Do these three names mean anything to you? Melchior? Caspar? Balthasar?
Tradition has it that these men were the 3 kings of the Orient who came bearing gifts to baby Jesus.
You’ve heard the song, “We Three Kings”? And you have seen the manger scene with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the animals, and the shepherds all together?
In reading Matthew’s account this morning from chapter two, I was reminded of how tradition can sometimes supersede Truth.
I noticed nothing was said in the text regarding the number of the men or their names. It is assumed there were three. But they could have pooled their fund for the gifts. Maybe there was more than one gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Maybe there were only 2 men? Maybe 5? We don’t know.
Furthermore, they are not called Kings. The text says they were “wise men from the East.” Other versions render this word, “Magi.”
When they found Jesus he was in a house (2:11), not a manger. Apparently, Matthew’s account is about a time later than Luke’s record of the birth. Traveling from the East would have taken some time to arrive. By the way, the Shepherds are not present. There are no animals in the house!
The magi had heard about Him “who has been born king of the Jews.” But it was King Herod, not the herald of the angels that sent the wise men to find Jesus.
As soon as the magi left, Joseph was warned in a dream about Herod’s plot and they left that night for Egypt. This had to have been after Jesus’ presentation in the Temple (Lk. 2:22). Mary’s days of purification were over.
According to the law of Moses (Lev. 12:1-4), unclean for 7 days. On the 8th day, Jesus was circumcised. Then it was another 33 days before the mother could come into the sanctuary and be considered clean. Thus, it was at least 40 days before the wise men showed up.
These legends surrounding Jesus’ birth remind us that sometimes we can believe tradition when just a bit of Bible reading can reveal the Truth. The facts prove much of what the religious world has been lead to believe about the birth of Jesus is fiction.
Incidentally, neither Matthew or Luke tell exactly when Jesus was born? What month? What day? We just don’t know.
Jesus often chided the religious leaders regarding their acceptance of oral, man-made traditions. Their traditions had often superseded the law of God and rendered it ineffective. (Matt 15:1-6).
The apostle Paul also warned the Christians not to be duped and deceived into following philosophy or accept human religious traditions, “that are not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8)
The only religious, doctrinal traditions that we ought to believe, embrace and obey are the apostolic traditions (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15). These have been given to us by God, revealed by the Holy Spirit and recorded by divine inspiration.
It would be well for all of us to ask, “Am I following Truth or tradition?” Are my religious beliefs in accord with Scripture? Is the teaching of the church I attend based on the Bible or human tradition? Is the worship Bible-based?
What about my ministry? My mission? My message?
Just like in the case of Jesus’ birth, it is easy to accept popular legend without verifying it from the Bible text.
May our devotion be to God’s Word. Even if it debunks our traditions.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman