Yesterday, in our incarnation series, I preached from Matthew 2:1-12.  As we’re mindful of the importance and significance of the incarnation, we are overjoyed with the truth that God became a man in order to save men by God’s grace.  W. Chatterton Dix, born June 14th 1837 in Bristol, wrote the following hymn:

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus:
This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

What Child Is This — Causing Wise Men to Wonder?

The “wise men” here named in this scene are long debated mysterious figures.  Some translations render them “magi” while they have also been labeled “three kings” from the east.  The first mention of this Greek term (μάγος) in Scripture is in the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.  We first see this term μάγος in Daniel 2:1-2.

The magicians and soothsayers could not interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream so they brought in Daniel, a young boy, who interpreted the king’s dream by pointing out four world powers.  He pointed to the Babylonian kingdom, the Medes and Persians, the Grecian kingdom, and the Roman empire.  However, he went on in Daniel 2:44-45 to point to another Kingdom that would never fall — God’s Kingdom in Christ Jesus.

Five hundred years would pass from the days of Nebuchadnezzar and the magicians who sought to interpret his dreams.  They would remember the response of Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel’s ability to interpret his dream (Daniel 2:46).  When the strange light, an odd star appeared in the sky – it got their attention.  They more than likely researched and discovered that this little boy promised something would happen one day – and this was somehow connected to that prophecy.

What Child Is This — Causing a Wicked King to Quake in Fear?

The Magi assembled themselves and it’s quite probable that there were more than three who went along for the journey.  Many scholars and historians estimate that they had a small Persian army accompanying them for their journey to Jerusalem.  As opposed to riding on camels, it’s likely that they were riding on horses as they were dressed in their typical oriental magi garb.

As they arrived before Herod, they asked a question that rocked his world.  “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” (Matthew 2:2).  This question greatly troubled Herod.  He was a powerful ruler who opposed any threat to his throne.  Immediately, he started scheming a plan that would eliminate this ruler who was born “King of the Jews.”

Herod assembled the rulers of Israel (most likely the entire Sanhedrin) and inquired about this King.  They quoted Micah 5:2 and pointed out that one day their King would be born in Bethlehem.  He asked the Magi when the star had appeared, and they told him their answer.  Herod was doing the math in order to determine how many babies he would need to murder in Bethlehem.  King Herod was a man who was known as a brutal murderer.

  • Fearing the potential threat of the High Priest’s political power, he had him drowned. This man was his own brother-in-law.
  • He then killed his wife, mother-in-law and two of his sons.
  • Five days before his death, he had his other son executed.
  • Realizing that he would not be mourned for at his death – because people hated him – he had many of the distinguished Jewish community arrested. The order was that the moment he died to have them all executed in order that there would be great mourning following his death.

Being accustomed to murder, he used it to protect his throne against this baby boy who was born “King of the Jews.”  That was his title.  He was known as King of the Jews.  So, he had every baby boy in Bethlehem under two years of age killed.  As we know the story, Jesus was spared.  God’s sovereign plan would not be thwarted.

What Child Is this — Who Saves Pagan Star-Gazing Astrologers?

The Magi continued their journey, and as they made their way toward Bethlehem, they could see the star again.  It led them to the exact house where Jesus was with his family.  Jesus was no longer in a barn or stall used for animals (manger).  It’s likely that he was between one and two years of age at this point.  William Hendriksen calls these men “strange travelers” — and it’s likely that they appeared very strange to the baby Jesus and his family.  Why had they come from so far away?  They had come to worship Jesus!

They offered Him treasures – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These treasures were special to them and costly — they gave them as an offering of worship and sacrifice.  The third verse of Dix’s hymn is:

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

In the city of Cologne, Germany stands a massive cathedral that transcends over 500 feet upward above the city. Visitors come from all around the world to this historic landmark owned and operated by the Roman Catholic Church. The architecture is overwhelming and as you enter the lofty cathedral, it’s apparent that many people are on a mission to see the celebrated treasure in the heart of the cathedral.

They estimate that 20,000 people per day visit the cathedral.  It’s the centerpiece of the city.  Majestic stained glass windows decorate the walls and twin spires stretch high above the surrounding landscape.  What’s all the buzz about?  Why so many visitors?  As you make your way inside and continue to the front, you will see people taking pictures of a golden box at the front.  You can only get so close, and you certainly can’t touch it.  The Roman Catholic Church claims that inside this golden box rests the bones of the three wise men who came to worship Jesus (you can read more about that here).

Once again, it’s highly improbable that three men traveled from the east to find Jesus.  It was most likely a large group of people who made the historic journey.  But consider the irony.  The Roman Catholics are pointing people to the bones of men who once bowed and worshipped Jesus as opposed to pointing people to Jesus Himself.  What good is a golden box full of dead men’s bones?  W. Chatterton Dix’s hymn has a chorus that we sing. He penned these words as he answered the question – What Child Is This?

This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

 

 

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