ODB: The Meaning of Myrrh

January 6, 2024

READ: Matthew 2:9–13 

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Today is Epiphany, the day which commemorates the event described by the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are” when gentile wisemen visited the child Jesus. Yet they weren’t kings, they weren’t from the Far East (as Orient formerly meant), and it’s unlikely there were three of them.

There were, however, three gifts, and the carol considers each. When the magi arrived in Bethlehem, “They opened their treasures and presented [Jesus] with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). The gifts symbolize Jesus’ mission. Gold represents His role as King. Frankincense, mixed with the incense burned in the sanctuary, speaks of His deity. Myrrh, used to embalm dead bodies, gives us pause.

The fourth verse of the carol says, “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume / breathes a life of gathering gloom; / sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, / sealed in the stone-cold tomb.” We wouldn’t write such a scene into the story, but God did. Jesus’ death is central to our salvation. Herod even attempted to kill Jesus while He was yet a child (v. 13).

The carol’s last verse weaves the three themes together: “Glorious now behold him arise; / King and God and sacrifice.” This completes the story of Christmas, inspiring our response: “Alleluia, Alleluia, / sounds through the earth and skies.”

— Tim Gustafson

How do you feel when you ponder the truth that Jesus was born to die for you? How does His resurrection inspire you?

Heavenly Father, may Your Spirit help me live my life in gratitude for Your Son giving His life for me.

For further study, read

Source: Our Daily Bread