an old Indian proverb that goes like this: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve
walked a hundred miles in his moccasins.” There’s wisdom in those words. It’s
hard to know a person very well until you’ve lived in his shoes, under his
roof, and experienced his life. That’s why a parent will sometimes bring his
or her child along to work, so the child can get to know his father or mother
better and understand what he or she does.
what God does for us today. He puts sand in our shoes, gold in our sacks,
muscles in our legs, and has us mentally travel hundreds of miles. He does
this by giving us a blow-by-blow report of how the Magi went in search of the
Christ child. As we take this journey, we are going to see that our paths are
very similar to the path of the wise men. Not only are our paths the same, but
so are our obstacles, and so is our purpose.
starts our Epiphany season thusly: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.’”
tells us two things about the people we are going to follow. First of all,
they were Magi. This was a term given to the wise men and scholars of ancient Babylon. If you had a good knowledge of natural things—whether it be the land, animals,
the weather, or the stars—you were known as a Magi. Back then it was a
respectable term, like being called a professor. This is why the Magi are also
called the Wise Men.
text tells us something else about the Magi: They came from the east. If the
Magi were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60 which we heard earlier today,
they came from Sheba, which would have been over a thousand miles away.
others think they were from Babylon—modern-day Iraq—which would have been about
a 500 mile journey. The prophet Daniel was a member of the Magi in Babylon about 500 years before, during the exile of the Jews. Perhaps Daniel was the one
who originally told scholars there about the star that would point to Christ.
24:17 says, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star
will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Daniel may
have been told by the Holy Spirit that a star would appear in the East when the
Christ child was to be born, and he relayed this to the other Magi.
the Magi may have come from Sheba, Babylon, or somewhere else in the east.
Whichever is the case, we know that they came a long way.
we didn’t come here today to concentrate on the Magi. We came, as we always
come, to concentrate on Christ. This text gives us a wonderful illustration of
how God leads people to Christ, of how God opens closed doors to show us who
this baby really is. That’s what Epiphany is all about—illuminating who Christ
is, and bringing that light to others.
did God point the Magi to Christ? By a star, right? He had a special star
appear in the sky. If you watch the stars at night you can see that they all
appear to move across the skyline in unison as the night progresses. But
perhaps this star changed positions among the stars, which made it stand out.
Maybe this star was also lower than the rest, or brighter. It may have only
been within sight of the Magi only. This may be why the chief priests and
teachers of the law didn’t know anything about it when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. This however, is all speculation. We don’t really know. All we know is that
God was able to use nature to lead the Magi to Christ.
uses the same methods to draw us to Christ as well. In Isaiah 60, God looked
at the world and said, See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is
over the peoples. The whole world lives in darkness. It is born with no clue
who the Christ child is, or where He can be found. But God piques people’s
interest, by showing them the wonders of His creation.
19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the
work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night
they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is
is God’s subliminal message. People hear it talk every day. Even though it
doesn’t tell them anything about Christ, it gets them to wonder what else God
has to say. So they search for Him.
if you’ll notice, nature didn’t give all the answers. Once the Magi arrived in
Jerusalem, it seems that the star disappeared for a while. So they had to
inquire of Herod and his advisors to find out where the King of the Jews was to
be born. This is where God took a huge spotlight and made the Christ as
visible as possible for the Magi. The words of Micah, chapter 5, were used to
convey the location of the Messiah’s birth—Bethlehem. Notice what God used to
make the pathway to Christ clear: He used His Word
again, we must take time to appreciate the fact that God has taken us along the
same pathway as the Magi. Nature only takes us so close to God, but then its
power is inadequate. It leaves us short of knowing who Christ is.
how frustrating it would be for us to know there is a God out there—but to have
no information about where to find him or who He is!
doesn’t leave us in the dark, though. Just as the Wise Men were led to Christ
through the Scriptures, so we have also been led to Christ through the
Scriptures. God has not left us with a vague idea about our Savior. Jesus
isn’t, as Luke Skywalker would say, just some vague “force.” God has given us a
clear pathway to salvation through the Gospel of Christ. So as we walk the way
of the wise men, we can appreciate the effort God has made to light the way to
Christ. He’s made it as clear as can be.
though God gave the Magi a clearly lit path to the Christ child, it wasn’t like
there weren’t any potholes along the way. Remember how far the Magi had to
go. If God was leading them to see this baby from hundreds of miles away, they
probably thought they were going to encounter a big party in Jerusalem over the
birth of this King.
what happened once they got there? Instead of being excited, Matthew tells us
that when King Herod heard this, he was disturbed. The Magi had no clue what
kind of a king Herod was. But we do, from historical accounts. He’d had some
of his own children put to death so they couldn’t take over his kingdom. He’d
spent 30 years fighting Jews who were rebelling over his kingship. He was the
first king that the Jews had who was not a Jew. So, instead of being excited
at this newborn King, Herod was disturbed. This was yet another obstacle for
wasn’t the only one disturbed, either. Matthew said that all of Jerusalem was disturbed with him. They knew that Herod would start shedding some blood
once again. So instead of being eager to follow the Magi, all of the Jews
stayed home in fear of Herod. They pointed the Magi to the exact spot where
Christ was to be born, but they didn’t go themselves.
of how depressing this would have been for the Magi. Instead of having the
people rejoice over the birth of their prophesied King, they were disturbed.
