Matthew 2:1
This is more than a note of time. It cannot but strike us as a remarkable fact that Christ should have been born during the reign of the gloomy Idumaean ruler.

I. CHRIST COMES WHEN HE IS MOST NEEDED. Those were dark days when Herod made his Saturnine temper the spirit of a nation's government. His reign had been carried on with an external splendour and a vigorous attempt to please the Jews. But a heathen by nature, Herod was always suspected by the Jews in the midst of his pious Hebrew professions. Now, however, at the end of his life, his crimes had consumed what little good repute he had contrived to manufacture for himself. The nation was sick at heart, and the only solid hope left it was that cherished in the breast of the devout Jews, who, like Anna and Simeon, were "waiting for the consolation of Israel." It was the chill and darkness that precede the dawn. Then Christ came. No earthly events could shape a Christ; for the earthly circumstances were most adverse. He did not come to reward merit; for merit was rare in those days. But the need was great, and it was simply the need of man that brought Christ into the world.

II. THERE IS ROOM FOR ANOTHER KING BESIDES THE EARTHLY RULER. Herod was still reigning, and yet the Christ came to set up his kingdom. The sovereign at Jerusalem naturally suspected the new-born King to be a rival to his throne. Most of the Jews would have shared his opinion if they had believed in Jesus, though they would have regarded the situation with very different feelings. But Christ did not come to sit on the throne of Herod, and we cannot think of him simply as the rightful Heir who will expel the insolent usurper. His kingdom is not of this world. Earthly monarchs rise and fall, and still he reigns. His is the kingdom of heaven set up on earth. There is a reign of life which they that hold the sword of external government cannot hinder. They cannot restrain its glorious liberty, nor can they reform its evils. The world wants a King who can rule in the realm of ideas, who can sway hearts, who can conquer sin. Therefore the apostles were commissioned to make known "another King, one Jesus" (Acts 17:7).

III. THE RULE OF CHRIST IS IN STRONG CONTRAST TO ITS EXTERNAL SURROUNDINGS. Christ and Herod - what a contrast the two names suggest! Yet they are the names of the two kings of the Jews of the same day. Force, selfishness, cruelty, characterize the degenerate visible rule. Truth, gentleness, love, mark the invisible spiritual rule. So it is always, though not necessarily in the same dramatic form. When we come to Christ and his kingdom we reach a higher level, we breathe purer air, we walk in the light. Then, though the days may be adverse and altogether unpropitious, we have reached what is above daily vexations, we have attained some of the peace of the eternity in which Christ lives. - W.F.A.







Wise men from the East.
I. The wise men SEEKING Christ.

1. They are presented to us here as seekers.

2. They were earnest seekers.

3. They sought Christ reverently.

4. God assisted them in the search.

II. The wise men FINDING Christ.

1. They were seeking a person.

2. That person must be a king.

3. They sought a king and found a child.

4. Having found the child their seeking came to an end.

5. They worshipped Him.

(J. C. Jones.)Jesus was the beginner of a new era, the founder of a new kingdom, hailed as a King alike at His birth and on His cross.

I. THE SEEKERS. Magic not magicians; astronomers, not astrologers; scientists, not wizards. The coming of these wise men prophetic of the time when all the trophies of science should be laid at the Saviour's feet.

II. THE SIGN. "His star." Various conjectures. God never lacks the means to guide earnest inquirers.

III. THE SEARCH. Earnest. Gave up friends and home, and took a wearisome journey. Every follower of Christ must have the same spirit. No earthly joy is entirely satisfactory. Men will not earnestly seek Christ till firmly convinced of the unsatisfactory nature of other "things. Persevering: many discouragements.

IV. THE SUCCESS. Not where they expected it, in the capital; not even in the best place in Bethlehem, yet where their soul-hunger was satisfied — the "house of bread." They came not empty-handed, trot presented first themselves, then their gifts. The typical nature of these gifts. Around the manger was gathered a prophetic group.

(Richard Roberts.)

I. THEIR INQUIRY, "Where is He? " etc.

1. Interest awakened.

2. Belief avowed.

3. Ignorance admitted.

4. Information entreated.

5. A motive declared.

II. THEIR ENCOURAGEMENT.

1. To see His star was a great favour.

2. It was a great responsibility.

3. They did not regard it as a matter to be rested in.

4. They did not find satisfaction in what they had themselves done to leach the child.

III. THEIR EXAMPLE.

1. They saw the young child.

2. They worshipped Him.

3. They presented gifts.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE WISE MEN HERE REFERRED TO. The gospel sometimes triumphs over the world where it is most influential, and reduces the wise, rich, and great into a willing subjection to Christ.

II. THE COUNTRY FROM WHICH THEY CAME.

III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THEY WERE CONDUCTED TO BETHLEHEM. How great are our advantages compared with theirs; they had a .star, we a sun.

