7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
Does the Herod episode disturb you. It disturbs me. Why was Herod disturbed with the news of the Messiah’s birth? This is the long awaited one, fulfilment of all those prophecies. These stargazers have arrived from the east to herald it in. Instead of celebration, Herod is spooked and Matthew says, “all of Jerusalem with him.”
Herod gathered all the religious leaders and they opened the Scripture to find the meaning of all these nativity stories. They looked into Micah’s prophecy and there it was,
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
When the Magi don’t return, as Herod had asked them to, the dam of his anger bursts. Like some Game Of Thrones scene you can see him check the scroll again, then swipe the table clean, cups and bowls smashing and splintering and the sacred papyrus rip, like the veil in the temple later would. He summoned his troops who thunder out of Jerusalem to go and kill all the babies under two in the Bethlehem area.
It is a challenge for those of us who have the truth, who look it up, lick our fingers and turn the pages of the Holy word. Herod’s problem was not that he didn’t have the truth. Herod had too much truth. He knew that this baby was going to change everything. It was going to demand changes personally, materially and politically and he wasn’t up for the truth to have its way.
What of us? Are there places in our lives where we have the truth but refuse to welcome it into our lives. No, we don’t kill Jesus but do we kill his revolution? John Stott said that the greatest evangelical heresy of the Twentieth Century was our lack of social justice. I remember it being labelled a “social gospel” like it was the heresy. Was that a misunderstanding of the Scriptures or just that the cost of getting involved in God’s Kingdom coming and his will being done on earth would impinge too much on our comfortable lives?