Most nativity scenes display the three wise men who come to worship baby Jesus at the manger, though the biblical text does not say exactly when the Magi came to worship the infant (see Mt. 2:1-12). As I consider the scene, I ponder the gifts that they gave Jesus. Matthew writes in his Gospel, that “they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Mt. 2:11c). Much has been written about these gifts and some commentators have given them symbolic values, such as gold being for the riches of the king, frankincense being symbolic of deity and the myrrh referencing Jesus’ death and burial. Whether or not these thoughts were in the Magi’s mind as they brought the gifts is unclear. However, three things struck me:
First these gifts were very expensive, especially the myrrh.
Second, each of these gifts is connected to Kingship in some way. Gold is riches for generosity; frankincense can be the pleasant fragrance or the spiritual leadership of the king for the people; and myrrh would be a medicine for the healing of the people.
This last thing brings me to the third point of my ponderings. Myrrh is by far the most valuable of the three gifts. Everything I’ve read connects it more with the death of Christ, but what use would that be to Jesus as a king? King Jesus is a healer as well as a priest and ruler. Besides being used for embalming, myrrh was an ancient medication; it is still used in that capacity today! If we look at Scripture, it says of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; … But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (vv.5a,6 – ESV). As an adult Jesus Himself said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Truly, Jesus is the Healer and the myrrh He was presented with by the Magi was symbolic of our King’s gentle, healing touch. He heals us individually today; and one day He will heal the whole universe when He returns to rule.
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