“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
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The “they” referenced in Matthew 2:10-11 are the Magi—aka the wise men. The wise men would have traveled hundreds of miles to get to Jesus. What motivated them to put the time, resources, and energy into making that trip? The answer is joy.
The joy of the Lord
If you’ve ever had a trip or event you were extremely excited about, you might relate to the obsessive energy you can get. Depending on how involved the event is, you might spend months—maybe even years—planning, researching, and daydreaming about it. No amount of work or stress will deter your enthusiasm.
In Matthew 2:10, the Magi were described as rejoicing with an “exceeding great joy.” They made the long and tedious trek to see Jesus because they had an abundance of excitement and joy surrounding the birth of their heavenly King. The Magi were filled with divine guidance in their journey, and upon reaching the young Jesus, they fell to the ground in worship.
Expressing their praise and gratitude was more important than the pain, effort, and time it took.
Like the Magi, we should also rejoice with exceeding great joy at the birth of Christ. By humbling Himself and becoming man, living a perfect life, dying for our sins, and rising again, He gave us the most precious gift we’ll ever receive—the gift of salvation. We should be filled with an excessive and overwhelming joy, and that joy should lead to action and good works (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
Joy produces energy, and the joy of the Lord is even more potent. Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV) says “…the joy of the LORD is my strength.” In Nehemiah, this joy pulled them through the grief they felt at their own sin. It provided them with strength, and we can also draw strength and energy from the joy of the Lord to accomplish great things, regardless of our own shortcomings.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh
Along with their praises, the Magi presented Jesus with three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were not only useful and valuable, but they’re thought to have significance, potentially even prophetic significance.
Jesus is King
The first gift, gold, is thought to represent the deity and kingship of Christ. Gold is valued for its shine, beautiful color, resistance to depreciation, and malleability. These factors contribute to the association with royalty in ancient kingdoms and civilizations.
By presenting Jesus with gold, the Magi recognized Christ as royalty—and He is. In the Last Supper, Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25 ESV). In Jesus’ second coming, He’s coming back as King, establishing the kingdom of God.
We can also draw strength and energy from the joy of the Lord to accomplish great things, regardless of our own shortcomings.
The second gift, frankincense, was historically used as incense and perfume. It was highly valued for these reasons, but it was likely gifted to represent Jesus’ perfection and priesthood. Jesus became the mediator between us and God, fulfilling the role of high priest for now and always.
Jesus lived a sinless life and sacrificed himself to cleanse and sanctify us. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV) refers to Jesus as a “great high priest” who was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” And because of His ability to emphasize with our weaknesses and temptations, we can boldly approach the throne of God and receive mercy.
The Lamb of God
The third gift, myrrh, is a dried resin historically used as incense and medicine. It’s well known for its bitter aroma and likely represents the suffering and death of Christ on the cross.
The term “Lamb of God” is mentioned in John 1:29 (NIV) when John sees Jesus approaching and says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The significance of this term comes from the Old Testament practice of yearly sacrificing lambs to atone for Israel’s sins. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb for us, taking on the bitter pain that we deserved to take away the sin of the world.
Knowing the lengths the Magi took to show Jesus their praise and gratitude, we should feel convicted. Jesus gave up everything for us—we’re asked to give so little in comparison. This Christmas, let’s reflect the precious gift we’ve been given, lift our praises to God, and think on how we can cultivate joy to further Christ’s work in us.
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Together, we can turn our gaze upon heaven and give praise to the Lord.
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