From: Bob Williams
Christian churches everywhere celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ on January 6 with the arrival of the “wise men from the east,” per Matthew 2:1-12. The focus is on the wise men and not other things happening.
First, it is helpful to understand that Epiphany is not a biblical term but a word applied by man to the revealing of the Divine King, Jesus. As used today, having an epiphany means to have an “aha” moment, but that does not apply to the wise men. They were on a quest to find the prophesied King and were prepared to treat Him as such with the gifts they brought. The focus of Matthew is on Christ as King and Saviour.
The wise men are a mystery. It is not recorded how many there were, where they came from or the nature of the star. But it is clear they had the Word of God and studied the prophecies. It is also clear they were Jewish believers or proselytes to the Jewish religion. A pagan would not worship a Jewish Messiah. Most likely they were Jews in dispersion, such as recorded in Daniel 1 where the brightest and best of Israel’s youth were brought in captivity to Babylon and proved themselves to be ten times better than the Babylonians. Daniel 2:1-3, 12 refers to wise men.
Beginning in Genesis 3:15 where God promises Eve a seed who would “bruise the head” of Satan, the Old Testament is replete with prophetic promises of a coming Messiah Redeemer. Micah 5:2 prophesied the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, some 700 years before the actual birth. Throughout Israel’s history, they clung to this promise of hope, enduring significant trials.
Daniel, while captive in Babylon, as recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, was told by the angel Gabriel that it would be 483 years from the going forth to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem “unto Messiah the Prince.” The promise that “a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” is found in Isaiah 7:14. Gabriel said this would occur by the power of the Highest overshadowing the virgin, as told in Luke 1:35. The who, what, when, where and how of God’s promised Messiah is clearly foretold in Scripture.
Strangely, Israel’s religious leaders seemed ignorant of the timing of the fulfillment of the promise of their Messiah. They should have been celebrating, instead they continued life as normal, not believing the Word of God. The wise men came in faith to Jerusalem to worship the King, who was by that time a child in a house in Nazareth, not a babe in a manger in Bethlehem.
The gifts the wise men presented reflect Christ’s three-fold function to Israel: Gold for King, Incense for Priest, and Myrrh for Prophet, or suffering servant. While nothing is recorded about what became of the gifts, it is often concluded they supported Christ’s family during their exile in Egypt.
The real lesson is the wise men came to Christ by faith, the only way to approach Him. That applies today as it did then.