Thought of the week
"When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset.”
Matthew 2 v 3
One news story has pulled the attention of the media away from the ongoing chronicle of the pandemic in the first few days of this year. It is the tale of one very powerful man’s pain at the loss of power, position and influence and his struggle to cling on to it.
He is by no means the first to react emotionally and even violently to such a situation. Many executions have been ordered; many massacres perpetrated; many wars started by people who were afraid of losing power.
Two thousand years ago, some people who studied the stars were given a revelation by God. They saw that a new King was to be born. Nothing unusual in that. Lots of new kings get born. This one, however, was special, so special that they decided they must undertake a long and arduous journey to bring gifts to Him. Their revelation indicated that he was to be a king of the Jews.
Not unnaturally, they headed for the place where a new King of the Jews might be expected to be born; the Royal Palace. Probably they thought he would be a son of King Herod who was a monarch of some achievement and note.
Herod was not delighted by their news. There was no new baby prince in the palace. The news meant that, in time, a challenge would arise to his position and power. He acted quickly to nip it in the bud. The new baby must be killed and if this involved killing many innocent children, so be it. There may be suffering, pain, loss and mourning, but these mattered nothing as compared to his grip on power.
When they were not in his way, these people may have some importance or relevance, but that became insignificant when his huge ego was threatened.
He knew more than his Eastern visitors. He knew that this new baby must be the Messiah, God’s gift to humanity. Surely this would persuade him to do as he pretended he wanted. Would he not go to find the new Prince, bring Him back to the Palace, teach Him all that he knew about statecraft, present Him to his people and, in due course, retire into the background, a respected elder statesman? Not Herod the Great. In his eyes, no one deserved that title, “Great” more than he did. God was wrong. There could be no one more important than Herod. He must put an end to this and let God know who was boss.
A few years later, another man of power was challenged by that same baby, now grown into manhood. He was not a king, but a great prophet whose preaching and renown brought many thousands to him for Baptism. He knew that it was the power of God that enabled him to speak so persuasively, but he must have felt some pride, some self-satisfaction that he had so large a following. Then some of his closest disciples brought some apparently unwelcome news.
Indignantly, they told him that the young upstart who they had met a little while ago had started Baptising too and that more people were going to Him than were coming to John. Perhaps they expected an outburst of rage. Maybe an anathema would be pronounced.
Instead, John the Baptist said, “This is how my own happiness is made complete. He must become more important while I become less important.” John 3 v 29 & 30.
John may have been pleased with his preaching success, but he never lost sight of the fact that it came from God and that it was God, not John who was the centre of all things. He valued his talents, put them all at the service of God and used them to prepare the road for and stand aside for one who would be greater than he.
What a great King Herod would have been if he had used his undoubted talents to a similar end!
In our own lives, it can be very difficult not to find ourselves following King Herod’s path. We feel things so intensely and we do not know what it is like to be somebody else. Self can dominate to the exclusion of all reason. But Christ gives us the way out.
Through the Holy Spirit, He comes into our lives. He offers the vision of hope and joy in eternity. He gives us the ability to understand that important as is our own love for ourselves, other selves are of equal value and, indeed, of paramount value to themselves. He helps us to see that each one is a precious diamond and that each diamond belongs in the great Crown which is God. And with that vision we can grow or diminish in the sanguine knowledge that we follow God’s will.
May He be at the centre of your life today and always.