In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “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.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘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.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then 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.” When 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. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On 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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Who were these wise men and why did they take all this trouble in coming to Jesus?
- They were wise men, so that’s why they took the trouble to come and find Jesus.
- They came and found Jesus, that’s what made them wise men.
We live in a world full of clever people. We are university educated, scientifically aware, technology rich. Information is just a screensaver away. All knowledge can be ‘Googled’ in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. But what about wisdom? Wise people are much more than just clever or well-informed. They possess wisdom in their deepest place. Clever people are often so aware of what they know, of their academic achievements. This cleverness brings its own sense of accomplishment and often a preening pride. Wise people are quiet and peaceful in their understanding of life, of how much more there is still for them to learn. Clever, bright people have arrived, proud of their achievements, waiting for others to come to them for help. Clever people think they know it all, wise people are aware of how little they know. They find a delight and an excitement in the search for truth.
Wise people are searchers,
They go on journeys,
They look to other people,
They ask questions,
They want to discover.
The Wise Men came out of Persia. They were skilled in the arts of astrology, medicine and philosophy. They were teachers and debaters, readers and thinkers. These men were wise; they were searching for a special one. They had read the signs, seen the stars and in their wisdom they realised that one greater than themselves had been born. They needed to find and worship this ‘greater than themselves’ King. All this, the realising, the searching, the offering of gifts, the being overwhelmed with joy, the worshipping, this is all true wisdom.
Every now and then I come across wise men and women. Sometimes they just turn up at church and don’t quite know why they are there. Maybe they have been invited by a friend or work colleague or seen something in a Christian’s life that they want for themselves. Occasionally they come looking for help or possibly for a baptism and then stay on afterwards asking questions, absorbing the full worship experience. They are looking for something more than money, comfort and instant enjoyment. Their searching is a spiritual thing, they are looking for something more, something deeper, richer in life. What makes them wise is not their cleverness but their awareness that something is missing and their determination to search for it. They are searching, that is what makes them wise.
So enough of the wise men, what about Herod? Herod, the King, is not actually the true King. Jerusalem, the royal city, is not actually the royal city. The chief priests are not actually the true priests. They are the King, capital and priests of this world, but not of God’s. They are power-holders and controllers. They have no sense of humility, wonderment or searching. Their position is threatened, that is all they can see. They are too full of themselves to make space for any others. They are certainly not going to move over and make space for Jesus.
‘They call me the Seeker
And I’ve been searching high and low’
– The Who
I love this song. Partly because I love ‘The Who’ and partly because I have always been a seeker. Always seeking that something extra, feeling there are bits of my life missing, thinking that I could always be a slightly better man.
Every now and again. Sometimes in worship, sometimes in bible study or personal prayer. Just every now and again I feel I might be a bit of a finder.
So here is today’s big question: How is your wisdom-fuelled search going?
Wise people are Journeying people.
Looking, seeking, not there yet people.
They ask questions, gaze up at the stars,
Think about the past, wonder at the future.
They know there are bits missing and are searching for them.
Wise people are searching for God people.
Help me to see the star,
And to find,
That I might be with you,