Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Story of the Other Wise Man

In anticipation of Epiphany Sunday and the story of the Magi, read this from Darla Ewalt:

January 6 is Epiphany – the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.  The biblical story only tells of the gifts that they brought – gold frankincense, and myrrh.  Tradition says there were three and named them Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar.  Published in 1895, The Story of the Other Wise Man written by Henry Van Dyke is the story of another Magi who intended to travel with his friends to see the newborn king.

Artaban, sells all that he owns to purchase a sapphire, a ruby, and a "pearl of great price”. He gathers his family and friends to his home and tells them that he will be going on a pilgrimage with his friends, Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, to find the king who has been foretold by the prophets.  Some think him a fool and some give their blessings.  He starts off on his journey to meet his friends on his beloved horse, Vasda.

On the way to their predetermined meeting place, Artaban comes upon a dying Hebrew exile.  He struggles and prays about what he should do – stay and help the man or continue his journey.  He decides to stay and help the man.  In return for his help the Hebrew man tells him that the Prophets say that the King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem.  The delay causes him to miss his friends but they have left a note for him.  He sells his sapphire in order to buy supplies so he can cross the desert.

Artaban arrives in Bethlehem but the streets are deserted. He locates a young mother caring for her baby.  She tells him about the strangers from the Far East who arrived but they have left and the Nazarene took his wife and the babe and fled to Egypt.  As they were talking, a loud noise of confusion and uproar comes from the streets.  The mother and her child hide in the dark corner and Artaban blocks the entryway with his body.  He tells the soldiers that he is alone and he will give the blood red ruby to the captain who leaves him in peace.  Artaban prays for forgiveness for telling a lie and now two of his gifts are gone.  But the mother blesses him for saving her child.

Artaban travels to Egypt looking for the newborn King.  First he looks in the palaces but a rabbi in Alexandria tells him that the King will not be in palaces but among the people. So he searches among the common people.

Artaban has been searching for the King for 33 years and he is tired and ready to die when he returns to Jerusalem.  It is the time of the Passover.  A crowd has gathered and Artaban is told that everyone is headed to Golgotha because two robbers and a man named Jesus of Nazareth called King of the Jews are to be crucified.  Artaban joins the crowd – is this man the King that he has been seeking?  Suddenly he comes upon a young woman who is being dragged by Macedonian soldiers. Upon seeing Artaban she breaks free and falls at his feet.  Her father has died and owes money. She is to be sold into slavery. In compassion, he gives the girl his last gift, the pearl of great price, as her ransom.  The earth shakes and a stone hits Artaban in the head.  As she cradles his head in her lap, the young woman hears a soft gentle voice speaking to Artaban.  “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou has done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou has done it unto me.” His gifts have been accepted and he has found the King.  His journey has ended.

Think about how this short story speaks to you.  As we move into the new year, remember that we are also on a journey.  Remember the story of Artaban, the other wise man.

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