IV. THE LIGHT WHICH IS THROWN BY THIS PASSAGE ON SOME OF THE PERFECTIONS OF GOD.

1. On His wisdom, particularly in adapting means to an end.

2. On His power as seen in the star.

3. On His faithfulness as seen in the prophecy mow fulfilled.

4. On His knowledge as displayed in revealing the true intention of Herod.

5. A remarkable illustration of God's superintending providence. The hearts of kings are in His rule; God provides for the safety of His servants.

(D. Rees.)

1. Their title was illustrious.

2. Their pursuit was illustrious.

3. Their wealth was illustrious.

4. Their character was illustrious.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. A MODEL OF SOUND WISDOM FOR ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS. Examine the character of their faith.

1. In its commencement: promptitude to follow the call of heaven.

2. In its progress: in their well-supported constancy when the star disappeared.

3. In the perfection of their faith.

II. A PORTRAIT OF THE BLIND WISDOM OF WORLDLY MEN, AS SEEN IN HEROD'S PERSECUTION OF JESUS CHRIST.

1. This false wisdom is at enmity with God.

2. God is at enmity with this reprobate wisdom.What did the new-born Saviour to Herod: —

1. He troubled him.

2. Made him odious.

3. Confounded his counsel.

4. Made him, in defiance of himself, subservient to the designs of providence.

(Bourdalone.)

1. That men of intellectual culture have inquired earnestly for Christ.

2. Men of intellectual culture have encountered difficulties in finding Christ.

(1)A long journey;

(2)A difficult journey;

(3)A dangerous journey.

3. Men of intellectual culture have been led to Christ by the strangest agencies.

4. Men of intellectual culture have rendered the most devout homage to Christ:

(1)Intelligently,

(2)devoutly,

(3)practically.

(J. Woodhouse.)

1. Christ is owned by some m the higher orders of life.

2. They who are desirous of finding Christ will not miss Him for want of direction.

3. We should deem no difficulties too great to encounter, no sacrifices too great to make, in seeking after Christ.

4. We are to be concerned to honour Him as well as to be saved by Him.

(W. Jay.)

1. For their prerogative of a deeper wisdom.

2. For their fervid searching.

3. For their constant asking of the place.

4. For the sweetness of their spiritual joy.

5. For their devotion of humble adoration.

6. For the value of their gifts.

7. For the prudent caution of their return.

(L M. Ashley.)

1. By asking light from God.

2. By wisely seeking knowledge.

3. By pressing forward in holiness.

(L M. Ashley.)

I. THE DESCRIPTION AFFORDED OF THESE VISITANTS AT BETHLEHEM

1. The power of God over the human mind.

2. A fulfilment of prophecy.

II. THE STAR WHICH CONDUCTED THESE WISE MEN TO CHRIST.

1. The condescension of God — He often meets man in man's own paths.

2. The greatness of God — He often puts much honour on Christ by the means which He makes use of to lead sinners to Him.

3. The compassion and care of God — He adapts His guidance to our needs.

III. THE CONDUCT OF THESE MEN.

1. Their faith.

2. The moral greatness they exhibited.

3. Their devotedness to Christ.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

These wise men were assisted in their hopes by an inward inspiration. The solicitation of grace worked within them.

(G. Bateman, M. A.)

1. That despisers of Jesus are doubtless to be viewed as despisers of Him whom His Heavenly Father delighteth to honour. The song of the angels.

2. That Jesus is to Gentiles as well as to Jews a Prince and a Saviour.

3. That the Christian faith is not to be viewed as exclusively embraced by the poor and illiterate.

4. As to the enjoyment of external advantages we are more highly favoured than these men.

(A. Teller.)

1. In the largeness of the plan of His salvation, Christ not only breaks over all the narrow notions of national, family, and social prejudice, but He permits every heart to come to Him, in spite of its imperfections and errors, by the best light and the best feeling it has.

2. At every step forward in the Christian life, each disciple's amount of privilege or blessing is generally in proportion to the growth of his faith up to that time.

3. After all, wherever the starting-point, whoever the travellers, whatever the gentleness that forbears to quench our feeble life, and however merciful the long-suffering that waits for us, there is an end of the whole way, at the feet of the Lord.

(Bishop Huntingdon.)

I. THE PERSONS.

1. Their country.

2. Their condition,

II. THEM JOURNEY. They saw, understood, and set out.

III.

1. Let us evermore give thanks to our Lord God for the revelation of that great mystery of mercy, the restoration of the Gentiles to that Church, from which they had been for so many ages excluded, or rather, we should say, they had excluded themselves.

2. Diligence is generally rewarded with the discovery of that which it seeks after — sometimes of that which is much more valuable.

