The Gifts of the Wise Men by Tony Cooke
The Gifts of the Wise Men
By Tony Cooke
Matthew 2:1-11 (NKJV)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2 saying,”Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'”
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The wise men were seeking the one who was “born King of the Jews.”
It was customary in that day that no one approach the king without offering him a gift.
When the wise men were summoned by King Herod, even though he was in his royal palace, in his royal garments, there is no indication that they were impressed or offered him gifts.
The wise men were preoccupied with finding the One they sought.
Jesus had been born in Bethlehem (literally, The House of Bread).
Jesus later called Himself:
* The Bread of Life
* The Living Bread
* The Bread Which Came Down From Heaven
They not only offered Him gifts, but they worshipped Him as well.
The gifts they brought to Jesus are very interesting, and I want us to look at what these gifts might represent.
I want to be careful not to over-spiritualize matters and try to make everything symbolic.
On the other hand, though, it would seem that these three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – speak of three major aspects of what this child would accomplish.
Gifts should reflect something about the receiver.
1. MYRRH was a gift for one who would die.
Among other things, myrrh was a perfume used in embalming and in preparing bodies for the grave.
John 19:38-40 (NKJV)
38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.
39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
How ironic that at this time, there would be a reminder that Jesus was born so that He could die.
His substitutionary death was pre-determined. Jesus is called “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
A song entitled “He Gave His All” has these words:
He was born the baby Jesus, in a cradle made of hay.
God made good His promise, He had jointed those made of clay.
A baby bound for glory, over shadowed by the cross,
The Father knew He must give all, so that all would not be lost.
Scripture after scripture tells us of the death of Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament prophesies it.
The Gospels record it.
The Epistles explain it.
He died so that man could be forgiven, justified, cleansed, and redeemed.
He died to destroy him that had the power of death – that is, the devil.
He died to bring us to God and to make us new creatures.
He was born that He might die.
He died that we might be born-again.
Actually, if it weren’t for His death and resurrection, we’d have no reason to celebrate His birth.
2. FRANKINCENSE was a gift suited for a priest.
Under the Old Covenant, the priests would offer up frankincense…
1. Along with the sacrifices.
2. At the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He began to function as our great High Priest.
So much of our thinking and preaching had focused on what Jesus did for us, but it’s very important that we understand what Jesus is doing for us now at the right hand of God.
The book of Hebrews describes in detail how Jesus became our High Priest, and what He’s doing now.
Hebrews 9:11-12 (New Living Translation)
11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world.
12 Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever.
Back in Hebrews 7, Paul contrasts Jesus’ priesthood with the Levitical priests of the Old Testament.
Hebrews 7:15-28 (New Living Translation)
15 The change in God’s law is even more evident from the fact that a different priest, who is like Melchizedek, has now come.
16 He became a priest, not by meeting the old requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.
17 And the psalmist pointed this out when he said of Christ, “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.”
18 Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless.
19 For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place. And that is how we draw near to God.
20 God took an oath that Christ would always be a priest, but he never did this for any other priest.
21 Only to Jesus did he say, “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
22 Because of God’s oath, it is Jesus who guarantees the effectiveness of this better covenant.
23 Another difference is that there were many priests under the old system. When one priest died, another had to take his place.
24 But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end.
25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf.
26 He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has now been set apart from sinners, and he has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.
27 He does not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross.
28 Those who were high priests under the law of Moses were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made perfect forever.
Hebrews 8:1-6 (New Living Translation)
1 Here is the main point: Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand.
2 There he ministers in the sacred tent, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.
6 But our High Priest has been given a ministry that is far superior to the ministry of those who serve under the old laws, for he is the one who guarantees for us a better covenant with God, based on better promises.
In the Latin language, the word priest means: bridge builder.
Jesus received the gift of frankincense because He would become our priest… He is our bridge builder… the One who made it possible for us to come into relationship with the Heavenly Father!
3. GOLD is a gift for a king: a precious metal suitable for royalty.
The wise men were seeking the one who was “Born King of the Jews.”
Yet Jesus made it clear that His kingdom, “Is not of this world.”
John 18:36 (NKJV)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
When Jesus had multiplied the bread and the fishes, the people wanted to take Him by force and make Him King…
John 6:15 (NKJV)
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
While Jesus valued being able to meet the natural needs of people, His Kingdom was not going to be established that way. His Kingdom would be built through changed hearts – lives that were changed by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus now rules in the hearts and lives of those yielded to Him.
The Day is Coming…
Revelation 11:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying,”The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,
17 saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,The one who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.”
Today, He is our King and our Lord, but He will return to this earth (Revelation 19:16) as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
Myrrh – spoke of His death – We honor Him today as the One who died for us!
Frankincense – spoke of His priesthood – We honor Him today as the One who is our Bridge… the One who brings us to the Father!
Gold – spoke of His royalty, His kingdom – We honor Him today as the One who rules in our hearts and lives, and as the One who will return to this earth as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!