The Wise Men

It was certainly good to get back to our own church after weeks of holiday travel, and we came back to an excellent Epiphany sermon.

The Wise Men, we were told, did not get very far using earthly wisdom: They came to Jerusalem, logically enough but wrong, looking for the new King. Worse, they naively asked the old king for information about the new king who would replace him. It was when they started to follow God’s Word (the prophecy in Micah about the Messiah coming from Bethlehem) that they made progress. [My aside: Notice how the Bible helped them interpret the star, not the other way around. We get so caught up with trying to interpret the Bible that we neglect that the Bible is what interprets us!]

When the Wise Men found the Christ child, who was against all appearances of what worldly wisdom would say a king should be, they worshipped him. As Pastor Douthwaite put it, “they returned wiser than they came.”

Read the sermon for yourself here.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think the most interesting aspect of the visit of the magi, is that they were most likely priests serving false gods, practitioners of the “dark arts.”
    The LXX uses this term for sorcerers in the second chapter of Daniel, and Acts 8 designates Simon the magician with the same Greek word.
    I find it most telling that here a baby in swaddling clothes shows himself to be The God above all gods, King of kings, Lord of lords. I believe that the visit of the magi was only a partial fulfilment of Isaiah 60, The full eschatological reality of which will be shown in the parousia, as Rev. 21 also makes apparent.
    I also agree with your pastor the “wise” men left wiser than they came.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think the most interesting aspect of the visit of the magi, is that they were most likely priests serving false gods, practitioners of the “dark arts.”
    The LXX uses this term for sorcerers in the second chapter of Daniel, and Acts 8 designates Simon the magician with the same Greek word.
    I find it most telling that here a baby in swaddling clothes shows himself to be The God above all gods, King of kings, Lord of lords. I believe that the visit of the magi was only a partial fulfilment of Isaiah 60, The full eschatological reality of which will be shown in the parousia, as Rev. 21 also makes apparent.
    I also agree with your pastor the “wise” men left wiser than they came.

  • organshoes

    Yes, I think conventional wisdom about the wise men–probably partially due to their having been misnomered ‘wise men’ for so many ages now–interprets them as having been wise enough to seek, to follow, and to find, and such an interpretation encourages us to do likewise: look for and follow signs, and congratulate ourselves for having been so wise in finding a Savior at last.
    Their brief story in the scriptures lends itself to much deeper than that, by just sticking to the truth. Their wisdom got them nowhere beyond curious; they found nothing. They were led, and they bowed.

  • organshoes

    Yes, I think conventional wisdom about the wise men–probably partially due to their having been misnomered ‘wise men’ for so many ages now–interprets them as having been wise enough to seek, to follow, and to find, and such an interpretation encourages us to do likewise: look for and follow signs, and congratulate ourselves for having been so wise in finding a Savior at last.
    Their brief story in the scriptures lends itself to much deeper than that, by just sticking to the truth. Their wisdom got them nowhere beyond curious; they found nothing. They were led, and they bowed.

  • fw

    #2 organshoes

    awesome comment as usual. I have been missing you here.

  • fw

    #2 organshoes

    awesome comment as usual. I have been missing you here.

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  • Joe

    Two comments come to mind. The first is a bit of a flyer. Any thought that the wisemen from the “East” were from the lost tribes that the Assyrians took away and who never returned. Perhaps, that is why the were looking for a messiah. Just a weird thought.

    Second, this story is very powerful and can be very dangerous when misused. One of the last times I was in my parents ELCA church (I have commented on it before), the pastor used this story to extol the congregation to be open minded to the truths that we can learn from other religions. After all if a pagan wise men could learn truth from Christ we could learn truth from the pagans. This theme was repeated in the prayers for the church – the congregation dutifully prayed that their minds be opened to the truths of other religions. It made me physically ill.

  • Joe

    Two comments come to mind. The first is a bit of a flyer. Any thought that the wisemen from the “East” were from the lost tribes that the Assyrians took away and who never returned. Perhaps, that is why the were looking for a messiah. Just a weird thought.

    Second, this story is very powerful and can be very dangerous when misused. One of the last times I was in my parents ELCA church (I have commented on it before), the pastor used this story to extol the congregation to be open minded to the truths that we can learn from other religions. After all if a pagan wise men could learn truth from Christ we could learn truth from the pagans. This theme was repeated in the prayers for the church – the congregation dutifully prayed that their minds be opened to the truths of other religions. It made me physically ill.

  • CRB

    Joe,
    Sounds like a program I heard Sunday on the ELCA’s “Grace Matters”. The host interviewed an author of a book titled, “If Grace is True: Why God will Save Every Person.” He proceeded to assent to this position
    and then lamblasted some in the LCMS for their calling
    David Benke to task for his unionistic service in 2001.
    I wish I could ask all the martyrs of the early church, like Peter and Paul what they think of such trash being
    taught and promoted in the name of God?!!

    Kyrie Eleison!

  • CRB

    Joe,
    Sounds like a program I heard Sunday on the ELCA’s “Grace Matters”. The host interviewed an author of a book titled, “If Grace is True: Why God will Save Every Person.” He proceeded to assent to this position
    and then lamblasted some in the LCMS for their calling
    David Benke to task for his unionistic service in 2001.
    I wish I could ask all the martyrs of the early church, like Peter and Paul what they think of such trash being
    taught and promoted in the name of God?!!

    Kyrie Eleison!

  • organshoes

    Every word of the Bible, let alone any story, is subject to such as that, Joe and CRB.
    Has a Christmas passed you by for at least 20 years, without some minister somewhere using the Nativity as a call to the plight of the homeless and unwed mothers?
    And how often is the Sermon on the Mount used as a vehicle for promoting world peace (and, more specifically, as an anti-war speech) and social justice?
    In failing to look for The Christ in the scriptures, we accept the hollow success of finding ourselves, and all we presume we are about.

  • organshoes

    Every word of the Bible, let alone any story, is subject to such as that, Joe and CRB.
    Has a Christmas passed you by for at least 20 years, without some minister somewhere using the Nativity as a call to the plight of the homeless and unwed mothers?
    And how often is the Sermon on the Mount used as a vehicle for promoting world peace (and, more specifically, as an anti-war speech) and social justice?
    In failing to look for The Christ in the scriptures, we accept the hollow success of finding ourselves, and all we presume we are about.

  • CRB

    oraganshoes,
    You’re absolutely right! When the ELCA gave up the Word of God decades ago, it was all downhill from there!

  • CRB

    oraganshoes,
    You’re absolutely right! When the ELCA gave up the Word of God decades ago, it was all downhill from there!


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