We’re looking this week at how Jesus’ birth threatened powerful people.  Here’s the story:

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.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (…) And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”   (Matthew 2:1-8, 12-18 ESV)

Just like last week, you can see the story of Jesus’ birth was part of God’s big story throughout history.  There’ve been hints throughout time that these events would occur, even if people couldn’t see them in advance, many more could see them in retrospect.

We can see that from the beginning of his life…powerful people encountered Jesus and recognized who he was, even if they didn’t like it.

Here in this story we have two people, both claiming the title King of the Jews. Herod is a powerful man, but he’s a middle man.  The Romans are really in charge, but keep him as King of the local area because he’s useful to them, at least for now.

On the other side, the people under him allow him to rule because of fear.  They know he’s not a legitimate heir to the throne of Israel, even though he claims the title.

So Herod hangs on to power by removing any threat to his power.  He uses fear out of his own fear.  This is why he is so concerned by these wise men, who show up and say they’re looking for the King of the Jews.  Herod is King of the Jews!  Not by birthline or right of course, but because he got what he wanted, and has everyone afraid of him.  So if someone else claims to be the rightful King, and can claim the right bloodline, right town of birth, etc. that simply won’t do.  So instead of just telling them they’re crazy, and having this rumour get out of hand, Herod uses them.

We’ll talk more about that later…but suffice it to say he is manipulative, dangerous, uses people to keep himself in power, and moreover is illegitimate.

Question: A prophet 500 years before this happened said the Messiah would emerge as a light in “dark times.”  How was the era when Jesus came a dark time?  Are there similarities to our time?

Reminder: We have a great Christmas event coming December 14th, 2013: The Original Christmas Party.  Hope you’re coming!

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