“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12
The first question asked in the Old Testament was asked by God, seeking out man who hid in shameful guilt, “Where are you?”
What redemption, that the first question asked in the New Testament came from men seeking out God who was veiled by the brokenness of the world coming to us as a baby King, “Where is he?”
God really is hard to seek out these days, isn’t He? My heart is tired and distracted when I approach Him, my days rushing by without awestruck awareness of His presence, the bug of familiarity biting me to see His presence as ho-hum… God help me be a wise woman who seeks after you!
Isn’t it tragic that Jesus was born into the midst of His own people, the people who had waited millennia for the Promised One to make His entrance, the very people who had Him as a commonplace and native expectation – yet they missed Him.
“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him,” John 1:11
I can’t fault the Hebrew people, I am just like them. The Spirit opened my eyes to the good news of the King after years of diligent church attendance, and discipleship was…meh. My husband, when he was eighteen years old and entirely green to scripture? His appetite for God’s word was ravenous, the freshness of it caught up his heart in genuinely seeking his King. Both stories, families of origin, age at which God opened our eyes and rescued us, but oh! Today let me not be so familiar that God is actually in my midst that I miss Him. “Many times those who are nearest to the means, are furthest from the end,” comments Matthew Henry.
The wise men, sorcerers, magicians, scholars of the sky from the east, they wanted to worship a King who wasn’t even theirs to bend a knee to. Matthew Henry’s commentary notes that they didn’t even respond to Herod’s royalty the way they did the Christ child of humble means. God Himself invited each to worship, “The birth of Christ was notified to the Jewish shepherds by an angel, to the Gentile philosophers by a star: to both God spoke in their own language, and in the way they were best acquainted with.”
They took the long and expensive and painstaking measures that weren’t required of them. “They came from the east to Jerusalem, in further quest of this prince. Wither shall they come to enquire for the king of the Jews, but to Jerusalem, the mother-city, whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord? They might have said, ‘If such a prince be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and it will be time enough then to pay our homage to him.’’ But so impatient were they to be better acquainted with him, that they took a long journey on purpose to enquire after him. Note, those who truly desire to know Christ, and find him, will not regard pains or perils in seeking after him.”
And how about those gifts, right? Gold was indeed fitting for a king, but why the spices? My friend’s pastor brilliantly exposed the beautiful meaning for the magi’s offerings. “Jesus was given three gifts by the wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The first two are for a King, but the last is a perfume, a medicine, an embalming oil. When we see a vision of the New Heavens and the New Earth, people bringing gifts worshipping the Lord: Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord (Isaiah 60). But, no myrrh. There’s no need for it anymore,” Dr. Paul Smith from First Alliance Church in Lexington, Kentucky. They came with treasures stored up for worship. Even laying them down to a King spelled out in the sky pointed to a future reality of death and glory. They laid down their offerings that pointed to the high value yet tragic future of this King. We won’t need to prepare for suffering forever, my sisters. There will be a day when our worship will not commingle with tears of sadness.
“They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
Was there back-slapping? Loud laughing? Happy tear-wiping when they found the One they sought? These men, not of covenant origin, yet invited by God who delights in worship the whole world over, responded to the beckoning in the celestials, laid down their treasures, and worshipped with great joy.
Repeat the sounding joy!
Repeat the sounding joy!
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!