Finding A Child Matthew 2:1-2

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2

Finding a Child

The star led the wise men to the cradle at Bethlehem, and “stood over the place where the young child was.” The pilgrims entered and were satisfied.

1. They sought a king, and found a child. There is something very remarkable in the fact that they came from the distant East, and after all their sojourning and seeking found only a Child. Yet it was worth all their toil and trouble to learn the hard but precious lesson that true greatness consists in childlikeness. The world all the ages through had been growing away from the Child; its notions of greatness lay quite at the opposite pole. The Evil Spirit in his interview with our first parents succeeded in confusing the mind of the world relative to this point, and in putting the case altogether on a false issue. “Ye shall be as gods,” said he, “knowing good and evil.” He put likeness to God to lie in knowledge; and the whole drift of the Divine education of the race has been to counteract that notion, and to teach us that it consists neither in knowledge nor in power, but in childlikeness. As we review the history of the world, we see it dividing itself into three stages. In the first, Power is magnified, Force is deified. The great man is the strong man. In that era Nimrod is the hero after the world's heart; strength receives the homage of men. In the second stage Power is pushed back a step or two, and Intellect comes to the front. The great man is the intellectual man. In that era Homer is the favoured idol before whom the people delight to bow; genius receives the homage of men. But Christianity has inaugurated a new period; it points the world not to Nimrod or to Homer, but to a Child—not to Power or to Genius, but to Goodness. The great man of the future will be the good man.

I remember a time, when, if any one mentioned the names of Napoleon Buonaparte or the Duke of Wellington, my heart responded in admiration, and I wished to become a soldier. I remember a time after that when, if you mentioned the names of Shakespeare or Milton, my heart responded in admiration, and I wished to be a poet. Yes; I have had my heroes, and I have worshipped them devoutly. But, were I to tell you my experience to-day, it is this—I have lost a great deal of my respect for power; I have lost a great deal of my admiration for genius; the supreme desire of my heart to-day is that I may be a good man, a childlike man, one whose life and character will mirror the Divinity. The great man of the future will be the good man. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”1 [Note: J. C. Jones, Studies in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, 46.]

The Russian peasantry have a curious tradition. It is that an old woman, the Baboushka, was at work in her house when the wise men from the East passed on their way to find the Christ Child. “Come with us,” they said, “we have seen His star in the East, and go to worship Him.” “I will come, but not now,” she answered; “I have my house to set in order; when that is done, I will follow, and find Him.” But when her work was done, the three kings had passed on their way across the desert, and the star shone no more in the darkened heavens. She never saw the Christ Child, but she is living, and searching for Him still. For His sake, she takes care of all His children. It is she who in Russian homes is believed to fill the stockings and dress the tree on Christmas morn. The children are awakened with the cry, “Behold the Baboushka,” and spring up, hoping to see her before she vanishes out of the window. She fancies, the tradition goes, that in each poor little one whom she warms and feeds, she may find the Christ Child whom she neglected ages ago; but she is doomed to eternal disappointment.

2. They fell down and worshipped Him. No journey, although conducted with faith in the guide, will be successful unless it be sanctified by this bowing down of soul and body. And such worship as this was natural to the Gentile mind. It had been abused by it doubtless for idolatrous purposes, but the very bowing down to stocks and stones, being a corruption of true worship, indicates what the universal tradition was before it was so diverted. And this is implied in the second commandment, “Thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them.” For as every commandment commands the contrary of what it forbids, so we understand that the commandment is not fulfilled by merely not bowing down to idols, unless we also bow down and worship God. And hence Gentile Christianity began with this idea of worship.

Wise men from afar are still seeking that cradle. All the great religions of the earth are really feeling for Christ. The consummation of all deep thought and aspiration is in Him. And, although often unknowingly, all the sovereign thinkers do Him reverence. The greatest of men have in successive generations made that cradle the shrine of their sincerest worship. In the corn-fields the heaviest heads bow most, and the mightiest intellects have done the Master lowliest reverence. All the ground is strewn with the tokens of their homage—sublime poems, harps and organs, deep philosophies, eloquent orations, rich sculpture, delightful pictures, magnificent architecture, dedicated to His praise and glory. Genius brings its choicest products to His feet, and thinks them poor.1 [Note: W. L. Watkinson.]

