Theme: Salvation Achieved
In this week’s lessons, we look at the three gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men.
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2
We looked at the spiritual significance of each of the three gifts given to Jesus by the wise men: gold, frankincense, and myrrh—gold for royalty, frankincense for the purity of his life, and myrrh for suffering. And yet the study would be incomplete unless I were also to take you to one other verse that bears upon the gifts of the wise men.
The verse is Isaiah 60:6 and occurs near the end of the book, in the midst of a great prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ in glory at the end of this present age. The chapter begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you” (v. 1). It continues by showing that the nations shall come to Christ’s light and “kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Then comes verse six: “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”
Do you see the importance of this verse? When the Lord Jesus Christ returns, a scene will be enacted that is similar to the coming of the wise men to Bethlehem. He will reign in power. Gifts will be given to him. But when the gifts are presented, they will not be gold, frankincense and myrrh, but gold and frankincense only. Myrrh speaks of suffering, and when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, he suffered once and for all for sin. Hereafter, there will be no more need for his suffering. Do you see that truth? Clearly you should, for it is the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus Christ came to earth to die. That was his mission. He died for our sin. Now those who believe on him wait for his second coming in glory.
Did you ever recognize that it was this truth—the truth that Jesus came to die, but then rose from the dead to leave the suffering behind forever—that led to the first Christian conversion? Who was the first Christian in the New Testament sense? It was John, the author of the fourth gospel. And how did he come to believe? Well, early on the first Easter Sunday morning, after Jesus had risen from the dead, women came to the tomb, found the stone rolled away from the opening and met the angels. They were puzzled by all of these things, and so they sent one of their number to find John and Peter who alone of the 12 disciples remained in Jerusalem. On hearing the news, John and Peter went running to the burial site. John, the younger, arrived first. Stopping at the door and looking in, he saw the grave clothes in which the body of Jesus had been wrapped following the crucifixion. But he did not understand then that he was risen.
While John hesitated at the door, Peter arrived and immediately burst through the open door into the tomb. John entered cautiously behind. There in the tomb, the odor of myrrh permeated everything. The grave clothes were there, now collapsed from the weight of the spices. The headband was there. The myrrh was there. But the body was gone. Suddenly John understood that Jesus had indeed conquered death. He had been raised in a glorified body. John knew that the suffering of the Lord symbolized by the myrrh was finished forever.
Do you see that also? What a pity it would be if you were to go through another Christmas season while overlooking the meaning of it all through ignorance, or what is worse, to see it all, but to fail to commit your life to the one who was born on that first Christmas day in order that he might subsequently suffer for you and remove your sin forever.
The world has so many false ideas of Christmas. For some persons, it’s only a story that is somehow meant to glorify babies and motherhood. For others there’s the false idea that we must do something for God like that ridiculous Christmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy,” that suggests that Jesus will smile at us if we will play him a tune on our drum. Jesus did not need to have us play him a tune; he does not need anything that we can produce. But we do need him. We need a Savior.
What is the significance of Isaiah 60:6?
From the study, who is said to be the first Christian in the New Testament sense, and why?
Prayer: Who among your family and friends needs not only to understand the birth of Christ as the means by which God would deal with sin forever, but also to commit their lives to his service? Pray for opportunities to talk with them about these things this Christmas season.