“(1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, (2) saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’
(3) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (4) And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (5) So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
(6) “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”’
(7) Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. (8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’” (Matthew 2: 1-8)
What strikes me (like a hard slap in the face) about the first two verses in this chapter is that God’s chosen people, Israel, hadn’t picked up on this. Jesus was born among them and they didn’t even notice the star that three men noticed from countless miles away. It took these three men, these three unbelievers, these three non-Jewish men to make it known to believers that the Messiah had been born. It is a slap in the face to me because I see the truth of my own ‘Herod the king’ syndrome alive in my own life. A lot of the time, sadly, it is my non-Christian family/friends who make my non-Christian behaviors glaringly obvious. Which is a huge blessing to me, in all its humbling glory. But what never ceases to amaze me is that sometimes nonbelievers can spot Christ more easily than those who believe.
I am sure most, if not all, will not see it this way. I have often been told when I point this out to them that they were merely trying to prove the point of my own hypocrisy. Which is very true, I am a hypocrite. I am a broken, fallen, sinner and I strive to get near the vicinity of perfection that is Jesus Christ. He is my example to follow. He is my standard. I will never reach His perfection, and as I try and fail I become a hypocrite. Everyone is when held up to the standard of Christ. My life here on earth will never reach God’s law written in my heart and on my soul. But I will never stop trying either, which means that yes you will witness me in all my fumbling hypocrisy. Just know that every time you witness the sin of a Christian you are witnessing Christ. Because in recognizing that sin, that hypocrisy, you are acknowledging the standard Jesus Christ the Lord has put upon us.
And of course every time this happens to me I find my reactions are, again, in line with Herod. I become very troubled and I seek the council of fellow Christians (chief priests) and the Bible (scribes). Low and behold 99% of the time the nonbeliever is correct. I am in the wrong. Unlike Herod, however (and thankfully), my mishaps aren’t about key, vital prophecy that had been taught to Herod since he was a child. Like Herod, however (and shamefully), my mishaps are about key, vital truths we all have in our heart. Love one another. Treat someone as you want to be treated. Humility before pride. And other things like that.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
This is the prophecy Matthew referred to. This is where the scribes found it. This is where the chief priests pointed out to Herod the truth that these three non-Jewish, nonbelievers already knew. Can you imagine how embarrassing that had to be for Herod? Here he is, king of Judea, and the ruler of God’s chosen people …and in walk these three strangers who nothing (in comparison to the ego of a King) about God and they proceed to school Herod in his own religion. Talk about a huge ouch. In my mind I can picture him sitting on his throne, “It’s good to be the King”, and he has just carelessly waved in these three men from afar. He was probably expecting the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that they would give to Jesus. And these three men look at the current ‘King of the Jews’ and have the mindboggling guts, and bravery, to ask Herod the King, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Can you picture that moment of confused disbelief? The ‘wait, what?’ look that must have been on Herod’s face. I have experienced my fair share of awkward silences in my life, but this was probably one of the top 10 awkwardly silent moments in the history of man. Wait, what? There is another king besides me? There is another king greater than me? You would rather worship a baby than me? Did I have a child and not even know it? I am sure these could possibly be only a scant few of the questions that fired off in Herod’s brain in that moment.
Then Herod does his research. He calls on his people. He finds out that it had been written about hundreds of years ago. That they actually had prophecy roughly indicating the year and time it would happen for those who studied thoroughly. So what is his response? Depending on my convicted sin I normally deviate from Herod’s chosen path. I apologize. I repent. I try to change my way or behavior or whatever aspect of my life that this sin was glaring so brightly from that even non-Christians recognized it. There are, however, a few sins I shamefully have a very hard time letting go of. Sins that run deep, ones I try to justify or talk my way out of. I try to make the conviction, the truth of that sin, disappear. I essentially try to kill it. Which is exactly the response that Herod had. Kill this King. Kill Jesus Christ when He is still just a helpless child.
Now I am not sure if I have ever done some version of sending my nonbelieving friends off to find the truth in the Bible rather than looking myself. I don’t know though. I think if Herod truly loved God he would have been first in line to go find Jesus to worship Him. If Herod had been Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ruth, or Joshua I am sure any of them would have dropped what they were doing to lead the three wise men to this God-Child and that their offering would have put all others to shame. But Herod can’t bring himself to do that sort of work. It was work to travel any sort of distance back then. Herod had a comfortable life with slaves and luxury in his home. Let lesser men do the grunt work of actually finding this supposed King of the Jews. I am pretty sure I am guilty of that more often than I really care to admit.
When I talk to my family or friends about Jesus Christ I tell them to read the Bible to find out the truth. I have only gone out once to actually buy a Bible and give it to someone. I gave a Bible to my mom and I told her to read it. Then when she is struggling I talk to her about Jesus, and I tell her to read the Bible I gave her. I don’t sit down, research verses that can help her, and then go to her with the Bible I bought her in hand to show her the verses. Isn’t that the same thing? Here let me tell you where to go and I will trust you to navigate through unknown territory to find the truth. Then come back to me only after you have done all this work. Should I be helping with that work? I think I should. Or maybe even a more nonchalant example is saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes rather than “God bless you.” The God part is assumed. I wouldn’t want to offend. Let their mind add it if they want to. Let them seek out my meaning with their own energy rather than put myself out there. Isn’t it the same thing?
I think it is. It is so easy for me to point at Herod and say “bad, bad man.” It is so much easier, and a lot less shamefully painful, to put myself above Herod. I could try to convince myself I would have done better. Which is laughable when I have so much less to lose than Herod and I am guilty of similar things in my everyday life. It is harsh, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So pray for me. Jesus Christ work in my life and on my heart so that I am more like the three wise men who sought You without knowing, and less like the knowing religious king who pushed You aside for his own vain pursuits. Amen.