My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts. –Song of Songs 1:13
A few years ago, I wept through a message, delivered at my home church, by Gary Wiens on the above Scripture. I am still moved to tears when I remember his beautiful, life-giving words about the love between the Bride and the Bridegroom.
The scripture refers to a “pouch of myrrh.” In my postmodern, post-Christian world, myrrh is nothing more than an exotic incense. Centuries ago, the ancients highly valued myrrh. Often it was worth more than its weight in gold. Myrrh has been used medically, as a perfume or incense, and as an embalming ointment. In some cultures, myrrh became synonymous with the word perfume.
The dark brown, sticky resin comes from the Commiphora Myrrh tree grown in Somalia and eastern Ethiopia. Its scent when burned is sharp, bitter and sweet at once.
Myrrh is best remember as one of the gifts of the Magi’s at the birth of Jesus. The other two gifts given: gold and frankincense represented royalty and divinity, but the pricey gift of myrrh symbolized and prophetically pointed to the death and burial of Jesus.
Myrrh was also mixed in the holy anointing oil in the tabernacle of Moses. The Eastern Orthodox church uses it still today.
At the death of Jesus, Nicodemus purchased 75 pounds of myrrh to anoint His body for burial. This is such an extravagant and tender gift from one who had secretly believed in Him–that is until Jesus’ death. Then Nicodemus showed his love openly by purchasing a magnanimous offering for His beloved.
I understand that amount of myrrh could have buried many bodies…
With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes (John 19:39).
This very brief overview of myrrh enlightens our eyes and hearts to the power and depth of the meaning it bears in scripture.
The greatest love story ever told is about the Bridegroom, the Son of God, and the Bride, the Church who has been purified by His blood. The Bridegroom romances and wins the Bride by His selflessness and offering of love to the point of death.
I love the scripture, “Not that we loved Him, but he loved us and gave Himself…” Before we fall in love with Jesus, we may hate the things of God. But He wins and changes us by loving us first, and then reveals just how deep and wide that love is… that He would die a brutal death to purify us, because He cannot be married to an unclean bride.
When we fall in love with Him, we are aware of His suffering for us; and then it becomes the backbone of our love relationship.
But there is more…
There is a pouch of myrrh between the breasts of the Bride. As the Bridegroom lies His head upon her chest, the myrrh is crushed and the fragrance spreads… The bittersweet scent is pressed between them and released as they hold each other through the night. This pouch represents the Bride’s suffering for the Bridegroom as well. The bittersweetness and reality of death rests between them in their intimacy.
It means the Bridegroom has died for the Bride, but she will die for Him as well. The Bride carries the ointment of death and burial upon her heart.
Love is not love unless both lovers are willing to lay down their lives for each other. Love is not just about the Bridegroom giving and suffering, but the Bride responding with willingness to suffer…
This is what it means for the Bride to “take up her cross daily and follow Jesus.” The dying. The sweet intensity of love and the bitterness of death are mingled together in their intimacy.
Here before Resurrection Day, the world pauses to remember the journey of Jesus to the cross. But the complete story is that the Bride will suffer too. As they embrace each other in the crushing, a fragrance is released. It is death for those who are dying and life to those who live.
The highest symbol of love maybe is not the cross but the pouch of myrrh that is crushed upon embrace–the willingness to lay down our lives for love. It is bitter and sweet at once, and to the world a fragrance is released — death to the dying and life to the living.