The Gifts of the Wise Men Reveal the Roles of the Messiah
The Day of Epiphany, January 6, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. You may have wondered about the significance of these gifts. It is through these gifts that Matthew wants to validate Jesus as the Messiah to the Jewish people.
Gold is a gift fit for a king. Again and again the prophets saw the coming Messiah as the coming of a new king for Israel. While most of the images in the Old Testament are political, there were still those with political expectations in Jesus’ day. It was clear to the early church that Jesus came to be king of a new kind of kingdom. His kingdom is in the hearts of his people. We celebrate the last Sunday of the church year as Christ the King Sunday.
Frankincense is a gift fit for a priest. Jesus has come to be the priest of his people, the high priest who ushers his people into the presence of God.
In Latin the word for priest is pontifex – bridge builder. Jesus is the one who bridges the gulf between God and humanity, the one who offers the gifts of reconciliation and acceptance.
That the early church had a clear view of this role for Jesus is set out in the Letter to the Hebrews.