3. Let us learn to be watchful and observant of those lights, which at sundry times, and in divers manners, are vouchsafed to us.

(Bishop Horne.)

I. How THE MAGI SOUGHT AND FOUND THE LORD.

1. Who they were.

2. They sought with the utmost assiduity.

3. They were ultimately directed to Him by the written Word.

4. From first to last they were divinely guided.

II. THE FEELINGS WITH WHICH THE MAGI CONTEMPLATED HIM.

1. With exceeding great; joy.

2. With devout adoration.

3. They presented most costly offerings. Lessons:

(1)Except we thus seek and find the Saviour we perish.

(2)Do you know and feel that you have not sought Him?

(3)Are you greatly discouraged in seeking Him?

(F. Close, M. A.)This visit of the wise men shows us: —

I. How VARIOUSLY GOD SPEAKS TO us, — how many are the voices whereby He calls us, if we will, out of darkness, whether of mind or of heart, into His marvellous light. He uses a language to each, which each can understand. The Universal Father sooner or later has a word, a star, for all of us.

II. HOW TRUTH, IF IT IS TO BE GRASPED IN ITS FULNESS, MUST BE EARNESTLY SOUGHT FOR. These wise men had a little stock of truth to start with, but they made the most of that which had been given them. Some word, some example, some passing, inward inspiration, may be the star in the East, bidding the soul hope and persevere.

III. This history teaches WHAT IS THE REAL OBJECT OF RELIGIOUS INQUIRY. Worship is the joint result of thought, affection, and will, rising upward towards God, and then shrinking into the very dust before Him. It is much more than mere religious thought, it is the soul seeking the true centre of the spiritual universe with all its powers.

(Canon Liddon.)His birthplace, as in everything else belonging to Him, is a living parable.

I. It was a FOREIGN COUNTRY. In Judaea, not in Galilee. To teach us that this world is an alien land to us, although we may have grown old in it. Jesus Christ was only a stranger and a sojourner in it; and we in like manner are sojourners.

II. It was a SMALL VILLAGE. The King of kings is born in an obscure place, and the Lord of might, of lowly parentage. God reverses the judgment of this world concerning many things.

III. It was in BETHLEHEM. In Bethlehem, "the house of bread," was born the Living Bread. Before Christ was born, the world was full of starving men, hungering after pleasures, riches, and honours. He Himself satisfies all men's hunger.

IV. It was a village BY THE WAY. Showing that our present life is the way to death. May we follow Jesus Christ from Bethlehem to Zion.

(William of Auvergne.)

Well, the last year I passed that old church, I noticed something which was very interesting. The tower is standing pretty entire, and the spire of it is standing pretty entire also. It is a little shaken and riven with the weather and the strokes of time; but there it stands. And what do you think is climbing up the side of the spire? Why, a little tree that has got its roots in a little crevice of the spire, and it is covering the bare stones with beautiful green. Now, that tree to me is like the wise men of the East. You see, God in Judaea had a garden, and all the trees there were planted by prophets and people that were sent to do the work. But now, how did He plant these trees in Chaldea — how did He plant that tree in the spire of the church? "Whence came the seed there? " you say. It was not a man that went up and planted it there; it was not planted as you plant a tree in the garden. But then, God says sometimes to the little birds, "Take a seed and plant it up in the rock, and let it clothe the rock." Or, He says to the winds, "Waft the seed up to that little crack in the spire of the old church, and let it become a living tree."

(J. Edmond.)

In the annals of the Celestial Empire, there is historical evidence of Ambassadors or "wise men" having been sent towards the West in search of the "Great Saint who was to appear." The following from the Annals narrates the circumstance: — "In the 24th year of the Tchao-Wang, of the dynasty of the Tcheou, on the 8th day of the 4th moon, a light appeared in the south-west which illuminated the "king's palace. The monarch, struck by its splendour, interrogated the sages, who were skilled in foretelling future events. They then showed him hooks in which it was written that this prodigy signified the appearance of a great Saint in the West, whose religion was to be introduced into this country. The king consulted the ancient books, and having found the passages corresponding with the time of Tchao-Wang, was filled with joy. Then he sent the officers Tsa-yu and Thsin-King, the learned Wang-Tsun, and fifteen other men to the West to obtain information." So sensible were these "wise men" of the time and place of the Saviour's birth, that they set forth to hail the expected Redeemer. The envoy encountered in their way the missionaries of Buddhism coming from India announcing an incarnate God; these the Chinese took for the disciples of the true Christ, embraced their teaching, and introduced them to their fellow-country-men as the teachers of the true religion. Thus was Buddhism introduced into China in place of Christianity.

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 this 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 and Italian houses is believed to fill the stockings and dress the tree on Christmas morn. The children area wakened by the cry of" 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 is doomed to eternal disappointment.

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