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The other wise man

by davesandel on December 26th, 2013

The other wise man

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Second Day of Christmas

Acts 7:55

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

In Henry van Dyke’s The Story of the Other Wise Man, wise Artaban plans a pilgrimage along with three friends to see the King born in Israel, foretold by the stars.  He carries three gifts to give the child: a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl.

On the way to meet his companions, Artaban sees a dying man beside the road and must decide whether or not to stop and help him.  He stops.  Because of this he misses his rendezvous and must sell his sapphire to put together his own traveling party of camels and supplies.

Crossing the desert on his own, he arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the baby.  The baby and his parents have left for Egypt.  While he talks to another mother with a baby, Roman soldiers begin to kill the children in the village.  Artaban stands in the mother’s doorway and offers a ruby to the soldier assigned to search the house.  The soldier accepts his gift and leaves.

Artaban is heartsick, because he has given away two of the gifts promised to the king. Artaban is torn in the conflict between the “expectation of faith and the impulse of love.”

The wise man’s life goes on as he continues his search for the King, doing good deeds along the way.  33 years later Artaban senses with confidence that he will find the now-grown king in Jerusalem.

Arriving there, he hears of the day’s triple crucifixion and begins walking toward Golgotha.  Soldiers come by, dragging a young woman being sold into slavery.  She sees Artaban’s religious emblems and falls at his feet.  “Save me, Lord!”  The wise man still has one jewel left even after all these years – his pearl “of great price.”  He gives it to the girl.

In that moment all of Jerusalem begins to shake.  The earthquake of Jesus’ death is upon them.  The street heaves, buildings collapse, the soldiers run away, the girl is free.  Artaban is thrown off his feet.  A falling block hits his head.

As death approaches, Artaban asks forgiveness for the failure of his pilgrimage, the unsuccessful plan to give his gifts to God.  In all those years he never got to give his gifts to Jesus.

Or did he?  As he dies, he hears the words of Jesus recounted in Matthew 25: “Verily I say unto you, Artaban, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, ye have done it unto me.”

It is your face and your heart, Lord, that I see in the eyes of the stranger, the invalid, the weak.  In their blindness they see with your eyes.  But in my own casual and careless encounters with others, I am far more blind without your grace, your touch, your reminder, your gift.  Oh, Lord, forgive me for what I have done and especially for what I have not done.  And open my eyes to all you inhabit, even to the way you live in me.

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