The Visit of the Magi (Matthew Sermon 2 of 151)
December 27, 1998 | Andy Davis
Bible Prophecy, The Birth of Christ
I. A Modern Misunderstanding
We're going to continue our series on Matthew with a contemplation this morning of the visit of the Magi in Matthew chapter 2. How many of you have little nativity scenes at home? Do you have a little replica... I've got one too. Do you put the three kings right there nearby? I do that also - I admit it. There's always three of them. Have you ever noticed that? There's always three and they always have crowns on them. I think it's really fascinating. But I think it's good for us, however, romantic that picture is, to get back to the Bible and try to find out what God says about these Magi because they are fascinating people, and there's an awful lot of truth in these 12 verses. We're looking at Matthew 2:1-12. We're going to be considering who these Magi were, but I think we're going to also see something about their visit that is prophetic and that actually points ahead to the future even beyond our days. Now, not only in their gifts, but in the very fact of their visit, something is there that many of you perhaps have not contemplated. We are going to be learning some more about the Magi that I think will fill out your understanding.
So let's listen to Matthew 2:1-12, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.' When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be shepherd of my people, Israel.' Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.' After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of incense, and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
II. The Magi from the East
So who were these Magi? The Magi from the east. Well, they weren't kings despite the famous Christmas carol, "We Three Kings of Orient Are." It's beautiful poetry and not a bad song, but not true to the Bible. They weren't kings. Actually, the word "magi" comes from the tribe of their origin, the Magoi. They lived in the area of the Medes and the Persians, who eventually conquered the Babylonian empire. They lived in what we call modern Iran, so they were Iranians.
Now, from the word "magi", we get the word magic because these people claimed to know the future. They would study the stars. They were into astronomy. Astronomy is the science of the study of the position of the stars and planets. And they actually had more accurate charts and graphs and maps of the heavens than there were available anywhere else in the world at the time. They were careful students of the stars. But they didn't leave it at that, they moved on into astrology, which is different than astronomy. Astronomy is a science, astrology is not a science. Astrology is the idea that you can discern something about the future from the position of the alignment of the stars and planets. It's totally faulty, and a lot of idolatrous religious systems have gotten into this kind of thing. But the Magi definitely did it. They thought that they could predict the future based on the positions of the stars. And so, also, they were able, so they believe, to interpret dreams and through the knowledge of the dreams and knowledge of the stars, they could predict the future. And from that, we get a second English word from the word "magi", we get the word magistrate.
Now, you may have thought that magic comes from "magi", but magistrate is a new one for me. But it makes sense because these people, all kings and emperors and dictators want to know the future, don't they? They want to know what's going to happen so that they can make provisions for the future. We know about Joseph, and he was able through interpretation of dreams to tell what was going to happen with Egypt, remember? He was a very valuable magistrate, a counselor to the king. We actually meet the Magi in the Bible, maybe you didn't realize this, but they appear in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel, chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had a dream, and his dream troubled him and he wanted to know the proper interpretation of the dream. Daniel 2:1-2 reads this way, "In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams and his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, [that's the word for Magi] the enchanters, the sorcerers, the astrologers, to tell him what he had dreamed.” So he set before them an extraordinary test. No one had ever asked this of a Magi, a magistrate before. He wanted to be certain that they weren't fooling him or that they weren't tricking him with the interpretation. He wanted to know the certain interpretation of that dream because he felt it told something about the future, and it did. It was a special kind of dream that God had sent. So he said, “I’m going to give you a test, Magi. You've got to tell me what my dream was, and then you have the privilege of interpreting. Because if you can tell me what my dream was then I know you have power to interpret it. The Magi said, “No king or emperor, however mighty, has ever asked this of anyone. How in the world can we tell you what your dream is? You tell us the dream and we'll give you a sure and certain interpretation.”
