by Paul Pierpoint
A number of years ago, a boy came running home to his house after a Sunday morning service and cried to his mother. “Mommy, Mommy, I’ve got a part in the Christmas play.” His mother replied, “What part do you have, Tom?” “I’m one of the three wise guys!”
This little bit of humor brings back some memories of my first church and my first experience in preparing a Christmas program. We had some boys who came only to Sunday School. They were not a part of the church. I wanted to get them involved. I made them wise men, but I made a mistake. The night of the program, outside of the church my wise men got into a snow ball fight and they wouldn’t speak to each other. They never did make it to Bethlehem. These wise men weren’t too wise.
As a pastor, during the month of December, I enjoyed studying those Scriptures which were related to the characters of Christmas. For this article, let us think about those men who traveled from the East to find Christ.
In telling the story of the wise men, we must be careful we do not confuse fact and fiction. Perhaps our poets and artists have drawn more on legend than Scripture. While little is known about these travelers, they can teach us some useful lessons in our worship of Christ.
WHAT THESE WISE MEN SOUGHT
Matthew 2:2—“Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”
You know the story. These men had some vacation time on their hands. They wanted to spend that time visiting another country. So they checked with their local travel agency, and made arrangements for a Holy Land tour. We cannot criticize this noble aspiration. I have been there a couple of times myself. However, that’s not the case here. While there’s nothing wrong with a Holy Land visit—these men were not on a vacation nor a sight-seeing trip.
Their objective was finding Christ. They were on a quest to find Jesus. Listen to their cry, “SIRS, WE WOULD SEE JESUS.”
I see two important truths concerning their quest to seek Christ.
1. These men sought Christ as a compelling concern
History indicates that these were men of great learning, wealth and stature. They had an understanding of astronomy and were, possibly, priests. Perhaps, they were also civic leaders, and no doubt had plenty of other responsibilities. But this quest to find Christ became the compelling force in their lives. Seeking Christ was not a secondary issue.
Occasionally, we need to ask ourselves some questions: “What is the compelling interest in my life?” “For what am I living”? For a lot of people today, their goals in living center around material gain. The big thing is having the latest car, an impressive house, a good income, plenty of money. While there is nothing wrong in making money, is that the ultimate goal in living? The wisest decision one can make is to pursue Jesus as the compelling, controlling focus of your life. Wise men seek Christ!
2. These men sought Christ with a continual and persistent concern
These men provide inspiring examples of spiritual earnestness and perseverance. They faced all kinds of obstacles. There was a distance factor. It was a long, two- year journey. Weather conditions could be hazardous. Even King Herod could not direct them to the Christ Child. They could have become discouraged, but these wise men were persistent in their search. They sought Jesus until they found Him.
WHAT THESE WISE MEN BROUGHT
This entourage of travelers brought gifts to the Christ Child. It is interesting to look at the kind of gifts they brought to this child and the reason for these gifts. These were not typical presents that you would normally give to a baby. In modern language, why didn’t they go to a shopping mall or thrift store and buy a soft stuffed animal or some little toy suitable for children? What were the gifts they brought to this Christ-child?
“They presented unto Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
As we look at these gifts, we might ask a couple of questions. What was so significant about these gifts? What was their purpose? Why were there three?
1. These were devotional gifts, showing their love for Christ
Little information is given about the wise men themselves, but their worship gifts are mentioned in detail.
2. These were appropriate gifts
It is not difficult to see why gold would be an appropriate gift for Jesus Christ. Gold was often used by kings as a symbol of royalty. When gold was presented to Jesus, it acknowledged His Lordship. The wise men knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Sovereign King. Frankincense was used as a perfume and could also be used for medicinal purposes. The gift of myrrh was used in ancient times as an anointing oil and was often applied prior to burying an individual. These gifts could have been symbolic for the future life of the Christ Child.
What Gifts Do We Offer? Giving of our tithe to Christ is important. It can be an indication of our devotion to Jesus. It is a material manifestation of our submission to Him. But the most important gift we give to Christ is not just our money. It is the gift of our life. The gift of our love. The gift of our loyalty. The gift of our obedience. The greatest gift that we can give is to give our lives to Him. If He has my heart, He has everything else.
WHAT THESE WISE MEN TAUGHT
If we would listen, what would these wise men teach us?
1. They would teach us something about faith
These men were wise because they responded in faith. I am sure that their friends thought these men were beginning on a foolish trek. “Where are you going? What are you doing? It doesn’t make sense to leave everything behind and follow some strange star.” But it is wisdom to follow God’s leadership no matter how strange or illogical it may appear to others.
Many times God wants us to make a journey of faith. He asks us to step out into new areas which are unknown to us. We have sensed His summons and like Abraham, and the Wise men, we go in faith. Perhaps we could ask ourselves, “Am I willing to trust God as much as the Wise men did?” Heavenly wisdom is far superior to earthly wisdom.
2. They would teach us something about humility
We learn from Scriptures that when the wise men came to the house, they saw the young child and they fell down and worshipped Him (Matt. 2:11). They bowed before Him. Bowing is a sign of honor that is rooted in an attitude of humility.
What a scene we have before us. Here are some of the wisest men of the world now bending before a little child. Here are men of stature, wealth and rank,kneeling before poverty, in humility,
3. They would teach us something about worship
“They saw the young child and they bowed down and worshipped Him”(Mat 2:11).
The wisdom of the wise men was revealed in the object of their worship. They worshipped the Christ child. They came not to show admiration, they came to show devotion.
Undoubtedly, it is with Divine purpose that Matthew included the story of the wise men. Their ardent quest for the Christ child provides lessons to be learned. As we consider what these men sought, what they brought and what they taught, may our pursuit of Christ bring His Presence ever near.
The star of hope is still shining.
Wise men still seek Him.