It has been pointed out that the gifts of the Magi – gold, frankincense and myrrh – are all associated biblically with the tabernacle and temple worship. Gold covered the Holy of Holies, and frankincense and myrrh were ingredients in the incense and anointing oils (cf. Ex. 30:23, 34). So in a wonderful sort of preview, you have gentiles bringing the supplies for the new tabernacle to the new tabernacle Himself. As John famously says, the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (Jn. 1:14).
The additional glory is that while the Magi do this, Herod is plotting to murder Jesus. And in a matter of days, Joseph and Mary and Jesus are escaping into Egypt to stay out of Herod’s reach. The new tabernacle in flesh has left Israel. Rather than being at the center of the camp, as it was in ancient Israel, it has been driven outside the camp, where the Israelites left their trash and refuse, and where the unclean lepers hid.
But if you think about it, this too is wonderful and prefigures what Jesus came to do. Hebrews says that Jesus suffered outside the camp in order to identify with sinners in their shame. He suffered outside the camp so that His blood would sanctify His people. Clean people don’t need to become clean. Only the unclean need to be cleansed. Only the sick need to be healed. Only the profane need to be sanctified. And so in a wonderful reversal, the tabernacle has been turned inside out. The holy of holies that was fiercely guarded on the inside in the Old Covenant has now become the outside where Christ is in the New Covenant. And that is where we must go to Him: outside the camp, where the trash is, where the lepers are. And that is where this table still is. It’s a most holy table with most holy food for the unclean who have been made holy by the blood of Jesus.
But you might say, so where is the gold and the frankincense and myrrh now? Where has it gone?
Your prayers are the incense, your baptism is the anointing oil, and you are the gold, sanctified, purified, and glorified by our Great High Priest, Jesus the Righteous.
So, come and worship, come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
New ebook Marriage Militant: 25 wedding homilies available here.
Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash
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