The Surprise Gift (1/17/16)

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

This message is the third in a three part series called “Three Men and a Baby.”  The first part focused on the gift of Gold; of how the Wise Men challenged us to give our best.  This second part focused on the gift of Frankincense; of how Jesus is our great High Priest who bridges the wide gap between humanity and God. 

Before listening to this week’s sermon, you might want to take a look at the first two parts of this series…

Gold reminds us of the Royalty of Jesus; that He is King of Kings. It also demonstrates that the Magi were willing to give their best for this King. they didn’t give up their pocket change or leftovers; they gave their gold.

(Click below title to see this sermon…)

What Gift Shall I Bring? (1/3/16)

Frankincense reminds us that Jesus is our High Priest. His offering (like the sweet smell of Frankincense) bridges the gap between our sinful humanity and our holy and righteous God.

(Click below title to see this sermon…)

God’s Bridge Over Troubled Water (1/10/16)

 

We now come to the final gift gift: Myrrh…  What is myrrh?  Myrrh is usually associated as an embalming spice and is traditionally seen as symbolizing Jesus’ death.  But other than gloom and doom, what message can we take from this gift?

Click the below “Play” button and scroll down to follow along (the recording is from the 9:30 service)…

 

 

Our scripture reading was Ruth 1:18-22 and Matthew 2:11-12.  Open the drop down box to read along…

Ruth 1 and Matt 2

Ruth 1:18-22

18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.

19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.

21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

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Matt 2:11-12

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

NKJV

 

A seven year old boy was betting ready for church.  He had listened to the pastor’s sermon from the previous week and was trying to understand in his young mind about the gifts the Wise men gave to Jesus.  Gift Bear _IMG_0802

As the family was leaving for church,  the young boy wanted to take his teddy bear, whom he had always called Frank.  His parents protested, but he insisted that he had to take the bear today, and they finally said “OK.”

When the offering plates were passed, the boy put the teddy bear in the plate along with a few coins. Later, his parents asked him why he did this and he simply said,  “Well the Bible says the Wise Men brought Jesus gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  I didn’t have any gold,  and I don’t know what myrrh is.  So I just gave Him Frank and cents!

 

 

Review

This is the final part of our look at the Wise men and their three gifts.  Here’s a quick review about the Wise Men and their gifts of Gold and Frankincense…

Wise Men….

They came from Persia (modern day Iran)…

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They traveled about 1000 miles to get to Bethlehem…

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They were men of influence…

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There were more than 3 of them!  More likely 300!

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They knew their Hebrew History…

Moses

Numbers 24:17-19

“I see him, but not now;  I behold him, but not near.

A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.

He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.

Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.

A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”  NIV

They were prepared by prophets DURING the Babylonian captivity…

Daniel

Daniel 9:24-25

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.   NIV

They were prepared by what happened AFTER the Babylonian captivity…

Ezra

Ezra 7:6-7

This Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. 7 Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.  NIV

Ezra 9:9

Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem. NIV

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Gold…

Their gift was fit for a King…
They gave their best- not pocket change…
Demonstrated they were committed….
God used Gold to finance escape to Egypt…

 

Frankincense…

The aroma was pleasing- God enjoys our sacrifices……
Jesus is our High Priest…
Jesus is the Bridge between us and God…
God wants us to point others to the Bridge….

 

What is Myrrh?

We now come to the third and final gift that was given by the Wise Men: Myrrh.  In the ancient world, myrrh had many uses.  It was a very valuable sweet smelling powder and was used as a perfume and purification.

It’s mentioned in the Bible many times….

All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. NIV
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him (Joseph) to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

Then the Lord said to Moses,  “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane, 24 500 shekels of cassia — all according to the sanctuary shekel — and a hin of olive oil. 

Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony…

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.

 

Besides the facts and history of myrrh, we can draw a few spiritual lessons…

Aroma…

Psalm 45:8 speaks of the pleasant aroma.  It also begs the question,  what kind of “spiritual” aroma do we give off?  Are we positive and joyful, or are we negative and gloomy?  Does our “aroma” inspire worship?  Does our outlook inspire others to glorify God?  Our “aroma” should draw people to The Bridge; Jesus, our High Priest.

Imported…

Myrrh does not grow in Israel; it must be imported. If we are going to point others to The Bridge (the One who bridges the gap between us and God), we must bring people into the church.  We need the fragrance; gifts, skills, and talents that others can bring into our efforts.  We need the seasoning that others can inject into our lives to strengthen our faith, so that we can reach out and be “salt and light” to others.

Highly Esteemed…

Myrrh was especially valued in Egypt.  This would have come in handy when Mary and Joseph escaped from Herod by fleeing to Egypt.  Besides its monetary worth alone, it would have opened doors.  Once again, God is in the details!

