#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?
This #TalkingThursday topic is more explanatory than controversial, the question for this week is: Is there a deeper meaning behind the gifts of the Magi and how can we apply this to our daily living?
Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus in Matthew 2:11
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The Bible does not tell us any other significance to these three gifts; however, tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of the three. On the surface, these valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
Gold: Fit For a King
Right from ancient times, gold has been associated with rarity and royalty. More particularly, its endurance associated it with immortality. Gold is a symbol of divinity, mentioned throughout the Bible. The Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:10-17).
Thus, the magi’s gift of gold shows their acknowledgement of Jesus as a king whose kingdom cannot be destroyed by earthly powers and is also symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh.
Gold is also an expensive precious metal and as such a very valuable commodity. Its value could very well have financed Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt later on.
Application: Gold signifies Jesus’ kingly role, If Jesus is to be the King in our lives, then what gold can we bring to Jesus today? What do we hold onto as precious that we can give to the Lord? Perhaps, our money, our secular careers? What do you think?
Frankincense: To Honor a Priest
Frankincense, also known as olibanum, is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34).
Frankincense was not native to Israel and was very expensive to import, but it was often a logical gift to be borne by a visitor from the east to Jerusalem where it was to be used by the temple elders. The Magi’s incense told of Jesus’ divinity, for burning incense was regarded as an act of worship to Almighty God. The incense also tells of His sacrifice, since incense was used in the temple sacrifices.
Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense was symbolic of Christ’s willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.
You shall put pure frankincense on each row that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to the LORD.
— Lev 24:7 (NASB)
In presenting frankincense to Jesus, the magi also recognized Jesus’s role as our Great High Priest.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
— Heb 4:14 (NASB)
The plant-derived, resin-like substance was also used for medicinal purposes and some theories suggest, it was given to Jesus to keep Him from disease, arthritis in particular.
At first I thought that made sense because He had to walk a lot in His ministry but then I realised that doesn’t really add up because Jesus couldn’t possibly get sick in the first place.
Application: Frankincense signifies Jesus’ priestly role as the “great high priest.” What can we bring to offer our High Priest? I was reminded of the catholic ritual of confession. It brought to mind that a good thing to offer our High Priest daily is our time.
One of Jesus’ greatest desires is that we offer up our lives as a sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). In other words, that we live for God and cultivate a deep relationship with Him.
Just like time spent in confession with the priest, the gift of Frankincense speaks to me of a daily quiet time spent with Jesus; in prayer and Bible Study.
This time will rise up as sweet smelling incense unto God but just like frankincense, it is often the hardest and most expensive time to find because of our busy lives,and that’s why it is so worth it. For our sacrifice to mean anything to God, it must cost us something. That’s why Jesus applauded the woman who gave out of poverty more than the man who gave out of wealth.
In our daily living, the sweetest incense is time spent communicating with our great High Priest, who intercedes on our behalf with the Father for all our needs, it’s not a time to be missed.
Myrrh: To Console A Saviour
In Jesus’s time, myrrh was even more valuable than gold. It is obtained from trees which grow in southern Arabia and other parts of the African continent. Its ancient use was as an analgesic and an embalming element. Myrrh was a part of the holy anointing oil in Exodus 30, but because myrrh symbolized pain, death and the afterlife, it was also something you’d take to a funeral.
They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it.
—Mark 15:23 (NASB)
This drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion. Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.”
As a gift of the magi, myrrh symbolized the bitterness, suffering, and affliction that the baby Jesus would grow up to endure. It also foretold of Jesus’s death on calvary where He would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him. Myrrh was used to anoint Jesus’ body after crucifixion.
Application: Myrrh challenges us to think of why Jesus came to earth – to die for the sins of all the world. Are we prepared to risk death in our willingness to share this gospel with those around us? Jesus was willing to endure so much suffering and affliction for us, are we ready to return the favour? This doesn’t mean go out and seek death, but if God sends us into the midst of suffering, will we accept the myrrh willingly?
The Magi’s Greatest Gift
In giving these gifts, the Magi demonstrated a prophetic understanding of who Jesus was and why He came. However, the greatest gift the wise men gave Jesus wasn’t found in the gold, frankincense, or myrrh; it was found in their obedience.
They saw a star, left their homelands, found the Christ, bowed down and offered themselves. The Magi were great and highly respected people in their own countries, yet they saw a newborn baby on the lap of a poor woman, fell on their knees, worshiped Him and confessed that He was Lord. If that’s not obedience and great faith, I don’t know what is.
Obedience = True Worship.
At the beginning of the description of the Magi, the Bible says in Matthew 2:2
Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.
This is an extra-ordinary kind of obedience. They needed no scripture or a prophet come to them and give a word, or a dream or a revelation from God. All they had seen was a star that did not seem to belong where it was and based on that they took this journey. It was an extra-ordinary step of faith and obedience.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
— Matthew 2:12 (NASB)
Again we see immediate obedience! No delay, no commiserations, no discussion or panel decision making process, none of these things. They just went back another way.
Another thing this scripture really shows us is what an encounter with the Savior will do for us. The Magi left a different way than how they came; and we too should leave a different way; forever changed by our experience!