He said, “You are just trying to gain time. I am going to kill you all.” So he started to issue an order that all the wise men in Babylon be killed. Daniel was included among their number though he had very different methods. Daniel was an exile from Judah. He was a believer in God, a godly man who had a wonderful prayer life. He was called in and he offered to the king the information that if he gave him one day, he would fast and pray and he would seek the answer of the dream. So all the Magi had a stay of execution for one day. Daniel did fast and pray and God did reveal to him not only what the dream was but the sure and certain interpretation of the dream. I don't know if you remember what the dream was but it was a dream of a statue, a tall awesome statue with a gold head, and silver chest and arms, and bronze torso, iron legs and then feet partly mixed of clay, partly mixed of iron. Daniel gave the interpretation of the dream. He said, "This is the flow of history, King Nebuchadnezzar, from you forward. Each of the portions of the statue represents a portion of human history.” At the end, he gave this final interpretation. “The statue was destroyed by a stone cut not by human hands which hit at the foot of the statue, destroyed it into a million bits, and then the stone cut not by human hands grew to be larger and larger until it conquered the whole world. Everyone wanted to know what the interpretation was. And Daniel said in Daniel 2:44 "In the time of those kings," the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed nor will it be left to another people. That kingdom will crush all the other kingdoms and bring them to an end but it will itself endure forever." This was a prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ and His establishment of His Kingdom which will live and reign forever and ever. An incredible prophecy. The Bible doesn't say but I imagine that afterwards the Magi probably all gathered around him and said, "Thank you for saving our life. "We know later they were somewhat jealous of Daniel but at that point perhaps they were willing to listen. And I think it was at that time that Danial explained to them what it meant that there was going to be a King of the Jews descended from David and that he was going to sit on David's throne and reign over his kingdom. Isaiah told us this prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9. Daniel, I'm sure, knew about that prophecy and he explained it to these ancestors of the Magi. Now, the years past, generations came, generations went but the Magi continued to study the stars. They continued to look to the heavens, predict the future, sometimes accurately, sometimes not.
III. The Miraculous Star and the Momentous Visit to Jerusalem
Have you ever looked at horoscopes? You will meet someone new today, this kind of thing, predictions that sometimes they come true and sometimes they don't. But this prediction was of a kingdom specifically that would come after all of these others, after the Roman Empire and it would be set up. It was a sure and certain prediction and very accurate. Well, the generations came and went and the Magi continued, I think, to wonder who was this King of the Jews who was coming and who's coming had been foretold. Then suddenly one day, they looked up to the heavens as they did every night and they saw something new, something they had never seen before. It was a miraculous star.
Now, it says in verse 2 of the text, "We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." Actually, a better translation would be, ‘We have seen His star in its rising, as it rose up.’ And I think what happened was they were looking at the stars and the planets and something new was rising up in the heavens. Now, this star was a very unusual star. As you continue to read in this account, all stars are marvelous and we're learning more and more about stars as we continue to advance in technology. There's so many of them, more than could ever be numbered but they're demonstrations of God's creative power and His Majesty but this star was different. It was unique. It had the ability to move and to stop.
In verse 9, it says, "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." A very unusual star. Some scholars think it was a comet but does a comet behave this way? Furthermore, stars don't move, do they? They really just stay fixed, it's planets that move. Actually, the Greek word for "wander" is "planea." We get the word planet from wandering. So it's the planets that move around, stars pretty much stay fixed but this star however was able to lead and to guide them even to identify a specific house in Bethlehem. Now, that's a special star. So what was this star? I don't really know. I think, this is just a guess, but I think that, you remember when the shepherds were out in their fields at night, the angels came and what accompanied the angel? When the first angel came, he was accompanied by a brilliant light. You remember the light of the glory of the Lord shone all around the angel. A bright glowing, a shining. It was called, what you could call the Shekinah glory of God. And I think perhaps what this special star was, was a gathering up of the glory of God into a ball up in the heavens, and God had full control over it and its motion. Do you remember when God led Israel out of Egypt? How did He lead them at night? It was a pillar of fire, you remember? A tall pillar of fire. Well, if you can imagine the pillar of fire just compressed a bit into a ball and set up in the heavens, and it led the Magi. Well, I don't really know about the star but I know this, it had the capability of inspiring these star watchers, these star worshippers to put together a caravan of camels perhaps, to pack up some things for a journey and to set out from their native land. It was a special star, a miraculous star.
