Tag Archives: Easter

Why was there Myrrh at the Crucifixion of Jesus?

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This is just for your intellectual stimulation.  Sometimes I ask myself questions which require that I go searching for an answer.  This is one of those times where my questions lead me down a very scenic rabbit trail. 

On Saturday night I read through the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus in preparation for celebrating Easter.  It’s a story I’ve read a bazzillion times.  But this time, one detail caught me attention.  I noticed that in Mark’s Gospel account of the crucifixion, Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh before he is crucified.  I also remembered that myrrh was one of the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus as a baby.   So I decided to research its uses and history.  Of course I went to Wikepedia first.

Myrrh is an aromatic resin.  It is collected from a certain family of spiny trees, one of which is native to the Mediterranean.  The red-ish colored resin is what the tree bleeds when it is cut deep into the sapwood.  A tree must be wounded to collect the resin, the myrrh.

Jesus was also wounded and bled.

Myrrh is bitter.  It is used to stimulate blood flow.  But it also has numbing properties and is used for reducing pain.  It can be mixed with wine and drunk as a mild pain-killer.  It would have been an act of mercy to give Jesus something to numb the pain of his horribly bloody death.

However, he refused the wine mixed with myrrh.

Myrrh is also one of the ingredients used in ancient Egypt to embalm a body for burial.  It was a burial spice.  Jesus was not embalmed, but he was wrapped with spices.  In addition, the women among his followers prepared more spices to add to his burial.

Myrrh is a spice associated with death.  A strange gift to give a new born baby, unless he was born to die.

In modern religious services, myrrh is the incense used in every liturgical ceremony of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican/Episcopalian Churches.

So this made me even more curious and I asked, What is Frankincense?  Remember that the wise men brought baby Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Frankincense is also an aromatic resin produced by slashing the bark of the tree and bleeding it.  The resin that bleeds out is allowed to dry before it’s collected.  The dry resin is called “tears”.  Do you think that Father God shed tears for the death of his only Son?

Frankincense trees can grow in very inhospitable climates and soils.   But the most valuable resins come from trees which grow directly out of a rock.  Precious life springs from a lifeless rock.  That’s the kind of thing that God loves to do, surprise us with life where there was nothing but barrenness before.

Symbolically speaking, Frankincense represents the Divine.  It is a fragrance for the worship of God used in multiple ceremonies in the Jewish temple rituals.

Not only is it valued for its religious uses, but Frankincense is also edible.   It is used medicinally to promote healing.  Some would have considered this a very practical gift to give a family with a new baby since it can be used medicinally, but the Jews would have recognized it as a religious symbol of worship to God.  To offer a baby a fragrance normally offered to God would be very significant if the child were the Son of God.

(My source is Wikipedia for the majority of this except I already knew about the Biblical references and the thoughtful commentary and assumptions are mine.)

A Prize for the Best Bad Guy

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But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust, wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.  Open your eyes and there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see…  So nobody has a good excuse.

What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshipped the god they made instead of the God who made them…

Worse followed.  Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either- women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men- full of lust.  And they paid for it, oh how they paid for it- emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose:  rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them:  mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-haters, bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags!  They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives…   And it’s not as if they don’t know any better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care- worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Sound familiar?  If Romans 1:18-32 doesn’t describe our modern era, then I don’t know what does.  We applaud those who behave the worst.  We turn our world upside down to accommodate deviance and perversion.  We shame and scold traditional values.  We tolerate what God has called intolerable.  And we are surprised when all hell breaks loose.

We need to repent as a nation and come back to God.  Only through repentance will we ever find satisfaction with this life.  This is why we needed a Savior.  We needed to be saved from our own wretched, filth.  We needed to be saved from the bad choices we made.  It is because we CHOSE SIN that we are destined for hell.  And Jesus died to rescue us from that horrible consequence.  

Thank you Jesus for dying for our sins.  We are astonished at our own sinfulness.  We are astonished that you would still love us.  We honor you as God and put you in your rightful place above all.  We crown you with thanks and worship!  Good Friday is indeed good… for us.