The story of the Magi’s unusual search reminds me of the woman who sought healing from Jesus, not for any apparent spiritual reasons, but simply because she wanted to be well (Luke 8:42-48). She was in the crowd following Jesus, but not because she wanted to be a follower, and not for the sermon, and not for salvation. She just wanted to push her way to the front and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, believing that in that garment would be a magical power that could heal her. She did receive the healing; and then she received Jesus. Jesus stopped for her and honored her search, not only with his miracle of healing, but also with his word of promise.
We can come to Jesus for all the wrong reasons. We all probably do. But the important thing is that we do come to him. The old hymn says it best, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, Oh Lamb of God, I come.”
What did these ‘magicians’ want from Jesus? Matthew 2:2 says that the Magi came to worship Jesus. We don’t know much about the Magi, and what we do know seems to indicate that they were wrong about a few things. But they were right about the most important thing. They were right to be seeking Jesus, for whatever reason. “Seek and you shall find,” Jesus said, and it would very much in line with the rest of what Jesus taught to finish that sentence like this: “Seek, and you shall find that you have already been found.” As you recall, Jesus often used the illustration of shepherds and their sheep, and who is it that is always finding who? It is the good shepherd, Jesus, who is always seeking, and finding, the lost sheep.
It is like that old illustration of the little boy who ran away from home. His father watched him go, and then, in order to protect his son, followed him at a distance from which he could see the boy, but the boy could not see him. After a while, the sky began to darken and the little boy became afraid. When he turned to go back home, he realized he was lost, and became frightened. He started to cry, and immediately his father came to him. The little boy was overjoyed, and said, “Daddy, I found you!” Who found who?
That is how we find Jesus. He is there, all the while, waiting for us. And that is how the Magi found him. How else would following the stars lead you to just the right place and just the right baby? Looking at the stars can tell you which way is North, and if you know something about the stars and the constellations, they might even tell you more than that. But if I want to give you directions to my house, I better tell you what roads to take, and not what stars to follow. And I better tell you my house number, not what star is directly over my house; that might be a little hard to determine. However, when it is God who is giving the directions and leading the way, he can move the stars around if he wants to, and that is what he did for the Magi. Matthew 2:9 tells us that “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” They found Jesus, but it was like the little boy found his daddy– with a lot of help. They were, in fact, the ones who had been found and were being led.
I hope I’m not ruining anyone’s Christmas story with this less than flattering picture of these ‘not-very’ wise men. They probably look very wise and very dignified in your nativity scene at home. We’ve been more used to that more positive picture of them. But there has been a whole stream of Biblical interpretation over the years that has seen them as well-meaning bumblers at best, or at worst, devious wizards who only in the end change their wicked hearts when they see and truly worship the Christ-child. Actually, there is not enough in the Bible to know very much for sure, except that they really did need a lot of help from God, as do we all. Praise God that he is always there for us, ready to be found and ready to help. And keep asking, seeking, and knocking.
Matthew 7:7 — (Jesus said), “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 2:11 — On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship thee, all nations obey thee, all tongues confess and bless thee, and men and women everywhere love thee and serve thee in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer