Magic From The East

Illustration of the three Magi traveling to follow the star.

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2, 11

Magi traveled from afar to Bethlehem, seeking the One they understood to be the King of the Jews. These Magi were not men of Jewish descent, but had studied the prophecies of Old that told of Jesus’ coming. They knew the star which appeared in the sky meant a new kind of royalty was born; a royalty worthy of the finest gifts they could behold. They wanted to honor the new King with gifts, but gifts not just of great value, but also of great significance.

The Gifts Of The Magi

The first gift of the Magi; gold. In the days of Jesus, only the wealthy and powerful had gold. Kings wore crowns made of gold, displaying their status as a ruler and leader. This gift of gold symbolized who and what Jesus would become; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The second gift of the Magi was frankincense, used as an incense or perfume. When burned, frankincense produces a sweet aroma that is highly fragrant. This sweet-smelling incense was burned every morning and evening by the Jewish priests at the Temple. It symbolized holiness and righteousness, pointing to Jesus’ priestly role.

The third gift was the Magi was that of myrrh. Myrrh was considered a sacred anointing oil and was used to anoint priests, kings and most importantly, the Tabernacle. Myrrh was also used as an embalming oil for the dead. This royal gift symbolized Jesus as the Anointed One.

Three gifts, three purposes, three meanings, all meant for One, Jesus. The One anointed to serve as Priest and King; the One who came to “tabernacle” with us.

The Tabernacle

During the days of wandering in the desert, God instructed the Israelites to build a Tabernacle, a place where His manifested presence would come and rest. Within the Tabernacle were four specific items; the Table of Bread, Altar of Incense, the Lampstand and the Ark of the Covenant.   Each of these pieces were overlaid in pure gold. On the Altar of Incense the priest would burn frankincense every morning and evening. The entire Tabernacle and everything in it was anointed with myrrh, consecrating it as holy. God’s dwelling place used the very things Jesus was given as gifts by the Magi.

God’s desire has always been to dwell with His people, “Have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them,” (Exodus 25:8). But with the gift of Jesus, God was proclaiming a new way of doing life with His people. Ezekiel prophesied about Jesus saying “I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people,” (Ezekiel 37:26-27).

As believers in Christ we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus. That Spirit dwells within our hearts and we become a sanctuary. A sanctuary that has been anointed as holy, because Christ is holy (Hebrews 10:10). A sanctuary that has the authority of the King, because Jesus is the Ultimate Authority (Luke 10:19). Like the frankincense burned before the Lord, so too our prayers rise before Him and fill His presence (Revelation 5:8).

As you read the story of the Magi bringing their gifts to Jesus, remember what you have been given through the gift of the One who dwells within you, Jesus.


About the Author:

I have developed a deep passion for the culture and customs of Biblical times, and it is my heart’s desire to teach others about the symbolism hidden within pages of God’s Word. I love to seek out and focus on the “little things,” that when discovered, become more like God-sized treasures. I truly believe the deeper our understanding is of the Old, the more relevant God becomes in the New.