Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wise Men - How It Really Went Down

The only place in the Bible that tells us about the wise men's journey to find Jesus is found in Matthew chapter 2. There are tons of misinformation about this story - about the star - about the wise men. But if you look closely at the scriptures, you will find the real facts. And you will be able to discern between fact and fable. For example, the wise men never visited the manger. And I submit that the star was not a natural, astronomical event but 2 separate supernatural episodes. I'll explain later. Below is a true chronological account of the wise men's role in the Christmas story based on scripture.


THE TIMELINE:


Scene 1 (The Shepherds) Luke Chapter 2: Near Bethlehem, during the night that Jesus was born, shepherds tending to their sheep in the fields were startled when "suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified!" (Luke 2:9). It's important to note the term "the radiance of the Lord's glory". This should not be down-played or overlooked. It was an extreme, miraculous illumination and must have been very powerful. If it was 'of the Lord's glory', it must have been incredibly bright. The angel announced to the shepherds that a Savior was born that same day in a manger in Bethlehem. Look what happens next....."Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God.." (Luke 2:13). I doubt that this great company of the heavenly host appeared in the dark. On the contrary, they must have appeared in this spotlight called the 'radiance of the Lord's glory'. Some translations call the great company of the heavenly host a multitude, or a vast, heavenly army. To totally illuminate this vast, heavenly army, the radiance of brilliant light must have extended up into the heavens, with an enormous diameter - sort of a pillar of light. And you thought lasers were powerful! Such an array of brilliance in the night time sky would have been visible for miles - possibly hundreds of miles. No one knows how long it lasted, but at some point, the angels vanished, went back to heaven, and the darkness quickly returned. The scene in the field reverted back to what it was before: the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem on a quiet, still, dark night. After such an amazing experience, the shepherds did what they never do - they left their sheep in the fields and quickly ran off - to find Jesus.


Scene 2 (The Wise Men) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men (also referred to as Magi), located in far away Persia or Babylon, were star-watchers. They saw this very same miraculous illumination off in the distance on that particular night. Perhaps hundreds of people from many different countries saw it in the night time sky before it went out. However, the Wise Men reacted to it. They knew it was supernatural - that this was a sign of something of huge importance. It's possible that they were familiar with ancient prophecies, such as recorded in Isaiah and Numbers, that dealt with a coming star or bright light. Regardless, the Wise Men, who were experts regarding the stars, concluded that this supernatural beam of light was in the direction of distant holy city of Jerusalem, and that it must have signified the birth of a powerful and important new King of the Jews. They were convinced that it was a once in a lifetime event, and that they must make a journey to make homage to this newly born King. Based on the location and direction of this strange light they had seen in the sky, which was no longer visible, they prepared to head to Jerusalem, where they assumed had been the focal point of the light - where this new King must be. It would take a lot of preparation. They would need to get a caravan together, which included supplies, food, animals, and people. Their journey could take weeks or even months. Tradition says there were 3 wise men. The Bible never numbers them.


Scene 3 (Baby Jesus Brought To Jerusalem) Luke Chapter 2: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living in a house in Bethlehem. After all, remember that the shepherds ran off to tell everyone about the birth of Jesus, so possibly even that very night of his birth, someone could have taken them in once they found out the news. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary wanted to bring Jesus in the Temple there to consecrate him to the Lord. After Mary's days of purification were over, forty days as defined by the Law (Leviticus 12:1-8), they brought Jesus into the Temple, right under Herod's nose. She was ceremonially unclean from delivering a baby boy, was to go in front of a priest to offer a sacrifice. Because she offered a sacrifice that was representative of those who were poor (Luke 2:24), it confirms that Wise Men had not arrived yet with their valuable riches which included gold.


Scene 4 (Jesus Back To Bethlehem) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men are well into their long journey to Jerusalem. By this time, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were back in the house in Bethlehem. Finally, the Wise Men arrive in Jerusalem. Not knowing where this new-born King was, since there was still no guiding beacon at this point, they did the most logical thing - ask the current king, Herod, for details. Of course, Herod pretended to go along with the Wise Men, but inwardly, he was furious. After all, he was the king and no one was going to take his throne. He summoned the chief priests and the scribes for answers regarding the location of Jesus. The chief priests and scribes were Jews who knew the Old Testament scriptures well, and based on Micah 5:2, they knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. So Herod sent the Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem, but not before asking them the exact date that they had seen this "star" they had told him about. It was so he could calculate how old Jesus was, assuming the Wise Men saw the 'star' on the night Jesus was born.


Scene 5 (Wise Men Arrive In Jerusalem) Matthew Chapter 2: As the Wise Men headed toward Bethlehem, something fantastic happened: another miraculous event. A supernatural light in the sky, appeared to the Wise Men. They were overjoyed. It had been a long time since they saw that brilliant sign in the sky back on the night Jesus was born. This time, they knew that this light was a guiding beacon for them. It turns out that it would lead them not just to Bethlehem, but it would stop right over the exact house where Jesus was staying (Matthew 2:11).


Scene 6 (Wise Men Arrive in Bethlehem) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men entered the house, bowed down before Jesus, and worshiped Him. Then they presented Him with gifts - gifts that were fitting for a King. Their mission was accomplished. Their quest to find the newly born King was over.


Scene 7: (Wise Men, and Joseph, Mary & Jesus Scatter) Matthew Chapter 2: Divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, the Wise Men departed for their own country another way. Likewise, during that very night, Joseph was also warned in a dream to take Jesus and His mother, flee to Egypt for safety, and stay there until further notice. So Joseph, Mary and Jesus quickly took off during the night before Herod could decide on a plan, and before his thugs could take action, because they probably followed behind and saw the house where the Wise Men entered.


Because Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, and that by now he was unsure where Jesus was, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi, hoping to have a wide enough safety margin to include Jesus in the process (by now Jesus could have been several months, possibly even a year old). A terrible slaughter occurred, but Joseph, Mary and Jesus safely made it to Egypt, where they lived until Herod died. Through God's providence, the valuable gifts from the Magi were God's provision to provide travel and living expenses for Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

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