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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Dec. 16, 2006

  • 2006 Dec 16
  • COMMENTS


The King of Christmas and Herod

Matthew 2

 

I am amazed every time I walk over the old ground of the Word—there are fresh new truths. This week as I poured over the story of Christmas, that was the result.

 

The Christmas Story comes to us from the God of Heaven. He wrote it down in the Scriptures through His Apostles. Only God captured this event and transmits it to us flawlessly—so we get exactly what He wants us to know.

 

Have you noticed what is first in God’s story of Christmas? If you look closely, the Christmas Story we all love begins each time it was written in God's Word—with the same seven words. Have you pondered them?

 

Open with me to Luke 1.5 and follow along.

 

·         Luke 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

 

Now turn to Matthew 2.1. Notice the same words each time:

 

·         Matthew 2:1 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,

 

It is interesting that God's Word describes the life of one of the greatest thinkers, builders, and rulers of all time, Herod, as “in the days….” What a sobering perspective. All of our earthly existence can be reduced to “days”. We spring up, flourish, flower, wither, and are gone in a matter of days—from God’s perspective! Christmas is a time for us to soberly reassess our lives, to refocus our hearts, and to remember just what life is all about.

 

This Christmas season we are going to examine Christ's coming from the perspective of Him as KING. This morning we will look at the life of Herod and contrast his life to Christ's. The Bible presents us with two kings. One acted like a king, looked like a king, lived like a king, and died like a king. The other did not. The other King was by all appearances poor, weak, fragile, powerless, unknown, and insignificant. Few ever realized that He was a King.

 

The Two Kings

 

Christ's birth was the day in history when the two most absolutely opposite kings confronted one another for the first time.   One was the ultimate earthly king.   He sat that day at the pinnacle of power.   His name was Herod the Great, descendent of Esau or (as the New Testament had it) an Idumean.   Herod lived for Herod. He would soon slaughter the babies of Bethlehem in his desire to exterminate Christ. The theme of his life was: "What will it profit me?"

 

The other king was baby Jesus.   He was the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe. He was the natural heir to David's throne. He was the supreme King over all the kings of this earth.    But He did not look like a king, wrapped in humble clothing.   He would live to be rejected.  

 

At the height of His ministry He would die a criminal's death. Had he wanted to, Jesus could have called forth legions of angels who would have vindicated His cause instantly and have swept the usurper Herod from the throne.  But Jesus did not want the throne in that way.   He did not want the throne until you and I could share it with Him.   To make that possible He died.

 

That dramatic moment in history is found in Matthew 2. Of all those chapters in God's Word there are four that detail the Birth of Jesus. They are Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. From these chapters comes the intriguing and very powerful message of Christmas.   Let pause and read the story again Matthew 2.1-23 and meet the King of Christmas—and Herod.

 

 

By bringing Jesus and King Herod together at the same time in history, God reveals that He uses what seems to be unimportant to accomplish His eternal purposes.   He uses those who appear to be weak to triumph over those who appear to be strong.   Although Herod’s power seemed overwhelming and undefeatable, God’s power was greatest.   Only what is done for God will last; only His kingdom is eternal; life lived for self always perishes.   Enduring legacy comes only by self-sacrifice and servant hood, not through self-seeking. That simple lesson Herod never learned!

 

·         1 Corinthians 1:26-27 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;   

 

·         2 Corinthians 12:9a And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”       

 

Now listen as I lay side by side the weak and the strong. Jesus King of Glory contrasted to Herod King of Self.

 

PROFILES IN CONTRAST:

 

Jesus (4BC – 28 AD)

  Herod the Great (73BC – 4 BC)

 

Jesus slept in a manger where farm animals fed. He laid there seemingly weak and powerless and with no earthly status. In reality He had it all. Jesus possessed eternal power, receives eternal glory, and holds unending authority.

 

Herod constructed magnificent palaces, he appeared to have great strength, he wielded what seemed to be absolute power, and by every earthly measure had great status. All he lacked was what would outlive his brief life. He completely lacked any eternal status.

 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem as the Promised One, the Messiah from the royal line of David, and the rightful King because of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but He was never accepted as the King of the Jews.

Herod was a usurper to David’s throne, born not in Israel but in Edom, not an Israelite but an Edomite, not an heir to the throne but one whose reign violated God’s rules (Deuteronomy 17:15)--yet he was accepted by the Jews as their king!

 

Jesus lived to honor God, serve others, and to fulfill His Father’s Will.

  Herod lived for Herod, he measured life by his own measure, he sought to satisfy himself and to fulfill his own purposes in life.

 

Jesus the Son of God was perfect in sinlessness, kind in His service.

  Herod, the king of the Jews, was a wicked in his lifestyle and a cruel tyrant of a ruler.

 

Jesus never sought the power the world could give, but His power as God’s Son is beyond comprehension.

  

Herod sought and found awesome earthly power, but he never sought nor found the power of God to heal his sin sick soul.

 

Jesus gave His life and ministry as a sacrifice on behalf of other people;

  Herod’s life revolved around sacrificing others in order to bring glory and honor to himself.  

 

Jesus used the living stones of redeemed people to build His Kingdom (Mt. 16:18; 1 Pet 2:4-8). He lived for God’s Glory, and to seek and save the lost.

 

Herod tried to defy nature as he built glorious buildings of marble and massive stone blocks to honor himself and promote his standing with Rome.

 

Jesus died on a cross in the agony of His Love, surrounded by sorrowing and loving disciples. He chose to hang there to take away the sin of the world. Everything Christ had He keeps forever.

 

Herod died in the agony of a dissipated body, hated by his family, and with the blood of many family members upon his hands that he had murdered. All that Herod had he lost.

 

Who are you like this morning—Herod or Christ? Which way is your life headed this morning? Are you going Herod’s way or Christ's way? Jesus and Herod were opposites morally, culturally, spiritually, and certainly in terms of their worldly status.

 

King Herod the Great ruled Israel from 37 B.C. until his death in 4 B.C. He was king at the time Jesus was born.   Here is a summary of Herod’s failed life.

 

Herod Was One of the World’s Greatest Builders. Though in ruins, his buildings are still among the greatest.

 

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is an engineering marvel to this day. Masada still evokes wonder. The ruins of Caesarea inspire images of magnificence and awe. The Herodion, the first fortress-palace along Herod’s escape route was built 30 years before Christ's birth.   This spectacular complex, just over three miles southeast of Bethlehem, is typical of the great building projects for which Herod is known.   Built upon a high hill, the walls of the upper palace stood about ninety feet tall, and steep earthen ramparts built against the lower half of the structure gave it the shape of a volcanic cone.

  

The upper palace dominated the landscape for miles around and even could be seen from Jerusalem nearly ten miles to the north.   As the sun rose and set, the Herodion literally cast its shadow across the surrounding towns.   The Herodion clearly symbolized Herod’s visionary genius, power, and splendor.   As t he third largest palace in the ancient world, its buildings covered about forty-five acres surrounded by about two hundred acres of palace grounds. It included elaborate halls and guest rooms, a terrace more than one thousand feet long, and a huge swimming pool (140 by 200 feet) surrounded by colonnades and a beautiful garden full of exotic plants.

 

Herod Was One of the World’s Insecurest People. Though Herod controlled more territory than almost any king of the Jews who had ruled before him, yet he saw threats in every corner and cruelly suppressed all resistance real or imagined.

 

He especially feared Cleopatra of Egypt, so he built a series of fortress-palaces along an escape route between his palace in Jerusalem and his home country of Edom.   From Jerusalem he could travel fewer than ten miles south to the safety of the Herodion, then about thirty miles to the cliff fortress of Masada, across the Dead Sea ten miles to Machaerus, and finally the thirty plus more miles to his homeland of Edom.

 

Herod Was One of the World’s Greatest Failures. Though he intended to rival the greatest exploits recorded in Biblical history he only managed to become one of the greatest failures of all. Herod and his family got as close to Jesus as anyone could and yet they dies lost, hopeless, and still bearing their own sin.

 

Herod’s Life Was One Of The World’s Greatest Lessons. Just as the Herod’s building projects towered over the landscape of biblical history, Herod cast his shadow across the history and people of Israel. Although Jesus and Herod were vastly different, God clearly engineered history to bring them together in fulfillment of His purposes.