Then they didn’t even come along. But God had the star appear once again and
lead them on. So, by the grace of God, the Magi went to see the Christ child
we have the same kind of obstacles as we approach our King today? We are
sometimes very influenced by the way others act around us. We submit to peer
pressure quite easily. This works the same way within the church. Visitors
and seekers may come to a church, expecting to see people on fire for the
Lord. They come eager to listen to God’s Word. They come eager to grow. And
they expect the members to have that same eagerness.
often nobody else there seems as thrilled. Few show any eagerness to support
the church’s ministries and mission with contributions of their resources and
their time and effort.
of the members even seem to have really negative feelings toward their
congregation or its leadership. You would expect those who have grown up in
the Word to be the most excited to come to worship the King every Sunday. You
would expect them to be the most eager to come to Bible class. But sometimes
those who have the most opportunity, with the fewest obstacles, end up being a
stumbling block to the new believers. And when those new people see those who
should be strongest in the faith acting weak, it makes them take a step back.
Magi had hundreds of miles to travel. They didn’t have the heritage and
upbringing of the Jews in the Word of God. But they were the ones who went to
see the King even when Herod and the people of Jerusalem were disturbed over
the whole situation. It’s so easy for us to follow in the footsteps of those
in Jerusalem. Just because you grew up in the Bible, and just because you
don’t have far to travel, don’t fall at the same obstacles.
though everyone else in church may not take the opportunities to find out more
about Christ, don’t let them slow you down. Even though nobody else may get
excited about worship, don’t let that hinder you. The light of Christ is
shining within the Word of God, right in your house. Open it up! The light of
Christ is waiting to strengthen your faith. Come and take it! But watch out
for the obstacles. Even if everyone else is just sitting around, don’t let
them slow you down or get in your way.
we want to look at why the Magi were so determined to go and see the King.
They didn’t make any qualms about it. They told Herod, “We saw his star
in the east and have come to worship him.” So once they found the King,
they did what they came for. 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.
they were, grown and educated men. They didn’t come to learn more about the
movement of this special star. They didn’t come to explore the culture of the
Jews. They came for one purpose. They came to bow down in worship to the
Lord. They weren’t too proud. They actually lowered themselves before this
Baby, and praised Him. Not only did they open their hearts, but they also
opened their material blessings to the King. That’s what they came to do.
this to Herod’s purpose. He may have sounded very genuine when he spoke to the
Magi. He 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.” He
thought that he could trick these “wise men” into revealing where this Christ
child was. But God knew what was in his heart. All he wanted to do was snuff
out his competition.
amazing thing is that he obviously believed there indeed was a King born. If
he didn’t believe it, he wouldn’t have had all of the male children under two
years old murdered in Bethlehem. But, instead of bowing to this King, Herod
plotted to murder Jesus.
see these two responses to the King today. Some people go to church every
Sunday. They sound very pious. And they even believe that Jesus actually
existed. Some of them believe that He really died for our sins. But then
their pride steps in, just like it did for Herod. They feel threatened when
they find out that Jesus came to earn salvation for them. They don’t like the
idea that they can’t do anything to save themselves. They want to be their own
King and master of their destiny. Since salvation through faith alone takes
the power away from them, they attempt to make Christ a king that fits their
tell us that they want to worship Jesus, but they tell us that we have to do at
least something to earn salvation. They tell us that Jesus is their Savior,
but then they tell us that He didn’t do everything necessary to save us from
our sins; we still have to do something more. The true Jesus of the Scriptures
threatens their self righteousness, so they try to murder Jesus so they can remain
of being modern-day Herods, we should come with the same purpose as the Magi.
We should want to come to Jesus so that we can worship him. Why? Epiphany
will reveal to us a God who became man. As we will hear again in the coming
weeks about His mighty miracles—like walking on water, turning water into wine,
raising the dead, and telling the future—we certainly should want to praise
more importantly, these accounts will give us a greater appreciation for the
sacrifice that Jesus made as true God. As Philippians 2 says, “Who,
being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be
grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being
made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled
himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
became man to take our place on the cross – to die for us! Therefore, we will
want to give our offerings to the Lord, following in the footsteps of the Magi.
We will want to get up and come to worship, walking in the way of the wise
men. The more we see of Jesus’ light, the more it makes us kneel before His
majesty and worship him.
we took a trip with the wise men. It was a dirty trip, crossing a desert. It
was a difficult, perhaps bumpy, trip—whether they walked or rode. It was
filled with obstacles and challenges. Yet in the end, through nature and God’s
Word – they were led to their Savior, and they worshiped him. To them, it was
worth it to get sand in their shoes – wind in their faces – and sore feet or
order to hear about this trip of the Wise Men, you got up this morning, you got
dressed, and you came to church. You came to hear about this journey, and—like
them—to find a King. You came to find Christ, and He is here, in His Word and
Sacrament. You didn’t have to make this trip, but you let the light of the
Holy Spirit rule your heart this morning, and you decided to come. Even though
you haven’t traveled as long or experienced the obstacles of the Wise Men,
you’ve found the same reward: Here, both human and divine, you have a Savior
who lights up the world with His love and forgiveness.
that make the trip worth it to you? I certainly hope it does.
shine… your light has come! Amen.