 

Myrrh Represents Bitterness and Pain

The presentation of myrrh probably set Mary back a bit.  By the time the Wise Men arrived, Mary and Joseph had already presented Jesus in the Temple to consecrate Him and to offer a sacrifice, as required by the Law.  Fresh in their minds when the Wise Men presented them with myrrh, were the words of Simeon.  As they were leaving the Temple, Simeon warned (Luke 2:34-35):

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,  so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 

You have to start where the word myrrh comes from.  It has it’s roots in the Hebrew word Mara, which means bitter.

It’s in the story of Ruth.  Naomi has lost her husband and two sons, then returns to home and she tells her friends (in Ruth 1:20)- “Don’t call me Naomi…. call me Marah because Almighty God has made my life bitter.

In ancient Hebrew societies, someone’s name often  reflected who they were, so Naomi, bitter at what God had done, asked to change her name to “bitter” or Mara.

 

This sword of bitterness and pain (literally) pierced Jesus too.  In Mark 15:22-23, we’re told…

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

He did not take it.  He did not take this myrrh-mixed medicine which would have dulled the pain as they drove the nails into His hands.  The gift of myrrh reminds us that Jesus absorbed all of our pain.  Just as He absorbed all of the physical pain inflicted on Him, He absorbed all of our sin.  At that moment in time and space, all of the Sin and Pain throughout all of eternity was attracted to Jesus like a magnet.  Myrrh was not allowed to get in the way.

Jesus took it all on; He became sin for us- 2 Corinthians 5:16-21…

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Jesus became sin for us.  Jesus took on all of our pain and forsakeness.  He did not allow Myrrh to interfere with this.

 

 

Myrrh Represents Eternity

Myrrh is special for its ability to last for a long time.  When placed in an alabaster pot, myrrh can hold its fragrance for several hundred years.  Archaeologists have found myrrh in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 4000 years old.  Over 4000 years and the aroma is still there!

Car Freshener _IMG_2924Along with the FM converter and 8 track player, one of the staples in a car during the 70s was those green tree fragrance things.  Hang it around your rear view mirror (next to the foam dice) and your car smelled great (matter of opinion).  It smelled great for a few weeks, but it eventually died out. Eventually the leftover pizza in the back seat re-claimed its ownership of the car’s odor.

Just like an 8-track tape that got eaten by the player, most things we deal with in this life are temporary.  They wear out; they loose their usefulness.

 

Myrrh reminds us that the gifts of Jesus are eternal.  They never wear out or loose their significance.

And this gift from these Gentiles announced that Jesus is eternal.  Myrrh reminds us that Jesus is the Eternal God.

That Jesus is Divine and that He will remain forever is a bold statement, but it’s repeated over and over in the Bible…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning….

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Rev 1:17-18   When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” 

 

Because Jesus is eternal, He (our Great High Priest) always works on our behalf; empowering us to do God’s will.  If we are a child of His, his promises are always true for us.  He will always be with us and He will always work in our lives for good…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Eternity isn’t some future event that happens after the “End times” or even after we die.  Eternity began with our conception.  Eternity is now.  Just as God provided for Joseph and Mary’s journey to Egypt using gifts of Gold and Myrrh, God is always in the details of our lives.

Why did Jesus come?  Why did God become a baby?

Jesus came at Christmas so you and I and all of humanity may have an opportunity to receive His free gift of salvation and spend eternity with Him. The Wise Men brought gifts of myrrh, but the Eternal Jesus brings us a gift of Eternal Life…

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

 

Eternal Life!!!  Over and over,  the Bible tells us about this gift…

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you,
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son — both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
So that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
…a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,
And this is what he promised us — even eternal life.
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 

What are You Offering God?

God is offering us Eternal Life.  Just as the Wise Men went home by a different route in order to avoid Herod, God is giving us a chance to be saved, to be changed.  We have “myrrh” to offer the Lord.  The Wise Men sacrificed greatly for Jesus.  What about us?  Does God get our best of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as we’ve been talking, or is what we give to God come from a position of ease, comfort, and convenience?

Jesus said in Mark 8:34…

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself

and take up his cross

and follow me. “

 

Paul adds in Romans 12:1…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.

 

And Hebrews 13:15-16 says…

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

 

And here’s another challenge (though not from the Bible)…

“Not giving our myrrh CAUSES bitterness.”

 

We could stamp out cancer, hunger, malaria.  But are we willing to sacrifice?  Are we willing to give our best?  God is willing to take our best and turn it into HIS best! God turns our gifts into benefits for others.

The Wise Men personify the great hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal, “Take My Life and Let it Be.”

Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee.

Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of thy love.

Take my lips and let them be, filled with messages for Thee.

Take my sliver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.

Take my love, my God I pour, at Thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself and I will be, ever only all for thee.

God accepts our gifts, he takes what we can offer… but He doesn’t “let our life be.”  A life consecrated to God is eternal, welling up in eternal life and joy.

Have you seen His star?  Are you willing to give your very best in time, talents, service, and gifts to Him?  If so, your bitterness and fear will fade away.

 

 


Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

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