Matthew 2:9-12 “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
It is difficult to express in English the degree of joy the Magi experienced. Our translators simply tell us they were “overjoyed.” This was the most joyful of times for them, and not just because they saw the star. It was not the star, after all, that they came to see. They rejoiced in the prospect of meeting the Christ child. Jesus was their joy.
This joy wasn’t due to Jesus making their lives fantastically easier. They still had a very long journey ahead of them. They had an angry, dangerous king to avoid. They didn’t rejoice because Jesus had suddenly showered them with earthly wealth. In just a short time this same child was going to relieve them of some expensive gifts. Their joy wasn’t rooted in what they had in this world, but what they had in their hearts. They were on the verge of seeing their Savior and their King. He was their joy, the treasure on which they had set their hearts.
Isn’t that still the source of genuine Christian joy? Jesus may give us the joy of having some of the things we want. He may help solve some of our problems and smooth some of our difficulties. But isn’t Jesus himself the real joy? He has given us himself, his love, and his life. These things will never grow less. They can never be taken away. When Jesus is our true treasure, having him by faith gives us joy.
That is what leads the Magi, these truly wise men, to the next step: “…they bowed down and worshiped him.” We aren’t used to seeing the kind worship the Magi offered here. Their entire bodies expressed the great value they placed on this child. These bows were not the polite half-bend used to greet people in some Asian cultures. They got down on their knees and put their faces on the floor. They were saying, “You are great and worthy. We are small and low.”
We don’t have to imitate their body language to worship Christ as they did. When we worship in a spirit of humility and brokenness, when we humbly confess our sins, when we keep our focus on Jesus and his works of love, then we will know his true value, too. He is our Savior from sin. Such worship is an uplifting experience, even if, in spirit, we are down on our knees.
The treasures the Magi gave to Jesus were further evidence that they valued him deeply. But perhaps an even greater proof is found after their visit was complete. “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” More than God wanted their offerings, he wanted hearts that obeyed him. Do you remember the words of Samuel to Saul? “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). The Magi avoided Herod as God had told them. This showed the place Christ held in their hearts.
Those who treasure Jesus still live lives that obey him carefully. He rules their hearts, because they know he has made them rich.