Worship Like Wise Men | Matthew 2:1-12

May 12, 2014

Topic: Christmas

Book: Matthew

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12


Advent is the time when the world celebrates the most glorious event in the history of the world, God becoming human and giving the name Jesus because He will save his people from their sins. We have the details of this account mentioned in the gospel according to Matthew and Luke. Jesus is called Immanuel which means God with us. One of the narratives of Advent is about the wise men coming from the East to worship Jesus.

Today we are going to look at the True Worship by Wise Men narrative

Matthew 2:1-6

 1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Matthew 2:7 – 8

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Matthew 2:10 – 12

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

We must understand that all 4 gospels are very different.

Each gospel has its focus. Matthew writes to the Jews, but he emphasizes to them the focus on the gentile mission. Matthew 28, go into all the world to make disciples of all the nations.

So here in the beginning of the gospel, you have a prophetic event to show that the Gentiles will come to worship the Messiah. We are here now to worship the Messiah. Around the world, the majority of the people who worship Jesus are non-Jewish people.

God does not have any special love for a group of people, not even for Israel. God calls everyone to worship.

There is a simplicity to this familiar story of worship by wise men. Some of us may have heard it many times. Familiarity can sometimes numb our spirits to the wonder of discovery. Embedded in this passage are some practical examples of simple things we can do to worship Christ. In this passage, we can learn about true worship, something that we do not hear anywhere in scripture based on the worship by wise men.

Matthew 2:1-2 

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

How did the Wise men who worshipped know about the birth of Jesus?

From the Scripture. The wise men heard about the Jewish king maybe from the scripture as the Jewish exiles were there. In 587 BC Judah was destroyed and people were taken into captivity. The Jews in captivity hoped for the coming of the Messiah and the wise men heard about it.

Maybe they heard from the mouth of a disobedient prophet, Balam.

Numbers 24:17

 A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.

This is not approval of Astrology

We do not find here an approval for astrology in this. Astrology tells us what the stars foretell. It tells us that people’s lives are somehow controlled by these stars and unfortunately even Christians begin to think about bad times and good times and think that stars control our lives. This is not a sanction for astrology because we believe God controls the greater light and smaller light.

Somehow God chose to bring these pagan wise men to come and worship Jesus. They got the first privilege to worship Jesus.

When did these wise men who worshipped Jesus come?

They did not come with the shepherds. They came much after.

Matthew 2:1-2

 1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea

The shepherds came the day Jesus was born, the wise men came weeks or months later to worship. Jesus may have been a toddler when they came to worship.

Why did the wise men come?

Wise men came to worship.

Matthew 2:1-2 

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

How many wise men came to worship?

We do not know how many came. They probably traveled in large groups with their helpers. Their arrival attracted the attention of the city. We say there are three because of three gifts.

Who are the Magi?

The Magi are also mentioned in the OT, Daniel 2:2, 10. In the Greek OT, they are seen as the enemies of Daniel. Maybe Mathew is challenging the prejudice of his audience against outsiders. Sometimes we think that we are the insiders and think God loves us more than the outsides. God is bringing all people to Jesus by showing us these wise men who came to worship Him.

When they saw the star, they began to discuss, “What does this mean?” They thought that there was the king of the Jews born and they prepared and planned to come to Jerusalem. They were especially used by God. From what they did we can learn from them how to worship our Lord, the Savior like these wise men.

In this story, the Jewish leaders don’t seem to care.

The Jewish King Herod did not worship Jesus like Wise men but plotted to kill Him

Jerusalem already has a king, and the king of the Jews sitting there, he is Herod the Great. He is half-Jew; he is an Edomite. Herod always wanted to show himself as a friend of the Jews. Also, he is a powerful man. Herod became a famous builder. He dedicated temples for other gods, especially temples in honor of Caesar. But in Jerusalem, he began especially the greatest temple of the ancient world, the temple of the one true God in Jerusalem. The Jewish people had only one temple, they had only one God and one temple. So, they put all their resources into this temple.

Herod the Great liked to eliminate his people who were getting popular. Herod also eliminated his enemies. Someone said, “Better to be one of Herod’s pigs than one of his sons.” Is it surprising that Herod killed the male babies of Bethlehem?

Despite his hatred, he makes a pretense, and he says to the Magi, “Find out and tell me and I will also come to worship Him.”

The people of Jerusalem were also indifferent to the birth of Jesus and did not worship like Wise men

They are the insiders, but they do not have any heart to worship like wise men. They do not say that let us check it out.

The Priests and Scribes did not care about the Messiah to Worship like wise men

The priests and the scribes know the scripture which said about the birth of the Messiah. They know the scripture well; they do not care.

