Things Are True
by Dan Coburn
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
a guest column by Todd Holcomb
Some traditions say that they were three kings, each bringing one gift and fulfilling the prophecy of the gentile kings bowing before Jesus. Others say they were representatives of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. So they represented all of humanity paying homage to the King of kings. Still others consider them to be part of a powerful priestly tribe of magi who had the final authority for anointing kings. A kind of eastern Illuminati.
I think that if we want to know who the Wise Men were, we should start by looking at why they came to find Jesus in the first place. Of course, while puzzling out the mysteries, it is often overlooked that the answer to this question is given to us by the Magi themselves. In Matthew 2:2 the Magi tell King Herod, "For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
They did not come to honor or anoint him, they came to worship him. I find it curious that men loyal to another king and nation, would travel hundreds of miles to worship a foreign king, but what if they were not foreigners after all?
At the end of Daniel chapter 2 (Daniel 2, Matthew 2? Coincidence? I think not), King Nebuchadnezzar is so taken with Daniel's ability to interpret his dreams that he proclaims Jehovah to be the God of gods and Lord of lords, and he makes Daniel the ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men. Daniel then appoints Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon, and he stays in the King's court. All of this is why the Chaldeans and Satraps will try to get Daniel and his friends executed.
Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Nebuchadnezzar in 539 BC and let the Israelites go home, but not everyone went back to Israel with Ezra and Nehemiah, only those "whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord." (Ezra 1:5) My theory is that the Wise Men of Matthew 2 are descendants of the wise men in Daniel 2. They are Israelites trained in the arts of the Persian Magi who came to worship their promised King of the Jews. And when they found Jesus in Bethlehem, "they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy...and they fell down and worshiped him." (Matthew 2:10-11)
The truth is this is all speculation, which is why it's so fun. But it's good to remember that beyond who the Magi were, the gifts they brought, and even the star they followed, we ought not miss the more important thing: why they came. They came to worship Jesus, the King of the Jews. It's so easy to get caught up in all the lights and glamour of this holiday season, but the Magi teach us that beyond our cultural conflicts and social media rants, beyond the trees and lights and gifts, even beyond family, food, and good will toward men, there ought to be worship in our hearts this holiday season.