Three Gifts, Not Necessarily Three Kings
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold wisemen (Magi) from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” – Matthew 2:1-2
These wealthy eastern visitors eventually found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in a tiny Bethlehem house, rather than a stable. This was as much as a year after His birth. Herod’s order to kill two year old boys and below was to cover the ugly margins (Herod thought at least two years of age and younger would be more than adequate) based on the time the Magi told Herod they had seen the birth-notifying-star first rise.
These Magi from the east brought three different gifts; there is nothing in Scripture of how many Magi there were. I rather think, however, that the three meaningful gifts were one combined gift from all of them. The gifts were combined as one gift to signify the fact that this toddler, Jesus, was a King, a Prophet, and a Savior/Priest. Thus gold, frankincense, and myrrh: specific gifts signifying these three offices/functions of Jesus.
No matter how many Magi there were, they combined this gift into one from all of them, consistent with who they knew this babe would be: Jesus, the Word (Prophet); Jesus, the Savior/Mediator (Priest); and Jesus, the King of Kings. These gifts speak to who Jesus is and will be.
How were these gifts used practically? To pay the expenses to live as migrants in a foreign country, Egypt. And possibly even to help establish Joseph’s carpenter shop in Nazareth, after the Holy Family left Egypt to return to Palestine. In any case, there is absolutely no evidence these gifts made them wealthy. Rather, they most likely sustained their lives in exile. Yet Scripture tells us nothing about this.
What we do know is that the Providence of God was at work providing for and protecting His Son, so that He might accomplish His primary purpose: to save His people from their sins. These Magi possibly came from the line of those who Daniel, in Persian exile, had commissioned and discipled centuries before. God’s Providence is also at work perfectly bringing all His sons and daughters to glory.
Providence, we see in this visit of the Magi whose visit was prophesied centuries before, was manifested in the history Matthew provides. As these two Gospel authors record, Jewish shepherds and Gentile wisemen were the representatives of the whole world Jesus came to save; men, women, and children of every race, tribe, language, and nation. (Revelation 5:9-10) Amazing grace at work!
“As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold; as with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright; so, most gracious God, may we evermore be led to thee.”
(1st verse of William Chatterton Dix’s carol, “As with Gladness Men of Old,” 1860)
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