The Gifts of the Wise Men
When we read Scripture we know very little about the wise men. Every year people send millions of Christmas greetings that show three kings presenting gifts to the child in the manger. We sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” But, in fact, we don’t really know if there were three wise men or a dozen. We aren’t ever told if they were kings or even exactly when they arrived in Bethlehem. Likely, based on Herod’s command and their journey, they arrived when Jesus was a toddler.
What we need to realize is that Matthew’s focus (Matthew 2:1–11) is not on these men but on the fact that Gentiles came bearing gifts to worship the Messiah. That’s the amazing story as well as an incredible application for us today.
Each of the gifts was symbolic so let’s look at each one and its prophetic meaning.
The gold symbolized Jesus’ royalty. He was born king of the Jews (John 1:49; Luke 19:38) and the hope of the world (Matthew 12:21; Colossians 1:27). When they presented gold to Him they recognized His right to rule. No wonder they bowed down worshipped, opened their treasures and gave Him gifts—the coming king was before them.
The frankincense symbolized Jesus as the praying priest. Incense was used in the temple worship. It was mixed with oil that was used to anoint Israel’s priests. We can read Exodus 30 and find that Frankincense represents something perpetual and unending between God and His priest. It personifies Jesus as our Praying Priest who always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:23–25). Jesus, the High Priest, prays for us perpetually and unceasingly before the Presence of God the Father—those prayers rise as incense (Revelation 8:3–4).
The myrrh symbolized Jesus’ destiny as the martyred prophet. Myrrh was used in embalming. The wise men brought it as a gift of faith. As holy men they may have been familiar with Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53:4–5. If so they knew that God gave Him to the world to suffer and die on the cross so that all who believe in Him might not suffer the penalty of their sin (“pierced for our transgressions”), but through faith in Him, receive forgiveness for their sin and inherit the promise of eternal life.
The wise men knew Jesus was our glorious king, praying priest and would be a martyred prophet. They expressed their worship with three gifts. They came believing and so should we. Their act of faith should give us hope that:
- We’ve been welcomed into a kingdom with a king who loves His children (Colossians 1:13)
- We have a king, Jesus, who is praying for us (Hebrews 7:25; Luke 22:31–32)
- We have a king who became our sin, who was sacrificed in our place, and suffered our punishment so we could become righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This Christmas let’s look at these special gifts and remember our king, priest and prophet, Jesus. Let’s bow down in thanks, praise and offering to Him for all He did for us and all He will do for us.
God Bless you and Merry Christmas