Matthew is the only Gospel writer who gives us information about these mysterious strangers. He tells us they came from the East and were called Magi. They were of noble birth, educated, wealthy and influential. Perhaps they were acquainted with the Messianic prophesies: “Out of you [Bethlehem] will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2).“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).
They were guided by a star, got lost in Jerusalem, and — after receiving directions from the Scriptures — continued on to Bethlehem. Again guided by a star, they came to the place where Jesus, the King of the Jews, was staying. They worshipped Him and presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They returned to their own country by another way.
Traditions have emerged that there were three kings because there were three gifts. By the third century, they had names: Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior.
But it was never really about the wise men. It was all about Jesus. The hearts of the Magi were moved to provide for the needs of Jesus and His family. The gifts financed the family’s travel to Egypt, where they lived among the Jews, and sustained their lives until they returned to Israel.
By God’s grace, wealth and prosperity are sometimes lavished on us so the kingdom of God can be expanded through the church. We do not receive the prosperity of His things for our sake but to prosper and give to the King of Kings.
As missionary Amy Carmichael wrote, “One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”
Don Bowers, an ordained elder and a regional representative of the Free Methodist Foundation, lives in Upland, California, and attends the Cucamonga Christian Fellowship.