No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
This is a story that is an addition and expansion of the account of the three wise men recounted in the book of Matthew. It tells about a “fourth” wise man, a priest of the Magi named Artaban, one of the Medes from Persia.
Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews. Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child – a sapphire, a ruby, and a “pearl of great price”. However, he stops along the way to help a dying man, which makes him late to meet with the caravan of the other three wise men. Because he missed the caravan, and he can’t cross the desert with only a horse, he is forced to sell one of his treasures in order to buy the camels and supplies necessary for the trip. He then commences his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late to see the child. The child’s parents have fled to Egypt to escape the evil plans of Herod to kill the possible rival King. He saves the life of a child at the price of another of his treasures.
Artaban then travels to Egypt and to many other countries, searching for Jesus for many years and performing acts of charity along the way. After 33 years, Artaban is still a pilgrim, and a seeker after light. Artaban arrives in Jerusalem just in time for the crucifixion of Jesus. He spends his last treasure, the pearl, to ransom a young woman from being sold into slavery. He is then struck in the head by a falling roof tile and is about to die, having failed in his quest to find Jesus, but having done much good through charitable works. A voice tells him “Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). He dies in a calm radiance of wonder and joy. His treasures were accepted, and the Other Wise Man found his King.
From a short novel by Henry van Dyke (cited in Wikipedia)
I always loved this story, because of its beauty, and also because of the truth it explains. The fourth wise man went about his life seeking to fulfill his mission- to find and to honor Jesus. All through his life, he believed that he had failed in the mission because he could never deliver his precious gifts to Jesus. Of course, he had been serving out his mission the whole time. He had been serving Jesus by serving other people. That IS the mission.
So, I think often we miss the fact that our lives have great meaning and purpose to the extent that we humbly serve others. Nurturing mothers and fathers are serving out their calling by caring for their children as best they can. Teachers are serving out their calling by dedicating themselves to the betterment of their students. Medical personnel are doing healing work. First responders are saving lives, often at the expense of their own.
The list goes on and on. You fill in the blank of how you are serving and playing out your mission. Is there more for you? Do you feel that there are things that you still want to do, must do?
Good. We never stop living out that mission. We never “retire” from our calling. If you have somehow decided that you have nothing more to give, think again. We need to LIVE until we die, not exist until we die. If there is that one more thing that is in front of you, pursue it. Because that might be the voice of God prompting you to seize that moment with your unique set of skills and passion to impact another.
Prayer: Thank you for the plan of mission, of significance, of honoring you with our life, Amen.