From Expository Thoughts on Matthew (1856)
These verses show us a splendid example of spiritual diligence. What trouble it must have cost these wise men to travel from their homes to the house where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed! The fatigues of an Eastern traveler are far greater than we in England can at all understand. The time that such a journey would occupy must necessarily have been very great. The dangers to be encountered were neither few nor small. But none of these things moved them. They had set their hearts on seeing him “that was born king of the Jews;” and they never rested till they saw him. They prove to us the truth of the old saying, “Where there is a will there is a way.”
It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the example of these good men. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about means of grace? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration. The truly “wise,” it may be feared, are very few.
These verses show us lastly a striking example of faith. These wise men believed in Christ when they had never seen him; but that was not all. They believed in him when the scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving; but that again was not all. They believed in him when they saw him a little infant on Mary’s knees, and worshiped him as a King.
This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a newborn infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world! “They fell down and worshiped him”.
The Rt. Rev. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) was a gifted teacher and preacher, one of the great leaders of the evangelical movement in 19th century Anglicanism. He served in a series of parish posts and became the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880. During his twenty-year leadership of the diocese, he made great strides in connecting the church’s ministry with the needs of the working classes. His Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, commentaries based on his sermons as a parish priest, were deeply influential across the evangelical world. The text has been adapted for contemporary readers.