Sermon Titled “Where Is He Who Has Been Born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2) – Sunday December 15th, 2013
Continuing on with the Story of Christmas, there is much more to tell, but it isn’t all glamorous and cheerful. Surrounding the birth of Jesus was a shroud of great joy held up by those awaiting His arrival, but behind that shroud also lay many kinds of conflicts. Matthew 2:3 says that when King Herod learned from the wise men (known as Magi), that they were searching for “He who has been born King of the Jews,” he (and all of Jerusalem) was disturbed.
King Herod was understandably disturbed; he was after all named “King of the Jews” by Caesar Augustus, Emperor of the Roman Empire. Who then, was this baby that the Magi were calling King of the Jews? As far as Herod was concerned, there was room in his kingdom for only one king, and he was that king!
But what about the rest of Jerusalem, those also mentioned in verse 3 who were said to be just as disturbed as King Herod was? Most likely Matthew was referring to the religious leaders of the day, those who depended on Herod to maintain their positions of power in Jerusalem. Baby Jesus was a sign of hope to all of the “common people” in the land, but He was a threat to the political and religious leaders who now faced even further loss of support and allegiance.
In a show of true colors, King Herod dealt with this new threat in typical Herod fashion – he plotted to have baby Jesus killed. Herod dealt with all of his potential enemies in this way; he simply “got rid of them,” and often by means of some kind of torturous execution. Herod was so demented by his fears that he even killed some of his family members, including three of his own children. And it is into this type of violent climate that Jesus entered the world.
Today, things are really not so different. We may not be under the oppressive rule of a tyrannical king, or subject to egocentric religious leaders (although this is true for some in other parts of the world), but we do still live in a world where many would prefer to do as Herod did and attempt to “do away with” or reject, Jesus Christ.
Rejecting Christ is the only acceptable response for so many, because embracing Him and following Him also means living according to His ways. It’s hard to hand over the reins and let someone else take control when you already have your own path mapped out.
In church a couple of weekends ago, one of the members of Koza Baptist Church shared her testimony and admitted that her life prior to accepting Christ was one that she thought was truly “awesome.” She was a woman who was going places, a woman who successfully chased career advancement, financial independence, and recognition. Yet she later declared that the world was not able to satisfy her, and that all of her awards and accolades always turned up empty.
This woman, like myself and everyone else I know who once lived life independently of God, had a life agenda much the same as that of King Herod and all of the religious leaders who rejected Christ. We may not have been cruel and evil like King Herod, but our underlying motives for everything we did were rooted in vanity and selfishness.
When conversion to Christianity takes place, God’s grace goes right to work, changing the very core of our beings so that we eventually begin to want all of the things that Christ wants, and despising all of the things that we want. In his book “The Me I Want To Be,” John Ortberg suggests that surrendering to God is a “letting go” of one’s life and allowing God to take the driver’s seat. The problem though, says Ortberg, is that most of us have either a rebellious heart which leads us to keep God out of the car altogether (so that we are free to go wherever we want, whenever we want), or we have a divided heart which is open to letting God stay in the car, but on our terms.
This Christmas, some will celebrate the birth of Christ, and others will resent it or ignore it. But the fact remains that Jesus was born the true King of the Jews, and His motives were, and still are, pure and selfless. His purpose (agenda) is to love all, serve all, and save all.
Herod’s agenda, on the other hand, was to love himself and serve himself. Salvation never took precedence in his mind because his main concern was living in the “here and now,” acquiring for himself all the things that he believed would bring him immediate satisfaction and joy, such things as power, prestige, and possessions.
Whose agenda seems more noble to you? Ask yourself that this Christmas, and if you haven’t yet handed the keys over to God, consider this:
- 2 Corinthians 3:17 “…….Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
The Story of Christmas is not some fairy tale with villains, heroes, and a happy ending. It’s an actual true story, with an ending that can go either way. The good news, is that God’s grace and mercy allows us to choose how we want it to end for us personally. His invitation to walk with Him and be saved is extended to everyone – you just have to say “Yes” or “No.”