Have you noticed that the three Wise Men are represented in art as men of different ages? One is old, one is middle-aged, and one is young. And the reason why they are so represented is because of a tradition which came from the lips of that great traveller Marco Polo. He recounts that when he got to Persia he made every effort to find out more about the Wise Men. He was shown their tomb, but that did not satisfy him. He wanted to hear something more about them, and he could not find any one who could give him any information. At last in his travels he came to a little town which rejoiced in the name of Cala Ataperistan, or the town where they worshipped fire, and he inquired the reason of its name. They told him it was because it was from that town that three men—three Kings—had started to worship some great Being who was born in the West, and whose star they had followed. He goes on to say that of these three men one was old, one middle-aged, and one young, and they followed the star, taking with them their gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh; gold to give to the great Being if He should turn out to be a king; frankincense to offer if the great Being should have something of the Deity about Him; myrrh if He were a physician. And when they came to the stable of Bethlehem they went in one at a time. First went in the old man, and instead of finding what he expected, he found an old man who talked with him. He left and was followed by the man of middle-age. He in his turn entered and was met by a Teacher of his own years who spoke with him. When the young man entered he in his turn found a young Prophet. Then the three met together outside the stable and marvelled—How was it that all three had gone in to worship this Being who was just born, and they had found not a child but three men of different ages? The old man had found the old, the middle-aged the middle-aged, and the young the young. And so taking their gifts they go in all together, and are amazed to discover that the Prophet is then a baby of twelve days old! Each separately sees in Christ the reflection of his own condition, the old man sees the old, the middle-aged the middle-aged, and the young the young: but when they go in all together they see Christ as He is. We shall all find in Christ the answer to our needs.1 [Note: W. Gascoyne Cecil, in The Church Family Newspaper, Jan. 20, 1911, p. 48.]

3. The sincerity of their worship was proved by their gifts—“gold and frankincense and myrrh.” We know what gold is, but the other gifts are unfamiliar in our day. Frankincense was an aromatic resin, used for perfume and also in the sacrifices. Myrrh was a highly-prized article of commerce, and, like frankincense, was an odorous gum. All these gifts represented value. We do not know the financial ability of these men, but it is safe to say that their offerings adequately represented their means. More significant than the seen was the unseen offering that they made. In the lowly house they bowed themselves before the Child and worshipped Him. Not content with bringing their rare gifts of valuable substances, they gave themselves.

The old Mediæval interpretation of the offered gold as signifying recognition of His kingship, the frankincense of His deity, and the myrrh of His death, is so beautiful that one would fain wish it true. But it cannot pretend to be more than a fancy. We are on surer ground when we see in the gifts the choicest products of the land of the Magi, and learn the lesson that the true recognition of Christ will ever be attended by the spontaneous surrender to Him of our best.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

I suppose that the gold and frankincense and myrrh which the Eastern sages brought, represented the most valued treasures of each which they hastened to lay before the feet of the infant Christ. Even so, the heathen nations will all have their contribution to bring. The Indian will bring his mysticism and his deeply religious nature; the Chinese his patience and endurance and contentment; the Japanese his sense of discipline and chivalry; the Buddhist his kindliness and lofty ideals; the Mohammedan his strong sense of the oneness of God and his faith and resignation. The Christian Church as it is at present needs all these elements.2 [Note: H. N. Grimley.]

Gold would be always a suitable present. Frankincense and myrrh would be used chiefly in the houses of the great, and in holy places. They were prized for the delicious fragrance which they suffused. They were gifts fit to be presented to monarchs; and it was to Jesus, as a royal child, that they were presented by the Magi. The fathers of the Church thought that they could detect mysteries in the peculiar nature of the gifts. In the gold, says Origen, there is a reference to the Lord's royalty; the frankincense has reference to His Divinity; the myrrh to His decease. The number of the gifts was also a fertile source of cabalistic ingenuity to the older expositors. It symbolized the Trinity; it symbolized the triplicity of elements in the Saviour's personality; it symbolized the triad of the Christian graces, faith, hope, charity, etc. etc. But such a method of expounding is to turn the simple and sublime solemnities of Scripture into things ludicrous and grotesque. It is of moment to note that the visit of the Magi, and their reverential obeisance, and their gifts, must have had a finely confirming influence upon the faith of Joseph in reference to the perfect purity of Mary and the lofty character and destiny of her Offspring.3 [Note: James Morison.]

The Magi
Seeking A King
Following A Star
Finding A Child