Read Matthew 2: 1-12. The wise men. The 3 kings of Orient who come to Jerusalem seeking the Messiah. (P.S. The Bible doesn’t actually say how many wise men there were. Three’s a number from tradition.) They have seen a star which tells them that the time of the great prophesied King of Jews birth has come.
At this point in the Nativity record we are up to 2 years after Jesus birth (Matthew 2: 16). Look they didn’t have airplanes. These men have come from a far country, loaded with kingly gifts. We depict them as traveling on 3 lone camels, but they probably had an armed escort and/ or traveled in a caravan. From the appearance of the star to the time it took to pack, plan, and travel from whatever nation or nations in the Far East, Jesus was no longer an infant.
The wise men are well informed (hence the whole “wise” thing). They know that Jerusalem is the ancient capital of the Jewish people, so naturally, seeking a Jewish king, they show up at the royal palace in Jerusalem. Problem is: Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem.
Luke 2: 39 So when [Joseph and Mary] had performed all things [in the temple] according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
By the evidence of the star they had seen, the wisemen knew when the king of the Jews had been born, but they didn’t know where. Matthew 2: 4-6 tells us that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem knew where the Messiah would be born, but had missed the fact that the time had actually come.
Did you catch that?
A carpenter was in the right place to meet Christ at his birth. A young virgin with a tarnished reputation was there for the full Incarnation of the Messiah. A bunch of lowly shepherds met the Jesus within hours of his birth. An old crazy man and an old crazy widow woman (Luke 2: 25-27, 36-38) had already had personal encounters with the promised Savior just days after His birth; but neither the most learned men in Judea nor the wisest ones in the Far East knew enough on their own to find their way into the presence of Jesus. Why? Because though they were waiting for and looking for the King of kings, they were each following only part of the evidence.
All around us, there is evidence that God is real (Psalm 19: 1-3). Following the evidence will draw us closer to God and His Truth, but that evidence isn’t always in the form that the world will accept.
From the Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, Herod, the evil secular king of Judea, discovered that the Messiah was to be come out of Bethlehem (Matthew 2: 4-6). From the wisemen, he discovered the timing. Herod pretends that he wants to worship Jesus (verse 8), but he really wants to destroy Him.
Another important point:
Don’t think that evil people don’t know stuff about God just because they are evil (2 Timothy 3: 7; James 2: 19). Be very, very, very careful when you get spiritual advice from people who say they believe in God but live and promote beliefs that devalue Jesus and the Truth of the Bible. These people may be well informed. They may know things that you don’t. They may present logical, well-referenced reasons why you should follow their directions. But, following them will not take you beyond a vague intellectual acknowledgment of God or something god-ish. To transcend that and to come to a personal relationship with the one true God, through Jesus you have to follow the trail of the evidence which, if you are willing to see, God has placed in front of you.
Herod pointed the wise men to Bethlehem. But God pointed them somewhere else.
Matthew 2: 9 ¶ When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother
At this point, Jesus is no longer a baby. He is a young child, and He is no longer in a stable outside of an inn in Bethlehem. After Jesus was circumcised and Mary was purified according to Jewish law (Luke 2: 22, 39; Leviticus 12: 2, 3), Jesus’ earthly family returned to Joseph’s hometown, Nazareth. The star was guiding them to Nazareth.
Bethlehem is just south of Jerusalem. Nazareth is way north. The wisemen had to make a decision. They could follow the logical advice of a convincing, powerful, but ungodly man. Or, they could follow God the rest of the way just as they had followed Him up to this point (by following the star).
They chose to follow the evidence that God had placed in their life and the result was a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Examine your life for God’s evidence. How many times have you walked away from an accident or incident in which you should have been dead? How many times have you listened to a strange pull, a voice in your heart and learned that you had avoided tragedy? How many times have you ignored that voice and regretted it? That was God.
How many times has some Christian spoken an answer to a question they didn’t know you had? What faith has brought you this far? Are you now going to stop following that star because some dude said to? Open your eyes. See the evidence that God has placed right in front of you.
We so often pray for a sign. We so seldom acknowledge the signs He gives us every day.
Think about it. The wisemen followed a star. Not a vision of a star. An actual visible something in the sky. Lots of people must have seen it. But only these few were wise enough to follow it.
And, here’s one of the coolest things:
Once the wisemen have a personal encounter with Jesus and they fall down before Him, they no longer need the evidence. They have faith. They don’t abandon their education. They don’t cast off their knowledge. But, they now have a personal relationship with God, not just an intellectual acknowledgment of Him.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
They arrive in Israel following evidence. They leave following God.