Summary: This series looks at the 5 stories after Jesus was born and the one thing whic unites all of them: their search for the Christ. Today’s scripture is disturbing at best. It is not a story we sing about, or is on the cover of Christmas cards. Most of us wo
King Herod’s Murderous Search
Typically in Advent, we look at the passages and stories leading up to the birth of the Christ child like the prophet’s announcment of Jesus’ birth, Mary’s encounter with the angel, the Magnificat and the journey to Bethlehem. Then On Christmas, we look at birth of Christ. When the New Year arrives we start a new sermon series and we never really get around to looking at the stories after Jesus birth. In this series, we’re going to look at the Gospels of Matthew and Luke who between them have 5 different Christmas stories after the birth of the Christ child. All of these stories have one thing in common: someone who is seeking Christ. We’re going to look at the last of these stories today chronologically and work our way back to the birth of Jesus.
The first of these stories happened somewhere between 10 days after the birth of Jesus and 2 years. It includes the three wisemen which most of us include as a part of the Christmas story and our manger scenes. Herod has the news of the Messiah’s birth reported to him and as a result he feels threatened and orders all children under the age of 2 killed, hoping that one of them would be the Messiah and he could protect his throne. Today’s scripture is disturbing at best. It is not a story we sing about, or is on the cover of Christmas cards. Most of us would rather skip over it because it reminds us that the Christmas story is not what we this it is, something wonderful, loving, heartwarming and peaceful. But it was anything but that. In this story, we find murder, suspicion, jealousy and children being ripped from their mother’s arms and put to death. This story reminds us that the intervention of God in human history through the birth of Christ was anything but peaceful and in fact threatened most everyone in leadership, power and wealth, including King Herod.
King Herod ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC over the kingdom of Israel. He was assigned to the throne by the Romans in 40 BC but first had to conquer the sitting Jewish King. This bust tells us what Herod looked like. Herod ruled with power and might. At times he was compassionate and other times, he was not. Herod saw himself as the sought after messianic king in the line of King David and thus he had something to prove to everyone, specifically the Jews over whom he ruled. His hope was to be an even greater king than David. The problem for the Jews was that Herod was not Jewish by birth. He had been born an Edomite and thus any Jew saw Herod as different and outside the Jewish family. So he had to prove the Jews wrong as to his identity and that he could be that kind of king. In addition, he wasn’t annointed by the high priest but instead was anointed by Rome. And it was the Emperor who gave him the troops to take the throne. And so Herod spent much of his life appeasing the demands of Rome while also trying to win over the Jews. One way he tried to do that was by not only rebuilding the temple but expanding it. The problem is that at each gate there was also the Roman eagle adorned on it. On the one hand they were grateful for what Herod had done but at the same time they were repelled it.
Herod also started many other building projects but the problem was that they were all about Herod to prove his worth and kingship. His insecurity only fed this. Herod had to marry into the right family and so he married Miriam, the granddaughter of the king he had murdered for the throne. The problem is that all of her family had royal blood and so Herod was always suspecting they were trying to overthrow him. In fact, he became paranoid about this and sought to kill off any threat. He also built 7 fortress palaces to which he could retreat in times of a coup. Rather than wait for them to attack, Herod thought it wiser to eliminate any possible threats. So first he killed his wife’s uncle and then her brother. And even though he was deeply in love with her, he even killed Miram and then her mother and then his three sons. Augustus Ceasar said of Herod, “It was safer to be a pig in Herod’s house than one of his own sons.” Sadly, Herod didn’t become known for his building projects but rather the fear which drove his life and led him to do terrible things, even to the people he most loved.