While it is hundreds of miles from the “East” to Bethlehem, it is only six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Just a day’s travel, but what a difference when considered through the lens of Matthew 2. Perhaps a few lessons can be learned from the passage.
1. God will help sincere individuals find Him, wherever they are looking.
We don’t know exactly from whence the wise men came, who they were, how many there were, or what their names were. We do not know much about the star they followed. But we do know what they did, why they came, and what they gave. The wise men were possibly astrologers and scholars serving in the king of Persia’s court. They saw the star and understood its meaning and followed it to Jerusalem and to Herod’s palace. The palace was the natural place to look for a baby born as the king of the Jews. They left all that was comfortable and familiar and headed into new territory with unfamiliar surroundings. They were willing to seek in order to worship. They came prepared to worship. Perhaps they understood the principle of the teachings of Jesus: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). If we are looking for Jesus, He can move the stars around in the heavens to help us find Him.If we are looking for Jesus, He can move the stars around in the heavens to help us find Him. Click To Tweet
2. Sometimes the most unlikely people find Him and worship Him, while the most likely people take Him for granted.
Herod, the king of the Jews was not a Jew; he was an Idumean. But as the king of the Jews, he thought he was their greatest benefactor. He asked the chief priests and scribes about the birth of a king of the Jews, and they told him where the birth was to take place—Bethlehem—according to Micah 5:2. They knew where Jesus would be born but they were not interested in worshiping Him. They took His birth and His identity for granted.
Herod guarded his position as king with ruthless acts of murder—anyone near him who threatened his throne (or he thought threatened his throne) was murdered—sons, brothers, friends, strangers. According to history, he ordered prisoners to be killed upon his death so that there would be mourning at the time of his death; he knew he was hated. He selfishly guarded his position as king and missed the King of kings.
The chief priests and scribes were students of the Law and the Prophets. They knew where Jesus was to be born, but they did not look for Him. God, help us to love Your appearing. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8).
Bethlehem was only six miles from Jerusalem. Only six miles. Not very far if you want to go and worship. But too far if you only want to talk about worshiping Him. The chief priests and the scribes had the answer as to where the king was to be born, but they treated it as dry facts without the vibrant life of revelation and worship. Herod received the answer to his question, but he followed up with murderous intent rather than with worshipful adoration.
In Matthew 2 we observe those who would not travel six miles to worship—just a day’s journey—contrasted with those who willingly traveled hundreds of miles to worship—several month’s journey. Let’s be worshipers! While it was only six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, there was a world of difference between the attitude of Jerusalem and the attitude of Bethlehem. In Jerusalem the chief priests took the glorious event of Christ’s birth for granted and Herod only wanted to destroy the child. However, in Bethlehem things were different. In an atmosphere and attitude of worship the angels announced the birth of Jesus; the shepherds came, saw Him, and departed telling others and worshiping God; and the wise men came worshiping and bearing precious gifts.
3. Jesus desires our gifts.
The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gifts were more than just “stuff.” They were valuable. These gifts could have sustained Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus when they fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod. Jesus desires our gifts as well. He desires our time, talents, and treasure. He desires us, fully surrendered to Him. He can take our empty vessel, fill it with His Holy Spirit, and then pour out His love and grace upon other empty vessels.
Six miles or hundreds of miles? No matter the distance, let us worship Jesus intentionally, intently, and incessantly this Christmas season.