The last of three posts on the three gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. This is a series only four years in the making!
I wrote about gold being symbolic of Christ as King and Frankincense as Christ’s role as priest. Myrrh I like to think of as emblematic of Jesus’s role as prophet.
A little about Myrrh: according to Wikipedia, it is a resin of a thorny tree and can be used externally as medicine or perfume or internally if mixed with wine. The resin is derived when the tree is wounded to the sapwood. Those that harvest it wound the tree repeatedly.
It would often be used to embalm bodies for burial or as an anointing substance. In the gospel Mark, Jesus is given wine and myrrh while on the cross.
So, what does that have to do with the prophets?
In the Old Testament, the prophets filled an opposite role as the Priests. While the priests were mediators, prophets were messengers, bringing the messages of God to Israel, Judah, or the surrounding nations.
Not all of these messages were of the warm and fuzzy variety. Elijah bursts onto the scene in I Kings with the prophecy that it wouldn’t rain until he said so, which ended up being 3.5 years. Jeremiah’s messages had him thrown into a pit. Isaiah was killed. Hosea had to marry a whore in order to make his message of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God understandable to the people.
Their messages condemned idolatry, the people’s lack of remembrance that God that had brought them out of Egypt (in Israel’s case), the covetousness and greed that permeated their societies, their oppression of the poor and outcast. Israel was becoming like the surrounding nations – a direct violation of the reason that God had separated them.
So, when Israel failed to heed His warnings, He went silent.
After 400 years, the greatest prophet to live, John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Messiah. And the Messiah’s message was as distasteful to the spiritual ruling class as John’s had been to the political ruling class.
“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Jesus condemned them “I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town.”
The Pharisees were rich in religion, but that mattered little to Jesus. He came to die to save the poor in spirit, the sinful outcasts, those without spiritual wealth. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to burden the people with rules to save them. Jesus came with the message that the law could not save and for that, the Pharisees needed Him to die. They didn’t realize that His death was the death knell of sin for all those who believe in Him.
Jesus was the last prophet, but His message was the culmination of all the previous prophets. Put off your idolatry to rules. Turn away from immorality with other gods. You cannot buy your way to heaven.
Only by believing in Christ – Prophet, Priest, and King – can you have eternal life. We don’t know if myrrh was one of the spices the women brought with them to the tomb to embalm Jesus in death, but it didn’t matter. Because unlike the former prophets, this one had risen again.
So, Advent and Christmas is just the beginning. The baby in the manger was born to be a Prophet in the past, a priest in the present, and will be ruling King in the future.