary and the baby to a house. They’re no longer in the stables.  

Matt 2:11b they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  

What made the wise men wise?  

It’s important for us to understand what made the wise men wise. The wise men were wise because they did five things. Today we will cover the first two.


1. They were seekers of the TRUTH.

Wise people seek the truth. They’re not happy with guesses. They’re not happy with speculation. They want to know, “What’s the truth? What’s the truth about life? What’s the truth about me? What’s the truth about God?”  

Wise men and wise women seek the truth.

Matt 2:2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  

They were seeking Jesus. Wise men still seek Jesus today. Wise women still seek Jesus today. There are two kinds of people in life when it comes to truth. There are speculators and there are seekers. Speculators just guess about the truth. They wonder, they conjecture, they guess. They make assumptions. They say, “I think God is like… I think God is like…” Or they’ll say, “I like to think of God as…”

I’m sorry but that really makes no sense at all. Because how we think of God doesn’t really matter. What matters is the truth.

Jer 29:13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

If we are genuinely serious about knowing the truth, we can’t miss it.  Because God’s not going to let us miss it. If you don’t have prejudices in your mind, but you are genuinely serious about seeking the truth, I’m absolutely confident you’re going to come to it, because God loves seekers. These wise men were wise because they sought the truth but more than that…

2. They were willing to go to ANY LENGTHS to find it.

That’s wise. These guys are willing to go to any length to find the truth.  

Matt 2:1 About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem

So these guys had traveled thousands of miles at great expense. It cost them a lot of money. They’re making a four to five month trip across the scorching hot desert because these guys are serious about seeking God. That’s wise.


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