Sermon 3: Visited Lately? (Matthew 2:1-8)

Last week we heard the story of Shane Claiborne and how he, in pursuit of the Jesus he had read about in the Bible, but who didn’t fit the images of Jesus he had grown up with in Tennessee, decided he was going to go and visit Mother Theresa in Calcutta and minister with her to discover Jesus among the poor. This seemed to him like the Jesus he had read about in Scripture.

What struck me most about that was that he decided and then acted at great cost to himself just because when he read about Jesus in Scripture, it didn’t jive with what he had experienced. So he looked for a star. He looked for a revelation his heart was hungry for. And he found it in Mother Theresa. So he left everything and went to Calcutta to find Jesus and visit with Him.

Jesus never demanded that. He never does. In fact, in our story, Jesus was just a little baby. He was not commanding their attention at all. He never prescribed worship or the bringing of gifts. He never called himself a king or a saviour. He never said “I am the fulfillment of prophecy.” But for the three guys whose hearts were right, like Shane’s was right, something about this newborn king demanded a visit.

Have you dropped in for a visit lately? Really. I mean a visit like these guys paid? Or like Shane Claiborne paid? Here’s what I noticed about the visit:

1. They paid a price to find and worship Jesus. This wasn’t a “Grab a Tim’s coffee and a dozen donuts for the kids and let’s go.” This was a serious journey. There was a price to pay. It involved packing supplies, traveling days across a desert and asking questions among people they didn’t even know to find Jesus.

It begs the question: What price will I or won’t I pay to visit Jesus? I don’t mean a quick prayer or a Sunday service. I mean really finding Him?; a pursuit of the heart that goes after Him until we find the Jesus who does miracles, who loves radically, who turns over money carts when he sees abuse, who puts His life on the line for others? What am I willing to pay to visit that Jesus? What are you willing to pay?

2. These guys made a journey from a far place to a near place and finally to his front door. They saw the star. They asked questions. They were restless and on the move until they knocked on the door and were allowed in to visit.

Let me ask: Are you near to Jesus? Really? Who He is? His call? His life? Or are you in a far country? We can’t get to Jesus without traveling. Really. When I began meditating on His life, authority, power, intimacy with His Father, ability to stand boldly in the face of persecution, and His radical love for sinners, the first thing that dawned on my heart was that in spite of how much I have lived for Him, our lives are quite a distance from each other. I’m somewhere not quite as far east as the Magi began, but I’m not on His doorstep either.

I’ve been reading about Iris Ministries in Mozambique. They are having quite a visit with Jesus. He’s healing sick people. He’s opening the eyes of many blind people and healing the deaf. Up to the end of 2005 they had seen 53 people raised from the dead. The hungry are being fed. The poor are being clothed. And the church is exploding so rapidly that Islam is collapsing all around them. They are visiting with Him.

I got to thinking, maybe I need to pack up and go to Africa to visit Jesus. Because He is there. That’d be a journey like the wise men. But I realized that it’s not as tough as the journey of the heart to find Him in Arnprior. If I went to Africa, I’d just board a plane, go to the Iris Ministries centre, get my assignment and watch Jesus work as I visited with Him. But here there isn’t a straightforward journey. There’s cloud cover obscuring the star - you know? It’s hockey tryouts, shopping, tracking Master Card bills, working on my basement, TV. Jesus is around and through all those bends and clutter. Lots of twists and turns. It’s a journey with all kinds of false side streets, and false flight postings, and neon lights that are shaped like stars. He’s hard to find here.

Have you had a visit with Him recently? Are you near to His home, knocking on His door? Or still pretty much in a far country?

3. In all their actions, their convenience was never considered. I guess they figured Jesus was in a place and because He was a baby, He couldn’t really move much. God gave them prophecies and a star for revelation. But the rest of the deal was them moving toward Him at their cost and inconvenience.

It makes me ask: Am I asking Jesus to accommodate me, or am I excited enough, or desperate enough to be willing to move toward Him? I guess I fall in the category of desperate. I have been for some time. And I don’t know what it will mean. Will it mean going to where revival is for a time? Will it mean mission work? Will it mean getting rid of my TV? Will it mean giving more money away? I don’t know. But I am willing to be inconvenienced.

So far it has meant agony in my heart. It has meant lots of extra time in fasting and prayer. I don’t know what keeps your heart in a far country and prevents you from taking the journey to visit Jesus, to bring your gifts, to bow down and worship, but I know a couple of the things that prevent mine. And dealing with them is tough; really tough. It’s not convenient.

We are in hockey tryouts. It is draft year. I won’t go into all the details, but there are all kinds of circumstances which make me fearful and anxious. It creates a battle going on in my heart. There is a call to stay in a far country, hockey country, and let my heart meditate on and worship hockey. Staying there is convenient. It’s what my flesh wants. I want to ruminate on what more could be done, or what injustices to pray against, to win a spot in that fellowship.

A baby, days away, the legacy of some Jewish prophets doesn’t seem all that important or compelling. A Jesus in heaven, not here experiencing the stress, well, spending time with Him doesn’t seem helpful. My prayers want to focus on winning a spot, NOT on having a visit. And that is when I really need to ask the question, “Did Jesus die for my convenience, or am I willing to sacrifice, fight temptations, pray against idols, discipline my mind and heart, pay the price to visit Him?” Are you? Are you desperate enough, or excited enough to put aside ALL competing idols of the mind, of the heart, of time, of work, of culture, of visit with Jesus?

4. If you aren’t doing these, being around those who are will always cause you trouble. It says so in verse 3. It’s about the people whose feathers get ruffled when others are on a serious, undivided mission to find and visit with Jesus. Those people always upset the status quo. They remind us of our idols, our religiousness, or political posturing - our life at a distance from Jesus. They always upset us because they are after something we should already have. The people who were upset were a stones throw from where He was and they didn’t know He was there.

So which are you? Are you one who causes others trouble because of your seeking? Or are you one of the ones who is troubled by the arrival of a visitor?