Wise Men Went Back "Another Way"

“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. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:11-12)

We’ve all heard the story, so much so that a few of us could probably quote the verses. So why talk about the wise men when Christmas has come and gone?

Even though their visit with the Christ Child is traditionally taught as a part of the Christmas Story, Bible scholars believe that these men from the east may not have seen Jesus until as late as two years after His birth. In other words, their visit doesn’t have to be associated just with Christmas. In addition, while we often concentrate on the gifts these men brought to honor Jesus, we often overlook what else we can learn from their visit—lessons that we can take with us into 2003.

It’s true that each of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus symbolized something special about His birth. Gold symbolized the fact that He was (and still is) the King of Kings. The gift of frankincense, a type of incense often burned at altars, emphasized His deity. Myrrh, which was often used in embalming, pointed to His death of the Cross.

The importance of, and meaning behind, these gifts cannot be ignored. But the account of the wise men’s visit brought other important scriptural principles that can serve us every day of the year. For example, notice in the story that the wise men came looking for God. Interesting, isn’t it? Most of us today rarely “go looking” for God. Instead, many of us sit around and wait for God to find us.

Most Christians think there were three wise men, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were. We probably draw that conclusion since they presented Jesus with three gifts. Did you notice that they were also nameless? Rather than seek credit for traveling from afar and honoring the child who would one day call Himself the Son of God, these men apparently chose to remain anonymous. Sort of sounds like something I once read that Jesus said: “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.” (Matthew 6:2)

Finally, the Bible tells us that these men “departed into their own country another way.” If you read the story again, it’s easy to see why. They were supposed to let Herod know where he could find Jesus. They knew what Herod wanted and they knew that their failure to honor his request would mean death for them.

But I’d like to also think that their lives, just like our lives, were changed after they met Jesus. The truth is we all go back “another way” after we’ve found the life-changing, life-saving power of Jesus Christ!

They brought gifts with them to honor the birth of the greatest man who ever lived, and the only God who still does. Who could blame them for going back another way?

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