Matthew 2:11, 12
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him…
Guided by the providence of God, the devout scientists from the East, who inquired in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, are arrived at Bethlehem. Now they enter the house of the carpenter. Let us also enter, that we may see and worship with them.
I. WHAT DO THEY SEE?
1. They behold the King of the Jews.
(1) He is denoted by the star. Some think it entered the dwelling and formed as a nimbus round the Infant's head. This notion was ancient, and has suggested to painters their practice of depicting a glory surrounding the head of Jesus. The evidence in favour of this opinion is not very clear. The star sufficiently indicated the Prince of Israel as it stood blazing in the atmosphere directly over his dwelling. No palace was ever so honoured as this humble residence. The "morning star" indicates the place and rising of the sun.
(2) He is denoted by the prophet. The passage cited from Micah by the Sanhedrin, together with the star, declared the Babe of Bethlehem to be the "Ruler whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity. The greatness of Christ is conspicuous in his gentleness.
(3) He is denoted by the angel. For the Magi were warned of God in a dream - presumably by the angel of the Lord who afterwards in a dream appeared to Joseph. Note: The testimony concerning the Messiahship of Jesus is ample (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16). Unbelief is as perilous as it is defence-less (see Deuteronomy 17:6).
2. They see him veiled in humanity.
(1) His humanity was real. The young Child." Born as other children, though very differently conceived. "With his mother." Nourished as an ordinary infant.
(2) Note in the truth of the humanity of Jesus:
(a) The reality of our interest in his mission and work.
(b) The reality and perfection of his sympathy with us.
(3) So let us be encouraged
(a) to open all our anxieties to him;
(b) to trust him with a perfect confidence.
3. They see Immanuel in humiliation.
(1) He is the "King of the Jews;" but, in this humble dwelling, in what contrast to the magnificence of Solomon! Note: True grandeur is spiritual. Mind is above matter.
(2) How much greater still is the contrast! The "King of the Jews," in the carpenter's house, attended only by his poor mother; and the King of glory, in the heights of heaven, attended by his myriad retinue of angels!
(3) Let us read in this
(a) how humanity is dignified in Christ;
(b) how in him the Divine royalty of man is and may be asserted amidst circumstances of reverse.
4. They see a heavenly vision.
(1) Whether God warned them by his Shechinah or by his angel, when in their dream or trance, in that revelation their faith was richly rewarded.
(2) Their obedience to the heavenly vision also became a means to the important end of preserving Christ from the fury of Herod. So are faithful defenders of Christ and his cause still the honoured instruments of preserving his life in his Church.
(3) Their obedience secured also their own safety. For had they rather obeyed Herod and returned to him, they might have fallen victims to his tyranny under a construction of treason in acknowledging a rival King of the Jews. The way of duty is safety as well as honour.
II. HOW DO THEY WORSHIP?
1. They worship Jesus as the King of the Jews.
(1) "They fell down," etc., put themselves into that attitude which Orientals are accustomed to assume in presence of royalty.
(2) "Opening their treasures," etc. It was also customary in the East to bring gilts to kings. Note:
(a) "The powers that be are ordained of God," and should therefore be religiously respected.
(b) Kings exist for the order and happiness of states, and should therefore be religiously sustained in the due exercise of their functions.
2. They worship Jesus as the Christ of God.
(1) They did not journey from the distant East to pay respect to an ordinary prince. The star had marked this prince as extraordinary and supernatural. Prophecy also had declared him to be Divine.
(2) These Gentiles, in coming to the King of the Jews, claimed an interest in his kingdom. They did not honour Herod as they honoured Jesus. Neither did they pay religious worship to Mary.
(3) The humble circumstances in which they found the Christ did not discourage their faith. Now, since nations have come to acknowledge him, faith has become fashionable.
3. They worshipped him with gifts.
(1) They presented themselves. This, in the first place, is most important. The living sacrifice. The reasonable service.
(2) They consecrated their substance. "Gold," etc. (see Psalm 72:10). Some will give to Christ personal service, but withhold property. Others will give property, but withhold personal service. The Magi gave both. Christ is worthy of all homage.
4. Their worship was typical.
(1) The mention of "gold and frankincense" refers us back to Isaiah 60:6, where the gathering of the Gentiles is foretold (see also Haggai 2:8). "The respect paid to Christ by these Gentiles was a happy presage and specimen of what would follow when those who were afar off should be made nigh by Christ" (Henry).
(2) The shepherds of Bethlehem found Christ before the Magi found him. The gospel came "to the Jew first." But, though Bethlehem was but half a dozen miles from Jerusalem, the Magi do not appear to have been accompanied by any of the Sanhedrin or citizens. The Gentiles received the gospel when it was rejected by the Jews. Heathendom is accepting it as Christendom is rejecting it. "Those nearest to the means are often furthest from the end" (cf. Matthew 8:11, 12).
5. their gifts were symbolical.
(1) Some think the "gold" was given as tribute to the "King;" the "frankincense" in recognition of his Divinity, because God is honoured with incense; and the "myrrh" in recognition of his humanity, and that as man he should die, because myrrh was used in embalming (see John 19:89).
(2) Perhaps their purpose was to confess Christ as universal King. They presented themselves as representing the "kingdom of men," and the whole animated creation at whose head man stands. The "frankincense and myrrh" would represent the vegetable kingdom. "Gold" in like manner would represent the mineral. Christ, who carried his miracle-working into every kingdom of nature, is destined to receive universal homage (see Ephesians 1:10, 20-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11).
(3) Or perhaps they may have designed to express simply their faith in Jesus as the Christ. Thus they came seeking the "King of the Jews," and now they give him "gold," or pay tribute to him as such. But then the King of the Jews is the King Messiah. Their faith in Jesus as such would be expressed in the "myrrh," which was a leading ingredient in the composition of the holy anointing oil (see Exodus 30:23). The ointment in composition they could not present, for it would have been unlawful for them to compound it. But further, since all excellences in perfection existed in Christ, they would express this in their donation of "frankincense;" for this was a principal ingredient in the holy perfume, viz. that which common persons must neither compound nor use (Exodus 30:34). The Bridegroom, in the Canticles, is described as "coming out of the wilderness, like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant" (Song of Solomon 3:6). The cloud of the Shechinah, the holy oil, and the holy perfume are here together associated to describe the qualities of Christ. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.