Herod, Jesus, and the Power of Christmas

Today's post is by my friend Greg Wilson. 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the Roman-appointed monarch over Judea was Herod the Great, an abusive tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. Though he was an Edomite, not a Jew, and his loyalty was to Rome rather than his subjects, he valued the title “king of the Jews”. And Herod had been ruthless in procuring that title and ensuring that he kept it. He seized power in 37 B.C. by leading an army of 36,000 into Jerusalem and taking the city by force for Rome. He took captive many Jewish leaders, including over half of the Sanhedrin (the equivalent of their supreme court), whom the Romans promptly executed. Herod’s thirst for power eventually led to the execution of his wife and two of his sons.

Enter Jesus in Matthew 2: Eastern astrologers show up in Jerusalem inquiring about the One who has been “born king of the Jews.” (v. 2) The wording is important. The wise men are not asserting that this child was born "to be the king", but that he was “born king”. They believe a new king has been born and they are going to worship him. Herod is troubled (v. 3), because he is entitled. And all Jerusalem is troubled with him because when an abusive man is troubled, everyone else is troubled too! Herod manipulatively seeks to get the wise men to do his bidding by lying to them, saying that he wants to worship him too. (v. 8) And when his malicious scheme is foiled, Herod goes on a murderous rampage in Bethlehem, intent on extinguishing any possible threat to his power. (v. 16-18) Ironically, Herod’s “power” was ultimately illegitimate. He was not able to hold onto what he never truly possessed in the first place. Concerned more for saving his throne than saving his soul, he ultimately lost both.

How different is Jesus! Our Prince of Peace (Is 9:6) came “not to be served but to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45) Rather than seizing power, Christ gave it up. He did not consider his position as equal with God something to be held on to, but rather emptied himself by becoming a slave, by “being born in the likeness of men”, and by becoming obedient, even to death on a cross for us. (Phil 2:6-8) While Herod refused to let go of a throne he never truly possessed, Jesus left a throne he could never lose to grant full and free salvation to all who would believe in him. That is the power of Christmas.

What do you want so badly that you are willing to hurt others and sin against God to obtain? How does a thirst for what you want drive you to abuse power and control? What does strength in weakness and serving instead of being served look like for you this Christmas?


Greg Wilson (MA, LPC-S) is currently completing his Doctor of educational ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Greg has a full-time clinical practice, specializing in working with families, couples, adolescents and men. His experience working with families includes pre-marital and marital counseling for couples, as well as work with parents and teens. His practice includes work with male perpetrators of abuse/domestic violence, sexual addictions, adolescent life-stage issues, marital conflict, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Greg also serves as a deacon of care at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and is a certification curriculum facilitator for the Association of Biblical Counselors, where he is also a member of the advisory board for their Center for Professional Soul Care. Greg also is a trained mediator, and he has met all the state requirements to perform mediation services in Texas. He trains lay counselors in the church and through the Association for Biblical Counselors and consults with church leaders on matters relating to biblical soul care.


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