3 Essential Lessons to Learn from the Magi
- Lisa Samra Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 16 Dec
During this Christmas season, you will likely spend some time thinking about a somewhat mysterious group. You will likely sing about them traveling over “field and fountain, moor and mountain” to see Jesus. You might arrange them in your nativity scene, alongside camels or donkeys. You may even be tasked with trying to make a costume so a child can portray some resemblance to royalty in a play.
This mysterious group is the “Magi,” or more commonly called the “wise men.”
Despite the ubiquitous presence of the wise men in our Christmas celebrations, we actually know very little about the Magi who came to Jerusalem. Their story is contained in only 12 verses in the gospel of Matthew. Those verses provide some clues (you can learn more historical details about these fascinating individuals here and here), but we mostly make educated guesses about the identity of the Magi.
Although they remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, the Holy Spirit ensured that their story has been preserved for us today and there are many things the wise men can still teach us. Here are 3 essential lessons worth remembering:
1. Keep Seeking
One of the most fascinating aspects of their story is that the wise men had to search diligently for Jesus, it was not easy for them to locate Him.
When the wise men traveled from countries east of Israel, they believed that they were looking for royalty. When they arrived in Jerusalem they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? (Matthew 2:2)
The Magi had gone to the place they expected to find Jesus—the royal palace in Jerusalem—but Jesus was not to be found there.
King Herod was anxious about the news that a child claiming to be king had been born. Secretly, he asked the Jewish priests and teachers of the law where to find this infant king and they told Herod that the prophet Micah claimed the new ruler of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem.
Acting deceptively, Herod said he also wanted to worship this new king and sent the wise men to find him in Bethlehem. With this new information, and guided again by a star, the wise men went to search for Jesus (Matthew 2:7-8).
In the busyness of all the fun and activity around the Christmas season, it can be easy to miss Jesus. We can forget that although Jesus wants to be discovered, He is often found in unexpected places. If we are willing to seek out Jesus during this holiday season, we might find Him when we volunteer serving others. We might find him in the quietness and beauty of a carol service. Perhaps, taking the time to read a devotional, or listen expectantly at church, might be ways we find Jesus among all the celebrations and activities. We can experience Christmas and still not find Jesus.
But, just like the wise men, if we search for Him, we will find what we are longing to discover.
2. Jesus is Worthy
When the Magi learned they might find Jesus in Bethlehem, they continued their journey until they located the house where Jesus lived with his parents, Mary and Joseph. The Bible tells us that they were overjoyed at finding Jesus and “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Although it is unlikely that they understood the fullness of the divine nature of Jesus, they rejoiced at finding this infant king whom they identified as “King of the Jews” and they worshiped. The Magi could have simply gathered all the critical information for Herod, and determined the facts to make their reports when they returned home.
But, when they find Jesus, the gospel tells us that they worshiped Him.
It can be easy to simply accomplish a long list of tasks over the holidays and not actually worship Jesus. The Magi were on a mission that consumed a significant amount of time, energy and resources. However, when they found Jesus, they had a deep and profound response. They worshiped.
True worship is the spontaneous response to encountering Jesus. Those encounters this Christmas season might come in many different ways. Perhaps while listening to a family member, singing a Christmas carol, praying, reading a Christmas story, or in the testimony of a friend of God’s provision this year.
We might even encounter Jesus as we become aware of His presence with us as we walk in nature, or experience His comfort in the midst of suffering.
The wise men help us to see that encountering Jesus leads to worship.
3. Listen and Obey
After the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, they had an incredible dream that warned them not to go back to Herod. It is interesting that they don’t appear to question the message but quietly find another, more secretive, way back to their home.
Having appeared before King Herod, he would have known their names and identities. At great personal risk, the wise men disobeyed Herod’s orders and “returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:12). Their obedience helped protect Jesus and his family from Herod’s evil intentions.
While God’s guidance for us today is not always as dramatic as a dream, the Bible tells us that Jesus is our Good Shepherd who guides us. And because we “know his voice” (John 10:4), we can follow Him—even if it means taking a different route than we planned this time of year.
As you listen to God, perhaps there is a different place He wants you to go as part of your holiday celebrations. Maybe there is a friend or family member who could use a special visit. If Jesus directs you to give to someone you have a difficult relationship with this holiday season and didn’t plan to bless, consider how you might “go a different route” by giving them a kind gift.
The Magi are an example to us of the blessings and protection that come from obeying God’s guidance.
Even 2,000 years later, we can learn important lessons from a mysterious group of travelers. So, when you see or sing or read about the Magi this Christmas season, be reminded of their example, and allow it to encourage you.
Lisa M. Samra was born and raised in Texas, graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas and earned a Master of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Lisa now lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Jim, and their four children. She is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, Our Daily Bread, and her work has also appeared in a variety of publications and online sites. Lisa loves to travel and often finds inspiration from experiencing the beauty of diverse cultures, places and people. Lisa enjoys good coffee, running and reading, just not all at the same time.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Robert Thiemann
Lisa M. Samra graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas and earned a Master of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Lisa now lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her family. She leads several ministries at Calvary Church, with a focus on encouraging church leaders and training people for ministry. She is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, Our Daily Bread, and her work has also appeared in a variety of publications and online sites. Lisa looks forward to traveling again, as she often finds inspiration from experiencing the beauty of diverse cultures, places, and people. Lisa enjoys good coffee, running, and reading, just not all at the same time.