They are all so near and yet so far. Bethlehem is not very far, just 10 km. While these wise men have come so far, these scholars, the people, and the king from Jerusalem do not want to travel to worship the king like these wise men.

The Magi or Wise men worshipped Jesus

Matthew 2:11 

They bowed down and worshipped.

How can we worship Jesus like these wise men?

We can freshly look at worship today.

Matthew 2:9-10

 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

1. Worship in Humble service of others like Wise men’s worship

These wise men were great people, they were the top people of the then world. They bend down, bow down, and kneel before Jesus. They do not usually do that. A grown-up man in that time would not bow down before a child. They bowed down and worshipped a child. This is counter-cultural. Worship makes us counter-cultural.

This is an act of humility. Remember, Jesus, washed his disciples’ feet.

What does “Bowing Down” mean? Wise men worshipped Jesus by bowing down

It means humility.

The only acceptable posture we can have before God is genuine humility. Jesus said:

Matthew 11:29

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Jesus had an attitude of humility, and He wants us to be humble.

Humility is not based on appearance.

How do you define humility?

Philippians 2:3-11 

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

First Example of Humility: Jesus Christ

Second Example: Timothy

Philippians 2:22 

But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

Third Example: Epaphroditus

Philippians 2:25

 Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.

Philippians 2:30

 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

How do you worship God like wise men who worshipped Jesus?

Kingdom lifestyle is counter-cultural. Jesus has given us a counter-cultural way of loving and serving people, even our enemies. When we respect and love all human beings without prejudice in a counter-cultural way, we are worshiping our Savior.


Dr. Ida Scudder was born on 9th December 1870; in Ranipet India to a medical missionary. As a child growing up in India, she witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of famine, poverty, and disease.

She went to the US for her studies. In 1890, after graduating from a Massachusetts women’s seminary she came back to India. In India, she watched as three men sought aid for their wives who were in childbirth. Her father, a trained physician, offered to attend to them, but the men refused help from a male physician. The three young mothers died, rattling Ida Scudder and propelling her to a life of medical service for women and the underserved.

Those three knocks were a calling from God for the young Ida Scudder. She rejected the traditions of marriage and family and a comfortable life in the United States, eventually earning a medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in 1899.

Dr. Ida Scudder returned to India

Dr. Scudder returned to India in 1900 to begin her work. With a small gift of $10,000 from a man who wanted to memorialize his deceased wife, she immediately opened a one-bed clinic giving medical assistance to local women who had no other place to go for health care. This is humility. Leaving behind her comforts in the US, coming to India, and serving the people of India.

By 1902, the 40-bed Mary Taber Schell Memorial Hospital opened, beginning the realization of Ida’s vision.

Ida said, “Women should have the same access to quality and compassionate healthcare that men did, regardless of religion or the ability to pay for it.”

Dr. Scudder went on to open a medical school for women in 1918.

Dr. Ida Scudder, to her first batch of graduating doctors in 1922:

“You will not only be curing diseases but will also be battling with epidemics, plagues, and pestilences and preventing them. Face trials with a smile, with head erect and a calm exterior. If you are fighting for the right and for a true principle, be calm and sure and keep on until you win.”

That tiny clinic has grown into CMC, Vellore. Today, CMC cares for over two million patients and trains one thousand doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals each year. Dr. Ida S. Scudder’s legacy of humble and loving service continues today.

Jesus is the servant king. The followers of Jesus must be humble.

2. Worship involves Sacrificial Giving

Think about the travel of the wise men. How long did their travel take? This a long travel with sacrifice. In Ezra 7 we can find the journey of Ezra from Babylon to Jerusalem.


(Ezra) had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him.

With the hand of the Lord upon them, it took 4 months. It is not a quick travel. So roughly, the wise men would have taken about 4-6 months. They gave themselves to risky travel, uncertain travel. Today we have so many amenities to travel. They did not have a GPS; they had a heavenly GPS. The very fact that they choose to travel is an act of worship.

When the scribes of Israel did not travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem which is about 9.6 km, the pagans traveled for months to worship Jesus.

What did they gain?

Sometimes people come to church and say to themselves, “What did we get from the service?” I don’t think that is the way we should look at church.

What did they get? They got Joy

We don’t come to church to worship to get anything, we come to give. That is worshipping the King in acts of love. Don’t forget that the gifts:

Matthew 2:11 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They gave are costly gifts. Often seen as symbolic of the calling of Jesus as a royal king, Jesus as the faithful high priest, and Jesus as the suffering Messiah.

