“Wise men still seek him.” Ever see that on a bumper sticker or lapel pin? It’s one of the Christmas clichés that really makes a lot of sense.
When you look behind the inflatable Santas and snowmen, you usually find a manger scene with three overdressed men kneeling before the baby. These are, depending on your tradition, the Three Wise Men, Three Kings, Magi, or even Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar. They are immortalized in plastic, olive wood, ceramic, twinkling lights, and Matthew Chapter Two.
Scholars believe that these men were from Persia, which is modern-day Iran. They traveled hundreds of miles to worship the newborn king of Israel. They may have been astrologers who read the Scriptures and knew about the coming Messiah. Whoever they were, they were wise enough to believe the prophets and bow before the King of Kings.
Matthew Chapter Two tells us about two types of seekers: the Wise Men and the Wiley Monarch. Both of them sought this mysterious Person, but for completely different reasons. All men seek something, whether they know it or not. From Diogenes carrying his lamp around ancient Greece, looking for an honest man, to Satan wandering about the earth “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, KJV), we all seek something. Jesus himself recognized the need to seek, encouraging us to “seek and [we] will find” (Matthew 7:7).
There is a fad in Christendom called the Seeker Movement. The philosophy behind it is that people are seeking God, and churches need to make worship attractive and “non-threatening” so they won’t be turned off to the gospel. We Christians need to show the unsaved that we are just like them. It’s a deeply flawed philosophy, based on an unscriptural assumption.
Psalms 14:2 and 53:2, and Romans 3:11, present a three-fold witness to the fact that “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” Although God calls everyone to seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29), no one does. What every man does seek is solutions for what are commonly called “felt needs,” things that we believe will make us happy and fulfill our desires. When we target these in an attempt to present Christ to people, we do them and God an injustice.
Jesus saw this tendency in man when the crowds followed him after he multiplied the loaves and fishes. Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (John 6:26, 27). They were not following Jesus because his miracles proved him to be the Messiah, but because their stomachs were growling and they thought their greatest need was physical food—their “felt need.”
The Wise Men’s wisdom was seen in their reverence for, and desire to worship, God. Somehow, they had learned the truth about the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and humbled themselves and chose to worship him. They knew their greatest need was a right relationship with the King.
Herod sought the Christ as well, but for less honorable motives. His felt need was power, and this new king threatened that. He wanted what the true King (God) could give him, but he didn’t want the King Himself. In fact, when confronted with Christ, he had no use for him and wanted him out of the way (Matthew 2:16).
Many have said that people do not seek God, but the benefits God bestows. This is why most people try to work their way into His favor. They want the milk without confronting the cow. As we follow paths to seek happiness and pleasure and healing and comfort and peace (felt needs), we often confront Christ himself through the witness of His people, much like Herod was confronted by the Wise Men. It is then that we have a choice: we can humbly accept him as our King, or push him away. There are no other options.
All of the good that we seek comes from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17, NKJV). As we seek paths to happiness, all signposts point to God. Sadly, we so often keep our eyes down, looking for momentary pleasures in bars, brothels, banquets, and board rooms. We miss the lights because we choose to close our eyes to them.
Every attempt to fill a “felt need” is really an attempt to fill a God-shaped vacuum in our life. Why not seek the Giver of true life instead of fleeting pleasures? The path is easy: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6, NKJV).
Our next lesson: John the Baptist Boy Scout.
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