The star led them into what I call a momentous visit to Jerusalem. Now, why do I call it a momentous visit? I didn't really think much about the visit to Jerusalem until I considered what it was that was leading the Magi. Now the star, I've already told you in verse 9, had the capability of leading them specifically to a home. Then why did they go to Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem? Jesus was in Bethlehem, wasn't he? Why were they led to Jerusalem? What was it that they had to do in Jerusalem? Furthermore, we know in verse 12, that God was speaking and communicating to the Magi by means of dreams. Look down in verse 12, it says, "And having been warned in a dream, not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." So God actually communicated to them by means of a dream. It's fascinating. So God could easily have warned them not to go to Jerusalem. Now why should He have warned them? Or why would He have warned them not to go to King Herod? Well, what was the outcome of the visit to Herod? Think about it. If the Magi had just quietly slipped into the country, found where Jesus was, worship Him and then went back to their country, Herod would never have heard about it. There would have been quiet, silent.
IV. The Monstrous King Herod
But God did not want his Son entering the world silently in this way. He wanted people to know. So, God came to Herod, and he knew exactly what Herod would do. He knew exactly how Herod would react. The outcome was, that King Herod heard about this and was troubled, he was distressed, he stirred things up. And so we look at the monstrous King Herod, in verse 3, "When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him." The word means raised into turbulence, storming around inside. And all Jerusalem with him means he agitated all of the neighborhoods. Perhaps he was looking for Jesus. He didn't really know where he was. Stirred up, turbulent. Well, what was the outcome of this visit, this momentous visit to Jerusalem? We know that when the Magi didn't go back, there was the slaughter of all those babies around Bethlehem. A terrible thing that Herod did, but fulfilled prophecy, accurate prophecy. We know also that Jesus, Joseph and Mary were chased to Egypt as a result of this visit to Jerusalem, another fulfillment of prophecy. And we know that ultimately they ended up in Nazareth at the end of chapter 2, another fulfillment of prophecy. So the Magi actually were led first to Jerusalem to get King Herod all stirred up so that these prophecies might be fulfilled.
It was a momentous visit to the monstrous King Herod. Now, why do I call him monstrous? Herod was actually called Herod the Great by his people. What is it that makes someone great in our world? In two weeks we're going to be talking about John the Baptist, who Jesus said was the greatest man who ever lived. But what do people think makes someone great? Well, King Herod had all the trappings of greatness, he had royal robes, he had a crown, an awesome throne. He had built up Jerusalem to such a point that it really was a model, a miniature model of Rome, which he had visited earlier. Now, Herod the Great was actually not Jewish, but was an Edomite. Now the Edomites were descended from Esau. Remember Jacob and Esau were twins? Born of Isaac. And God chose one of them, Jacob, to be the line through which Jesus would come. They were his chosen people, Jacob was the father of Israel. But Esau, now Esau was a different kind of man, wasn't he? Do you remember anything about Esau? He sold his birthright for a dinner. He was hungry one day, remember? He totally focused on the moment, his god was his stomach. And whatever he could get out of the moment that's what he was interested in. King Herod is no different. He had perhaps more to lose than Esau did, but he was an Edomite through and through. Focused only on the temporary situation. "What am I living for now?" "I have a house, I have a family, I have a job. I have a life that I like very much. I don't want anything to come in here and stir up my life." Are you like King Herod at all? You want to keep things safe, want to keep things secure, hold on to what you have? Well, that was the way King Herod was. He had a lot to hold onto. He had rebuilt the temple, the temple had taken 40 years to build. We know this from John chapter 2. It was King Herod that did all that building. He was an awesome builder. He was great at collecting money.
As for the building, in Mark chapter 13, the disciples looked up and said to Jesus, "Look teacher, what massive stones, what magnificent buildings." Do you remember what Jesus said? “Not one stone here will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down." That is Jesus' acknowledgement of Herod's greatness, it's temporary. “All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flower of the field, the grass withers, the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8). King Herod's greatness was temporary, as temporary as the morning mist. How many Americans today know anything about Herod the Great? But you see Jesus' kingdom keeps getting larger and larger, stronger and stronger. Monstrous King Herod.
