Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh – The Gifts of the Wise Men for Today
Wise men from the east brought gifts for the Christ child. They are depicted in Christmas nativities, hymns, and plays—most of us are familiar with the story. However, do you know of the spiritual significance and symbolism behind the gifts to baby Jesus?
Gifts of the wise men: Gold
Gold is a global currency, treasured by kings and coveted by citizens. It is fitting that gold would be given to Christ, the King of Kings. This is a reminder of Christ’s authority and rule.
Do you treat Him as a king? Do you allow Christ to reign in your heart? Consider areas you can relinquish more control to Him to lead and guide you. He is righteous and good.
How about your gold? Are your most precious things gifts you are willing to lay at Jesus’ feet? It can be hard to trust God with finances and our material possessions. However, when you consider that God is the one who allowed you to have those things, it is only right to allow Him to use your resources as He sees fit. The best part is, Jesus always makes the right choice. Allow Him to be enthroned over your wealth.
Gifts of the wise men: Frankincense
Both frankincense and myrrh come from tree sap. The sap is collected by whipping the trees (which causes them to ooze sap) and then the sap is allowed to dry. When it is dried, it is collected. This sap was known for its healing properties. Think about how Jesus was whipped for us. And like the sap from the tree, by His stripes, we are healed.
Frankincense was also used for incense. It was one of the spices burned in the temple, burning next to the veiled entrance to the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where God’s presence dwelled. The incense burning represented the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8, a New Testament passage, mentions this—“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
Think of the beautiful foreshadowing of Christ’s mortal life—one often spent in prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray. He not only did this in word, but also in deed. We see that Christ relied on the Father for strength, courage, love.
Even deeper—think on His intercessory prayer in John 17. How Jesus prayed for you and I… He was like the whipped tree that became a pleasing incense, as He intercedes to God on our behalf. His death was a sweet aroma that satisfied the wrath of God against us. What a picture of the Savior of the world.
Gifts of the wise men: Myrrh
Myrrh was used in the embalming process to help conceal the smell of death. Embalmers would place the myrrh inside the cloth as they wrapped the dead body. Jesus would have this process done to Him, using myrrh. John 19:39 states, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.”
The Author of life, the Life and Light of men, came to die. Jesus came for a purpose—to be the sacrificial Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world. When the Christmas festivities get old and you’re tired of hearing “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio—remember this truth. Christmas is not only about the manger, but about the cross.
All three of these gifts of the wise men were likely used by Mary and Joseph to pay the cost of fleeing to Egypt. Here we have another symbol. As Jesus’ birth provided the gifts that paid for their escape, so Jesus pays for our escape from sin and death with His life. What a glorious Savior, that even with the gifts given to Him, He gave them away! And since we have been given so much, now we too can freely give.