THE MAGI VISIT JESUS
Philippians 2:10, ESV
...so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth...
MATTHEW 2:1-2, NIrV
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus’ birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose. Now we have come to worship him.”
The true tale of the wise men (also called the “magi”) is often told around Christmas. But actually, these men were nowhere near the manger the night Jesus was born! They were back in their home country, hundreds of miles away. On Jesus’ birthday, the magi were probably staring up at the heavens. Why? Because they believed they could learn things about the future by tracking the stars in the sky. On the night Jesus was born, they saw a wandering star they’d never seen before! It was so incredible, they decided to follow it! And that Christmas star led them straight to the city of Jerusalem.
+ What city did the wise men travel to? (vs. 1)
+ After seeing the star, what did the wise men think had happened? (vs. 2)
MATTHEW 2:3-6, NIrV
3 When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. 4 So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Messiah was going to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied. “This is what the prophet has written. He said,
6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah.
A ruler will come out of you.
He will rule my people Israel like a shepherd.’ ” (Micah 5:2)
The king of the Jews (God’s chosen people) was nicknamed “Herod the Great.” But a better name for him would have been “Herod the Horrible.” Whenever someone made him mad, he had them killed, including his own wife and several of his sons! Herod certainly wasn’t thrilled to hear the wise men say, “A new king of the Jews has been born!” So he gathered his biggest Bible brains to tell him where this special child was supposed to be born. They found the answer in the Bible book of Micah. There, the prophet wrote that this special ruler would be born in the small city of Bethlehem.
+ Herod and the wise men didn’t know it at this point in the story, but what was the name of the child who was born to be the Christ, the king of God’s people?
+ Why would Herod not be thrilled to hear that a “king of the Jews” had been born?
MATTHEW 2:7-8, NIrV
7 Then Herod secretly called for the Wise Men. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report it to me. Then I can go and worship him too.”
Herod the Not-So-Great didn’t like the idea of some baby being born to take away his throne. So he crafted a secret plan to eliminate his competition. His evil idea? To get these star-watching wise guys to lead him straight to the child! He asked them, “When exactly did you first see this special star in the sky?” By counting the days from the star’s appearance, he could calculate exactly how old this mystery child was. He sent the wise men off to search for this kid-king, saying “When you find him, let me know, so I can worship him too!” As you can probably guess, this was a big fat lie!
+ Why did Herod ask the wise men about when the star first appeared in the sky?
+ If Herod didn’t want to worship this child, what do you think he really planned to do?
MATTHEW 2:9-12, NIRV
9 After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.
God made it pretty easy for the wise men to locate the child they were looking for. His house was the one with a special star shining above it! Inside, they found Mary and her little boy Jesus. The wise men gave the toddler expensive gifts of glittering gold and sweet-smelling spices. Their presents weren’t the kind of fun toys you’d buy for a kid’s birthday – they were the type of treasures you give to a king! How incredible this must have been for Mary to see: a surprise group of travelers from a faraway land, bowing down to worship a child who was probably still learning how to stand up!
+ Why didn’t the wise men tell Herod that they found the child they were looking for? (vs. 12)
Fun Fact! The Bible doesn’t tell us how many wise men/magi visited Jesus. The reason many people call them “the three wise men” is because they brought three gifts to Jesus. All we know for sure is that there was more than one.
MATTHEW 2:13-15, NIRV
13 When the Wise Men had left, Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you to come back. Herod is going to search for the child. He wants to kill him.”
14 So Joseph got up. During the night, he left for Egypt with the child and his mother Mary. 15 They stayed there until King Herod died. So the words the Lord had spoken through the prophet came true. He had said, “I brought my son out of Egypt.”
There was no way King Herod was going to let his throne be taken away by some pipsqueak kid born in Bethlehem! The second the wise men reported back with the location of the child, he would send his soldiers to wipe this brand-new “king of the Jews” off the face of the planet! But Herod’s evil plans were no match for God. Using dreams, God sent the wise men safely on their way back home. And he hurried Joseph, Mary, and Jesus off to hide out from Herod the Horrible in the land of Egypt. Herod’s evil plans to kill Jesus were powerless against God’s plan to save us from our sins!
+ If the angel hadn’t warned Joseph, what could have happened to Jesus?
+ How long were Joseph and Mary supposed to hide in Egypt? (vs. 13 and 15)
MATTHEW 2:19-23, NIRV
19 After Herod died, Joseph had a dream while he was still in Egypt. In the dream an angel of the Lord appeared to him. 20 The angel said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother. Go to the land of Israel. The people who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 So Joseph got up. He took the child and his mother Mary back to the land of Israel. 22 But then he heard that Archelaus was king of Judea. Archelaus was ruling in place of his father Herod. This made Joseph afraid to go there. Joseph had been warned in a dream. So he went back to the land of Galilee instead. 23 There he lived in a town called Nazareth. So what the prophets had said about Jesus came true. They had said that he would be called a Nazarene.
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how long Joseph, Mary, and Jesus spent hiding in the land of Egypt. It could have been anywhere from a few months to a few years. They probably used the wise men’s gift of gold or sold some of the frankincense and myrrh to pay for food and shelter as they waited in the land of the pyramids. When King Herod the Horrible finally died, they knew it was time to come out of hiding.
But there was still a problem. Herod the Horrible had been replaced by one of his sons. And this guy was just as terrible a person as his old man had been! Joseph didn’t feel safe heading back to Bethlehem, where they stayed when Jesus was born, or to the big city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. These places were just too close to King Archelaus the Just-As-Bad-As-His-Dad! So, Joseph chose to bring his little family all the way from Egypt to the super-small town of Nazareth.
Nazareth was an itty-bitty, unimpressive place. It was the type of town that people made fun of. One of Jesus’ own disciples once said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from that place?” Don’t believe me? Check out John 1:46! Still, Nazareth was a perfect spot to hide away from the evil eyes of a murderous king!
If you told me, “God’s going to send a special savior to rescue the world from sin,” here’s how I think it would happen: God would float down from the clouds surrounded in light. All around him would be an army of angels. Trumpets would blast. Lightning would flash. Thunder would crash. Then, God would sit down on his throne as king of the earth while his angelic soldiers wiped all the bad guys off the face of the planet!
As impressive as my plan sounds, that’s not the way it really happened. Instead, God sent the special savior of the world to our planet as a tiny, helpless baby. Jesus had to learn how to walk, learn how to talk, and, yes, even learn how to go to the potty! And he grew up walking the streets of a tiny, good-for-nothin’ kind of town.
But the wise men understood that things aren’t always what they seem. Maybe the little guy they bowed before was drooling. Maybe the child they worshiped fell on his bottom as he toddled around. But they were certain that what God had shown them was true: this cute little dude was the Christ, the long-promised Savior from God. He’d figure out walking and talking and, one day, he’d save the whole world!
Jesus didn’t come to earth in blazing lighting and rumbling thunder to destroy all the bad guys and sit on his throne as king of the world. He came as an ordinary man in an ordinary town. And instead of coming to kill all the bad guys, he came to die to save all those bad guys (that includes sinners like you and me!)
+ Why did Joseph choose to go to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem or Jerusalem? (vs. 22)
+ Though he grew up like an ordinary child, Jesus was far from ordinary! Who was his father?