This post originally appeared in Daily Grace: The Mockingbird Devotional, Vol. 2. Get your copy today!
Entering the house, [the wise men] saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt 2:11)
Sir Rowan Atkinson is a comedic genius. You are, perhaps, familiar with his legendary alter-ego, Mr. Bean, whose misadventures have provided laughs for decades. One of his best gags occurs in a department store, where Mr. Bean plays childishly with a nativity scene. What begins innocently enough quickly devolves into a bizarre episode that culminates with a tank and a robot protecting baby Jesus from an invading tyrannosaurus-rex. But even Mr. Bean’s nativity isn’t as unlikely as the one you might have on your mantle right now.
Despite evidence to the contrary, we have decided to include shepherds and wise men together at the birth of Christ. And with the carol “We Three Kings” as our guide, we’re encouraged to believe that there were three wise men, who were, in fact, kings from “the Orient.” Tradition has even gone so far as to assign them the surnames Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, each with their own history, backstory, and personality. But this is all conjecture. We don’t even know if they were kings. But to get mired in those details is to miss the point of the wise men’s inclusion in Scripture in the first place.
This scene wonderfully displays the sovereign initiative of God, even in the cherubic form of an infant. Not a single moment of this story was out of his control, despite his human frame. He was the infinite infant God, wrapped in a robe of swaddling clothes. All the power of divinity resided in the weakness of a weaning child.
The magi, then, confirm for us that the baby bouncing on Mary’s knee was the King of kings. He was the promised and predicted Christ, the only wise Lord, at whose sight one day every knee will bow. (Phil 2:10–11; Is 60:3; Ps 72:10–11) The baby adored by foreign stargazers was very the sovereign Savior whose mission was to relieve the world of its sin and renew it through his passion and resurrection. The wise men are, therefore, indicative of the wideness of the mercy of God, who would establish, through his own death, a kingdom of all nations, kindreds, and tongues. He is the One who came to be like us that we might become like him.