Myrrh – A Wiseman’s Gift

Front_SCovarrubias_The Coming_0018Myrrh – A Wiseman’s Gift: Lessons from ‘The Coming’

A conversation takes place in my fictional book The Coming where the three wise men talk about what gifts they should bring to honor the Messiah. The youngest of the magi, named Gaspar, consider’s what he might offer the Jewish King. In the biblical account we know three gifts were presented to Christ: gold, frankincense and myrrh. I thought it would be interesting, through the voices of the wise men in my book, to imagine how Gaspar might have explained why he chose myrrh as an appropriate gift.

From The Coming:
Gaspar winced as if an arrow had pierced his heart. In a sullen voice he said, “Myrrh. I shall bring him myrrh.” Magi_(1)
“Myrrh?” Balthazar retorted. “That is no gift for a king. Such a spice is used for burial, not adoration.”

As I researched these three gifts I learned some interesting facts about the spice, myrrh, and how I might use them in my story. I felt that some of the facts about myrrh would give this part of the story a peek into the future death of Jesus Christ. Before I go into a bit more detail about what I found out about myrrh, this is how I wrote this conversation in my book. With Gaspar hinting at the symbolism of myrrh to Messiah’s death, he explains to the other two magi, the possible meaning it may have.

From The Coming:
Deep within the heart of Gaspar, his spirit soared as he spoke of the myrrh to Balthazar and Melchior. “Consider this,” his voice resonated with resolve. “When myrrh is harvested, the tree is repeatedly struck to bleed it of its resin. The wounding of this thorny tree produces the myrrh gum. These resins are used to fragrance and seal the wrappings of the dead. But we also know that the resin is used medicinally, as oil for healing. In some way, unknown to us, I believe that when the messiah dies, his death, like the bleeding of the myrrh gum from the tree, will have great meaning for the whole world.”

“Most wonderful!” the old one resounded. “I sense the young man has been given more than sight to read the stars, but also an inner sight.”

“Well said, young apprentice,” replied Balthazar. He rose from his chair, and in his solid stride, walked towards the balcony. He wanted to have one last look at the brilliant star before turning in for the night.

Biblical archeologist’s and commentators have given various reasons for why these three particular gifts were offered to the newborn King. Concerning the gift of myrrh, some say it was to signify Christ’s burial, as it was commonly used to mummify and glue together the cloth strips that wrapped around the body of the dead person. Others believe it served medicinal purposes as a healing agent, as well as it’s use in pagan cultures to worship their gods, or in Roman social settings to flavor wine or in ancient Egypt for incense as an aromatic scent. What I found of particular interest was the way in ancient times the myrrh sap was tapped and the way the branches of the tree were covered with thorns.

Myrrh-resin1In order to release the resin from the myrrh tree, the tree was struck until the sap bled out from the trunk or branch.

“Myrrh is tapped from the Commiphora tree by wounding the sapwood and allowing the resin to bleed out and become hard and glossy. The small, thorny trees grow in dry, stony soil and are native to Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia. Myrrh is used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, a salve or antiseptic in Western medicine, and an incense in Christian and other religious rituals.” (From Quigley’s Cabinet)

Just as the myrrh tree had to be struck so that the resin would bleed out, Jesus too, hanging on a tree, was struck and wounded causing him to bleed out. And just as the myrrh gum was used in ancient times for a healing balm and for curing sickness, it was the blood of Christ that heals the soul and cures the sickness of sin. Another interesting feature of myrrh is the tree itself. It’s branches are covered with thorns. Commiphora_abyssinica_flower3Again, Jesus wore a crown of thorns. The similarities between the gift of myrrh brought by the magi and it’s symbolism to the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ seem to me to be more than coincidental. At any rate, the gift of myrrh from the magi holds parallels that no less are startling when viewed in light of the cross of Christ and the prophecy of Isaiah. The Savior’s wounding, like the myrrh tree, brings about healing.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

copyright © Steve Covarrubias October 2014

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