Herod was a good friend of Caesar Augustus. That's how he had managed to finagle being king over that region in the world. He wasn't from there originally. He made a trip to Rome. He actually was a refugee from his own land, and guess where Herod went? He went to Egypt. The very same place that he chased Joseph and Mary. From Egypt Herod went to Rome, and at Rome he got to know Caesar Augustus, and he got to know the Roman senate, and in 37 BC the Roman senate designated him with a title. Do you know what it was? King of the Jews. He was given the title, King of the Jews even though he wasn't Jewish. And he went back and he began to reign as King of the Jews. Then suddenly these Magi show up and said, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." And so Herod was disturbed because he thought he was going to lose everything. What Herod didn't realize is just what Jesus has said, ‘Whoever tries to hold onto his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he will keep it for eternity.’ What should Herod have done the moment the Magi came? He should have done what the King of Nineveh did in the Book of Jonah, take off his royal robes, take off his crown, get off his throne and go down with them to Bethlehem and worship Jesus, but he wouldn't do that. And so he held on and lost everything.
V. The Bethlehem Prophecy from Micah
Instead the first thing that Herod did in verse 4 is, "He called together the people's chief priests and teachers of the law and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.” This is the Micah prophecy. Micah was a prophet who lived seven centuries before Jesus, 700 years before Jesus was born. Now it is incredible that God, in His knowledge of all history, could pinpoint a tiny little village, 5 miles south of Jerusalem where the Messiah would be born - the accuracy of this prophecy. The chief priests, the teachers of the law, they knew where the Christ was to be born, in Bethlehem and Judea, for this is what the prophet has written. The identification was so accurate.
Now, Bethlehem was the place where Rachel... Do you remember Rachel? Rachel was Jacob's wife of his heart, the one that he loved. She was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She died in child birth when Benjamin was born. And afterwards, she was buried in Bethlehem. That's the first mention we ever get of Bethlehem. Now, the word Bethlehem means, "house of bread." It was a place where there was a granary, a store of barley grain. We know that David's ancestor, Boaz, lived in Bethlehem and he married Ruth. He had a son named Boaz, and Boaz had a son named Jesse, and Jesse had a son named David. And so David grew up in Bethlehem too. And he took care of flocks, while shepherds were watching their flocks at night, remember? David was a shepherd that way, seated with the flocks at night around Bethlehem. And so Bethlehem came to be called, "The Town of David," "The City of David."
After the exile of Babylon, Bethlehem became a no-place, a nowhere- nobody cared about Bethlehem. It was a tiny little town of insignificant stature; except in one regard, Micah 5:2 said it would be the place where the Son of David, the descendant of David, the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords would make his entrance into the world. How was it that this birth came about in Bethlehem? We know from Luke chapter 2 that Caesar Augustus was motivated to issue a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. What was it that motivated Caesar? Could it be that he got out the prophecy of Micah, and he said, "Now I know that Jesus needs to be born in Bethlehem. So I think I'll issue a census so that everyone, even Joseph and Mary will go there and give birth to the baby." Are any of you paying attention? Is that what Caesar did? No, he didn't.
Now Caesar had other motives. What were Caesar's motives? Two things: Money and a piece of the empire. He wanted his tax money, and so he wanted to know how many people there were, and he also wanted to know what the local populations were in each of his holdings so he would know how many troops to put there. That was what motivated him. But it doesn't matter what motivated him, God had a different reason. And so he moves in Caesar Augustus' heart, the most powerful man on the face of the Earth. I love Proverbs 21:1 which says: "The king's heart is like a water course in the hands of the Lord. He directs it, or channels it, whatever way he chooses." Isn't that powerful? The king's heart is like a water course in the hands of the Lord. He directs it whatever way he chooses. That goes for kings, it goes for dictators, it goes for emperors, even goes for presidents. The king's heart is like a water course in the hands of the Lord, directs it whatever way he pleases.
VI. The Mock Worshiper
And so that decree got issued. And Joseph and Mary got ready and went down to Bethlehem because he was of the house and line of David. It was the sovereignty of God to make sure that prophecy, that Micah prophecy, got fulfilled. In verses 7 and 8, we're introduced to the mock worshiper. What is a mock worshiper? Somebody who worships not in truth, somebody who worships not in spirit, somebody who makes pretense at worship. And that's what King Herod did when he called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.’ Do you think Herod wanted to worship that child? Absolutely not. Herod went crazy when the Magi didn't return back. He went insane with rage.
