Matthew 2:1-11

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It has captured the imagination of most Americans, especially the “happiness” part. The fast lane is now too slow for our pursuit. We’ve got the diamond lane to get there even quicker. A friend of mine said, “I used to be in that rat race, but I discovered that only rats won, and who wants to be the chief rat?” He’s now in pursuit of another goal. He has become a seeker.

How about you? If you have discovered the adventure of going after kingdom priorities, perhaps a look at some men moving west can help in your search.
Wise Men (and Women) Are Seekers, Not Sitters.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’ ” (Matthew 2:1-2).
Every Oriental court had its wise men. These could have been teachers of Persian kings, skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural sciences, as Daniel was trained in the Babylonian court. They somehow learned about the promised birth of a Jewish king and linked it up with an unusual star, which took them on their search. Though not themselves Jews, they felt compelled to leave their homeland in pursuit of this Messianic figure.
Seekers ask questions. The wise men said, “Where is he …?” Some people don’t like to ask questions. If I am having trouble finding a place, I want to make good and sure I am lost before I stop at a gas station to ask the “where” question. Asking “where” shows I don’t know where. Seekers are willing to ask that question because they want to know where.
Jesus was born right under the noses of Jewish leaders, but they were sitters, not seekers. They weren’t asking the “where” question. They knew too much. They knew the answer to the “where” question. It was a snap. They told Herod, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet” (Matthew 2:5). They knew Scripture, but that didn’t help them find Jesus, because seekers are finders, not sitters — and they were sitters, sitting on the answers they had, sitting comfortably in the religious system they controlled, sitting while they expected others to serve them. They were the big-shots who had the truth and knew the answers. Their statement of faith was: I shall not be moved.
Seekers move. The wise men came many hundreds of miles to find new truth about a Messiah. The sitters were five miles away in the so-called “holy” city, and they didn’t move an inch. They gave the correct answer that sent the seekers to the right spot. People with right answers who are not seeking know more than they ought to know. The sitters knew the facts but not the Father. We often know too much, and that prevents us from receiving what God would give us.
Sometimes seekers make wrong assumptions. The wise men wrongly assumed that if Jesus were a king, He would be found in Jerusalem, a city for kings. It makes sense. But God doesn’t always do things that make sense, at least not to our thinking. It sometimes seems like non-sense.
Seekers are guided more by revelation than by reason. Reason says, “I’ve got this figured out. This way makes sense to me.” Revelation, on the other hand, calls me to trust a Father who knows more than I do, even when common sense disagrees. It was a heavenly star that got the wise men moving, and the same star guided them to Bethlehem when they got back on track. It was their reason that took them to Jerusalem. Seekers do better asking questions than making assumptions. God’s ways are not our ways.
Here are some assumptions I have heard Christians make regarding the search:
1. Jesus is easy to find. If someone says, “I’m looking for Jesus,” we might make it too easy for that person to find Him if we make the assumption that finding God is a cinch. We might say, “Just believe, sign your name on the line, and you’re in. The search is over.” They might sign, then wonder for the next year what they found or why they don’t have assurance. It was difficult for Martin Luther to find Jesus, because he had to wander through a dark religious system to get there. It was difficult for John Wesley to find Jesus because he had made some wrong assumptions about grace that had to be changed before he could find whom he was looking for. It was difficult for the wise men to find Jesus because they had a long way to go. But they moved past a false religious system to find Him.
We may need to walk through some wrong belief systems ourselves to find our way to freedom in Christ — like legalism for instance. A mother whose daughter was in our church school was raised on heavy doses of “do it this way and don’t do it that way.” She tried unsuccessfully to pass it on to her daughters, both of whom were angry young ladies — and so was mom.
Liberalism is another wrong belief system. It tells people that we can improve upon the Bible, License is another, telling people that we can live life as we please without getting hurt. The walking wounded would tell us from experience that freedom without fences is a lie.
Jesus can be found by all, but only if they are seekers, not sitters, and He is not necessarily easy to find. Scripture does promise, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you …” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
2. A Japanese Christian named Kazuko who lives in my home made the wrong assumption that Jesus is hard to please. Her social system influenced her religious system and the message she heard from God was, “Work, work, work.” Her experience of life distorted her picture of God, who came off looking like a hard-driving boss. She made everything a chore until she discovered grace; until she came to realize that “His yoke is easy and His burden is light”; that the Gospel is good news, not bad news; that Jesus came to lighten our load, not increase it; that Jesus makes life a delight, not just a duty.
I once asked a group of children what they would like to give to Jesus. One boy said, “Some toys.” My first mental response was, “Thanks, but He doesn’t need any.” But on second thought I said, “Great, He’d love it.” Jesus is not hard to please.
3. Many Christians make the assumption that God is punishing them for some failure of the past. Needing an explanation for the pain they feel, the inconvenience they experience, or the tragedy they encounter, they find the wrong answer in the assumption that God is paying them back for their past. They believe in a God who doesn’t forget, especially the bad things.
Assumptions like these make it harder to find Jesus. The assumptions may seem reasonable in light of what we know, but seekers need to be guided by what God reveals, not what the mind reasons. Seekers need to understand how their belief systems may have been distorted by the pain of the past or by the misguidance of others, so they can open up to God’s truth instead of living in the self-deception of toxic faith.
4. One other assumption is that once seekers find Jesus, they become sitters (like the religious leaders in Jerusalem). When you reach your goal, you have arrived. You have no farther to go, so you sit. The early Christians were called “the people of the Way.” They were on the way, not there. They had not arrived. People who have arrived don’t have to ask the “where” question. They quit asking questions altogether, because now they know — or so they think.
