Summary: What do the Magi’s gifts have to teach us?

Saxlingham 05-01-03

“Let us look at the presents the Magi brought to Jesus.” Mt 2: 1-12

Story: The Readers’ Digest once asked this question: Have you ever imagined what would have happened if there had been three wise women instead of three wise men at the Epiphany? They suggested that if there had been three wise women:

1. They would have asked for directions to the stable locally instead of going to Herod.

2. They would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby

3. They would have cleaned the stable and brought practical for the family to eat – like a casserole.

4. And there would have been peace on earth!”

But who were the wise men – the Magi.

Very little is known about the Magi.

Matthew doesn’t even record how many of them there were.

All the Bible tells us is that they came from the East to Jerusalem. And so it is more than likely they were NOT Jews.

Popular myth calls them astrologers but that wasn’t necessarily so.

It is generally accepted that “the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia once a mighty country where modern Iran and Iraq are now located.

In the second century, a church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship the Christ. Tertullian also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar.

And the term Magi is the base from which our modern words “magician” and “magistrate” are derived.

2. The Gifts

I would like to focus on the gifts they brought. If the Scripture can be bothered to record them so carefully - there must be a reason for doing so.

The gifts were: gold, frankincense (translated in the NIV as incense) and myrrh

3.1. Gold

The first gift was Gold.

Gold signifies Jesus’ Kingly role. What is more fitting than gold for a King!

Application: If Jesus is to be the King in my life, then I am challenged by the thought: What gold

can I bring to Jesus today?

What do I hold onto as precious that I can give to the Lord?

Story: As I thought about it – I realised that I did indeed bring – what I considered to be Gold to Jesus – my secular career.

I really enjoyed being a Patent Attorney. I was at the top of my profession. Yet I was convinced that God was calling me to give it up – to become an Anglican minister.

I wonder if there is there any gold that God is asking you to bring to Jesus today?

2. Frankincense

The second gift was frankincense. Why did they give frankincense to Jesus?

Frankincense was an ingredient used by the priests in temple worship to blend with the smell of the sacrifices.

To me it signifies Jesus’ priestly role.

Jesus was the King of Jews, but he was also the "great high priest."

The writer of the book of Hebrews expressed it like this:

"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." (Heb 2:17)

One of Jesus’ greatest desires is that we offer up our lives as a sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God as the Apostle Paul put it (Rom 12:1).

In other words, that we live for God and cultivate a deep relationship with Him

So the gift of Frankincense speaks to me of a daily time of quiet that we should spend with Jesus - in prayer and Bible Study.

This is often the hardest time to find. As we live busy lives, this is the first thing that gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.

Is this the gift you can bring to Jesus today? Our gift of time?

3. Myrrh

The third gift was myrrh.

In Jesus’ time, people used Myrrh to embalm their dead. A thoughtless gift, you might say for a baby shower?

Not for this baby. For myrrh signifies the death of Jesus. These wise men, in their wisdom knew that Jesus was born to die.

The writer of the book of Hebrews put it like this: ".. we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10)

So when I think of myrrh, I am challenged to think of why Jesus came to earth – to die for the sins of all the world. And that makes me consider mission.

Jesus has called his Church to preach the

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