This Day In History, January 6: The Wise Men

by Seth Udinski
This Day In History: The Wise Men

Seth Udinski, FISM News

 

This day in history marks the traditional date of the discovery of baby Jesus by the Wise Men.  The historical date of this biblical account is unknown but, since the early church, January 6 has been the day to commemorate their miraculous discovery.  The Wise Men are a classic addition to any Christmas manger scene, but who were these “three kings of orient” as the hymn names them?  And what can we learn from these pagan astrologers who sought the newborn King?

We see the Wise Men appear in Matthew 2, under Matthew’s account of our Lord’s birth.  We must clarify three traditional assumptions about the Wise Men in order to rightly understand them:

First, they were not “kings” as they are often depicted in hymns or manger scenes.  They were astrologers, students of the stars and planets, seeking to find supernatural meaning in the heavenly bodies.

Second, they very likely were not present at the manger on the first Christmas morning.  We get a clue of this from scripture. Matthew 2:1 opens with the words, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem,” suggesting that the events surrounding the Wise Men most likely took place after Jesus’s birth, not leading up to it.

Lastly, there is no biblical proof to believe there were three Wise Men.  We know from the text that there were multiple Wise Men, but the exact number is unclear.  Tradition leads us to believe it was three, most likely because of the three gifts presented to Jesus.  Perhaps there were three, but not necessarily.

The story of the Wise Men is one of great encouragement for the Christian, even outside the Christmas season.   We see a marvelous example of seeking the Lord with one’s whole heart.  The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with your whole heart.”  He is not an elusive trickster like the pagan gods in ancient pantheons. He wants to be known. He lovingly reveals Himself to those who earnestly seek after Him.  And, remarkably,  He lovingly reveals Himself to us even when we fail to seek Him.  How does He reveal Himself?  Through His Word, through His creation, through the Holy Spirit, and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

We do not know whether the Wise Men came to saving faith in Christ.  But we do know this: They sought the Lord, they found Him, and when they found Him, they were “overwhelmed with great joy.”  May we experience this same joy when we encounter our gracious Lord.

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