Three Kings who were not Kings
THERE IS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT “THREE KINGS” TODAY, in some countries more than others. In any case, I’m sure you know the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. The claim is that three kings brought presents to Jesus the Christ after he was born. Well, firstly, there is no mention of “Kings” visiting the Christ in the bible. There IS, however, mention of “Magi from the East” visiting him. Those were not kings at all but were spiritual leaders from Babylonia. Magi was the name given by the Babylonians, Medes and Persians to the priests and astrologers who were the religious leaders of those peoples. Also, there is no mention that there were only three of them. Certainly, three gifts were mentioned, but there could have been more than three in the entourage. The account in the bible does not mention that there were specifically three magi. The idea of three goes back to a 12th century tradition. It just shows how myths develop over the years. But what does the bible show about them?
These Magi were coming to pay homage to the Christ. We’re told that they were “Magi from the East”, not kings. But how did these men from the East know about the coming Messiah, the promised Redeemer? We know that they followed some strange astronomical appearance in the sky, referred to as a star. (They were big on astrology). But they must have known something in the first place which made them be on the lookout for portents in the sky — signs from God that he was doing something extraordinary; otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered following it.
But why did they bring those particular gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. Is there any significance at all in those gifts? Well, everything in the bible has a significance to it — symbolic, poetic, allegorical or actual. It is filled with symbols. GOLD is a bible symbol of that which is divine, pure, incorruptible, lasting and glorious. The Ark in ancient Israel itself was laid with Gold. (Remember that in the film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?!). It basically represented the divine aspect of the Christ. The MYRRH speaks to us of him insofar as he was a man. Myrrh was used to anoint the bodies of the dead: Jesus the Christ himself was anointed with it after physical death by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. (Also, when he was being crucified he refused a mixed-drink which contained myrrh which was used as a kind of anaesthetic, because he wanted to undergo the full extent of the experience). So myrrh speaks to us about the death of Christ, about His sufferings as a man. He was no more than a babe-in-arms and this myrrh brings us a glimmer of His future death. INCENSE symbolised true prayer and meditation from the heart rising up to God as a sweet-smelling aroma. This symbolises the way that Christ the Light, through conquering death and rising from the dead, defeated the forces of darkness (especially their power over death) and thus paved the way for spiritual Light to be dispensed in great measure across the world in the run-up to the end of this aeon and the birthing of the new aeon. Gold and Myrrh (God made flesh) like an Incense wafting through the created universe, spelling the end for the forces of darkness.
I am writing much more about all of this (incorporating it in a kind of personal spiritual biography) in an upcoming article on which I’m working; but it’s turning into a mini-book, so it will be a little while yet 😊. This was just a taster, showing how myths develop (in this case, “Three Kings” who were not kings at all and were never mentioned as being three either). In the visit of these Magi, the religions of old were acknowledging the completion of spiritual fulfilment in the coming of the Christ the Messiah — a mystery which had been foretold in ages past, hidden in its execution from the powers of darkness, and the gifts of the Magi have been recorded for our deeper understanding.
© Alan Morrison, 2018