Summary: Who really cares? NOT those who are full of fear, like Herod. But those who believe from the beginning and who give gifts for the future, like the wise men; and those who sacrifice to protect, like Joseph.
Some people have friends. Some people have enemies. Most people have acquaintances. But everybody has people you do business with. The people you do business with -- usually, that’s not an intimate relationship. It’s distant, it’s limited to transactions. We deal with people who may not even know our names, but who just do business with us. We don’t really expect them to care much about us.
I go to the grocery store near my home. I see the same faces week after week at the checkout counter. They are polite and I am polite. We say hello to each other and occasionally exchange comments about the weather. But I don’t attempt to have a close relationship with these folks. They are checkers and baggers and I am a customer, and that’s that. I don’t ask them to care about me, and they don’t ask me to care about them beyond paying the bill. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
However, one day, one of those checkout ladies stepped out of her business-only role for a moment. I had developed the habit, whenever my wife sent me to the grocery, of picking up something sugary as my “reward” for doing the shopping. Yes, I know fried pies are not good for me. But I enjoy that sweet rush. Well, the checkout lady had noticed my habit, and, as she picked up a lemon fried pie to put it into my bag, she said, “You know, don’t you, that these are pure garbage, nothing but sugar and fat!” Wow! Never had anybody try NOT to sell me something! What was going on? Is it possible she actually cares about me?
Every now and then someone acts as though he or she wants to care about you. What do you make of it when that happens?
Let’s try again. The phone rings, and the caller starts off as though he is your dearest long-lost friend. “Hey, Joseph, how are you doing? I hope you had a great holiday!” Now right away I am suspicious, because nobody has called me “Joseph” since I was a little boy, and it usually meant that I was in trouble! So to this caller I mumble, “Uh-huh.” “Uh-huh” means “I am not telling you anything, get on with it.” So then it comes, “I want to save you some money.” “You can trade in your Visa card for one with lower interest.” “We can give you replacement windows for 50% off.” And the real topper: “Our driveway repair crew is on your street today, and we can make you a deal.” These folks act as though they want to be my friends; they make noises as if they care about me. But I know that the bottom line is business. They want to make money from me. Is it at all possible that they would actually care about me?
There are a lot of folks who sound as though they care. But do they really? How will we find out who really cares?
The wonderfully rich story of the infant Jesus and those who surrounded Him just after His birth gives us some clues. A number of folks expressed interest in Jesus. If we find out who really cared about Him, that will give us clues about who really cares about us.
First, there was King Herod. King Herod expressed an interest in Jesus. It sounded pretty authentic. When the wise men came to Jerusalem, asking where the new king would be born, the old king, taken by surprise, sent them off with a command, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” He sounds like he cares.
But of course you and I know that wasn’t the king’s intention at all. He had no plan whatsoever to climb down from his throne and lay his crown at the feet of some squalling peasant infant. In one of history’s most awesome atrocities – sadly, neither the first nor the last of its kind -- King Herod ordered the death of every child of two years or less around the little town of Bethlehem. Massive overkill; ruthless, heartless, senseless carnage, masked by the pretense of friendship, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
Not on your life! Not everyone who pretends to care actually does care. Not everyone who makes all the right noises is going to help. Why this pretense at caring, but in reality a destructive heart? Here is the clue, right in the text: “When King Herod heard … he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” He was frightened and all Jerusalem with him.