What's fascinating to me though is that he didn't do it the first time when the Magi came and said there's one been born, King of the Jews. It would have been just like Herod to react at that moment and seek to find him and kill him. God protected Jesus just for that short amount of time so that the Magi could finish their visit, and Joseph and Mary could be warned to get out of town before Herod came. So the king's heart is like a water course in the hands of the Lord. A kind of a muddleness came over Herod and he just said, ‘Well, why don't you go to Bethlehem and try to find him and when you do, come back and tell me, and I'll go and worship him.’ But he had no intention of worshiping. Herod was a consummate politician. He was tricky and devious, and at this point he's trying to play with the Magi and use them for his own purposes. The Magi are going to be his spies, and they're going to come back and tell him where Jesus is - the mock worshiper.
Worship means, to ascribe value to something, to look at something and say, this is valuable, but it goes beyond that, there is an attraction, a strength to worship, a love, an affection to worship. Herod ascribed value to Jesus coming but he hated it, he was angry at it, he rejected it, he was threatened by it, you see? So you see that he is not a true worshipper - he is mock worshipper.
VII. The Mission Consummated
Verses 9 through 12, we see the mission consummated. The Magi got what they looked for. They'd been traveling so long, so many miles. I don't know how long it took, weeks, months. We have no idea. But they traveled over all that distance and it says “after they heard the king, they went on their way and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” That miraculous star guiding them right to that home. And what does it say next? When they saw the star they were overjoyed. Do you see the difference between the Magi and Herod? Herod's anger and their joy? They were so thrilled to be able to come to the end of their journey and then they go into the house where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were. I thought that the Magi came when Jesus was around two years old. I now, having looked more carefully at the text, have no idea how old Jesus was. All I know is that Herod found out what time the star appeared, but it may have appeared months before Jesus was born so that they would get on the road and be there in time. So I really have no idea how old Jesus was when they came. All I know is he wasn't in the manger, but in a house at that time. The Magi come into that house and they find the object of their worship. They find Jesus Christ. Now I don't really know what they knew about Jesus at that moment. Did they really understand that he was God incarnate? That all of their idolatrous worship systems had to be put aside and that this was the King of kings who had come to earth to die on a cross for them? I don't think they could have known all that. But perhaps Mary and Joseph, and maybe there were some shepherds still coming to visit Jesus, told them more about some of the prophecies and the predictions about this child.
I dare say they left going back to their home country knowing more about the King of the Jews than they knew before they came. But they worshiped him. They knelt down and they worshiped. And that was the end of their journey, and it was a long journey. It was a difficult journey but it was consummated with joy and with worship and with bending of their knees. And then it says that they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh, and here we get to the area of meaning. What is the meaning of the visit of the Magi? I think they are themselves prophetic visitors and the gifts that they bring themselves are prophecies. How are they, the Magi, prophetic visitors? I think it's because they're Gentiles, they're non-Jews. And they came from, in effect, the ends of the earth to come and worship Jesus.
VIII. The Meaning Explained
And that fulfills very clearly the prophecy that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, when he said, "Through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed."
And Isaiah said the same thing in Isaiah 49:6, speaking of the Messiah, God says this, "It is too small a thing for you," you could put the word Jesus in there. "It is too small a thing for you [Jesus] to be my servant. To bring back or restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel that I have kept. Now I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Isn't that powerful? In Isaiah 49:6 is the clear prophecy that the Messiah would come as a light for the Gentiles to the ends of the earth. And so the very visit of these Gentile Magi coming to worship Jesus is a prophecy that one day this gospel message will spread to the ends of the earth.
Jesus himself said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the end of the earth and then the end will come... To all nations as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) In the last 15 years we've seen an incredible acceleration of the fulfillment of that prophecy. As people from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation are hearing the gospel and believing and worshiping Jesus Christ. Do you know that when the sun rose in Japan this morning, they were the first, I would say, major nation to see the sun, they are the land of the rising sun, and there are Christians there. And they worship Jesus today. And the sun continued on and moved over China, and there are Christians in China. And there are Christians in Siberia. And there are Christians in India. And the sun continued to move. And what is it that unites all these people? It's the same thing the Magi did. Kneeling before Jesus and worshiping him. Giving glory and praise to his name.
