Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why gold, frankincense and myrrh were gifts given to Baby Jesus

Why did the wise men present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus? Why give a baby gifts that the baby couldn't use at that particular time? Why not give the baby a bib, a rattle, or a stuffed animal that the baby could enjoy right away? Why gold, frankincense and myrrh?

These gifts were rare, precious and expensive but not typical gifts for a baby. For the wise men, they represented their best to honor the newborn king.

These gifts were common to their culture and only could be found in the east, not in Israel. The three gifts represented the future roles of Jesus.

Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects, or those wanting to pay respect. When the wise men presented gold, they were honoring Jesus with the very best they possessed, and they also were recognizing that Jesus was king. In both the Old Testament Tabernacle and the Temple, gold was used plentifully, so we see that gold is also associated with worship. And we are told that in the heavenly city we will "walk on streets of gold." (Revelation 21:21)

Frankincense represents Jesus' divinity. It is a very costly and fragrant gum distilled from a tree. It was used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. It also was used as medicine and as perfume. We don't burn frankincense in our church services, but our worship still should be pleasing to God.

Myrrh was brought as a gift to acknowledge the human suffering Jesus would experience as a man. While frankincense represents sweetness, myrrh represents bitterness. Myrrh is an aromatic gum and is obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It is used chiefly in embalming the dead. (John 19:39).

To summarize, gold was a gift for a king; frankincense was a gift for Jesus' divinity, and myrrh was a spice for His burial. Even though these gifts provided financial resources for the round trip Mary and Joseph took to Egypt, they were symbolic of the future roles of Jesus.

Let's symbolically give gold to honor Jesus as King. Let's give frankincense to worship Him even in the midst of our brokenness. And let's give myrrh as a reminder that He identifies with us in our pain and sorrow.

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