Why did the wise men search for Jesus?

"That's why they were called wise men!" says Ellen, 6.

Thank you, Ellen. I doubt if any Bible scholar has ever said it better. The search for Jesus runs throughout the New Testament.

The wise men sought to worship him. King Herod sought to kill him. Crowds who were miraculously fed sought to crown him. Religious leaders sought to trap him. Roman soldiers sought to arrest him.

"They saw a different star. They just knew that since there was a new star, there must be something special," says Elizabeth, 7.

Yes, the star was different, but there's something more unusual than the star's guiding light. The wise men were gentiles. Why would gentiles travel so far to worship a Jewish king? Even if they were right about his royalty, what difference would it make? The Jews were an oppressed people. Rome ruled the world.

God made a promise to patriarch Abraham that he would be a blessing to "all the families of the Earth" (Genesis 12:3). Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, gentiles keep appearing. The Gospel starts with a genealogy that shows Jesus is descended from King David (Matthew 1:1-16). Surprisingly, however, Jesus' ancestry includes gentiles (Rahab and Ruth).

In the midst of Jesus' ministry, a Roman centurion pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant by speaking a word. Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel" (Matthew 8:10). At the end of the Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations.

The first recorded act of worship in the New Testament comes from eastern, gentile wise men. Matthew shows us that salvation comes through the Jews, but it's not exclusively for the Jews. In the Apostle Paul's epistles, Abraham is the father of all who believe. God considered Abraham righteous because of his faith, which came before he received the covenant sign of circumcision (Romans 4:9-13).

"The wise men were scholars of the Bible who had looked at all the prophecies of the coming Messiah," says Matthew, 11.

This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, they took gifted Jewish men into the king's court to train them to be advisers. The king's wise men were known as magi.

Daniel was the most famous wise man ever to grace the courts of Babylon. He saved the entire company of magi from total destruction by interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Later, he spent the night with lions rather than worship the king of the Medes and Persians.

No one before or after Daniel has ever served as prime minister of two world empires (Babylon and Medo-Persia). Serving as prime minister of just one would have put him into the Magi Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

If you're in the Magi Club, do you think you might be interested in reading a book written by the most famous magi of all time? The book of Daniel predicts that 483 years would pass from the time of the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem until "Messiah the Prince" would come (Daniel 9:25).

According to Bible scholar Gleason L. Archer Jr., the clock began ticking in 457 B.C., when Persian ruler Artaxerxes I issued the decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Ezra 9:9). Adding one year for passing from B.C. to A.D. brings us to A.D. 27, an accurate date for when Jesus began his ministry. Perhaps the wise men had done the math for themselves.

God received worship from magi who had light from the star and possibly light from reading the book of Daniel. It was such a tiny ray compared to the bright light we have today concerning the Lord Jesus, yet, they followed it until they found the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Wise men and women still seek him.

Merry Christmas!


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© 2005 CAREY KINSOLVING