3 Keys of the Wise Men’s Worship
Imagine a big birthday party being thrown in your honor. All of your friends and family will be there with the presents, cake, balloons, and streamers. A few of your friends who are musicians make up songs about it. It is being billed as the party of the decade. But on the morning of your birthday, you realize no one has invited you. You give your friends the benefit of the doubt, thinking it must have been a simple oversight. You decide to go to the party anyway that evening, which is being held at your friend’s house. When you get there, you find that the house is alive with laughter, music, and excitement. Imagine knocking on the door and waiting for it to open. No one comes. After a while, you try the doorbell. Same result. After a few minutes and now feeling rejected, you turn to walk away from the very party that is being thrown in your honor. This is the picture of how many people live in the Christmas season. They enjoy all the lights, trees, and gifts…but never invite Jesus to be the center of their celebration. Jesus, the only begotten Son, becomes the most forgotten Son in the Christmas season.
This is why we must unclutter our lives and place Jesus at the center of His party. In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12), we see four groups of people who did not unclutter their hearts and missed Jesus completely.
- Innkeeper: The innkeeper did not make room for Jesus in the inn or in their heart. Business was at an all-time high, and they were making a lot of money. There were hundreds of people coming into the town of Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Joseph and Mary got there late, and there was no room at the inn. Either the inn was full, or the innkeeper may not have liked Joseph and Mary’s socio-economic status. The innkeeper was caught up in the enticements and cares of this world and missed the opportunity to have Jesus Himself in his house. The innkeeper was distracted.
- King Herod: King Herod was an egotistical, highly educated political control freak. He did not want to relinquish control. He was so concerned with the idea of losing power that he missed gaining the only thing that mattered. He was, in fact, so paranoid that he killed all the firstborn boys under the age of two in Bethlehem. He refused to let go of control, and this is how many people live today. Out of his control, King Herod refused to let go.
- Town People: The average population of Bethlehem was 500 to 1,000 people at the time of Jesus’ birth. And an additional 200 to 300 people were visiting due to the census. The Messiah was right there as the answer to all of their questions, but they didn’t even know He was there in their midst.
- Religious Leaders: The religious leaders were the most educated men of their day concerning the Scriptures. They prayed for centuries for the Messiah to come, and they knew the prophecies made about Him. The problem was they had a lot of truth but no heart. They had religious actions but no relationship. At the report of the Messiah being born 6 miles south of them in Bethlehem, they didn’t even take the time to see if the report was true. They were looking for a different kind of Messiah. They wanted a Messiah on their terms.
Do you see yourself in one of these four categories this Christmas season? Take a moment to think about how your heart may be cluttered right now. Cluttered with your busy schedule, a list of presents to buy, or worries about finances. We can all learn from these four groups in order to unclutter our hearts and engage with Jesus this Christmas season. It’s the only thing that really matters.
While four groups of people missed Jesus in this Matthew 2 passage, there is, however, a fifth group who did unclutter their lives to know Jesus. They uncluttered and gave their full attention to Jesus. Jeremiah 29:13-14 captures their response to the Messiah when saying, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” The response of the wise men, or magi, represents this fifth category of people. The wise men were truth-seekers schooled not only in astronomy but also in astrology. They did not find the answers they were looking for in life and in their cultic practices. But it is apparent that they were seeking the truth. God actually revealed himself to them in a special way.
Here’s three things we can learn from the wise men’s worship of Jesus:
- Expectant Worship.
Matthew 2:2 says, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” The wise men came expecting something to happen when they entered the presence of the King. These men came to Jerusalem for the sole purpose of worship. Worship was why they left their homeland. Worship was why they brought their treasure. Worship was why they journeyed. Worship was at the heart of everything we see them doing and how they respond. They had their hearts set on coming before the Lord Jesus to worship Him.
The wise men traveled approximately 1,000 miles from Egypt to Jerusalem on the backs of the best Persian horses, not camels. Their journey took them through tremendously difficult terrain over 9 months, and the wise men would have needed a security force to protect them and their riches. We don’t know for sure how many wise men there were, but we know there were at least two. Tradition holds that there were three, one for each gift brought to Jesus. The word “magi” is where we get our word magic. These men were magicians, sorcerers, astrologers, and could have been believers in Jehovah from Daniel’s prophecy years before (Daniel 9). At this time, the line was blurred between occult experiments and legitimate science.
2. Expressive Worship.
Matthew 2:10–11 says, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” At the sight of this toddler, the wealthiest and most intelligent men of their day “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” The Bible could have simple said they had joy, but, instead, it uses emphatic expressive language that means exuberant excitement…they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy! Can you picture them shouting, jumping, laughing, crying, and hugging? They were overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of seeing Jesus. It is a model of how our worship should look. Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” Psalm 95:1, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” And Psalm 134:2 declares, “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!” Does your worship look like this? These verses illustrate the biblical response of a person who knows they are loved by God!
But that is not all. We see these wise men, the sophisticated professor types, “fell down and worshiped Him.” To fall down means to fall down violently and be shattered. It is the word picture of a building collapsing. This is what the wise men did. They walked into a house, saw a toddler, and fell down violently and were shattered in His presence. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to now and again fall down and allow ourselves to be shattered in worship.
3. Extravagant Worship.
Matthew 2:11 says, “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” The gifts the wise men brought Jesus had great prophetic significance. The gold was for royalty, frankincense for divinity, and myrrh for humanity. Myrrh was used to anoint a dead body, and this gift alluded to Jesus’ future death on the cross for the sins of mankind. These gifts were the three best resources in all of Persia. The wise men brought their best in worship. Do you bring your best when you come to worship or do distractions sometimes keep you from devoted worship to the King? Do you just go through your quiet time or do you set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2)?
The worship of the wise men was extravagant. They uncluttered their lives to worship Him in a wholehearted manner. They had the same heart as the sinful woman who “learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment” (Luke 7:37-38).
This Christmas season, will you unclutter your life to come to the Messiah expectantly? Will you align your heart with the wise men to express your worship extravagantly? Wise men still seek Him.