Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We don’t know much about the Magi, who are traditionally called the Wise Men. We know that they came from the “east” to Judea, looking for “the one who has been born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). They came because they had seen an unusual star and interpreted it as a sign of the birth of a new Jewish king.
At first the Magi came to Jerusalem to see if King Herod could direct them to the newborn king. He wasn’t much help, but Herod did tell the Magi to report back on the location of the child so that he could also “worship him” (Matthew 2:8).
Guided by the star, the Magi traveled to Bethlehem, where they found Jesus. As they approached him, “they bowed down and worshiped him,” and then offered their famous treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (2:11). After they were done visiting Jesus, they were “warned in a dream” not to go back to Herod, so they went home “by another route” (2:12).
As I reflect on this familiar story, I’m impressed by the boldness of the Magi. They were risk-taking people, to be sure. For one thing, because they believed that the star pointed to the birth of a king, they endured considerable inconvenience in order to worship him. Then, when finally before the child Jesus, they boldly bowed and offered their gifts. Finally, because of what they perceived through a dream, they chose to disobey King Herod, something they surely realized endangered their lives. These Magi were bold men.
Hebrews 4:16 invites us to be like the Magi, in a way. It’s a little hard to see this in the NIV translation, which reads, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” “Confidence” is a possible translation of the Greek word parresia, though not the obvious or best one. That Greek word is usually rendered as “boldness,” as in the NRSV: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness.” The KJV reads, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace.”
Because Jesus, the Son of God, is our great high priest, because he understands what it’s like to be fully human, since he was born into this world, we are invited to come before God, not with fear, not with hesitation, not even with quiet reverence, but with boldness. Because Jesus was one of us, something we celebrate at Christmas, we have astounding freedom to come before God, to tell God everything we need to say, and to know that we will “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).
So, as you reflect on the Magi in the Christmas story, as you are impressed by their boldness, don’t just admire them. Imitate them. Approach God’s throne boldly. Know that, because of Jesus Christ, God is ready to shower you with mercy and grace in your time of need.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
If you were to identify with characters in the Christmas story, with whom might you identify? Zechariah and Elizabeth? The infamous innkeeper? Mary? Joseph? The shepherds? The Magi?
As you reflect on this story, do you see the boldness of the Magi? How do you respond to this?
Do you approach God’s throne with boldness? If so, why? If not, why not?
If you were to come before God in full freedom, what might you say?
Gracious God, thank you for this amazing invitation. Thank you for the privilege of approaching you with boldness. Thank you for Jesus, the Son of God, who makes this possible.
Help me, Lord, to come before you with bold freedom and confidence. Help me to tell you everything, not holding back. Give me greater assurance of your mercy and grace. Help me, Lord, in my time of need. Amen.