Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Death To The Newborn King!

Last Sunday morning we were looking at some Christmas passages with our 11-14’s and I was struck by this short passage about Herod and the birth of Jesus.

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied… …Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” – Matthew 2:1-7

What struck me was verse 4. Herod clearly understands that the one to be born is the Christ, the Messiah, God’s anointed one, His ultimate chosen ruler and King who will save His people. So how does Herod react to this wonderful news! He’s disturbed. Clearly Herod isn’t too chuffed about another King arriving on the scene, chosen one or not. And we know from later in chapter 2 that his request that the Magi report the child’s whereabouts is really a front for his plan to do away with him.

This is mind boggling when you think about it. The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of year, a whole people waiting for this momentous occasion. Children would have been brought up with the expectation of the coming Messiah as a part of the very fabric of their lives, Herod included, and yet his very first thought on hearing of the Messiah’s birth, is how he can ensure that he stays on the throne. He even goes as far as murdering babies so as not to give up his power and submit to another.

It just struck me how incredible it was, that at the announcement of good news on a universal scale, Herod’s immediate thought was for his own self. But the more I’ve thought about it, it’s not that strange at all really is it? Aren’t you and I just the same? Aren’t we all like Herod, little kings who don’t really want the real King to be on the throne? Everyday millions of people “do a Herod” (yes, I’m coining that phrase) and do everything they can to remain king of their own lives whilst rejecting the true King. No-one wants to hand over the throne to someone else. We’d all rather be in charge of our own lives.

But that kind of attitude betrays a misunderstanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Of course we need to let Jesus be our Lord and take charge of our lives and that will be necessity mean submitting to him. But to quote Glen Scrivener:

“at the end of the bible, we’re not looking forward to man getting off the throne.  Precisely the opposite.  Salvation involves being invited onto the throne, to rule with Christ (Revelation 3:21).”

We do have to submit to Christ as our King, but in doing so we’re raised to share in a far greater rule, one that we share in now in part, but one day we’ll share in completely.

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. – Revelation 3:21

If only Herod had known that.