 

Today, the awesome projects that King Herod built lie in ruins, and most people remember him only as the king who had innocent babies killed in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus, the promised Messiah. Herod made his mark in the world and then was gone.

  

In contrast, Jesus didn’t leave a single building as a legacy. No one is exactly sure of the locations where He was born or died. Yet His passing changed the world forever. And today He lives! His kingdom has no end, we Christians are His temples, and the eternal truths He revealed remain true today. No matter how strong and glorious Herod appeared to be, the baby in Bethlehem’s manger was stronger. Jesus the Messiah, the Lord of heaven and earth, triumphed over all evil even death!  He will return to conquer all earthly powers.

 

So we need to learn and heed the powerful lessons from the first words of the story of Christmas—the colossal failure of Herod’s life. The lesson of the tragic life of Herod shows that Herod gained the whole world but lost his own soul.

 

·         Matthew 16:26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

HEROD HAD IT ALL IN THIS LIFE. You can have it all in this life and fail in the next. As a General he was nearly undefeated. As a Diplomat he was unstoppable. As a Builder he was unparalleled. As a Businessman he was unimaginably wealthy. It took great faith for the Jewish people to believe that Jesus, who began His life on earth as a baby in Bethlehem, was truly the Lord of heaven and earth.   The contrasts between Jesus and Herod could not have been greater.   Herod had all the power, wealth, strength, and glory that his position in the world could offer; yet Jesus, the King of the universe, had nothing of that sort to demonstrate His position.   So to believe in Jesus as the Messiah was to believe that regardless of outward appearances, Jesus, the baby in the manger, was indeed Lord of heaven and earth. So beware, HEROD HAD IT ALL IN THIS LIFE. You can have it all in this life and fail in the next.

 

One of the treasures that I have from the Holy Land is this rock. I found it washed up on the sand after a big storm along the coast of Israel. The archaeologist who was leading me around Herod’s city called Caesarea looked it over and told me that I had an actual piece of imported marble that Herod purchased and used to build his greatest palace of all. The Romans destroyed that palace and smashed every part of it into millions of tiny fragments. This is one of them. A reminder that all we have in this life is fragile and temporary unless it is connected to Christ!

 

HEROD LIVED FOR THE EARTH, NOT HEAVEN. If you live for the earth and not heaven you will lose everything. Herod was too earthly minded to notice the significance of this event.

John 3:19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (NIV).

 

King Herod, who personified evil, no doubt seemed to have all the power and control.   He ruled with an iron hand, seeking out and destroying every possible enemy even killing innocent babies.   Yet Jesus, the humble King of all creation, was truly in control.   He had the power to overcome every evil including that of Herod.  

 

Although it is easier and safer to avid evil than to confront it, the crucial question that all Christians must answer for themselves is: “Will I dare to live as if God is greater than any evil I face in my life and my culture, as if the power within me is greater than every power of evil that I will encounter?” So beware of being like Herod. HEROD LIVED FOR THE EARTH, NOT HEAVEN. If you live for the earth and not heaven you will lose everything.

 

HEROD HAD DEMON FAITH. You can tremble before God and still be damned. Demon faith means God scares you but you never change. King Herod believed the Scriptures! Herod believed God's Word enough in that crowded court to dispatch a corps of butchers to Bethlehem to slaughter innocent children, in hopes of destroying this rival to his throne. But he was too late. The magi had come and gone and Jesus was by now safe in Egypt. All Herod’s exposed to God's Word many trembled none changed!

 

·         James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

 

So beware of being like Herod. HEROD HAD DEMON FAITH. You can tremble before God and still be damned.

 

HEROD PUT HIS FAITH IN HIMSELF, HIS POWER, HIS RICHES, HIS WEALTH, AND HIS PLEASURE. You can gain the whole world and lose your own soul. King Herod - more concerned about his crown than his soul.

 

·         Matthew 16:26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

·         John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

 

·         John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

 

So beware of being like Herod. HEROD PUT HIS FAITH IN HIMSELF, HIS POWER, HIS RICHES, HIS WEALTH, AND HIS PLEASURE. You can gain the whole world and lose your own soul.

