The gifts of the Wise Men hold significance in and of themselves. As we are told in the scriptures (Matthew 2:11), the Magi presented the young Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Apart from the general richness of these gifts, there is vast meaning hidden within each, and certainly this was understood by those who presented them to the Messiah.
The gold was a testament to his sovereign royalty. The frankincense represented His priestly nature, as it was a spice used by priests for various duties. Finally, there was the myrrh, an embalming agent that no doubt signified his ultimate sacrifice. It is worth noting that the scriptures remind us that we too will give gifts of gold and frankincense to our Lord during His millennial reign, but intriguingly the myrrh is missing. Surely this is an acknowledgment of the fact that His sacrifice has already come to pass and it shall never be necessary again.
Also worth mentioning here is that, despite what we see on our Christmas cards and in plays, etc, the Magi were not present at Jesus’ birth, nor were they ever there at the manger in which this miracle occurred! In fact, when we consider the scriptures carefully, we find that Jesus may have been as old as two years in age by the time they arrived and presented Him with their gifts! Herod, if you recall, wished to know the exact time at which the “star” appeared to the Magi; an event that heralded the arrival of the Savior babe. Well, in Matthew 2:16 we read of How Herod then ordered all baby boys aged two and under to be killed. In spite of what we are accustomed to, it is more likely that Jesus was a toddler living in a home, not lying in a manger, by the time He was approached by the Magi.
One last point: What was the star that the Magi followed? Was it a real star, or could it have been something else entirely. Consider for a moment how it appeared with the birth of our Savior, implying that it was not a regular feature of the night sky prior to His advent. Also, there is the nature of its appearance in the East to the Magi. The language behind that usage of the term “East” (Greek – ανατολη) is a bit ambiguous as it essentially means the “rising of light,” and is understood as East only by the inherent implications thereof. As such, it could possibly be that the Magi saw it appear in the Western sky from their vantage point in the East, or perhaps even that it appeared to them in the Eastern sky as a sign that simply directed them towards their distant goal. In any event, everything from its sudden appearance to the way it “moved” across the sky to lead them to Bethlehem, essentially stopping over the position of the young Lord, appears to be in conflict with all traditional astronomical bodies.
All things considered, what was the star? One provocative suggestion is that it may have been a pillar of fire, the Shechinah glory of God, just as the Israelites followed at night during their exodus from Egypt (see Nehemiah 9:12). Could this have been the “star” the Magi followed? In fact, thinking more deeply about it, could it have been something that only they themselves witnessed, a vision or a sign made apparent only to their eyes, a wonder leading them across the desert towards the most perfect being in existence? No one can say for certain…
In the end, while questions certainly remain about the “wise men” of the East, we can be confident that the reason for their long journey was one of great honor and importance. They were called to Palestine by a divine miracle to see for themselves the incarnation of God coming in fulfillment of long-cherished prophecies, the young Savior who had come to save the souls of man.
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