I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I look forward to what Christ is going to do in the coming year.
I wanted to finish up my series on the birth of Christ. I first gave my thoughts on the Incarnation of Christ. Then I discussed how Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Today I would like to look at the Gifts from the Magi. I wish I had an “I” word to go along with the previous weeks, but I am not imaginative enough for that!
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘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.’…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.” (Matt. 2:1-2, 11 NASB).
A lot of discussion has been given to who these men were and how many there were. There has also been some debate over the significance of these three gifts. At first blush, it is a little confusing. Didn’t these so called wise men know that the baby was a boy? I mean, they gave Him perfume and jewelry! You would think that they could come up with better gifts for a boy.
I have seen it explained this way:
- Gold – Symbolic of Christ’s divinity
- Frankincense – Symbolic of Christ’s future sacrifice for us
- Myrrh – Symbolic of Christ’s death for us
I can understand this, but I see it slightly different. Each gift was an example to us of what we are to give to Christ. The way we give to Christ is often seen in how we give to others. Jesus says that what we do, or don’t do, to the “least of these”, we are really doing, or not doing to Him. So, in each of these gifts, we can see how we are to minister to the world.
Gold – Just like today, gold was a precious metal, and was a measure of wealth. If you had a lot of gold, you were considered a wealth person. It was used to exchange for goods and services. Unknown to Joseph and Mary at the time, but they were soon going to have to make a quick escape to Egypt. Up until that time, we know that Joseph worked as a carpenter. However, we don’t know that he was capable of financing a trip to Egypt. We don’t know how long they were in Egypt, or if Joseph worked during that time. I believe that God was preparing them for this journey by providing them with the funds necessary to pay for this escape.
Gold was given to meet a practical need. This sets an example for us in that we need to be willing to give our “gold” to Jesus. What is our gold? It could be money, but it could be so much more. Time, energy, talents, etc. God supplies us with what we need to give. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11 ESV). You might ask, “But if God knows someone’s need, why does He give the ability to meet that need to another person? Why doesn’t He just meet the need?” Simply put, God wants each of us to be involved in His ministry. He gives us the tools that we need to minister to someone else so that we have a part in His kingdom. He wants all of us to be active members of His community, not just anonymous residents.
Frankincense – This was a perfume. When God was explaining to Moses everything concerning how people were to worship, He gave a particular formula of spices and frankincense that was to be used to make the incense that would burn as the priests were ministering before the Lord. This incense was symbolic of prayer. The example set for us here is pretty obvious – we need to pray! As the priest burned incense while they ministered, we need to be involved in intercessory prayer (that’s religious talk that means praying for other people.) We minister to this world by praying for them. I don’t mean that you walk up and down your street laying hands on everyone you meet. I do think that time should be set aside daily to pray for others.
Myrrh – This was a spice known to be useful in embalming. After Christ died, Nicodemus brought about 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to be used in the preparation of His body. The example for us here is that we have to realize that Christ was crucified for our sins. Paul says that we have been crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20). He also says “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24 NASB). Christ did not stay in the tomb, He was resurrected to new life. However, when He took our sins with Him into the grave, He left them behind. Our old selves, our carnal nature, did not resurrect!
So how does this minister to others? You cannot be Christ to the world around you if you have not died to yourself. Jesus died because of our sins. His death was in substitution for us. All He asks is that we die to our sins.