Give the Savior Your Best
Give the Savior Your Best
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
In September of 3 B.C., at the time of the Jewish New Year, Jupiter (which is the “King” Planet) became aligned with Regulus (the “King” Star). It would have been a bright display of two of the brightest lights in the sky. A few months later, Jupiter looked to have reversed course and went in retrograde motion (which happens occasionally because of our sight perspective as the planets pass each other). Even more rare and something that has not happened again since, Jupiter reversed course a second time. It was almost as if the “King” Planet was dancing with or forming a halo around the “King” Star—like a coronation perhaps.
All of this happened within one constellation in the sky—Leo, which is the lion and also the symbol for the tribe of Judah. Meanwhile, at the exact same time the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) was rising behind the constellation Leo. So by early 2 B.C., the Virgin would have been aligned with the Lion (of Judah) and also the King Star being crowned by the King Planet. Even more interesting? Nine months later, the length of a pregnancy, by June of 2 B.C., Jupiter became aligned with Venus the Mother Planet.
Could this have been what the Magi saw in the sky? Did they see these rare signs and sights in the sky and then set out from the east to start looking for the Messiah, only to see the final signs nine months later? It’s an interesting theory, but we don’t know for sure. We don’t know if it was a supernova or just a very bright star. We don’t know if it was high in the sky or very low and finally hovered above the house like you see in many pictures. We don’t know for sure if only the Magi could see it or if everyone in the world could see the star. We don’t know a lot about that star.
We also don’t know a lot about the Magi. We all know the song We Three Kings of Orient Are, but we don’t know if there were only three, they probably weren’t kings, and they almost certainly weren’t from the Orient. It seems likely that the Magi were from Persia (modern day Turkey or Iraq). They were probably a class of very knowledgeable men of some kind (hence the name Wise Men), possibly priests or sorcerer magicians or even biologists. But this we don’t know either.
There are a lot of things we don’t know about the star and about the Magi. But the mysteries aren’t what matter. It’s what we do know that makes this one of the most interesting and inspiring stories in the Bible.
Here you have a group of men that were Gentiles (non-Jews). They lived some 600 miles away in Persia. They were affiliated with the occult and other religious practices of Persia. And yet, they knew of the promised Messiah (probably information passed down by Daniel several hundred years before).
So they seemed to know the Scriptures. They seemed to know the Messiah. They seemed to know about when and about where the Messiah would come. With that knowledge, they eagerly went looking for him. And when they found him they were filled with joy.
This was not like they quickly drove down to Halifax hospital, popped into the birthing wing, dropped off a card and some flowers, and then headed back to regular life. Consider the effort and the thought and the love the Magi put into this.
Living 600 miles away their journey could have taken upwards of three to four weeks to travel through rough terrain to get to Jerusalem. They were entering a strange land as foreigners. They boldly marched up to wicked King Herod and even more boldly asked where the new king was.
Then they found Jesus. Just listen to what happened: “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.”
They were filled with joy. They bowed down to Jesus in humble honor. They worshiped Jesus in thanks and praise. They presented him with expensive gifts that cost a lot of money—gold and rare incense and spice—gifts that were fit for a king. And at the end of the story they even obeyed God rather than men as they were warned in a dream and skipped town and avoided Herod who wanted Jesus dead.
I will never forget my first Christmas as a pastor. Right after it, we came to this day, Epiphany in 2008. I was studying and preparing for the sermon. But the more I thought about the Magi in this story the more I started to become overwhelmed with emotion and sadness. I thought about all that the Magi did—the lengths they went to see Jesus, what they did for Jesus, what they gave to Jesus. The Magi seemed to be filled with joy and to always give Jesus their best. Then I thought about what I do for Jesus. I quickly became very ashamed.
Just think about it a bit. The Magi traveled some 600 miles for three or four weeks through rough terrain searching for Jesus. How many times have you struggled to travel six miles for five or ten minutes on smooth highways—and you know where the place to worship Jesus is? How many times have we struggled to take six steps to walk over to our Bible to spend even six minutes with the Lord?
The Magi came to Jesus’ house and were overjoyed and overflowing with eager desire to worship. How often does that describe your emotion and desire for worship? Or is it maybe sometimes, “This week I’m just going to sleep.” “I partied a lot last night, and I need to catch up on my rest.” “Well I guess I better go to church today. I haven’t really been there in a while.” “Ugh! Sunday worship and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s worship? That’s too much for me!”
