Theme: Last Words
In this week’s lessons, we focus on the wise men’s route back home, and look at what that means for us today.
Scripture: Matthew 2:12
A number of years ago, I came across a Christian tract that was entitled Famous Last Words. It contained in it the last words of a number of well-known men. The point of the tract was that what the men said at the very end of their lives was significant. For those men who were not Christians, it revealed the weakness of their philosophy in the face of death, and in the case of Christians, their last words testified to the strength of the Christian gospel.
This caused me to start thinking about last words in general, not just the last words of people before their death, but also the last words of stories, poems and so on. I had thought, for instance, of the phrase that often ends children’s stories, “And they lived happily ever after.” I recognize that while it seems trite as the way to end a story, still it’s a significant ending because of what it is supposed to convey. And then I thought of the very last words of the Bible, which are, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
All of this came back to my mind as I was thinking about our text, which is Matthew 2:12: “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” It is especially the last three words of this verse that caused me to think about these things.
I recognized that this is really the last verse of the Christmas story. Now I know that the chapter goes on to say that after the wise men had departed, the angel came to Joseph and warned him what was in the mind of Herod, which led Joseph, Mary and the child to go to Egypt because of Herod’s attempt to destroy Jesus. Then, upon returning to Israel, they settled in Nazareth. But generally speaking, the stories that we associate with the Christmas story all come before that, such as the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John the Baptist, the angelic appearance to Mary that she would be the mother of Christ, the message to Joseph about Jesus’ birth, the details of the birth itself, and the coming of the shepherds. It is only after all these things that we have the coming of the wise men, who bring their gifts and who then depart for home after being warned not to go back to Herod to report where Jesus is.
“They returned to their country by another route.” Those words seem important, because if we have actually found the Lord Jesus Christ and worship him as the wise men did, we should depart another way. In other words, if there is true Christianity in our lives, it should make a difference. If we have met Christ, we will be changed men and women. To help us understand this text, I want you to think about the change in the wise men, and then the change that this should mean for us.
Why are last words sometimes important?
Notice the last three words of this week’s Scripture text. Why do they seem significant?
Application: How has your life changed since you became a Christian?