Matthew did his research while writing his Gospel for us to read. He visited Mary, Jesus’ mother, and together they sifted through her treasured memories. He tells us in chapter 2 of their conversation entailing the wise men. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.’ ”
There are many legends surrounding these men. Commentators agree that there had to have been a great number of people in the entourage to have created the stir they caused in Jerusalem with their arrival. They’re titled Wise Men by Matthew, but the legend is that they were Eastern kings, due in part to the regal extravagance of their gifts, and perhaps one verse of Scripture in Isaiah.
They may have been kings, and they certainly were astronomers. They had knowledge of the laws of the heavenly spheres and the principles by which they were governed. Through observation and mathematical calculations these men saw, from where they were in the East, His star, some new and unique body in the sky they so diligently studied, and they recognized its significance.
That, in itself, is fascinating. These men are Gentiles, yet they know Jewish history and prophecy and recognize the fulfillment in this distinctive star. Only one verse in all the Bible mentions a star in connection with a ruler in Israel! Is this all they had to go on?
Balaam’s prophecy regarding Israel’s future includes this statement: “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Many commentators connect this verse in Numbers with Isaiah 60:1-3: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Here is the one verse that indicates that the wise men were actually kings.
It’s very interesting that this Jewish prophecy, and the unique star in the heavens, were the only foundation on which they based their long expedition, following the star, traveling to Jerusalem to honor a newborn King.
They came to worship Him – and they did: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (v11).
The star led the wise men to the exact house (v9). These kings found the new King’s palace to be but a house, and the King’s attendants to be but His mother and Joseph, with no royal airs or claims being made. But they knew they had found the One they were seeking. And having found Him, they first presented themselves, falling down before Him. Then they offered Him gifts worthy of a king from their treasures. They fell down, Matthew wrote. Mary must have told him that.
These wise men knew exactly what they were doing. They were extremely intelligent, perhaps royalty, and if not, were certainly of noble birth and class. They were paid homage; homage was not what they gave. It’s what they received. Yet they paid homage to a young Child in a humble house in Bethlehem.
Homage is a fascinating rite of performance. It’s a feudal law ceremony, wherein a tenant kneels before the lord of the land and states: “I do become your man (homage), from this day forth, of life, and limb, and earthly honor.” In other words, I and all I am and have belong to you from this day on to the death.
These wise men, of whatever level of high society they held, fell down before a little Boy and pledged Him their life-long allegiance and service – their full and total surrender and submission.
Remember this. They were in Herod’s presence (v 7), and we do not read that they paid him this honor – when he was at the height of his royal grandeur. And they did not worship Mary.
These wise men, firstfruits of the Gentiles, fell down and worshipped a Child between one and two years of age and gave Him the best gifts their position and countries had to offer – because they believed what they saw in the heavens, and they believed in the prophecies contained in Jewish writings, and they recognized Him as the One they had come so far to find.
Their understanding of the King may have been inadequate as to His true identity, but they knew enough to fall before His Majesty when they found Him Whom they so long had sought. Quite clearly they believed Him to be worthy of their time, worship, treasures, and homage – their very selves.
The Bible promises us that when we seek for the Lord, we’ll find Him, and that He is a Rewarder of those who believe and seek for Him diligently (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; Hebrews 11:6).
And we must give our best to the Master – our heart and life lived out in worshipful homage to Him: I do this day become Yours, from this day forth, of life, and limb, and earthly honor. I will live, serve, and fight for You to the death.
Paul put it this way: “that we which live should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto Him Who died for us and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Spurgeon expressed this: “My eternal spirit rejoices in the hope of rendering endless homage to the Eternal King.”
We can sing with the hymn writer, “Hallelujah! I have found Him Whom my soul so long has craved!” Homage: Henceforth, unto Him. He is worthy of our all.
1 Timothy 1:17