Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Wise Men

Living on the edge of east Belfast, it's always heartening to read in the Scriptures that 'wise men from the east came'. However, rather than being silly, the wise men's arrival (supposedly today, the feast of the Epiphany) provides us with some amazing contrasts in the response to the birth of the Christ.

1. Kings, a king and The King

We three kings of Orient are - according to the old traditions, they were three kings who visited the city of Jerusalem seeking for the one born King of the Jews. The obvious place to look for the king would be in the palace in Jerusalem, yet the occupant was decidedly troubled when the Oriental visitors arrived. You see Herod the king claimed the title for himself, although he wasn't really a Jew. He had been imposed on the area by the Romans, and maintained his reign by brutal tyranny and murderous tactics.

He feigns praise as he sends the wise men to continue searching in Bethlehem, but it won't be long before he sends his soldiers along the same road with murder in their hearts. A satanic attempt to destroy the Christ-child at the beginning of his life foiled through obedient Joseph. Herod sees Jesus as his dangerous opponent precisely because Jesus is the true King of the Jews (and everyone else).

The kings journey on to Bethlehem, following the star and the ancient words of prophecy, and find the child and 'they fell down and worshipped him' (Matt 2:11). What a contrast between the response of the king Herod and the three kings - murderous hate and joyful worship. How will we respond to The King?

2. Religious and Pagan

The three wise men are described as magi. Another Christmas word that's hard to pronounce! The magi appear to have been star watchers, astrologers, and probably involved in pagan worship. In church we started a series in Daniel, and I wonder if Daniel and the others were part of the same caste of magi so many hundred years before: 'the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans' (Dan 2:2).

Pagan or not, these wise men came searching for the King of the Jews who is King of the world. They journeyed a long way, following the star in order to worship him. They kept going on to Bethlehem after Jerusalem gave them the location. They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. They presented costly treasures.

What a contrast to the religious men of Israel, the chief priests and scribes. Herod was troubled, and brought them to tell where the Christ was to be born. They probably didn't even have to open the scrolls or check their Bibles. The answer was well known, thanks to the prophecy of Micah 5:2 - Bethlehem.

So do they pack their donkeys or camels or horses or feet and journey with the wise men to see their King, their Christ who has been born? Do they rejoice at the news and hurry to see who they've been waiting for so long? Do they make an announcement to the people to come along to Bethlehem and see the hope of Israel?

Erm, no. They watch the wise men go, and do nothing. They completely ignore the greatest news they could have imagined. It would be like all their birthdays and all their Christmases rolled into one. But they don't turn up. They don't celebrate. They don't rejoice at God fulfilling his promises. While not murderously opposing the Christ, they reject him all the same through their denial and disinterest.

Today is the end of the season of Christmas. The trees will be packed away or thrown out (if they haven't already because you're sick of looking at it). But let's not forget the Christmas message. Let's not throw out the Lord Jesus with the Christmas cards and decorations.

Instead, let's remember the dedication and sacrifice of the wise men as they spent time, money, and energy to travel so far to worship the King newborn. We don't even have to leave our seats. Let's worship the King of Kings, and do it now!

No comments:

Post a Comment