Thursday, March 25, 2010

Matthew 2: 11

Matthew 2: 11 The Magi’s Gifts

So, here I pick up where I left off, in the second chapter of the first gospel. I am going to look at only one verse today, the presentation of the Magi’s gifts.

The Wise Men find the baby Jesus with his mother Mary and fall down and worship. This would prove one of the most powerful images in Christianity: worshipping at the feet of the Mother and Child. Of course, it specifically says “his” feet. They weren’t worshipping - or venerating - Mary, but if you visualize this scene, the mother and her baby, the magi falling down in adoration, its easy to see how such an idea could gain such a grip on people’s imaginations and hearts. We’ll talk more about Mary when we get to the Gospel of Luke, which tells the story from her perspective. Matthew focuses on Joseph’s and its interesting that he isn’t mentioned here.

The idea that there were three Magi stems from the fact that there were three gifts. We don’t know how many Wise Men there were. One early tradition says there were twelve. Twelve Tribes, Twelve Apostles, Twelve Magi. Their gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The latter two are made from resins and were a valued part of the Arabian spice trade. Frankincense was used in the incense that burned before the Lord on the Altar of Incense, first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple, and myrrh was used in the embalming of the dead. The three gifts, then, speak of the baby’s future: the gold representing authority or lordship, the frankincense representing divinity or worship, and the myrrh the Redeemer or Christ.

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