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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him…frankincense…”—Matthew 2:11 (NKJV)
As we take some time to consider the implications of each gift the wise men brought before Jesus, we come to the second gift of frankincense. Now, frankincense probably isn’t as familiar to most of us as the proceeding gift of gold. But it holds a precious significance in Christ’s life that we cannot afford to miss.
Frankincense was a substance that was harvested from certain trees in the Middle East. Harvesters would cut incisions into the outer bark of these trees, and the trees would then secrete a resin from these openings. This resin would eventually harden and crystalize. These resinous crystals would then be burned to release a fragrant scent that was undeniably potent and luxurious. To this day, frankincense from the Middle East is used in some of the most expensive and exotic fragrances that the world has to offer.
The uniqueness of frankincense caused it to become linked to priestly activities, as they would burn incense as part of their regular duties. Incense would be burned in the Tabernacle and Temple as a representation of the prayers of God’s people ascending to Him (Psalm 141:2). In biblical times, we need to remember that sensory offerings were much more limited than they are now. The scent of incense truly stood out from everything else. God wanted it that way because He wanted it to represent something singular and unique.
God wanted incense to act as a trigger to any Jewish man, woman, or child that their people’s prayers were rising and being received by Him. The scent of incense served as a sensory point of contact between the people and their God. That smell meant one thing, that there was a precious connection between heaven and earth. And it was the ongoing duty of the priests to offer and tend to this incense.
In giving this particular gift, the wise men were acknowledging that in addition to a kingly aspect of Christ’s life, there was also a priestly aspect . . . and an incredible one at that. Jesus was not just a Priest, nor was He a High Priest, but He would come to be known as the Highest Priest!
The Book of Hebrews unpacks this profound concept for us. In ancient Israel, the High Priest would represent the people of God, to God, and vice versa. He stood between the two; interceding to a holy God on behalf of a sinful people. However, every High Priest was a mortal man who could only serve on a temporary basis. No matter how faithful they were, they would eventually need to be replaced.
But when Jesus died on the cross and ascended into heaven, He became something entirely unique. He became an eternal priest who would never stop interceding on humanity’s behalf in the very presence of God, Himself (Hebrews 7:25). Even at this very moment, nearly two thousand years after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus is the mediator representing God to mankind and mankind to God: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 NKJV).
Frankincense was emblematic and prophetic of this office that Jesus would, and continues, to fulfill. It points to the fact that Christ is the One who connects us to God. He serves as our Intercessor, not on a temporary basis, but on an everlasting and eternal basis—never to subside or cease. And because He does, we can know our prayers are being offered to the Father by the faithful hands of the Highest Priest.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.