Summary: Christmas Eve service, 2003. Herod wanted to be in control and lost the opportunity to know Jesus personally. Do we want to be in control so much that we can’t submit to Christ?
Herod didn’t know who he was.
The King of Judea, the Great Herod, had no clue as to who this little baby boy was.
Herod thought this baby was a threat. Matthew’s Gospel says that when Herod heard about the Baby Jesus from the Wise Men, he was greatly distressed.
That is an understatement.
Herod was terrified.
You see, Herod was a man who was in control of his own life. He took care of himself. He watched over himself. And he saw in Jesus someone who would take all that away. He was afraid that Jesus would take control of all those things Herod held dear. He was afraid that Jesus would take control of his work, his family, his life.
And there was no way Herod would ever let that happen.
The scholars said that the Messiah would be born and be the King of the Jews, but in Herod’s eyes, it was Herod who was supposed to be the King of the Jews.
Herod was part of a larger political family, most of whom were cruel, cunning and cold-blooded. Think – Saddam Hussein.
After all, it was shortly after the visit of the Wise Men that Herod killed innocent children in an effort to try to eliminate Jesus.
The Jews didn’t think much of Herod because he was only partly Jewish. The Romans, on the other hand, were suspicious of him because he WAS partly Jewish.
Tough position to be in. To survive, he had to have the power necessary to rule that unruly backwater of the Empire. And it wasn’t easy. He wasn’t loved. He had to instill fear in the people as a motivation for them to offer Herod their allegiance. He had to maintain order in the nation of the Jews. Because if he didn’t, Rome would send in their armies, and that would have been far worse for the Jews.
We know a lot about Herod.
On the other hand, we don’t have any information about the Wise Men. We don’t know their names, although there are some traditions about their names, the Bible really doesn’t say what their names were.
We don’t even know how many there were. We know they brought three gifts, so many people will assume there were three wise men, but the Bible really doesn’t say there were three. Might have been only two. Might have been over a hundred. We really don’t know. All we know for sure is that they sought Jesus. They looked for Jesus. They wanted to worship Jesus and serve Jesus. And ultimately, that is all we need to know about them. Nothing else could possibly be more important.
Herod, on the other hand, didn’t seek Jesus. He wanted to be freed of Jesus.
Herod saw in Jesus someone who would take all that away. He was afraid that Jesus would take control of all those things Herod held dear. He was afraid that Jesus would take control of his work, his family, his life.
And Herod wanted to be the one in control. If there was one thing about Herod, he was always in control.
He was always watching after himself.
He was always covering his royal assets.
And the way he did it was not pretty.
For example, Herod had a 16 year old brother-in-law who tried to make a name for himself and tried to gain power behind Herod’s back.
Herod had to stay in control. So one day while the family was enjoying a pleasant swim, Herod playfully held the young man’s head under the water, until he drowned. (Ibd 2-589)
Years later, his wife Mariamne was involved in a complicated plot behind Herod’s back with the hope of having her family rise to power.
But Herod had to stay in control. So he had Miamimne killed.
Herod was always in control.
If Herod were here tonight, he would probably be mystified that the one thing for which he is remembered is a brief conversation with the Wise Men, the Magi from the East, the astrologers from Persia.
To this day there are remains of cities he built still hugging the Mediterranean.
He kept the area of Palestine at a relative peace with its neighbors.
He protected the Jews from invasions from other countries.
But he is not remembered for those things.
He is remembered as one who had to stay in control.
He is remembered as one who had to watch after himself.
He is remembered as one who was threatened by the holy child of Jesus.
So badly did Herod want to be in control that he was determined to kill Jesus.
He was not about to let Jesus have control of his life. Of course, he didn’t know Jesus from Adam. He didn’t even know the name of the child. He only knew that the baby had been born in Bethlehem. So just to be sure that he killed Jesus, he had all the babies in town under the age of 2 years of age killed.