On coming to the house, (the Wise Men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
The third gift of the Wise Men, like Frankincense, is an expensive perfume. In the form of a gum or resin, Myrrh is extracted from a type of thorny bush. The trading of myrrh is mentioned in the Old Testament and whilst its uses range from medicinal to ritual, it is mainly associated with suffering, sacrifice and death, being offered to Jesus on the cross, probably as an analgesic, and used later to prepare his body for burial.
As a gift from the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, Myrrh can be seen as a sign of their honour for this future King, or as a form of currency, or as an investment for his family in exile, but it is usually seen prophetically as a sign of the suffering, sacrifice and death of the Saviour of the world.
At a time when there is much suffering around the world, when some are making great sacrifices by putting their health, their families and sometimes their lives on the line for our benefit, and many others are losing their lives in the battle with Covid, it is good to remember that Jesus shared, and indeed shares our pain. Jesus identifies with us in our sufferings because he suffered at the hands of others, he knows the cost of sacrifice because he sacrificed his life for us, and he knows the pain of death because he died for us on a cross.
The gift of myrrh to the infant Jesus foreshadowed his suffering, his sacrifice and his death. But this was not the end. The cost was great, but the battle was won, and through his victory we have forgiveness, we have peace, and we have healing.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you came down to this earth and shared in the pain, the grief and the death. Thank you also that you rose victorious so that we can share in your life, both now and for eternity.
From heaven you came