The gift perhaps also fulfilled messianic expectations as we reach Psalms 72:10-12 and Isaiah 60:1-6. If you look at those passages, they talk about the kings from distant shores who will come into Israel and bring tribute.

To whom did they give those gifts? To the family of Jesus

Remember, the family of Jesus at this time is very poor.

Luke 2:24, 40 days after Jesus’ birth, his parents take Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for dedication. They gave 2 doves. According to Leviticus 12:6, they were supposed to bring in an animal and a dove. In Leviticus 12:8, it says there is an exception. If the family is poor, then they could give 2 doves. Which tells us that the family of Jesus is poor. They cannot even afford what is expected of everybody else. While everyone else in the community was able to do certain things, they couldn’t afford it.

After the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ family had to run away as refugees to a foreign country. We also see that Jesus was a refugee (Israel, Elijah was a fugitive, David was a fugitive, Jesus is a fugitive here)

That shows that Jesus identifies with our suffering. He was a refugee. They do not have credit cards with them. when poor people go from one country to another country, how do you survive?

The costly gifts of these wise men probably helped the family of Jesus to survive in a foreign land.

Our Worship must be timely

One thing to learn is that our worship must be timely.

When God allows us to give sacrificially, we must do it then. It is too late afterward; it is too late after I am dead. Example: People giving money after demonetization. It is too late.

We must give sacrificially to the family of Jesus. who is the family of Jesus? Jesus loved his mother and family members, but at one point Jesus said this:

Matthew 12:46-50

 46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Today as you give, who are we giving to?

The family of Jesus. That offering that you give as an act of worship is to the family of Jesus.

Worship includes the song, but worship also includes giving. We are called to give sacrificially when we can. Our giving has to include giving to the needy and giving to the family of Jesus. If you are still sticking to the 10% giving and thinking the remaining 90% is your money, you are still in the infant level of worship.

Remember, when we worship the Lord, it is not calculative giving. It is sacrificial giving.

How do we worship God?

We Worship God in Counter-Cultural Ways of Humble Service

We Worship God in Sacrificial Giving. Not Calculative Giving

3. We worship God in obedience

Matthew 2:12 

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they (Magi) returned to their country by another route.

The king had told the Magi to go back to him and report the whereabouts of the child. When the wise men had a dream and did not go back to the king.

They did not listen to the strong voice of the king but listened to the soft voice of God.

There are many voices that we hear from our friends, culture, and media today. Whose voice do we listen to? Most times the voice of God is gentle. He does not scream at us. The wise men obeyed the gentle voice of the Spirit and disobeyed the strong voice of Herod.

Is God speaking to you to do something you need to do?

Sometimes, God’s people misunderstand God’s voice. Eli misunderstood Hannah as she was praying in the temple. He thought she was drunk. Samuel misunderstood God’s voice about anointing the king of Israel. When he saw the eldest son of Jessie, he thought it was the person. We need to hear the voice of God and then obey it.

Our two main resources to hear God’s voice are the scripture and the church, the people of God.

Read the scripture and be part of a good church. A church where you know people, you fellowship with people. Don’t make decisions alone, talk to a mature Christian, talk to your pastor, and see the wisdom God gives you. Then you know the will of God and obey God.

The wise man is an example of true worship. Today, God is calling us to worship him in the revelation of this scripture.

How can we worship?

1. In Humble Service of Others

2. Sacrificial Giving. Giving To the Needy and The Family of Jesus

3. Obedience to The Voice of The Spirit

That is worship. I think we are wise people when we worship God like this.

What is the result of worship?

Matthew 2:9-10

 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

They were filled with joy.

Joy is the result of True Worship

Joy is not the same as satisfaction. When you ride your new car, you get satisfaction. This is temporary. When you eat you are satisfied, again temporarily.

Joy has something to do which has no connection with our circumstances. When we truly worship God, the result of that is joy.

That is the sign that we have worshipped God.

Friends, we are created to worship God. We see here that Israel, God’s people will not worship but the Gentiles will worship. Here we are today, the majority of the world who worship Jesus are the Gentiles. We do not worship Jesus the toddler, but we worship Jesus the Savior. The wise men did not know what this child would grow up to be, but now we understand that God in the flesh died for our sins, and he has risen from the grave. He is the risen Savior.

I think we are wise people when we worship God like this. Worship like a wise man.

For more related sermons,

How do you celebrate Christmas? | Matthew 2: 1 – 16

The Wise Find | Christmas Sermon | Matthew 2: 1 -12

Christmas Responses

Celebrations, Worship and Weeping | Matthew 2: 1 – 23