We find ourselves today in the first twelve verses of the second chapter of Matthew. This story is only found in Matthew. The challenge for us is ignoring all the traditional information about this story. If you want to be Biblically accurate, then you must listen to the Bible. What does the Bible say? The Bible says sometime after the birth of Jesus, Magi came to worship him. The Bible does not say they are kings. The Bible calls them Magi. Who are the Magi? Kings have political interests, but the Magi had no political interests or aspirations. They were more interested in spiritual matters. They sought God in a variety of ways. One of those ways was the stars. It is through their study of the stars they discovered a king had been born. It is at this moment they make one massive mistake. They assumed a king would be born in the palace. They went to insecure King Herod’s palace. Sadly, this wrong assumption caused the death of baby boys two years and younger. The Bible is not always kind. Devastated by their mistake, they were overjoyed when the star reappeared. When they found this newborn king among the commoners in Bethlehem, they worshipped this special child and offered him treasures.
Verse 11 says, “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” What kind of gifts are those to bring to a baby? You can be honest. They were not as bad as used toothbrush or second-hand clothes, but they were odd. They seem odd to us because we are not as wise as the Magi. While they were blind to the political events of their day, they fixed their eyes on eternal matters. From some unknown source they knew about Jesus’ earthly ministry. In other words, they must have known what would happen to Jesus in the next thirty-three years. Just think about it. Gold was the perfect gift for a king. Jesus was the King of Kings. Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. Jesus was the ultimate high priest, acting as a bridge between mankind and God. Myrrh was the perfect for someone who was going to die. It was used to embalm the dead. It is those three gifts I want to examine in this blog.
Gold was a perfect gift to a king. What is gold? Gold is a precious metal that is reserved for special people and occasions. Did you know an ounce of gold sells for approximately $1,900? How much gold do you own? It has been called the king of metals. Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) tells us that in the ancient empire of Parthia, no one approached the king without a gift of gold. It is truly the perfect gift for a king. Never forget, Jesus is the king of kings. Jesus is our friend, but Jesus is not our equal. We must always meet him on terms of submission.
History tells us Admiral Nelson always treated his defeated enemy with kindness and courtesy. After one of his naval victories, the defeated Admiral was brought to Nelson. Knowing his reputation for kindness and courtesy, he walked up to Nelson and stuck out his hand to shake it. Nelson’s hand remained at his side and said, “Your sword before your hand.” Before we can be Jesus’s friend, he must have our complete submission. Do you submit to Jesus or is he just your friend? Gold was the perfect gift for a king. Gold was the perfect gift for Jesus.
Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. What is frankincense? It is the bark from a boswellia tree. That bark was used to make a sweet perfume that was used by priests during sacrifices. Those sacrifices were used to make connection between mankind and God. The Latin word for priest means “bridge builder.” Remember, Jesus was the ultimate high priest, the ultimate bridge between mankind and God. Jesus was the incarnation of God. He just didn’t study us from afar. He became one of us.
The scriptures tell us Mary and Joseph respected the Law of Moses. In Luke 2:22-40, we learn they went to Jerusalem in accordance with that law. After the birth of a son, the law demanded two things. First, women had to wait 40 days to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice. Mary had to be purified to re-enter society. Second, Jesus had to be consecrated to the Lord. At that time, Jesus was circumcised. They went to Jerusalem to attend to those matters. It was a big day in their lives, but they didn’t have a clue what was about to happen. Like every parent, they knew their son was special. They were about to find out how special.
They meet two characters during their time at the temple. The first was a priest by the name of Simeon. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and was told he would not die until he saw the Messiah. The Holy Spirit did not lie. On that day he was in the temple courts and a young couple walked up to him. They expect him to just circumcise their son. They must have been shocked by the way the priest reacted to their baby. Simeon was overjoyed. He knew Jesus is the Messiah! The second person they met was Anna. In terms of this world, she had nothing. She was an old widow who lived her life within the temple. However, spiritually, she was rich. She was a prophetess. She is the one who announced to the crowd that Jesus will bring redemption to Israel!
I love Simeon and Anna. They model for us the importance of patience and they remind us of the uniqueness of Jesus. They knew what we often forget. Jesus was not just another good man. Jesus was not just the leader of another world religion. Jesus was different. Jesus was the son of God. Jesus was the incarnation of God. Jesus would forge a relationship between us and God that still stands today. In other words, Jesus was the great high priest! Frankincense was the perfect gift for a priest. Frankincense was the perfect gift for Jesus.
Myrrh was the perfect gift for one who was going to die. What is myrrh? It is a spice that was used to embalm the dead. I hate to say it, but Jesus did die. You remember the story. Thirty-three after Jesus’ birth, he is executed like a common criminal. The Bible tells us he did nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, he did everything right! He never committed a single sin which made him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. That fact is only important if you admit, you are a sinner. Sinless people do not need a savior. Sinless people do not need Jesus. However, you do need Jesus because you are a sinner. What does the Bible say? It says, “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That means anyone who has ever lived is a sinner. It means you are a sinner. Let me say this clearly. If you think you are going to heaven by your good works, then you are wrong. Jesus is and always has been your only hope of salvation. Myrrh was the perfect gift for someone who was going to die. Jesus died so we could live. Myrrh was the perfect gift for someone who was going to die. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were the perfect gifts for Jesus! Let me end with this question.
What did you get for Christmas? I hope you didn’t get one of these. Several years ago, gather magazine listed the worst Christmas gifts. This is their list:
1. Nose hair clippers
2. A pet rodent
3. A vacuum cleaner
5. Hand-me-down clothes
6. A photograph of yourself
7. A year’s supply of NutriSystem diet food
8. A month gym membership
According to Squidoo.com, these were the most desired gifts for Christmas.
1. Cell phone
4. Movies and sports streaming devises
6. Remote control toys
8. Docking systems
9. Amazon gift card
10. Unique cameras
What did you get for Christmas? Did you get any of those things for Christmas? They would have made the perfect gift. This is the bad news for today. Jesus didn’t get any of those things. The Magi showed their wisdom in their gifts. What did you get Jesus for Christmas? Never forget, Christmas is not your birthday.