The Magi are prophetic visitors that someday this little baby would grow to be the Savior of the world, not just of Jews. But also their gifts are prophetic. The fact that they even brought gifts is prophetic. It says in Isaiah 2:2, "In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains. It will be raised above the hills and all nations will stream to it." The streaming of the nations to Jesus. Well, it happens because the disciples go out to the ends of the earth and preached the gospel. This is the streaming of the nations. And they're going to bring their riches. In Isaiah 60 it says this, talking of Jerusalem, "Arise and shine, for your light has come and your glory is shown to the nations." In Isaiah 60:5-6 says, “Then you will look and be radiant [speaking of Jerusalem] your heart will throb and swell with joy. The wealth on the seas will be brought to you. To you the riches of nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land. Young camels from Midian and Ephah and all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord."
It’s all been prophesied and predicted that Gentiles would come from the ends of the Earth and bring gold and incense and worship Jesus. But I think these gifts are actually symbolic of something deeper. Why did God send his Son to earth? What did he want? Put simply, he wants you. He wants your heart. He wants who you are. He wants your worship. He wants you to love him. He wants you to kneel before him and give him homage and honor and praise. That's what he wants. And what is he willing to pay for it? He's willing to pay the death of his own Son. The blood of his own Son, that's what it's worth to him.
Prophetic gifts. Gold. Do you know that more wars have been fought over gold than any other precious substance on earth? Some call it the "material of kings." How about frankincense? What do you know about frankincense? Frankincense actually comes from a rare Arabian tree. An article in National Geographic in speaking about frankincense notes that you take a knife and you cut this tree, deeply, a deep cut, and you go away and you wait. Come back in three months and at the bottom of the cut there's this resin that's dried into a hard globule. You break it off and then you wait another few months and more comes out. That's where frankincense comes from. Do you know how valuable it is? The time it takes to gather this. Well, frankincense was also used for medicine. And the Magi probably used it for medicine, so they gave it to Jesus. Maybe a hint at Jesus' healing ministry in the fact that he would heal people. But do you know also that it was one of the four ingredients of special worship? In Exodus chapter 30 frankincense is included with three other ingredients to make a special incense that was burned in worship and praise to God every time sacrifices were offered in the Jewish system. It really is a symbol of praise, isn't it? It's a symbol of worship. Incense going up to God and praising his name.
But what about myrrh? Of these three gifts, myrrh is the only one that makes reappearance in the gospel. In John chapter 19, ‘A man named Joseph of Arimathea brought some myrrh to Jesus and mixed it up with some strips of linen and wrapped it around Jesus' dead body.’ Seventy-five pounds worth, burial of a king. Jesus was only going to borrow it though. It's kind of sticky and would have stuck all those linens together into a shape. A few days later, the disciples visited and the myrrh was there, but the body wasn't. It's a prediction of the death of Jesus Christ. Also, of his resurrection, for he didn't come just to die, but to give his life as a ransom for us and be raised from the dead on the third day.
Prophetic visitors, prophetic gifts. But the modern application for us is simple. You have, in this story, in these 12 verses, two paradigms of how to respond to Jesus' coming. You have King Herod and you have the Magi. King Herod, selfish, threatened by the coming, would never consider taking off those royal robes and worshipping Jesus. Instead, he's going to do everything he can to attack him and, if he can, to kill him. Hatred of Jesus. And, then you have the Magi. Sacrificial love for Jesus. Come from the ends of the earth to worship him. Give everything they have in honor of him. Which is it going to be for you? Which of those two more nearly characterizes the way you deal with the coming of Jesus Christ? Are you more like King Herod? Or are you more like Jesus? Or perhaps you're like the scribes and the Pharisees? You know the prophecies, you know all about it, but you don't do anything at all. There's no reaction, they don't get angry, they don't come and visit. They just do nothing
I think God calls us in his Son to look at our own treasures, to look inward and say, "What do I have to bring to the King? What do I have to offer to him?" Maybe you don't have gold and incense and myrrh, but maybe you have your life, your time, your money, your gifts, your energy, your zeal. God owns it and wants it, come and give it to him. Or perhaps you need to ask a deeper question. Maybe I don't need to give something to Jesus right now, maybe I need to receive something from him. Maybe I need to come and acknowledge that I have never come into a relationship with him, and that I need him to be my savior. Today, for you, could be the day of salvation. Picture in your mind the Magi kneeling before Jesus, and see if you've ever done that. Have you ever acknowledged Jesus' deity and his perfection and that he died on the cross for you? Come and worship, but even if you're a Christian, no one escapes. All of you should come and bring all of your valuable things to him. Scour your life with your mind and bring everything to Jesus in worship.