Part 3 of 3 – The Magi’s Gifts
By Daniel Kolenda
“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.” Matthew 2:11
The Bible actually doesn’t tell us how many of these Magi came to see Jesus. Tradition has told us there were three, but this is an assumption based on the fact that they brought three gifts gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Whether they realized the significance of these gifts is not clear. But in hindsight we see they contained tremendous prophetic meaning.
Gold is a gift given to Kings. The wise men had come asking, “Where is he that is bornking of the Jews…” The Magi recognized Christ as a King. Matthew, in the previous chapter, had established Christ’s right to the throne by tracing his lineage through David and Abraham. In fact, one of the objectives of Matthew’s Gospel was to present Christ as King. This is probably a very substantial part of the reason Matthew mentions the magi when the other Gospel writers had not done so. The wise men acknowledged that Jesus was born “King of the Jews.” He was born a king He needed no earthly king to crown him. Heaven had crowned him already.
The second gift was frankincense a gift for a god. Frankincense is an aromatic balm used to make incense. It was offered on altars before deities. Long before any theologian had taught on the divinity of Christ, these wise men worshiped Him as divine. At this same time, Scripture tells us that Herod was seeking to destroy Him. Once again, we see the contrast that characterizes the life of Christ. While some worship him, others are seeking his destruction. And this leads us to the third gift.
Myrrh is an odd gift for a baby. It was another aromatic resin that was used to prepare bodies for burial. Perhaps this gift was an indication of the reason Christ had been born into the world. From the very beginning this was His purpose, “…To give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). In John 12:27, just before Jesus went to the cross he prayed, “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” Jesus lived with an awareness of His purpose – He was born to die.
The story of the Magi is a central part of the celebration of Christ’s birth. But when the Magi presented baby Jesus myrrh, they gave him a gift that honored his death. We celebrate Christ’s birth because of His death. Were it not for his death, His birth would have little significance to us.
The Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts probably originates from this story of the Magi bringing their gifts to Jesus. But ultimately, Christmas is not about the Magi’s gifts to Jesus or our gifts to one another. Christmas is about a far more important and valuable gift the gift God gave to humanity when He gave His Son. At this time of year, there is a tendency for the significance of what we are celebrating to be lost amid tired cliché’s. But I want to help you to see afresh how amazing it is that God gave His only Son. When God gave Jesus, He gave us everything that Heaven had to offer.
Ephesians 1:3 says that God has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing IN CHRIST! Jesus is the package that contains every blessing of God!
It reminds me of the story of a very wealthy man who was the heir of several generations of wealthy men who had come before him. Each subsequent generation had increased the family fortune through various investments. This particular man had invested in art.In fact, he had the most valuable private holding in the world: Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Dali…you name it; he had it. Every priceless piece was enshrined in his exquisite art gallery located in the mansion on his massive estate.
One day, the man met a beautiful woman; they fell in love and were married. Not long after, the woman got pregnant with their first child. Everything was like a fairytale until the terrible day when she died giving birth to a son.
The mother had died in childbirth before giving her husband any other children, so it was just the two of them the father and the son. They were inseparable. It’s hard to express how much this father loved his son. They spent their days together and enjoyed every moment.
Soon, as happens to all children, the son grew up. He wanted to take over the family business one day, but thought he should get some life experience first. So, he joined the military and was soon shipped off to war.
Even though the son was thousands of miles away, he stayed close to his father through the letters that he would write every few days. When the letters would arrive, the butler would hand deliver them to the father knowing that he was waiting eagerly for every one.
One day the butler came into the father’s study, holding one of the familiar envelopes from the battlefield. The father took the letter excitedly but instantly noticed that this time something was different. It was not his son’s personal details on the parcel written in his familiar handwriting. This letter was from the commander. The father’s hand began to tremble as he pulled out the small piece of paper and read the words he dreaded most. “Dear Sir, we regret to inform you that your son has been killed in the line of duty…” The father fell on his knees sobbing.
For weeks he was overcome with grief not knowing how to go on. Finally, one day the father had an idea. He commissioned a local artist to paint a portrait of the son. He rearranged his art gallery to make room for it. Right in the middle of the gallery, set higher than all other paintings, hung the portrait that the father entitled, “The Son.” Out of all the priceless works of art, The Son was the father’s favorite, and he would make a special trip to the gallery everyday to look at it and remember.
The years went by. The father grew old and soon died. Since there were no living heirs, the estate was to be auctioned. The day of the auction arrived. Wealthy investors, especially art collectors from around the world arrived to secure their prize piece of the estate.
The auctioneer opened by announcing that they would begin with the piece entitled, “The Son.” The name of the artist was unknown, and the restless buyers stirred impatiently as the auctioneer started. “We will start the bidding at $1,000. Can I get $1,000?” At the back of the crowd, one hand went into the air. It was the butler. He was not a wealthy man and could never afford the Picasso’s or Rembrandt’s, but they were of no interest to him. It was this portrait of his master’s son that he wanted. He had seen the son grow from a little boy into a man and had come to love him as his own. “I’ll give $1000,” he said. The auctioneer continued, “Can I get $1,500?” No hands went up. “Can I get $1,200? $1,100?” By now the wealthy buyers were mumbling and complaining. This is not what they had come for. They were waiting for the prized pieces, and the auctioneer was wasting their valuable time with this worthless portrait. “Going once, going twice…sold!” The gavel came down. The butler went forward to claim his purchase.
Then the auctioneer announced, “And with that purchase this auction comes to a conclusion. Thank you all for coming out today.” The wealthy collectors began to shout, “Wait a minute! What about the paintings, the cars, the house, the property? What about the rest of the estate?” The auctioneer explained, “I’m sorry to disappoint you all, but there was a very specific instruction in the father’s will regarding the sale of his possessions. He said that in the auction, we should start by offering “The Son,” andwhoever takes The Son gets everything.”
Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Christ is the ultimate gift. Not only because He is more valuable than all others, but because in Him, God has given everything else as well.
Think about it…the baby, born in that manger, was Heaven’s treasure God’s gift to mankind. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” This is why we celebrate Christmas and that is the message of the Magi.