As we approach Christmas, we hear many familiar passages from Matthew’s gospel about the birth of our Lord. These passages warm our hearts with affection for our God who came and lived amongst us so that we could enjoy peace with him.
However, not all the words of Matthew about this miraculous birth convey joy. In particular, the execution of the baby boys in Bethlehem by King Herod is not a pleasant account.
In Matthew chapter two we learn how the Magi came to King Herod and asked where the King of the Jews was to be born. King Herod was ‘disturbed’ and asked the Magi to report their findings to him. However the Magi are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod and so Herod is unable to kill Jesus directly.
Thus we read Herod’s alternative solution to the problem: ‘When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18).
But why would Herod wish to commit such an atrocity? Herod was afraid of losing his throne to Jesus. This violent act toward the residents of Bethlehem was merely one in a long of series of attempts to protect his throne. Out of fear, Herod killed most of his family including his favourite wife, brother-in-law, mother-in-law and three sons, along with other Jewish nobility and their families. Thus it was totally reasonable to Herod to execute a number of young boys in an effort to reduce the odds of a Messianic King growing up and taking his throne. Now we may be appalled at Herod’s actions. But we are more like Herod than we may think. Jesus did come into this world to be king. And the sinful human heart hates the thought of it.
If we are honest, we prefer to be rulers of our own lives and follow our own laws. We don’t want someone else to take us off our throne.
But that is precisely what Jesus has come to do. And so we often behave like Herod. We try to remove Jesus from our lives. Some may attack Jesus viciously, denying his existence altogether. Not content with that, they seek to remove Jesus from the lives of others (just as Herod did) by removing all mention of him from history – a recent example is even rewriting the calendar to remove the initials A.D. and B.C which refer to Christ. Meanwhile, some people are more subtle in their murder of Christ, they simply forget about him altogether. They go from one day to the next never thinking about their Creator and rightful ruler.
But the Lord will not be mocked. One day Christ’s throne will be evident to all. Jesus will return and take his people to live forever with him. Meanwhile, those who have sought to rule their own lives will be punished forever. Jesus says: ‘The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:41-43).
So this Christmas, ask yourself are you like Herod? Are you trying to remove Christ from your life? Will you even go to desperate lengths to do so? Don’t do it. Repent of trying to rule your own life. Trust in Christ as your savior and accept him as your loving ruler.
Joel Radford