A year or so after Jesus is born a caravan of Eastern folk arrive on his doorstep with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Very odd. But everything that happened in Jesus’ human life had significance and essential meaning, so what was this all about too?
Scripture offers us an answer, because it clearly demonstrates there are three seasons in Jesus’ ministry, the first of which was Jesus dying for the forgiveness we desperately needed for not wanting to obey God or trust him. What a “coincidence,” then, that one of the gifts the foreigners from the East gave to Jesus was myrrh.
Myrrh was used back then as an embalming resin, which is an odd gift to give to a baby. Imagine being given a bottle of formaldehyde in your Christmas stocking. But the myrrh perfectly pictured the ROLE Jesus would play as our Saviour, who would die and be buried, taking and burying our messed up, sin-filled lives with him.
But once that had been done, and all humanity had been rescued from the death we deserved, Jesus moved on to his second role and the second season in his ministry, that began after his resurrection and victorious ascension to his Father. He now became our High Priest, pictured beautifully again by another of the three gifts he received: frankincense.
Burning frankincense was part and parcel of a priest’s role, and especially the high priest’s role in Israel on the Day of Atonement, when he took coals dipped in frankincense into the Holy of Holies on behalf of Israel for the cleansing of their sins over the past year, enabling Israel to remain in contact with God in the fulfillment of their God-given purpose. Which, of course, is Jesus’ role in his church today. He is our high priest, entering God’s presence on our behalf, so that we have all the help we need in the fulfillment of our God-given purpose too.
And that’s where Jesus is today, in God’s presence as our High Priest, and there we are too because Jesus raised us with him when he was resurrected. We are living in the reality of the second season of Jesus’ ministry right now, therefore, in the ongoing, everyday maturing and nurturing of his church into his very own likeness.
But there’s a third season in Jesus’ ministry as well, when he takes over the kingdoms of this world as our King forever. Which ties in very nicely with the third gift he received, gold, the gift for kings – and totally grasped by a bunch of foreigners too, who knew his role would be that of a king.
But Jesus’ full kingship in all its visible glory only begins when Jesus returns to this earth. It’s at a future time, in the third season of his ministry which we look forward to. Up to that point, meanwhile, we are living in the second season of his ministry and his very personal care for us as our High Priest, through the intimate aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit and millions of angels as “ministering spirits.”
So now we have three roles, three seasons, and three gifts all providing the same meanings, making it easy for us to understand what the ministry of Jesus is all about.