“ 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, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”” Matthew 2:1-6
When the wise men came looking for Jesus, the newborn king whose birth they had seen foretold in the stars, they thought it only natural to look for him in Jerusalem. That was the capital city and seemed the most obvious place for a king to be born. News of their arrival and search soon reaches King Herod. Herod was known as Herod the Great. He was not Jewish but was of Edomite descent – a relative of Esau, he was loyal to Rome, and he was a ruthless ruler who didn’t qualm at the thought of killing his wives or children if he thought they were part of a conspiracy against him. He would stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power. He would not have welcomed the news that there was a new king on the scene, least of all one who was to be King of the Jews.
So now Herod has a decision to make. He has been made aware by the wise men of the existence of this King of the Jews. His scholars and the priests have looked through the ancient manuscripts and reported to him what the prophets foretold about this king, that he was to be the Christ, God’s chosen one, the redeemer of Israel. Herod knew this was a threat to his position of supreme authority. So Herod has a decision to make. He has to decide what to do with Jesus.
That is a decision each of us have to make too. We need to decide what to do with Jesus. For some of us that decision has already been made. We are convinced He is who the wise men thought He was – the promised king, our Saviour, and we have put our trust in Him. Others may be certain this is a myth, a made up story. But maybe this Christmas you find yourself on the fence, not quite sure what to make of it all. You are open to the idea that Jesus was born, that He was a good teacher, but not the Son of God. But that is not an option that is on the table. Jesus claimed to be God and if He is not then He cannot be a good teacher for He either was deluded or deliberately decieving His followers.
Herod has a dilemma – does He acknowledge Jesus as the king foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament? Is he prepared to live out the consequences of what it would mean if that was true? You see if Herod had reached the conclusion that Jesus was the ultimate authority that would mean that he, Herod, was not. It would mean surrendering himself to a higher power. It would have turned his life upside down. No longer would he be at the centre – Jesus would take that place. So Herod has a dilemma. He has to make a decision. He can’t just bury his head in the sand and plead ignorance – this situation requires a response. Does he accept what has been prophesied or does it reject it as made-up legend? Does he cling to his power or will he acknowledge the ultimate sovereign power? Sadly Herod chose to reject Jesus and keep himself as
We too have to respond. When we ponder the claims made about Jesus and by Jesus we must make a decision. Either they are true, and we must dedicate our lives to Him, or they are false and should be rejected. There is no middle ground. Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord. He cannot be merely a good man, a nice example for us to follow.
If you are on the fence this Christmas do not make the mistake Herod did. Don’t reject Jesus because of what it will cost you to follow Him. Don’t cling to your own position. Rather follow the example of the wise men, and kneel before the Lord of Lords this Christmas.