Summary: Follow In the Wisemen’s Footsteps 1) Confident of the way to heaven 2) Humble in your approach to heaven
Did you hear the one about had the wisemen been wisewomen? They would have stopped for directions sooner allowing them to arrive in time to sweep the barn, make a casserole, and help deliver the baby. They would have also brought practical gifts!
Seriously though, the Magi (as Scripture calls them) weren’t bumbling idiots. They really were wise men, men whose footsteps we would do well to follow – confident of the way to heaven, yet humble in our approach to heaven.
Who were the Magi? Meet Balthazar of Baghdad. No, we don’t really know whether that was one of the wisemen’s names, though that’s what tradition suggests. And we’re not really sure whether these men came from present day Iraq, but it’s possible. About 600 years before Christ’s birth, the Jews were exiled to this part of the world. During their 70 years there at least one Israelite rose to a position of power and influence. That individual was Daniel, the same Daniel who once spent a night in the lions’ den. For 60 years Daniel held important Babylonian and Persian government posts, including Chairman of the Magi (Daniel 2:48). I can’t imagine Daniel studying the stars with his magi underlings without telling them about the true God who made the heavens and the earth. Daniel must have done more than that. He must have also told the magi about the promise God made to send a savior through the Israelites. Why else would magi, 600 years later, care about the birth of a baby 800 km away in Israel? Daniel’s bold witness is a reminder not to underestimate the impact of sharing our faith with our co-workers and friends. You never know how many generations of people will be affected!
But now how was it that the Magi found out about the Messiah’s birth? Well, everyone knows the story. A strange star appeared which the Magi, through some sort of insight from God, understood to mean that the Savior had been born. Then they just followed that star all the way to Jesus’ house in Bethlehem, the original OnStar navigational system, right? If so, why did the Magi stop in Jerusalem to get directions? It seems that, after announcing Jesus’ birth, the star disappeared for a time. But figuring that the King of the Jews would be born in the capital city of Jerusalem the Magi headed there. You can understand their confusion then when no one in Jerusalem seemed to know anything about the birth of a king.
Ironically it was the eventual enemies of Jesus: the chief priests and teachers of the law who pointed the Magi in the right direction – to Bethlehem just 10 km away. But how did they know where to look for the Messiah when they didn’t even know he had been born? Simple. They checked the Bible. The teachers of the law knew that 700 years earlier the prophet Micah had written: “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’” (Matthew 2:6).
Are you looking for direction in your life? If so, don’t wait for some miraculous sign from God – a message written in the stars. Oh it’s true; the stars do proclaim that there is a God and that he is powerful and wise (Psalm 19:1-4), but beyond that they can’t tell us much about him. The stars can’t tell us that we are sinners and need a savior. They don’t explain how Jesus died and rose again to pay for our sins and through faith in him the way to heaven is open – only the Bible can do that. Looking for direction in life without reading the Bible is like trying to locate a friend’s house without knowing the address. You’ll end up going round and round in circles as the Magi did in Jerusalem until Scripture pointed the way.
The lesson is obvious isn’t it? Follow in the wisemen’s footsteps by eagerly listening to what God says to you in his Word. No, God doesn’t tell us everything we would like to know but he does tell us everything that we need to know, that through faith in Jesus the door to heaven is open. It’s that message on the plain white pages of Scripture and not some sort of spectacular sign in the sky that makes us sure of God’s love and confident of the way to heaven.
Since Scripture said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, to Bethlehem the Magi went! This time there was no aimless wandering about because God caused that special star to reappear and lead the Magi to the very house Jesus was. While the Magi were overjoyed to see the star again I wonder if they weren’t a little hesitant to go into the house the star indicated. I mean these stargazers had traveled 800 km to see the starmaker. Could it be that the King of kings would really take up residence in such a lowly house and not a palace or at least a mansion? But none of this seemed to matter to the Magi. They treated that house like it was the grandest of palaces and didn’t snicker at the cheap sofa or the outdated wallpaper. For all they cared, Jesus could have been born in a barn! The Magi were just overwhelmed at being given the privilege of seeing their long-awaited Savior. The Magi were so awed that they, men who were accustomed to receiving honor, got down on their hands and knees and approached the Christ-child in humility.