Gold, frankincense and myrrh – the three gifts of the Magi. We usually think of these gifts in correlation with the birth of Jesus rather than His death and resurrection. However, we are going to look at these precious and expensive gifts from a different perspective as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday.
We will begin by focusing upon frankincense.
The Magi’s gift of frankincense was a prophetic picture of the role Jesus would fulfill as our Great High Priest.
Frankincense is an aromatic incense. It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The Old Testament priests used it when making sacrifices. In Leviticus 2, the priests put frankincense upon the grain offerings. In Leviticus 6, it was used with meat offerings.
The priests were from the tribe of Levi. They interceded to God for the people by offering the sacrifices required by the law. However, all the sacrifices only temporarily covered the people’s sins.
Jesus offered the final sacrifice when He became the sacrifice. Jesus was greater than any other priest, so He became our “Great High Priest”.
John 19:17-19 describes how the sacrifice of Jesus was made. “They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”
The writer of Hebrews points out several distinctions between Jesus as the Great High Priest and the former Levitical priests.
“. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:14-15
“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14
We no longer need to go through earthly mediators. When Jesus died on the cross, the temple’s veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus restored our relationship with God and we no longer rely upon earthly priests.
Romans 8:34 says, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Jesus made the final sacrifice. However, His mediation for us continues. Jesus reveals the will of God to us through the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
I John 4:10 sums it up well saying, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Yes, Jesus embraced the Magi’s gift of frankincense to the fullest by becoming the greatest sacrifice.
Can we apply anything about frankincense to ourselves? I think so.
I Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter adds in verse 9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are priests!
Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” There is a sacrifice for us to make. However, we are encouraged to be living sacrifices rather than a gum resin in a bottle.
II Corinthians 2:15 declares, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Maybe the aroma of Christ that we emit can be compared to the fragrance of frankincense.
Frankincense was presented to Jesus by the Magi when He was about two years old. Frankincense was a prophetic symbol pointing to when Jesus would die on the cross approximately 31 years later. According to Romans 8:34, He now sits at the right hand of God interceding for us as the Great High Priest.