You’ve known people who have the reputation of being a smart aleck or wise guy. Perhaps you’ve been called that on occasion. In Matthew 2, the wise guy is Herod. He thinks he can outsmart the Magi. Upon hearing of the birth of a new King of the Jews, Herod was troubled because at the moment, he was the king of the Jews. In fact, all of Jerusalem was troubled with him because Herod was a rather disturbed individual and the people feared his rage.
So he sought to outwit the Magi, making it appear that he too wanted to worship the newborn king. “Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7,8) Herod’s reaction is typical, isn’t it? If I’m threatened, I’ll devise a plan to destroy my enemy, to get him or her out of the way. Herod was a ruthless king. He murdered several of his own family members including his wife, sons, and in-laws. His deceitful words and actions here and the murderous intentions behind them, make Herod a wise guy.
There’s a little bit of Herod in each of us. No one here wants to kill Jesus, of course, but we do pretend to worship and praise Jesus. Wise guys like to tease, and we tease Jesus. Maybe we tease Jesus with inconsistent worship or with a “whenever it’s convenient” study of his Word. Are we acting like a wise guy? Calling ourselves Christians, but behaving differently at home? At work? At school? On Facebook and other social media?
Another thought: How many Christians celebrated Christmas 12 days ago, but didn’t celebrate Christ; found time for all the trappings and traditions but couldn’t find time to worship the Christchild? Exchanged greetings and gifts and visitations but neglected The Gift of a Savior?
A Peanuts comic strip illustrates how we may be a “wise guy” in our attitude toward Jesus. In the comic, Linus and Lucy are talking. Lucy asks, “Are you going to Sunday School tomorrow?” “I guess so. Why?” Linus replies. Lucy responds, “The teacher wanted to know why you weren’t there last Sunday.” And Linus, holding his Bible, says coolly, “The zipper on my bible was stuck.”
This is the attitude of so many. If it isn’t “the zipper on my Bible’s stuck, it’s “it’s too cold or rainy to get out of bed” or “it’s too warm and sunny to stay inside” or “they really won’t miss me this morning” or “my favorite football team plays today” or “the world Badminton championships are on ESPN3 today and I don’t know how to work the DVR.”
We often play the wise guy, thinking that God won’t really care if I miss one Sunday, then two or three. We think we can outsmart him as we let sin cloud our judgment in our everyday walk, convincing ourselves that God won’t mind if we do this or that. I mean, it’s not like we’re going to end up on the news or in jail for the little things we do. Are you a wise guy?
We see the wise guy in Herod. But Matthew gives us the example of another group, the Wise Men. “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 myrhh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)
Do you see the difference? The Wise Men come into this poor household and treat it as the grandest of palaces. They honor the Child as the most glorious King. This was no mere baby—this was the King of kings, the promised Messiah. They came to worship him and shower him with gifts.
In the same manner, Jesus showered us with his grace when we were brought to the baptismal font. All manner of divine blessings were given us through that gift – forgiveness, life, salvation, peace, hope, comfort, and strength.
In Bethlehem and Calvary we have the same story. Jesus’ birth and death are instruments of God’s love. Christ came not just to live, but to live and die so that you and I might live forever. Follow the wise men who followed the star. Follow Jesus.
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand