Summary: No tree to place them under. No shiny bows or wrapping paper. But the original “Christmas Gifts” are worthy to be examined during this season.
Pt. 2 - Frankincense
?It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Christmas captures our attention, our heart and even our imagination. That is true even for those of us who know the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas causes our imagination to run wild. So wild that we can embrace the idea that a mean, green creature called the Grinch is trying to steal Christmas, that a grown man wearing tights and weird hat is an actual elf, and that a girl can continue to pull a football away from a guy as he is about to kick it and they will continue to be close friends. That power of imagination carries over to the first Christmas. We construct the scene is complete with sheep, shepherds, mangers and the like. The shepherds on one side peering into the improvised crib. The 3 wise men on the other side gazing into the face of Jesus. However, even though it fits the imagined scene the shepherds and wise men were probably never even saw each other.
We know this because Luke describes the shepherds finding Jesus in a manger. But Matthew sets the scene differently.
TEXT: Matthew 2:9-11
(Message) Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
They entered the house and these wise men bring gifts. We have begun an examination of the gifts that they brought to Jesus. We talked about Gold. This gift was the gift you present to a king. Prophetically the first wise man shows us that Jesus was more than a kid He was and is King.
The second wise man kneels before this infant and unwraps his gift and it is Frankincense.
We can easily understand gold and its value. However, Frankincense? Did this wise man just clean out the medicine cabinet at the last minute? Did he regift and this is the best he could come up with? We just don’t understand this gift. Let me see if I can help.
Frankincense was an aromatic resin that comes from the Boswellia Tree which still grows in Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia. The sap of the tree is dried and burned as incense and it is thought to have several medicinal properties.
So, the first wise man makes a prophetic declaration regarding Jesus’ kingship. The second wise man’s gift causes Jesus’ kingship to stand in stark contrast to all the governmental structure the Jews had ever known. Because Frankincense is thought to be the gift you present to a priest. It was an incense you would use in the temple according to the Old Testament. So, this wise man breaks down the decades long separation of king and priest. He is prophetically declaring that Jesus would not only fill the role of King but the role of priest. This was unheard of. In fact, if you will remember Israel’s first King, Saul, tried to step over this dividing line by making sacrifice, and it ultimately cost him his throne. This gift separates Jesus as different, unique and special.
I am thankful that Jesus is King! I need a King. I need His rule. His reign. His authority. However, I am equally thankful that He isn’t just King, but also priest.
Paul jumps on this idea when he states in Hebrews 4:14 . . .
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
In other words, Jesus’ kingship is important. However, His role as priest is something that we cannot take for granted.
Why do we need a priest?
1. He represents!
The priest in the religious system of that day had two responsibilities. First, they represented God to people. They spoke for God to the people. They showed people what God was like. Second, they represented the people to God. The people could not approach God beyond a certain point. They needed a representative to go beyond the veil into the very presence of God.
Jesus arrived with the same two tasks as His divine mandate. He was fully God and fully man. He was equal parts of both. Why is that important? Because of this He can equally represent both sides.