Agamemnon’s mask is a very famous artifact found in Mycanae in the 1800s. It is one of several funeral masks laid over the faces of the royal dead. Agamemnon was a famous king in Homer’s epic poems and in the plays of Euripides. Paul quotes from Euripides when he recounts his conversion.
In the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel account we meet some wise men from the east bringing gifts (next week we will look at the gifts). We do not know if they can properly be called wise men, since the word Matthew uses actually means “great (or powerful) ones,” and it indicates high position or influence. Nevertheless, these men were truly wise, and we would be wise to remember them and learn from them.
How were these men wise?
First, they were wise enough to seek Jesus. God had informed them of the birth of the new Jewish king, though we do not know exactly how. Realizing they were far from Him, they did the wise thing. They prepared a traveling caravan and made their way to the capital city of the Jews.
Are you wise enough to seek Jesus? His birth has been announced well and widely. There is no mystery about it. Have you found Him? If you have not yet found Him, are you still seeking?
Secondly, they were wise enough to seek information. There is another way in which the wise men were truly wise. They were wise enough to learn from others, even though there was little information to be had either from the people or their leaders. They were Magi, and in their own country, they were the ones from whom others sought information. They were the intellectuals of their culture.
What they learned when the Scriptures were opened to them was important. God was calling them to Christ, and His call would in time surely lead them to Him. Above all, they were able to learn where Jesus was from the Bible.
Are you wise enough to find Jesus in the Bible? The wise men had to travel a long distance to find Him, but no one has to travel a long distance today. The Bible says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.” Jesus is present in the Gospel, and whoever calls on Him will be saved.
Finally, they were wise enough to worship Him when they found Him. This is very important, because some people seek even though they do not want to find the truth and embrace it. Paul spoke of these people when he warned Timothy of those who are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”
Have you found Jesus? The point of the story, after all, is not that we might be entertained by the story of Jesus’ birth but that we might find Christ, as the wise men did, and that we might worship Him and offer Him our gifts too.
What can you do to find Jesus? First, determine in advance that as soon as you find Him you will worship Him and give yourself to Him, holding nothing back. The starting place is to pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, I do not yet know where you are or how I may find you. I have followed many false leads, some of which are in my own heart. I need help if I am to find you. God the Father must lead me to you. I admit that I do not even know what finding you may mean. But I do promise that if you reveal yourself to me, so that I discover you as my own personal God and Savior, I will be yours forever, and I will follow you wherever you lead me.” If you are not yet a Christian, I urge you to follow after Jesus on those terms. If you seek Him, you will find Him.
What if you have already found Him? What if you have already become a Christian? If that is the case, offer Him your gifts, as the wise men did.
Begin with your myrrh. Myrrh is not only a symbol of Christ’s death, it is also a symbol of the spiritual death that should come to you for your sin. Lay it at Christ’s feet, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I should receive the consequence of my sin, which is to be barred from your holy presence forever. But I know that you took my sin, dying in my place. I believe that. I rejoice in that. Now I ask you to take me as your child forever. As a symbol, I now die to myself so I might live for you.”
Next, come to Jesus with your incense. Incense symbolizes worship, and you need to worship Him as your Savior and Lord. It also symbolizes the offering up of your life. When Jesus comes to live in you, He will do a good work in you so that the deeds produced in your life will become in turn “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”
Finally, bring your gold. When you offer your gold, you acknowledge the right of Christ to rule in your life. Say, “I am your servant. Direct my life and make me strong to serve you and others for your sake.”
If you do these things, I think you will experience something we find at the very end of the story about the wise men. We are told that having been warned not to go back to Herod’s palace because of his murderous intentions, “they returned to their country by another route.” And so will you! Your life will follow a different path from the time you surrender it to Christ, and your path will be a good one.