Martha Mutikani
4th January 2015
Going the Extra Mile for the Redeemer King in 2015

It’s not often that I find myself glued on TV watching football. Like some of you I have a favourite football team- Arsenal. Recently as I watched I saw Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger pushing Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho. Onlookers had to intervene to stop them from having a full physical fight. I found myself reflecting on the journey of these two football club managers – to me their journey seemed to resonate with our reading for the celebration of Epiphany today.

As I reflected I realised that these managers had become wrapped in their ego, the fortunes of their teams and players. The minute they became managers of their teams nothing else mattered except to lead their teams to WINNING the premier league -to be number one. They were prepared to go the extra mile to make it happen.

They have a covenant of loyalty (faithfulness). The players, the fans and the owners of the clubs trust them but the same people including the media put them under pressure to win. Nothing can get in the way of being number one. Jose Morinho has called himself the special one, and Arsene Wenger and his team Arsenal have been a threat to his status as the King of football, just like Herod saw the news of the new born King as a threat to his reign.

Matthew presents the revelation of the birth of Jesus as King of the Jews in a dramatic way. I was challenged by the trust bestowed on these Wiseman by God. Their faithfulness and willingness to go the extra mile to find and worship baby Jesus. The Wiseman unlike Herod were content to let Jesus be their number one. Their journey was full of adventure it required people full of courage to face the unexpected- no obstacle was going to stop them.

Imagine being King Herod and people knock on your door step and ask, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? I imagined the lead Wiseman being Jose Morinho of Chelsea and King Herod being the Arsene Wenger of Arsenal. The question sounds like one football manager telling the other they have lost, before the game is over. Why would the Wiseman arrive at King Herod’s place and ask about the birth of a new king for the Jews. The thought of being the reigning King and hearing about a possible successor must have been heartbreaking.

Herod was a murderer especially towards anyone threatening his sovereignty- he had killed 3 of his sons for treason. Herod – we read in v16 that he committed genocide; he killed all boy infants below 2 years soon after his encounter with the Wiseman.

The Wiseman could not understand why the news was bringing so much hurt. We fall for the same trap – we can hurt others without knowing? Even so we cannot give up because of challenges or problems along the way. Arsene Wenger and Jose Morinho risked their profession by almost having a physical fight, but that did not stop them from going the extra mile for their teams.

The Wiseman had a purpose of finding the new born King; even Herod’s ignorance was not going to stop them. All they wanted was to see and worship their new born King. They had confidence that the star would lead them.

I wondered who these people who trusted a star were! Some writers have referred to them as astrologers, poets, magicians and some literature portrays them as powerless people even calling them fools. I would agree with the notion that the original readers of Matthew would have viewed them as fools. They were not Jewish- but gentiles like most of us. Surprising the revelation was not to Jews, Herod, Scribes or chief priest but to the least expected gentile fools.

I can only imagine the Wiseman, having a deep trust in the God of their time. Only people who read and understood the word of God would have such perseverance to follow a star. These people were highly favoured by God, not because they were better than anyone else, but because they chose to trust God and God trusted them. It must have been overwhelming just setting off – following a star without knowing where they would end up. Our journeys are unique, The Holy Spirit goes before and leads us, and we are called to be obedient, trusting and willing to worship God.

Before I came to the UK I used to think- in the UK my life would be like living in some kind of paradise. I thought everyone had big houses and butlers to answer the door bells and people to clean. I did not know nurses worked long hours 12 – 13 hour shifts in contrast to 8 hour days that I was working in South Africa before coming to the UK. When I came here all I wanted was to raise some money quickly and go back. I agreed to work about 60- 65 hours per week. My journey had taken an unexpected turn. After a week of working at St George’s hospital, I broke down, my feet were painful and it was unbearable. I couldn’t stop though; I had left a family in South Africa. I had promised to work hard and return with money. The rest is a long story, I am still here. I learnt very quickly how to make it work. I couldn’t give up; I had to go that extra mile for my family even though it was painful and difficult. I trusted God would help me, I believe God granted me favour – within a few months I was coping and enjoying the money.

God favoured the Wiseman- according to Jewish laws gentiles- were outcast. Here they became equal heirs with Jews- they were recognised by God, through revelation of the mystery birth of a new King of the Jews. The Wiseman were not really wise – until they found baby Jesus. They trusted their God to take them through their journey. It doesn’t matter the circumstances you may be facing- God leads you till the end.

You may feel like you are the last person that God can ever love. Paul states in our reading in Ephesians 3v8 “although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ”. God’s love for all is revealed – to all – the poor, rich, any race and even those seen as undeserving.

The God of equal opportunities – only wants you to be trusting, obeying God’s word, worshiping and giving what you can, be willing to go the extra mile. No one is the special one for we are all special in our own ways. Arsene Wenger and Jose Morinho no matter they win or lose they keep on going for their teams.

The Wiseman patiently followed the star! To follow the redeemer King we need extra patience. Their confidence demonstrates that they loved their King and had faith in their God to lead them to the birth place. In confidence they followed the star- God must have enabled them. You can keep going too! Have no fear only trust God.

This week we heard of the immigrants, who were rescued in Italy. Their ship was found abandoned in the sea. Many of them were aware it’s dangerous to sail to Europe but they boarded the ship, because they were going the extra mile for their families. Most of them would have possibly spent all their savings, in the hope for a better life in Europe. Nothing is ever easy in Life. The Wiseman did not expect an easy journey but out of love and in faith they had brought their willing hearts and gifts. God is asking you the same!

The King who should have encouraged and helped the people to find the messiah was busy planning how to kill baby Jesus. Sometimes life can seem like we are going round and round. We can lose our direction and face our Herods but we are called to remain in love with our redeemer King. Going the extra mile in faith- God sees and holds us through.

The Wiseman’s love and dedication to God led them through- they had prepared themselves to give gifts and to worship. When the star stopped moving – they were joyful. They had not seen baby Jesus but they were excited already. Amazing faith- I am not sure how they kept the momentum going. I was deeply moved by their trust and understanding of God’s ability.

The Wiseman on entering the birth place they worshipped and gave gifts. They gave the best of what they could afford. There is significance in giving these expensive gifts even though very strange to give to a baby king – gold is a gift for Kings, frankincense is used in temple for worship and myrrh is used as anointing oil. Only someone who reads the scriptures can give to that extend. This fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah. We give gifts of what we can afford, money, our time, praying at our homes for others and serving those in our community in need of help. We need to continue giving the best of what we can.

We need to read the bible and research – to understand God. For Christ to be the guiding star of our lives we need to understand God’s character- the lover of all – rich or poor.

The Wiseman did not go back to Herod when they were returning – they were warned about Herod’s intentions. God’s plans cannot be stopped by anyone – only trust, have faith and be prepared to surrender all in worship – God will do the rest. Where Herod lost hope and was frightened the Wiseman gained confidence, to them there was a divine purpose in their journey.

“Herod ended up full of fear…the wise men ended up full of joy…because they went the extra mile…Herod was not going to go the extra mile for anyone”. Allow Christ to lead you as you go that extra mile in 2015.