“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold wise men from the East came to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1).
These men from the East, veiled in layers of mystery, were perhaps the most intriguing characters in the Advent story. They showed up without warning, then left under the cover of night, disappearing back into the East. So who were they, and where were they from? Some say they were kings from what today is Yemen. Were they Zoroastrian priests, or astronomers or astrologers from the present-day Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq or even further east? Or were they official ambassadors from a king in one of those regions?
Whatever they were, wherever they were from, the obvious message intended by Matthew is that they came from a great distance when having discerned from signs in the heavens that a King had been born to their Mediterranean neighbor in the West, Israel.
The point is clear. The highest value to these high-ranking noble fellows was not comfort or convenience. They did not come searching for a "discount." They were prepared to travel great distances at great cost (most likely there was a large entourage with them) in order to be a welcoming presence and present their gifts in the presence of this newborn King of the Jews.
We will look at the extent of their homage to this “King from across the river," but for now, let’s ponder the questions that hang over this scene. How far am I willing to travel to get next to Jesus? Would I have been content to send an Emoji-laden text? What am I willing to bring Him? What do I need to leave behind as I approach Him? Am I as wise as these wise ones?
Whatever the cost, may we take the first step in our long journey today. “Go west, young ones, go west!”