Summary: How do you regard Christ: 1) Responding with Hostility (Herod), 2) Responding with Indifference (chief priests and scribes) 3) Responding with Worship (Magi)
Quote: “Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did Not!”
Although I do not poses an edgy voice like Boris Karloff, I am sure many of you recognize the line from arguably the most famous of Dr. Seuss’ books: The Grinch that Stone Christmas. The story tells us of a tale of a fictitious individual called the Grinch who hated Christmas. Why, the explanation goes:
Quote: “Perhaps his shoes were too tight, his head was not screwed on right, but most likely, it was because his heart was two sizes too small, his brain was full of spiders and he had Garlic for a soul”.
The Grinch tried everything to keep Christmas from coming but it came just the same. Although the Grinch is a mythical character, many have compared Herod of Matthew chapter two with the Grinch. But unlike the story of the Grinch, Herod has a much worse reaction to the arrival of Christmas.
As we sit on the Sunday after Christmas, in many ways Christmas seems so far. It seems that so much time was spent preparing for Christmas, and it came and went so fast. Matthew Chapter two peers into the first recorded events after Jesus’ birth and give us a message just on the other side of Christmas. As we look forward to 2008 we see the reactions to Christ and they give us three general responses 1) Responding with Hostility (Herod), 2) Responding with Indifference (chief priests and scribes) 3) Responding with Worship (Magi)
1) Responding with Hostility (Herod) Matthew 2:1-3
Matthew 2:1-3 [2:1]Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (ESV)
The events described in this passage probably occurred several months after Jesus was born. We see from 2:11 that Jesus’ family was now staying in a house rather than the stable where He was born (Luke 2:7). Since Herod died in 4 BC, this would have most likely been either 5-6 BC, up to 2 years after the birth of Christ.
SETTING: BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA
As it still is today, Bethlehem was then a small town five or six miles south of Jerusalem, in the fertile hill country of Judea (Judah), It is cradled between two ridges and was located along the main ancient highway from Jerusalem to Egypt. It was once called Ephrath, or Ephrathah, and is referred to by that name several times in the Old Testament (Gen. 35:16; Ruth 4:11; Ps. 132:6; Mic. 5:2).
The town came to be called Bethlehem after the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, its new name meaning “house of bread.”
• In the Old Covenant, God the father provided Manna, bread from heaven to His people. Now we have Christ, who is the bread of life out of Bethlehem, the house of bread.
THE ONE RESPONDING WITH HOSTILITY: HEROD THE KING
This Herod, known as “the Great,” is the first of several Herods mentioned in the New Testament. Julius Caesar had appointed his father, Antipater, to be procurator, or governor, of Judea under the Roman occupation. Antipater then managed to have his son Herod appointed prefect of Galilee. In that office Herod was successful in quelling the Jewish guerilla bands who continued to fight against their foreign rulers. After fleeing to Egypt when the Parthians invaded Palestine, Herod then went to Rome and in 40 B.C. was declared by Octavian and Antony (with the concurrence of the Roman senate) to be the king of the Jews. He invaded Palestine the next year and, after several years of fighting, drove out the Parthians and established his kingdom.
Because he was not Jewish, but Idumean (Edomite), Herod married Mariarune, heiress to the Jewish Hasmonean house, in order to make himself more acceptable to the Jews he now ruled. Herod was cruel and merciless. He was incredibly jealous, suspicious, and afraid for his position and power. Fearing his potential threat, he had the high priest Aristobulus, who was his wife Mariamne’s brother, drowned-after which he provided a magnificent funeral where he pretended to weep. He then had Mariamne herself killed, and then her mother and two of his own sons. Five days before his death (about a year after Jesus was born) he had a third son executed. One of the greatest evidences of his bloodthirstiness and insane cruelty was having the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem arrested and imprisoned shortly before his death. Because he knew no one would mourn his own death, he gave orders for those prisoners to be executed the moment he died-in order to guarantee that there would be mourning in Jerusalem. His crowning cruelty was mentioned as an event penned: