In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,??2asking, ???Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.?????3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;??4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.??5They told him, ???In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:??6???And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.????????7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.??8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ???Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.???
9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.??10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.??11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.??12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The wise men from our text this morning were Persian astrologers. ??They traveled westward in search of 'the child who has been born king of the Jews', a phrase that indicates they are not Jewish. ??And yet, they have come to worship Jesus, to pay their respects and offer royal gifts to a king who has been born. ??They've followed His star, an indication that God had assigned a divine sign just for Jesus' identification. ??Herod didn't like hearing that a Jewish king had been born, especially when his scholars confirmed it through the scriptures. ??Herod was a mighty ruler but he wasn't Jewish. ??His rule was one more reminder to the people that they were not being ruled by one of their own but that they were being controlled by forces outside of themselves.??
So we have non-Jewish star-gazers who have seen a divine light in the sky, following it across mountainous and desert lands, never knowing if what they have been led to believe will really be waiting for them. ??In other words, they're wondering if the pot of gold will really be on the other end of the rainbow. ??And this is really what the story is all about: the journey. ??
The ones who have benefited from Jesus in this text are the ones who dared to leave the comfort of their everyday lives and see what it is that is at the other end of this rainbow. ??Jesus is God's promise of salvation, like the rainbow from the story of Noah, a promise to never flood the earth again. ??This journey is truly one of faith. ??A promise waits on the other end and there is no way you can leave the same as when you came.
This in itself is the essence of being a disciple: to forever encounter Jesus Christ and to never be the same as a result of that encounter. ??Our life is a journey to and from Jesus. ??We are always coming to him, offering the gift of ourselves, and then leaving a different way to encounter the world as a changed and enriched person. ??We make this journey because of who Jesus is and who Jesus is determines what we do as disciples.??
We don't know what these wise men did when they got back to their home country, but there's no way to say that it did not change them. ??Their story is one that can be told over and over again: how they left their homes and went on a journey to find a child of promise who would be king; how they FOUND that child and offered him gifts of glory; how they diverted danger from a jealous king who wanted to destroy the child.
These men now have hope, they have a reason to trust God because what they found at the end of this rainbow existed. ??There is room for God to work within their lives now because they have come and seen that the Lord is good, that he is who he says he is. ??And this is the invitation from such a story as this: will you come and see? ??Will you leave the comfort of your own life and journey the long road to see this child? ??
We would be blessed to follow the example of these foreigners who have come so far to see Jesus. ??Today, we lack the understanding of what it means to engage in ministry that requires more than one day a week. ??We lack the understanding that such a journey can change us, both inside and out. ??We must subject ourselves to a kind of discipleship that will change our lives, that will change our hearts. ??The question from me to you today is this: What are you holding onto so tightly that you can't pack your bags and engage the world with a saving love? ??Do you want to be a Christian or not? ??Because if you do, it is going to take more than a service and a Bible study.
What is required of you is that you obey the commandments of Christ. ??If you want to know what those commandments are then you must be in study, in prayer, in mission, en route to a life that is truly Christian and not one that is simply a name in a roll book. ??Life is a journey, a pilgrimage to the holy with the intention of being changed by that holy thing, and that thing is God.
Like last week, in talking about the shepherds, it is the same message: to go and see this thing that has happened. ??This is the glory of the Gospel message: that both the dirty shepherds in a nearby field and foreign royalty from faraway lands are beckoned to come and see. ??God knows who we are and he loves us, not in spite of things we are ashamed of, but shame and all. ??God takes all of us in and he loves away the stains that mar the beautiful creation that we are.??
These wise men knew Jesus was worth the journey. ??They wouldn't have come on such a dangerous journey had they not. ??They wouldn't have brought gifts if Jesus wasn't special. ??They wouldn't have even entered the house had they not found this simple dwelling place worthy of their time, their effort, and their gifts. ??These men came for Christ and that is what you are being encouraged to do today: seek the Savior that has been born among you. ??Journey to his dwelling place and offer him the gift of your life. ??If you will do that, I can promise you that you will see results. ??But you gotta journey, you gotta give; you can't just say 'yes' and then think that God will take it from there. ??This is a relationship. ??God has promised to journey with us in this life but we must be willingly to walk, we must be willing take on the hard work of the journey. ??It is in the traveling that the destination is that much sweeter.
The wise men themselves left different than when they came???not just in the way they went home but in the way they they saw life. ??Go home another way today and tell the story of your journey.
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church