Where the wise men are
God forbid that any of us would just not care to find Jesus! Become a wise man. Search for Jesus and enjoy the blessings of salvation he has won for you!
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
We know that actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap. We appreciate people who back up what they say by what they do. That is why we admire the wise men. They said they came to worship the “one who has been born king of the Jews.” And they did it – in spite of the obstacles they faced. Today we will learn:
WISE MEN PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH
Wise men still seek Jesus
Wise men still serve Jesus
It would be foolish of us to come to church Sunday after Sunday if we are NOT searching for Jesus to cure us of the ailments of life! It is foolish to come to church without a desire to apply the Word of God to our lives or to meditate on the great price Jesus paid to win salvation for us. It is foolish to come to church without repentant hearts longing to hear words of forgiveness and hope to get us through another week. Fools offer lip service to God and leave church as spiritually bankrupt as they were when they came to church. There is no confusing fools for “wise men.”
Wise men know why they are here. Wise men know what Jesus came to this earth to do for us. In other words, Wise men still search for Jesus. The wise men are called magi in our text. Magi were a distinguished class of highly intelligent men who were well versed in astrology. They came from the area east of Israel, most likely the area of Persia. Somehow, they have found their way into our manger scenes. But they were not there at the birth of Jesus. We don’t know how many of them there were. And we are not told that they were kings. Since they came from the east, it is very likely that they were not Jews but Gentiles like us. If so, they are the first Gentiles to meet the Christ and for that reason the Eastern Church thinks the arrival of the Magi as the best day to celebrate Christmas. These wise men came to Jerusalem seeking Jesus. They longed to see the one born “King of the Jews!”
When a unique star appeared in the sky, these experts of the stars took notice. Somehow God revealed to them that this unusual star would lead them to the Savior of the world. So, they followed the star to Israel. That lead them to the capital city of Jerusalem.
Skeptics of the Bible think it strange that supposed wise men would embark on a trip that would take months just because they sighted a special star in the sky. But so-called wise men today spend years searching the world over for bones and fossils in the interest of archaeology and support for their theory of evolution. The wise men in our text were not searching for a star. They were searching for a King – a Savior. They were seeking Jesus.
What better place to start than at the palace – the headquarters of God’s covenant people. Surely the inhabitants there could tell them where the Christ – the promised Savior-King was living. These wise men were searching for Jesus and not getting much help. They were asking the people where they might find the one who is born King of the Jews. We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. Imagine how disappointed they must have been to find out that in Jerusalem, the capital city, the people didn’t know where these wise men might find Jesus.
Herod heard about these wise men seeking the new King of the Jews. They were asking a lot of questions about the birth of the Messiah. Their questions disturbed Herod because he wondered if this child would grow to be a threat to his kingdom. If these questions disturbed Herod, they disturbed the people. The people knew that when Herod was disturbed bad things happened. He was a cruel man. The lives of the citizens were in danger. God used the questions of foreigners to announce to the residents of God’s holy City, Jerusalem, that the Savior of the world had been born.
Herod gathered his own wise men to search the Scriptures to find out where the Christ was to be born. Herod had killed other hopefuls to his throne and had no qualms about doing that again. Herod too was seeking Jesus – to kill him!
How different Herod was from the kind of king God had wanted for his people. God wanted a Shepherd-King to guide and govern the people with God’s Word. God wanted a king in Israel who knew the Bible and used the Bible to guide him. Herod didn’t know the Bible. As goes the king so goes the people! The prophet Isaiah compels us to “seek the Lord while he may be found.” But the people had lost interest… much as people do today!
There weren’t many wise men in Israel at the time of Christ’s birth and there aren’t many today either. People ignore Christ all the time. People don’t know where to find him and don’t care to look for him. People get along quite nicely without Christ. Searching for Jesus isn’t a high priority in the lives of many! A quick glance at the worship and Bible class attendance of our congregation for 2018 tells the story loud and clear! 112 people were in church on an average Sunday last year. We have 218 members. That means half of our membership is NOT in church on any given Sunday. Or, to put it another way, most of our people only come to church half the time. If actions speak louder than words, we ought to be frightened. Searching for Jesus needs to be a higher priority in all our lives. God forbid that any of us would just not care to find Jesus! Become a wise man. Search for Jesus and enjoy the blessings of salvation he has won for you!
The wise men and Herod himself wondered where the Christ was to be born. It was written in the Bible that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem – just a couple miles down the road from Jerusalem. This was the place where Israel’s greatest king, David had been born.
Jesus isn’t that far away from you either. The Bible says, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” When he finds us, he leads us to repentance and growth in faith! Jesus knows how to reach us with the message of forgiveness. He knew how to reach those first wise men through a star! He knows how to reach us through the gospel in Word and Sacrament. Use God’s tools and you will become wise for salvation!
The wise men told Herod their reason for searching for Jesus as “we have come to worship him.” Worshiping Jesus is a natural response from a thankful heart. A forgiven sinner wants nothing more than to give himself to Jesus in worship and praise. Wise men still serve Jesus.
But too often we are just plain foolish. We are so slow to serve Jesus in our every day life. We allow Satan to use our own fears to squelch our enthusiasm. We have the best of intentions, but we lack the will power to practice what we preach. When you get up in the morning and check the list of things you have to do that day, where on that list do you find serving Jesus? St. Paul once wrote, “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for you to do.” You are what you are so that you might serve Jesus every day.
In our text we didn’t hear the wise men complain about their long and difficult journey through the desert. We didn’t hear them complain about the tremendous sacrifice they made to embark on this quest to find Jesus. Think of these wise men when you don’t feel like serving Jesus with your time. They weren’t too busy. The several month journey wasn’t too difficult. The costs weren’t too high. Why? … because life is all about serving Jesus. That’s what wise men still do!
These wise men must have been saddened that those living so near Bethlehem cared so little about the birth of the Messiah. But when they headed for Bethlehem and once again saw the miraculous star, their hopes were rekindled. The star led them to the house where the child was. Matthew tried to put into words the joy that filled the hearts of these men as they rejoiced with very great joy to see their King and their Savior. No doubt songs of thanksgiving and praise sprang from their hearts to see the One who would take all their sins away. Serving Jesus is every Christian’s greatest joy!
The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. They gave him gold, the sweet-smelling frankincense, and some fine perfume known as myrrh. These are extraordinary gifts for anyone – especially for a child. They were given freely, generously, and cheerfully! It was their way of thanking God for the gifts of salvation. Do you think of your offerings that way? These are the best they had to offer their king. Oh, how useful these gifts might become as that family fled to Egypt!
Then the wise men returned home. God had warned them to go back a different way. They did what the Lord had said. What a pleasure for them to serve God with their lives! Imagine the joy of telling friends and neighbors what they had seen with their own eyes! Wise men still serve Jesus by sharing the good news of Christ with others.
Be so wise. No one coerced you to come here today. You considered it worth your time to travel from your home here to join with other wise men to find, worship and praise the God who has saved you. Seek Christ every day for the strengthening of your faith. Serve Christ in your daily life. Serving Jesus doesn’t end when we leave church today. As we return home and throughout the week, may we all be eager to seek and to serve Jesus, our Savior-King. Time will tell because actions do speak louder than words. Wise men still practice what we preach!