Sunday, December 10, 2017
The Wise Men's Gifts to Jesus
(Matthew 2:1-12) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that it is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod teh king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the kin, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
In reading the account of the wise men bringing their gifts to Jesus, you see that these gifts were very expensive. They had seen his star in the east and they wanted to come and worship him. I was studying the three gifts that the wise men had presented to Jesus. They were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I was reading trying to determine what the spiritual significance of those gifts were. It says a lot for them to bring the kind of gifts they did to Jesus. Jesus was born into this world and he was to be the King of the Jews. He was to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You can't reach any higher than that. Jesus' coming into the world was foretold a few millennia beforehand. Here the wise men had come to worship him and bring him valuable gifts. That explains much when it comes to what kind of baby Jesus was. If we were to invite the President of the United States over to our house, we wouldn't prepare him leftovers we had a few days a ago. We would fix him the finest meal that's ever been fixed. We would use the freshest ingredients to prepare that meal. We would prepare him an extravagant meal. Also, we would decorate our house in such a splendid manner to welcome the arrival of such a guest. Why? Because of the position he holds. He's the president. He's the leader of the free world. Jesus wasn't no ordinary baby. He came into this world to die for the sins of mankind. He was born a Jew from the seed of David. He will one day reign as king in the Millennial Reign. That's something to consider when you read about the type of gifts the wise men presented to Jesus.
I was busy studying about the three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus and I thought it was very intriguing in what I read. I'm going to take time to describe what each of the gifts represent. I was looking on the website and it supposedly had the name of the three wise men. They were Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior. I can't confirm whether the names of these men are correct but I thought I would just mention their names I saw on the website. I looked up information about the three gifts from a couple of websites as well as from a book entitled, Were they Wise Men or Kings? The Book of Christmas Questions. It was authored by Joseph J. Walsh.
Gold of course, is a type of currency. It is a rare type of currrency and as a result, it's very invaluable. It is a medium of exchange. Now frankincense and myrrh are both resins. They are dried tree sap that comes from the trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and commiphora (myrrh) which are found in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Frankincense and myrrh have always been used to create incense, a substance you burn to create pleasing aromas. Cutting the tree's bark causes the sap to flow out of the cut. It's allowed to dry on the tree, then its collected.
The trees that produce frankincense are grown in northern Africa, mostly in Somolia. The trees grow on the rocky coast; the youngest trees furnish the most valuable sap. The season for gathering dried sap lasts from May till the middle of September. The milk-like juice runs from a cut made in the bark and is allowed to harden. After about three months the sap dries into yellowish "tears". These clear globules are scraped off. Frankincense is mixed with spices, seeds, and roots to create different aromas. Traditionally, you burn a powdered form of the incense with charcoal in a censer or a small stand. A censer is a vessel for burning incense. A typical censer is a small metal or stone dish. In many cultures, burning incense has spiritual and religious connotations, and this influences the design and decoration of the censer. Designs vary from simple, earthenware bowls to intrinsically carved silver or gold vessels.
Commiphora is a shrub or small tree found in the desert areas of Somolia and the Red Sea shores of Saudi Arabia. It grows up to 3 m. tall and has tough, knotted branches. The sap or resin is a pale yellow liquid and it flows slowly from cuts in the bark. After it dries it's collected in reddish-brown or irregular lumps. Myrrh means "bitter" in Arabic. Myrrh has been usd for ages as an ingredient in incense, beauty treatments, and perfumes. It also makes a good glue. Writings from 2700 years ago describe how it was also used for embalming. Because the demand for myrrh eventually became so high and because its supply was limited, it became as valuable as gold.
These three gifts have different meanings. I thought it was interesting when I read what they symbolize. Gold is the symbol of kingship on earth. It represents royalty. I believe it could be representative of Christ's royalty. Jesus will come back to this world one and will be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus will be king on this earth during the Millennial Reign. Frankincense is a symbol of the priesthood. Frankincense was a critical ingredient in the incense and oils used in the Temple in Jerusalem. Pagans also exploited its fragrance in incense oils, and perfumes and used it even to mask the repugnant fumes of bodies being cremated. Frankincense's association with the Jewish Temple priesthood could be symbolic of Jesus' priesthood, or even of his divinity. Jesus today is our high priest. When Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of makind it eliminated the need for an earthly priest to offer up sacrifices for the sins of man once a year. Jesus made that payment on Calvary's cross once and for all. He didn't have to sacrifice himself on Calvary's cross once a year. Once was enough for time and eternity. Myrrh is described as the symbol of death. Myrrh was employed as an aromatic additive. Myrrh was used to treat wounds and modern scientific research has shown that myrrh has geniune antiseptic and analgesic properties. According to Mark's Gospel, Jesus was offered on the cross wine laced with myrrh to temper his pain. He received it not (Mark 15:23) Myrrh was also used to anoint the dead, just as it says in John's Gospel. Jesus was embalmed with myrrh after his crucifixion (John 19:39, 40).
The three gifts the magi brought to the newborn baby Jesus were fit for a king. Jesus' birth into the world was finally fulfilled. The wise men honored Jesus with three precious, expensive gifts. We could learn a lesson from that. I know Christmas is now over, but we need to ponder the question on what we can give to Jesus? The most important thing we can give to Jesus is ourselves. That is to allow the Lord to have his way in our lives and to mold us and make us more like Him. Henceforth we are to be conformed to Christ's image.