The Magi’s Gifts

Bible Series: 
The Message of the Magi

“After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:11

The Magi’s Gifts

The Bible actually doesn’t tell us how many of these Magi came to see Jesus. Tradition has told us there were three, but this is an assumption based on the fact that they brought three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Whether they realised the significance of these gifts is not clear. But in hindsight we see they contained tremendous prophetic meaning.

Gold is a gift given to Kings. The wise men had come asking, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews…” The Magi recognised Christ as a King. Matthew, in the previous chapter, had established Christ’s right to the throne by tracing his lineage through David and Abraham. In fact, one of the objectives of Matthew’s Gospel was to present Christ as King. This is probably a very substantial part of the reason Matthew mentions the magi when the other Gospel writers had not done so. The wise men acknowledged that Jesus was born “King of the Jews.” He was born a king – He needed no earthly king to crown him. Heaven had crowned him already.

The second gift was frankincense – a gift for a god. Frankincense is an aromatic balm used to make incense. It was offered on altars before deities. Long before any theologian had taught on the divinity of Christ, these wise men worshipped Him as divine. At this same time, Scripture tells us that Herod was seeking to destroy Him. Once again, we see the contrast that characterises the life of Christ. While some worship him, others are seeking his destruction. And this leads us to the third gift.


Myrrh is an odd gift for a baby. It was another aromatic resin that was used to prepare bodies for burial. Perhaps this gift was an indication of the reason Christ had been born into the world. From the very beginning this was His purpose, “…To give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  In John 12:27, just before Jesus went to the cross he prayed, “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour." Jesus lived with an awareness of His purpose - He was born to die.

The story of the Magi is a central part of the celebration of Christ’s birth. But when the Magi presented baby Jesus myrrh, they gave him a gift that honoured his death. We celebrate Christ’s birth because of His death. Were it not for his death, His birth would have little significance to us.

The Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts probably originates from this story of the Magi bringing their gifts to Jesus. But ultimately, Christmas is not about the Magi’s gifts to Jesus or our gifts to one another. Christmas is about a far more important and valuable gift – the gift God gave to humanity when He gave His Son. At this time of year, there is a tendency for the significance of what we are celebrating to be lost amid tired cliches'. But I want to help you to see afresh how amazing it is that God gave His only Son. When God gave Jesus, He gave us everything that Heaven had to offer.

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