The more I read about the three wise men, the more questions I have. Not so much about the event of the wise men, but about how much we might be off course because we love tradition instead of the things the Bible says.
Like the three wise men being named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. That presupposes that there were three of them in the first place! And of course all of the scenes we see show the three wise men visiting baby Jesus in the manger…which doesn’t fit either!
But I’m not hear to debunk all of that. There are a lot of smart people with smart research that know those things. My concern is slightly different.
Why do we have to make stuff up? Why isn’t what is written enough?
Some of it comes from us not having a lot of content about them. We fill the vacuum with details.
But let’s look at what we know.
Matthew 2:1-4, 10-12
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,
2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
When they showed up in Jerusalem, they were able to talk to King Herod and they threw the whole city into an uproar. They were all troubled, it says.
Either their news of the King of the Jews got everyone excited, or their presence did it. Anybody with any riches would have traveled with an entourage. So theoretically, there was a crew. The three gifts they brought are where we get the idea that there were three of them. That doesn’t work anywhere else in scripture. When people brought offerings, there are lists, but those lists don’t correspond to a one-gift-to-one-person relationship.
But how exciting would it be to hear the King of the Jews was born?! Everybody knew that Herod wasn’t really the Jewish king they wanted. He wasn’t in the line of David. He wasn’t a lot of things.
And the whole 2 year old thing. Herod asks when the child was born and they find it’s been 2 years!
This also brings up the whole stable thing. So many pictures show Joseph and Mary in a car port sort of stable. Did they live there for 2 years? The wise men came when Jesus was around 2!
So not to kill all the Christmas decorations, but to get us re-aligned. I have a bunch of friends sharing things on facebook about “Yes, Mary knew already!” And ruining a great poetic song. I don’t want to ruin a bunch of Nativity scenes (which were invented in the 1200s by Francis of Assisi btw). I want to ask the question:
Is it enough for us that the King of the Jews was born? Let that sink in. The fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham has begun. Gentile rich folks from far away… kings, magi, 3 or 3 dozen… came to give Him gifts.
It has my radar on. What other crud have I added to the life of Jesus to make it more interesting, more palatable, or more like the life I live? I LOVE historical insights and details from as many accurate sources as I can, but what about the face value. Men that weren’t Jewish came and worshipped Jesus. Men that were worshipping YHWH and following the law weren’t going to meet every single little boy born in Bethlehem.
I think if I knew He’d be born in Bethlehem, I’d go live there! I’d be going and visiting every mom that had a baby!
So what other stuff have we tacked on to the life of Jesus? (Don’t even get me started about Mary riding a donkey. They were super poor according the the sacrifice the offered when Jesus was circumcised, so they wouldn’t have had a donkey.) I want to watch for it and let the things I read about Him be enough.