Summary: Herod vs. Jesus. Which king will you follow?
Note: Sections of this sermon come from a sermon by Ray Pritchard and are used by permission
A Tale of Two Kings
I’ve always liked watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” My favorite part is when he dresses up his little ugly dog like a reindeer. Maybe I like the movie so much because there’s a little “Grinch” living inside me.
Right before Beth and I got engaged I asked her if it was really necessary for her to have an engagement ring. I explained that money was tight and that if she didn’t mind, maybe I just wouldn’t get her one. She lovingly said something like, “Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” I’m glad some friends took me aside for a little chat. When I saw the light, I told Beth I was just kidding and surprised her with a beautiful ring on July 13, 1984!
I think she started to worry if this was a character trait however, when I refused to get my hair cut for our wedding because I didn’t want to spend $7! Beth groans every time she looks at our wedding pictures -- she probably thinks to herself, “That Grinch almost stole our wedding!”
The first year we were married, I didn’t think we should give Christmas presents to each other. My point was that Christmas had become too commercialized and that by buying gifts we were just contributing to the secularization of the holiday. As I look back, I think I was more motivated by being “cheap” than by anything else.
The Man Who Tried To Kill Christmas
We want to talk this morning about a man who hated Christmas even more than the Grinch and Scrooge combined. In fact, he tried to kill Christmas. It’s a strange and bizarre story that doesn’t sound right amid the Christmas carols, bright lights and poinsettias.
After all, ‘Tis the season to be jolly . . . Joy to the World . . . Hark, the Herald Angels Sing . . . I’ll be Home for Christmas . . . Jingle Bell Rock. . . Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. . .
This is the Christmas season. The auditorium is decorated, most of us have Christmas trees, and our hearts are full -- and everyone’s happy, right? No, there’s one man who isn’t happy about Christmas. In fact, he’s pretty angry about the whole thing.
Only he’s not a make-believe character. He’s for real. He hates Christmas . . . and he’s never even heard the word. He’s the man history calls Herod the Great. His story is told in Matthew 2.
Born into a politically well-connected family, Herod was destined for a life of hardball and power brokering. At 25 years old, he was named the governor of Galilee, a high position for such a young man. The Romans were hoping that Herod could control the Jews who lived in that area. In 40 B .C. the Roman Senate named him “King of the Jews.” It was a title the Jews hated because he was anything but religious.
Herod was the embodiment of the ultimate villain. He exhibited 4 classic characteristics:
1. Preoccupation with Power.
Herod was addicted to power. Power has been described as the ultimate human obsession. If it were an alcoholic beverage, Herod was passed out on the floor drunk with it. The Bible links power, more often than not, to something we call sin. If power is defined as the ability to control resources in order to secure one’s own destiny, then Herod was the epitome of power.
His life, and his use of power, can be summed up in three words -- he was capable, crafty, and cruel.
Herod was extremely capable in what he was asked to do. Soon after becoming King, he wiped out several bands of guerrillas who were terrorizing the countryside and used subtle diplomacy to make peace accords with many competing factions -- he probably could have brought peace to Bosnia!
In addition to being capable, Herod was also very crafty. He arranged all his relationships as conduits for power -- it was one thing he could never get enough of.
His craftiness had no barriers. Because he had a morbid distrust of anyone who might aspire to take his throne, he was also known as a cruel man. He held tightly to the reins of power and brutally removed anyone who got in his way. Over the years he killed many people: His brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, two of his sons, and even his wife
You see, above everything else, Herod the Great was a cruel killer. That was his nature. He murdered out of spite and he killed to stay in power. Human life meant nothing to him. The great historian Josephus called him “barbaric,” another writer has dubbed him “the malevolent maniac.”