The Irony of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh


The Three Magi carrying their Precious Gifts

When Christ was born, the Bible says in Matthew 2:11 that the wise men brought Jesus gifts of  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (G F M).  It is no coincidence that these were the specific three gifts given to baby Jesus.  But more importantly, in Jesus Christ, God gifted to us the most precious Gift  Forever to Mankind (G F M).

The wise men were called magi, and they were likely scientists of the day and astrologists.  They were from the East which probably meant Babylonia or Persia (present day Iran and Iraq). They followed the star that led them to Bethlehem and came a long way to visit Jesus who was in a house (Matt. 2:11) and not a stable.

The name Jesus means “the Lord saves”. (see Matthew 1:21).  Jesus is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, and that was a common name back in those days.  Just as Joshua had led Israel into the promised land (see Joshua 1:1-2), so Jesus would lead many of His followers into eternal life. Christ- is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which in turn means “anointed one”. Even as a baby, Jesus was anointed, and born to be the King of Kings.


Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

At the time, the presents bestowed upon Jesus were thought to be very lavish gifts. They were the “best” presents that mankind could come up with.  The gold undoubtedly  helped Joseph and Mary out for quite a while, including to cover expenses for their exile to Egypt when Herod was trying to hunt down babies under 2 years old.

Gold was a gift for the  kings of the day.  And of course, Jesus was and is the King of kings, Lord of lords.  (Revelation 19:16) Gold is mentioned hundreds of times in the Scripture.  For example, when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in 1 Kings 10:10, she brought with her $122 million dollars (7000 pounds) of gold to honor the king.  Ironically, Jesus lived as the Humble Servant (Mark 10:45), not as an exalted king! He wore a crown of thorns, not a crown of gold, like most kings.

Frankincense was derived from tree sap and was very costly.  It yields a very pleasant fragrance, and was used throughout Jewish history in animal and grain sacrifices (Leviticus 2:1, Exodus 30:34).  Ironically, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a fragrant offering  to the Lord God (Ephesians 5:2)

Myrrh was a preservative and liquid resin.  Genesis 37:25 says that it was used in the ancient world to protect the human body from decomposition after death.  It was also used as a perfume in a palace or a home.

The gift of myrrh from the wise men would foreshadow that Jesus would “taste” death.  Ironically, Jesus refused the myrrh mixed with wine that the soldier
offered him while being crucified (Mark 15:23)

In Egyptian history,  mummies were often coated with myrrh. Jewish culture picked up on this.  John 19:39-40  says that myrrh was combined with other spices and put on Jesus’ body after the crucifixion in preparation for His burial.  His burial never occurred because of His resurrection and the preservation property of myrrh was not needed either. Myrrh was refused again!

Are you seeing this?  God is turning the world upside down here.  Man gives God His best to impress Him. (yesterday and today). This is represented by the Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.  God impresses upon man  that He doesn’t need what we have to offer for His glory. God uses a crown of thorns (not Gold), the aroma of Jesus (not Frankincense), and His death and resurrection (Myrrh not needed), all to lead us to Himself.  What a paradox!

Robert Stahler wrote the song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” in 1857. One marvelous stanza: “O star of wonder, star of night. Star with royal beauty bright. Westward leading,  still proceeding. Guide us to Thy perfect light.”  Of course, God is Light, (1 John 1:5-7) and He lives in unapproachable light. (1 Timothy 6:16) Jesus is the Light of the world. (John 8:12) The Bible is a light for our path as believers (Psalm 119:105).

Next week:  Everyone Knows About Fellowship; But Just What Is Followship?

About Dr. Robert

I am married to Janet and we have four children. I am active in Grace church in Racine, Wisconsin and serve there in leadership and teaching . I have been an internist for 30 years and keep busy by taking care of a full load of patients. On the side, I like to write, coach, mentor, spend time with my family just hangin' out, and help take care of our three dogs; two Golden retrievers named Reagen and Finley and a Bernese named Sadie'.
This entry was posted in Basics of Christianity, Frankincense, Gold, Myrrh and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Irony of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

  1. Ypu might enjoy reading my novel/

    As A Lily Among Thorns – A Story of King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, and the Goddess of Wisdom by Rudy U Martinka.

    Regards and good will blogging

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