And when the Magi saw their Savior and were filled with joy and were so eager to worship him that they thanked him by giving him the very best gifts they had to offer—gifts fit for a king. How often does that describe your giving? Or is it maybe sometimes, “I guess I better give something. I don’t want to look bad when the plate comes my way.” “I suppose I’ll do my duty.” “Well Lord, first I need a new outfit and new shoes. Then I need to spend a couple hundred (or thousand) dollars on Christmas presents. Then I need to keep my HD cable TV going and upgrade my cell phone and make sure my kid plays football and baseball and dancing. Then after I do all those things for myself, I’ll be sure to give you something then, Lord.”
The Magi knew exactly who Jesus was. King. Promised Messiah. Savior. That filled them with so much joy that they gave Jesus their very best of their time and their treasures. They gave Jesus their very best of their heart. How shamefully sinful when we don’t!
We don’t know a lot about the Magi—where exactly the came from or when or how or what their jobs exactly were. But we do know what it was that makes them such “wise” men. They knew who they were and they knew who the Savior was.
The Magi knew they were Gentiles. They weren’t part of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. They were outsiders looking in at God’s grace. The Magi knew they were sinners. They lived in a heathen culture. They were likely associated with the worship of other gods and cult-like magical practices. The Magi knew that such sinful foreigners deserved nothing from the one true God.
But they also knew who Jesus was. He was the king and ruler that God had promised to send. He was the promised Messiah, the Savior who had come to take away the sins of all people of all nations. And that is another aspect of the story that makes this day so special. The word “epiphany” means to reveal or make known. It would seem as though the Magi were the very first Gentiles that the Savior revealed himself to.
We can give thanks to God today that we know the same things the Magi did. Like the Magi, we are Gentiles too. We were also outsiders looking in at God’s grace to his chosen people. We too live in a very heathen culture and we too find ourselves often associated with the sinful practices of those around us. Like the Magi, we know that we are sinners who deserve nothing from the one true God.
And yet, like the Magi, we also know who Jesus is. He is the king and ruler God promised to send. He is the promised Messiah, the Savior who came to take away the sins of all people of all nations, including us. And though we don’t always offer Jesus our best, he is the Savior who gave us the best—himself.
While we don’t understand much about the Magi, we can certainly understand why they did what they did. They were filled with joy that God would love them so much. They were filled with joy because Jesus had come to be their Savior. They were filled with joy because they were foreigners who were welcomed into God’s family. They were filled with joy because God had come to live here so that one day they could go and live with God.
Take time to think like the Magi. Know who you are. Know your sins and your wrongs. Know that you are unworthy of God. Then know who Jesus is. Know the miracle of God’s love, that he came here to his world to give himself for us and to save us from an eternity in hell. And finally know this, if it weren’t for Jesus’ epiphany (revealing himself to the world) you wouldn’t know any of this at all.
Once we start to think more carefully like the Magi, then very quickly we will start to act like the Magi. You see, when you know who that little child is, how you respond to him will quickly change.
Today is the first Sunday of 2015. Think back to 2014. Did your worship attendance reflect the honor and thanks that is due our Savior? Did how much you read your Bible or came to Family Night or Sunday morning Bible study—did those things reflect your joy in learning more about your one and only Savior? Now is a time to reevaluate and make changes. Give the Savior Your Best of your time.
What about your actions and living in this last year? Were you as eager to obey God as the Magi? Did your posts on Facebook, did your actions at work, did the way you treat your family reflect your Savior’s love for you and your love for him? Now is a time to reevaluate and make changes. Give the Savior Your Best of your talents.
What about your giving in this last year? God does not command an amount for you to give him. But God does command you to give and he does expect your best. Most of you will receive very shortly a report from the church of your offerings in 2014. Take a long, hard, serious look at that number. Ask yourself one of the hardest questions of Christian living: Is this really the best I have to give to God? Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to come here and give up his life for me. Am I giving offerings that really give him honor and thanks? Now is a time to reevaluate and make changes. Give the Savior Your Best in your treasures.
I personally find the story of the Magi one of the most fascinating stories in Scripture. There are so many interesting aspects of the story to ponder. But most interesting and most inspiring is what these Gentile wise men, the Magi, did. In their time, their talents, and their treasures they gave Jesus their very best.
Today you heard the apostle Paul say that God has revealed to us a mystery, the mystery of God’s unsearchable riches. At his epiphany, when the Magi arrived, God made known that mystery. That mystery is this—Jesus is the Savior of all people—even the Gentiles, even the Magi, even us today.
There is only one proper way to respond to this astounding epiphany of God’s amazing love— Be like the Magi and Give the Savior Your Best.
Posted on January 4, 2015, in Church and tagged Church, Epiphany, Herod, Jesus, Jupiter, King Herod, Leo, Magi, Matthew, Matthew 2, Persia, Regulus, Sermons, Venus, Virgo, Wise Men. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.