On the cross Jesus asked a question, “My God, my God, why … ?” The religious leaders made statements: “Get down from the cross and we will believe.” On the day of Pentecost, seekers asked questions, “What do these things mean? But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine’ ” (Acts 2:12-13). Such statements close people off to seeking truth.
When I first came before you, I had more answers than I deserved to have. Twenty-one years later, I am growing as a seeker, asking more questions. That’s all right, because Paul said that “now we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” We won’t have all the answers until eternity, so it is okay to be a seeker and ask questions. We’re still on the way.
God Helps Seekers Find Jesus.
It may take a while, but seekers are finders! “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother …” (Matthew 2:10-11).
The wise men’s journey was not easy. It was long and costly. Having lost sight of the star, they might have given up in Jerusalem. But they found the Messiah. Disappointment can paralyze faith in its pursuit. The promise of God that seekers are finders is real, but so is the struggle. Our challenge is to continue in the search despite the obstacles, confident that God helps seekers find Jesus.
God led the wise men first by a star, then by the Scripture (spoken from the mouths of religious apostates), then again by the star, then by a dream. God will do whatever it takes to bring a seeker to his or her destination. He will stop at nothing to bring the truth of His Son to the sincere follower. Even those who go off track because of wrong assumptions (like the wise men did) will be led on the right way if their goal is Jesus.
It should stand as a continual encouragement to those pursuing Christ that wrong turns don’t disqualify us from guidance as long as we are open to direction. God says, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me” (Proverbs 8:17). And it should stand as a warning to the independent and self-sufficient that God will purposely blind the path of sitters. He will make truth scarce, and He will withhold information rather than throw it out to people who couldn’t care less anyway.
When the hardened Pharisees told a would-be seeker, “Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee” (John 7:52), they were revealing their own unwillingness to search. Jesus could have set the record straight on any number of occasions, but only seekers can handle truth. Jesus could have shoved His birth certificate in the face of the religious hierarchy but they were not after evidence. Sitters are scoffers.
I paid a pastoral visit to the non-Christian father of one of our church’s youth. The father was spinning me around by asking one question after another. As soon as I answered one, he asked another. I finally realized that the questions were his way of holding me off. So I said, “If I answer this question to your complete satisfaction, will you put your trust in Jesus Christ?” He said, “No.” I replied, “Then there’s no reason for me to play the answer-man game, is there?”
God does not feel compelled to answer questions, especially if those asking them are not committed to seeking the truth. On the other hand, He offers counsel to those going after the truth, and His direction can be intensely personal. The wise men are thought to be of a priestly caste who found guidance in the stars, so we call them astrologers. Our response to them, had they come to us, might have been, “We can’t help you if you’re into astrology. We don’t touch that stuff.” But we are often more spiritual than God, Who is willing to use whatever we are familiar with — even astrology — to lead us to the Savior.
New Agers have some ideas in their beliefs to commend them, though the whole belief system is riddled with lies. However, the sincere seeker of Jesus will find Him in the midst of the maze, and hopefully the seeker won’t be misled by misguided Christians in the process. Christians who react to the New Agers’ untruths should be prepared to gently give them the Good News.
All truth points to Jesus, wherever you find it — in the Old Testament, in the stars, in science, or in philosophy. It is there to be discovered — by seekers. But even the Scripture itself, the fountain of truth, is insufficient for religious idolaters who know chapter and verse but not the Author. Jesus said to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39). Those on a search for Jesus will find Him showing up all over the Bible. Luther found Him “in the Old Testament concealed and in the New Testament revealed.”
We ought not to make too much of our guidance, like starting a church and calling it “The Church of the Golden Star,” but we ought to make much of the God Who leads us to the truth of His Son. That is why He gives us the Scriptures — and even dreams and stars.
When Seekers Discover Jesus, They Worship.
When the wise men found the King they were searching for, “they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Their bowing before Jesus is a picture of what will happen in the end of time: “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord …” Some recognize His kingship now and are compelled to worship Him with joyful adoration and with gifts.
Jesus is the threat of sitters and the goal of seekers. Herod was troubled because he was a sitter, and sitters want to be honored rather than to honor. If we are still running our own little kingdom, if we want life to revolve around us, Jesus will pose a threat to our system. But seekers are not threatened by Jesus, because He is the goal of their search. They have come to realize that human greatness pales before Him, even as a baby.
Sitters are dishonest because they are deceived by their religious system. Seekers are more honest. They ask questions, acknowledge the obstacles, and observe the pain. They realize their limited understanding and their need for a Savior. They bow before the higher authority. Their search culminates with worship. But God is too great to be found in a moment, and they become life-long seekers. They give what they have to give. No sacrifice is too high. For the wise men it was gold, frankincense and myrrh. For us it may be a teaching ministry in the church, a caring mission for the poor, a form of worship that goes beyond words to actions.
The wise men could have been disappointed by what they found — simple folk in a poor dwelling with an infant who sure didn’t look like a king. They might have talked each other out of giving such expensive gifts — maybe just a part; it’s not like we thought: no court, no elegance. And yet they somehow knew they had found what they were looking for, like Simeon who had preceded them. And they gave all they had to give. May we do the same in the new year before us. May we not hold back. May we be extravagant worshipers and committed workers — of and for the King of Kings. Only the best and highest is appropriate.

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