Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Christmas thoughts, 4 weeks later

Jesus and Herod

I had this thought back at Christmas when our church was reading the traditional Christmas story: Politicians have used Jesus since his birth.

If one looks at Matthew 2 to read the story of the Magi, you’ll notice how involved Herod is in the whole process. When the Magi show up to ask Herod “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” the Scriptures note that Herod is “disturbed” and I have always taken that to be a negative, brooding, angry disturbance. However, the text doesn’t give that impression. I think that comes from my knowledge that he later orders the slaughter of the innocents after he had been “outwitted by the Magi”

Instead, imagine a Herod that isn’t disturbed in an angry and vengeful way, but one that is upset because he has missed the arrival of a new king. A sort of fear rather than rage. If all of Jerusalem was disturbed with him, then Herod did the politically expedient thing to do-CYA. He assembled his advisors to find out where the Christ was born. Once he finds out this information, he tells the Magi and then instructs them to return so he can worship as well.

To the average Jew, Herod must have looked like a pious man. He reacted to the news of the Christ’s arrival by searching for Him in the Scriptures. He directed the faithful about where to go to find the Christ and told them to return so that he could worship the new king. Again to the Jew on the street, Herod must have looked like a real righteous man. He has helped others find the Christ and he himself wants to worship Christ.

Herod probably wanted to kill Jesus from the get-go, but his political actions looked very pious and righteous. It wasn’t until he was betrayed that his true evil character came out.

I’m not saying that politicians that claim to be Christians are of evil character, but merely that using Jesus for political gain has been going on for 2000 years. Again the Scriptures warn us that mere rhetoric and shallow acts are no way to judge whether our elected officials “know Jesus”, but only by their fruits will we see.