The Magi did something that we all are guilty of at some point in our lives. They wrongly assumed that if God gave them a start (in the appearance of the star they followed), they would come to a point where they could manage the rest of the journey themselves. After all, the new king was bound to be born in a palace. So they thought that once they got to the city they merely had to go to the palace even though the star did not point to the palace. They found king Herod, who was a Jew who believed that the appearance of this star symbolized the death of an old king and the birth of a new one.
In addition, if “the king of the Jews” had been born as these Magi claimed, it was all the more unnerving. He saw this as a rival king and planned to destroy the Christ. The tragedy of this was that Herod would not have been less of a king with the birth of Jesus but he feared losing the kingdom of his own heart. We all have that fear. Frankly, Jesus came to save sinners. Let’s not talk about that on Christmas lest we put a cloud over the celebration. The clearer that light shines the greater the efforts of the darkness to resist it.
This first Christmas exposed Herod as a hypocrite. The root of this word lies in ancient theatre. The Greek word Hupoktites was used by actors. Actors in this theatre wore huge masks that had megaphones in them, but each mask created an attitude for the actor. It is the perfect word picture for someone trying to be someone they are not. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that to be accepted by the Father, you do not need to wear a mask. You have no need to pretend to God because he knows you already and loves you for exactly who you are.
Herod was the master deceiver and told the Maji to come back to him to tell him where the Christ baby is so he could worship him. He quickly had his soldiers kill all boys up to two years old in the city. His mask covered his hardened heart and his fear. When we pretend to be something, we are not secure, we are actually insecure; pretending to be religious or Christian when our hearts resist the Savior because we are not willing to give up any of our lives for Him, then we are out to destroy our Lord.
Deceit becomes our defense – although we cannot defend against him. In our unrighteousness we suppress the truth by refusing to honor God and claiming to be wise while exchanging the truth for a lie. Our thinking then becomes futile, sad and a mask. If someone drinks too much or takes drugs or is embroiled in pornography or sexual sins of any kind, they will refuse to see the truth because they would have to give up these false idols for the truth. This is simply hiding from God.
The tragedy is Herod like in its attempts to preserve his or her little kingdom or empire, rather than to release all of these ultimately insecure possessions and habits into the hands of such a gracious Savior and King. Herod failed in his attempt to destroy Jesus.
The tragedy of all the boys’ death at Herod’s hand was not because of Jesus birth but as a result of Herod’s sin.
The massacre of the infants is Herod’s desperate attempt to defeat the purposes of God. Herod ‘the Great’ died shortly after this, but his dynasty continued. Herod’s son Archelaus reined over Judaea and Mary and Joseph moved to Nazareth to avoid him. Years later the brother of Archelaus, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded. He also connived in Jesus’ crucifixion. Herod’s Great grandson, Herod Agrippa, had the apostle James executed. Herod Agrippa II mocked the apostle Paul.
What an extensive kingdom of King Herod. The sad context of Herod is so many reject Christ, and mask their rejection of him with deceit and false idols. The day will come for Herod and anyone like him who seek to destroy Christ, albeit without knowing it, to stand before His judgment throne. The masks will finally have to come off and all the false hope will be shattered. In contrast, humble believers will be welcome at the table with Jesus.
Herod knew where the King was to be found, but he never went. It is time for all of us to give up the masks and go to the living Christ and trust Him and He will give us peace and joy and love. Then we will discover the identity of the child in the manger and experience the true meaning of Christmas.
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