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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”—Matthew 2:11 (NIV)
I love receiving gifts. But, honestly, I get way more enjoyment out of giving gifts. No gift I’ve received in adulthood has made me feel like I did when I was a kid, but whenever I give my kids a gift they really want, I’m filled with joy seeing the excitement and happiness on their faces and hearing “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Daddy!”
Today, we’re going to consider the implications of each gift the wise men gave Jesus.
Practically, this gift would make it possible for Jesus’ family to embark on an adventure. They didn’t know it yet, but God was about to call them to relocate to Egypt (Matthew 2:13), which would be an expense beyond Joseph and Mary’s means. But God, knowing this need would come, provided the gold to make it possible for them to move forward in His will for their lives.
Also, this was the perfect gift for the King! Only a gift of the greatest value would be fitting for the King of greatest authority, which is why they gave Jesus the gift of gold. In giving this gift, the wise men were making a profound declaration that they saw, accepted, and submitted to Jesus as the ultimate power and authority on earth. Their gold was but a faint reflection of His surpassing value, but at the same time it was the closest thing they could offer to honor His majesty and supremacy.
This fragrant gift holds a precious significance in Christ’s life we mustn’t miss. 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). This scent served as a sensory point of contact between the people and their God. So, in giving this particular gift, the wise men were acknowledging that in addition to being a king, He was a priest—an eternal priest, because when Jesus died on the cross and ascended into heaven, He 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).
As with the gifts of gold and frankincense, this gift points to something significant about Jesus. A fragrant substance used for medicinal purposes, myrrh could be applied to wounds or even corpses in order to slow down the process of decomposition.
As Jesus was being crucified on the cross, myrrh was mixed with wine and given to Jesus. In all likelihood, the onlookers did this in order to sedate Him. But notice how Jesus refused to drink it, not wanting to lessen the severity of pain and punishment for our sin. There’s also another mention of myrrh during this time we can’t miss: “Joseph of Arimathea . . . asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission . . . and Nicodemus . . . also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes . . . they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:38–40 NKJV).
Can you see the significance in this gift of myrrh? If gold indicates He is King and if frankincense reveals He is our eternal High Priest, what does myrrh point to? It anticipates the fact He was going to suffer and serve as our sacrifice for our sin!
As we reflect on what these gifts mean in relation to Christmas and the One we celebrate on Christmas, let’s never forget the gift we received on Christmas! John 3:16 tells us that God gave His only Son so that all those who believe would receive the gift of eternal life!
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.