For those of you who have ever celebrated Christmas with a nativity scene or have read the account in the gospel of Matthew, you’ve heard of the three wise men or three kings. The actual term for these guys is Magi. This name is not insignificant. In fact, it goes all the way back to the Old Testament book of Daniel. The Magi are members of the old priestly caste of the ancient Persian empire. But their studies and ways went back prior to the Persian empire to the Babylonian empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 2:48, we see the king place Daniel over all the wise men. From here we can then see in Matthew 2:5-6 that Matthew quotes another Old Testament prophet, Micah (Micah 5:2). These wise men, these Magi, were actually students in a long line of wise men dating all the way back to THE Daniel in Babylon.
So now that we have covered the history of the Magi, let’s take a look at the gifts they brought baby Jesus in Bethlehem. There are actual reasons why they brought Jesus the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Jesus fills the role of prophet, priest, and king.
The Magi brought to Jesus gold. And as we all know, gold makes the best pacifiers, but only if you’re on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. In all seriousness, there is an old adage that basically says whoever has the gold makes the rules. It’s an ancient quote which points to the idea that whoever is in charge has the most gold or treasure and they are the one who sets the rules or law of the land. We know that from Matthew’s genealogical chart in chapter 1 of his gospel that Jesus is an actual heir to the throne of the line of David. And while the Romans mocked Jesus as the “King of the Jews”, he really was. So the gold given to Jesus by the Magi was a nod to His kingship.
The Magi brought Him frankincense. There is a reason for this as well. Jesus was promised to us in Deuteronomy 18:15-22 to be THE prophet, from among us, like us, but of God (and actually all the way back to Genesis 3:15).
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This is what you requested from the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the LORD our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name. But the prophet who presumes to speak a message in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods — that prophet must die. You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a message the LORD has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the LORD’s name, and the message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”-Deuteronomy 18:15-22
And since we know Jesus, which is His earthly name, is the Word. The Word which, from John 1, was before it all, was with God before it all, and is God. And so we come to the frankincense. It is one of the named holy incenses in the ancient Hebrew texts for use in the Temple. Wikipedia tells us: Frankincense is tapped from the scraggy but hardy trees by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. I’m sure there is a whole other post in just that description, but in the meantime this one will have to do (Click here)
Lastly we have the myrrh. Myrrh was used in ancient times, even in Egypt, as a means to preserve a dead body or embalm it. The purpose of preserving a body was to prepare it to enter into the afterlife. As we know, Jesus nailed the entrance into the afterlife by defeating death and rising from the grave. By doing so, He became the ultimate high priest. A priest’s roll is to connect the people to God, and by defeating death, He fulfills this completely. So the myrrh is the hat tip by the Magi to Jesus as our high priest.
So as we have learned, there is so much more to Jesus as our prophet, priest and king and to who the wise men were and their reason for bringing baby Jesus the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
To start at the beginning of this Advent/Christmas series, go here
To read the next post in this series, click here