I want to begin this December series by focusing on a character that we read about in the Christmas story, yet is never found in the little ceramic manger scenes. He’s never in the painted depictions of peaceful Bethlehem, but his violent presence was definitely in full view in those days. The king called Herod. You may be thinking, “Robert, this is the Christmas story! It’s a feel good, warm fuzzy, swaddling clothes, manger moment.” . . . Yes, but hang with me.
Herod was 33 years old when he came into power through his friendship with the Roman Emperor, Marcus Antonius. In just 3 years he crushed all his opposition and then ruled for over 30 years with an iron fist. Ironically, Herod was known as, “The King of the Jews,” since the areas he ruled was the home of the Jewish people. He was wealthy, intelligent, and highly gifted in administration, architecture, and design. Okay, that last part would have been his Facebook profile, but on the down side . .
He was an egomaniacal dictator who often had fits of rage and paranoia, to the point of killing his wife and 2 sons, because he suspected them of disloyalty. He resented the Jews and in his reign had literally hundreds of Jewish leaders executed when he perceived them as a threat of any sort. He taxed the Jewish people into poverty and kept them there. Jesus was born in the final months of Herod’s reign, just before a surviving son took over the throne.
Herod found out about the Messiah from the Magi—or the 3 astronomers—who journeyed from afar to worship the Christ child. Herod’s only goal was to destroy that child, who he perceived to threaten his throne. From the time the Magi first saw the star until the time he ordered the Bethlehem murders, Herod calculated, just to be safe, all male children 2 years old and under must die. Satan knew all the Scriptures, saw the star, heard all the buzz, but didn’t know The Plan, so he made sure he had a pawn in the palm of his hand to try and stop God.
This mass killing of Israel’s baby boys was a foreshadowing of the One Baby, who would not have His life taken by a cruel ruler, but give His life for a loving King.
We can look at Herod and shake our heads over the ego, pride, and paranoia, the depths of depravity to which he sunk. But the bottom line is the reason Jesus came at all is because we are all Herod’s. When we willfully choose to sin, we have the heart of Herod. When we choose to walk away from His work in our hearts, throw aside His grace and mercy, reject His strength and power and go against Him, we are as Herod.
“But Robert, I would never kill a baby boy just because I felt threatened.” Maybe not, but we will butcher the character of a brother or sister in a heartbeat when they don’t meet our expectations or do things the way we think they should. Looking back on 2011, we had Herod motives, Herod moments, and made Herod moves to keep our own kingdom strong to hide the weakness.
But as Christian men, we must daily battle the spirit of Herod—in our own flesh and all that would come against us and our families—with the Spirit of Christ—alive in our hearts as believers. So as you rush through this busy Christmas season, take a moment to reflect on the fact that the Baby born to you in the City of David, your Savior and Lord, provides you with His presence and power to overcome all evil.
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. —Matthew 2:19-20
There is no Herod that Jesus cannot defeat!