There have always been 2 ways to respond to Jesus Christ: the wise way and the foolish way. Isaiah 60 prophesied that the kings of the earth would come and bow down before Christ. But there was at least one king who refused. Herod the Great was a selfish and foolish man – more concerned about himself. He refused to worship the Messiah – in fact he hated Him and wanted to kill Him. This Herod the Great was like his son in Acts 12, who refused to give glory to God and was struck dead, eaten by worms! The long line of Herods were the very definition of a fool – one who makes bad choices. In biblical term a fool is the one who does not follow God – one who does not do what he ought to do.
By contrast, there were a few kings – 3 by tradition – who were the definition of wise: one who knows what he ought to do – and does it. These 3 kings from the Orient spared no expense to come and behold the King of Kings. They are examples to us all of men who know what is right – and do it.
During the Epiphany, we celebrate the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, to the Gentiles. The wise men of Matthew 2, because they were wise and made wise choices, are a model for all Gentiles in seeking salvation. When Isaiah 60:3 says “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising,” it speaks, therefore, of these wise men from the East, who came to worship the newborn King
But it also speaks of us – the Gentiles who come to Christ.
There are 4 things the wise men of old did that made them wise – 4 ways they knew what was right and did it. Together they spell the word “wise” – W-I-S-E
W = Worship God
I = Inquire where He may be found
S = Sacrifice to and for Him
E = Exult that He is here
First, these wise men Worshiped Jesus Christ. They came from far away to be able to worship Him, and when they came, they fell down and worshiped Him. These men who were important in their own lands, perhaps kings or in the royal court – fell down on their knees before a child only a year old or so. They worshiped as well with the rare and costly gifts they brought.
One definition of “worship” is to reverence and adore God – with no other ulterior motive. This is why I hope you have come to Jesus Christ today and every day.
The wise men saw Jesus as an infant – and worshiped Him. But you have the fullness of Jesus Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit. How much more should we be led to truly worship Him. How much more should we drop everything, forget about everything else, and simply worship Him?
Second, we should Inquire where He may be found. The wise men from the East may have looked at astronomical signs. Possibly, they had knowledge of the OT left by dispersed Jews and knew about the Messiah. However they did, the wise men found Jesus Christ. They found Him because they diligently inquired where He could be found. They spent a lot of time and money seeking Jesus Christ, even though only a baby because they thought He was worth whatever price they had to pay to find Him.
What price are you willing to pay to find the Messiah, the light to which the Gentiles are prophesied to come? $100? $1000? $1,000,000? Your life?
The price God asks in order to receive this Treasure of treasures who is His Son – is that you earnestly look for Him. Psalm 27:4 is perhaps my favorite verse in the Bible, and one I’ve had my wife calligraphy for me and frame: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”
The wise men of old sought Jesus Christ and saw a vision of God in return.Third, we must sacrifice to and for Him. Closely related to the idea of worship is that of sacrifice. The wise men are famous for bringing the best gifts to the Christ child. They recognized the value of Him who they came to seek and gave what they thought would be an acceptable sacrifice to God Himself.
In the early chapters of Genesis, the difference between the wise man and the fool is portrayed in the lives of Cain and Abel. Abel brought a blood sacrifice – the firstborn of his flock – because he had discovered that this was the kind of sacrifice God wanted – and because it was the best sacrifice he had. Cain, on the other hand, brought what was most convenient for him – an agricultural sacrifice. He could have offered an animal – but, you see, that would require more work and cost. Never mind that it’s what God desired. In the end, Cain’s foolishness led him to anger and his anger to murder
One definition of sacrifice is “to give up something highly valued for the sake of something you value even more highly.” Jesus Himself tells us that where your heart it, there your treasure will be. We are to bring our hearts – our deepest most desperate desires.
We are supposed to give God the best of our gifts. Sunday morning worship, for example is not the dregs of the week but the first day of the week, and it’s good to start the week out with worship. On Sunday morning we give God the best hour of the best day of the week.
God deserves the best part of your lives – in fact, He deserves and claims all of your life. But are you prepared to sacrifice to the Lord, or will you remain content to give the Lord only what is easy to give? God delights in the pure sacrifice of genuine thanksgiving and praise – and that is what you must give Him. He delights in those who give up their lives for others, just as Jesus Christ did.
And sometimes, this means giving up other things that we value.
Finally, we should Exult because Jesus Christ is here, and we are with Him. The wise men didn’t just have joy. They didn’t even have “great joy”, but . . . when they saw the star – not even JC Himself yet – they “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (verse 10.)
These wise men – these princes of the East – had seen all the best treasures that the East had to offer: spices and women; palaces and jewels beyond compare. But, being wise men, what they rejoiced in more than anything else was to see that the King of Kings had been born to begin ruling over the earth and to save His people from their sins.
Wisdom is knowing which things to value most. The men from the East were truly wise because they knew that Jesus Christ is worth more than all of the earth’s riches combined.
You have a choice about how to respond to the Lord Jesus Christ today. Today is the beginning of the season of Epiphany – and Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has come to the Gentiles.
Be honest: how does that make you feel?
Are you indifferent – or bored by it?
Hopefully, none of us are as foolish as Herod in rejecting and despising Christ. And hopefully the Epiphany – or revelation – of our Lord in your life makes you rejoice with exceedingly great joy!
May God grant you this day to know and to do what you ought to do:
that you might desire to Worship Jesus Christ the Lord
to Inquire how He may be found in your life
to Sacrifice your earthly goods to receive Him who is your heavenly treasure
and to Exult and rejoice . . .
because you have found Jesus the promised Savior – and have been found by Him.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve today to be wise as the Wise Men were wise. I resolve to be wise by choosing one of the wise ways the Wise Men chose of following Jesus Christ: by worshiping Him, inquiring after Him, sacrificing to Him, or exulting in His presence.
Prayer: O God, who by the leading of a star manifested Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know You now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of Your glorious Godhead; through Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson