“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” ~ Matthew 2:9-11

I love the magi for their costly obedience to God.

Their obedience was costly in terms of the time it took and the miles they crossed to find the Christ.

 “We saw his star in the east…”. We don’t know how far they traveled, but their words indicate it was a considerable journey. Two years ago Janis and I moved to LA from Connecticut. Sometimes when we say that to locals, their eyes glaze over, as though we were talking about a suburb of Phoenix. But when we say we came from “out east”, they nod their heads. It’s so far away, that it’s more descriptive to just give a direction.

Their obedience was costly in the shame they risked.

I’m sure they each had family and friends who thought they were a little nuts to go Messiah-chasing. Just as Janis and I saw eyebrows contort when we said, “Yeah, we’re selling our house and moving to LA with no jobs waiting for us. Or a house either.” Let it be known to your classmates or co-workers that you too love Jesus and they’ll start seeing you as a wee bit quirky.

Their obedience was costly in the danger they faced.

Mixing it up with King Herod was a little like wrestling an alligator. He could bite off their heads on a whim. Better not take their eyes off of him. Maybe you don’t think of being a Christian as something that’s dangerous. Count yourself fortunate then. Because for 2/3rds of Christians in the world today, danger is a very real part of what it means to follow Jesus.

Their obedience was costly in the uncertainty of their quest.

Seldom when God bids us to do something for him does he show us what the journey will look like in advance. His way with us is just to reveal the first step, then another, and another. Janis and I had no guarantees in how this season of life would unfold for us. And still we press forward, not knowing what is coming next.

One thing’s for sure: in doing it this way, God compels us to be on our faces continually before him. We don’t want to miss a turn. Or take a wrong step.

The magi “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” when the star reappeared because they were in darkness for awhile, not knowing what to do next. That’s how faith usually works. A voice here, a nudge there, an experience now and then, then silence and darkness for a spell, during which time we hang on tight to God and try to enjoy the ride.

And their obedience was costly in terms of the worship that they offered Jesus.

These gifts they brought – gold, frankincense and myrrh – these weren’t stocking stuffers from Bath and Body. These were priceless and sacrificial gifts. Gifts that were both prophetic and providential.

They pointed symbolically to the roles Jesus as the Messiah would fill – prophet, priest and king (myrrh was often used as a burial spice – a curious gift to lay before a child, unless you happen to know what that child will do when he grows up.)

And I’m sure that gold came in handy a short time later when Joseph had to round up his small family by night and flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.

One good measurement of Jesus’ worth to you is the obedience that you offer him. Jesus himself said it, from his lips to our ears, “If you love me, you will obey me” (John 14:15).

As we think about the Magi, let’s ask ourselves a few self-reflection questions.

  • What is the greatest sacrifice I have made for Jesus?
  • What shame have I been willing to endure for Jesus?
  • What is the costliest gift I have ever given my Lord?
  • What changes have I been willing to make for my Savior?
  • What pleasures have I given up for him?
  • What’s the most dangerous thing I have done for Jesus?
  • If an outsider were able to follow me around and observe me for a week, would one of their conclusions about me be that I am nuts about Jesus Christ.

Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.