Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
These Magi come to give their homage to Christ. Their own personal characters and circumstances enhance the value of their gifts.
I. HOMAGE FROM THE GENTILES. It is singular that St. Matthew, and not St. Luke the evangelist of the Gentiles, gives us this narrative of Gentile faith and adoration. Thus we see that all parties among Christ's true disciples recognized the great fact that the gospel was for the whole world. At the very commencement of Christ's life this was seen. Yet still the greater part of the world is quite ignorant of his very Name. Here is a reason for greater missionary-activity.
II. HOMAGE FROM A DISTANCE. These men had come from a far country. They had made a long and tedious pilgrimage to Christ. None are so remote but that they may find Christ if they will truly seek him. Yet some who dwell in a Christian land are really further from Christ than some who are commonly reckoned as heathen. Surely Socrates was nearer to Christ than Caesar Borgia.
III. HOMAGE FROM ANTIQUITY. These Magi represented the ancient Persian priesthood. But the old order of the Magi had been broken up, and many now took the name who were not in any recognized rank or office. Yet in the very degeneracy of the name it reminds us of its mysterious antiquity. The past looks forward to the future. Nothing in the past will satisfy the hearts of men. We may ransack antiquity, but we shall find there no substitute for Christ.
IV. THE HOMAGE OF SCIENCE. Evidently the Magi were astrologers. In old times all that was known of astronomy was mixed up with astrology, and all that was known of chemistry was liable to be confused by ideas of alchemy and magic. Nevertheless, this does not mean that nothing was known of the true sciences. Here we see the science of the day bowing before Christ. Science cannot be contrary to Christ if he is the Truth, for it is but accurate and systematized truth, and all truth must be harmonious. But neither science nor learning can ever be a substitute for Christ. The student cannot find the Bread of life in his books; and the man of science will not discover it in his laboratory. After all earthly attainments have been reached, the soul still needs Christ.
V. THE HOMAGE OF WEALTH. Tradition has called the Wise Men "kings." Certainly they were men of substance, as they brought with them costly gifts. We think of Christ as the Friend of the poor, but we have no right to narrow our conception of his sympathy to any one class of society. He is equally the friend of the rich, when the rich accept his friendship - e.g. Zacchaeus. Moreover, the rich need Christ as much as the poor. The rich, too, have the privilege of giving to him from their wealth. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,