 

HEROD MISSED HIS CHANCE. You can get as close as Herod and still miss heaven.

Few people were as close to salvation as the Herod family was. Few had so many opportunities to meet the Messiah and to hear His teaching. As you read the New Testament you immediately begin to notice how many encounters the eight named members of the Herod family had--with Jesus and His message. The Legacy of Herod the Great is--that few families in history have come as close to Jesus' message as the Herod’s. Many members of this ruling family knew of Jesus and His followers. Yet, one after the other, they killed or tried to kill anyone connected to Him.

 

Ruler

Notable Deeds

Last Days

 

Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC): ruled the Land when Christ's Birth took place. Matthew 2:1-8, 13-18

·         He heard the Magi and Religious leaders announce Christ's Birth! He knew and believed the Scriptures. He only wanted to get rid of Jesus, not bow before Him.

·         He died a horrible, painful, sickening death in terror. He was killed by the dual onslaught of gangrene and venereal diseases.

 

Antipas (son of Herod the Great) ruled 4BC to AD39: ruled Galilee and Perea 40+ years. Mark 6:14-29 Luke 23:8-12

·         He beheaded John the Baptist! Brought peace and prosperity: sensitive to Jewish religion yet married brother Philip’s wife. Built Sepphoris and Tiberias.   Had John the Baptist beheaded, met Jesus and plotted His death (Jesus opposed him) Agrippa accused him of a plot

·         New emperor exiled him and claimed his property

 

Archelaus (son of Herod the Great) ruled 4BC to AD 6 over Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea for 10 years. Matthew 2:22

·         He was alive while Joseph, Mary, Simeon, Anna, Zacharias, and Elisabeth all lived and worshipped in his capitol city— Jerusalem! Yet he ruthlessly killed the families of Jewish delegations who had gone to Rome to accuse him. He will always be known for his bloodthirstiness and evil qualities

·         Exiled to Gaul, then disappeared from history

 

Philip (4 BC to AD 34): ruled area north and east of the Sea of Galilee 37 years. Matthew 14:3; Mark 8:27

·         He ruled over the town of Peter, Andrew, James, and John as they fished his Sea of Galilee, and we called by Jesus on his seashore! A just ruler who mainly governed Gentiles, peace-loving

·         Died of natural causes at end of his reign

 

Agrippa 1 (grandson of Herod the Great) ruled AD 36-44: ruled area north and east of Sea of Galilee, Judea 8 years. Acts 12:1-5, 18-24

·         He knew the Apostles, killing some and imprisoning others! Ruled a large area, sought to stop Jesus’ followers, killed James and imprisoned Peter and other disciples

·         An angel of God stuck him down, eaten up by worms and died

 

Drusilla (wife of the governor Felix and daughter of Agrippa I). Acts 24:24-26

·         She sat and watched the greatest evangelist of all time—Paul, preaching about righteousness and judgment to come. As far as we know she was unmoved like her great-grandfather Herod the Great!

·         Fades from history after Acts 25 presumably lost forever.

 

Agrippa II (great-grandson of Herod the Great) ruled AD 50-70: ruled small portion of his father’s region, had limited rule in Jerusalem. Acts 25:13,23,26:1-29

·         He actually sat through one of Paul’s greatest messages! Advanced Hellenistic culture, wounded during Jewish Revolt supporting Rome, heard Paul’s stirring presentation of the gospel in Caesarea, but was not persuaded.

·         Was wounded fighting for Rome against the Zealots at Gamla, but the specifics of his death are not known.

 

Bernice (great-granddaughter of Herod the Great). Acts 25:13,23,26:1-29

·         She also sat through one of Paul’s greatest messages! Sitting by her brother, she heard Paul’s stirring presentation of the gospel in Caesarea, but was not persuaded.

·         Fades from history after Acts 25-26 presumably lost forever.

 

Few people were as close to salvation as the Herod family was.   Few had so many opportunities to meet the Messiah and to hear His teaching.    Look up the following verses, and notice the encounters the Herod family had with Jesus and His message. The Legacy of Herod the Great is that few families in history have come as close to Jesus' message as the Herod’s. Many members of this ruling family knew of Jesus and His followers. Yet, one after the other, they killed or tried to kill anyone connected to Him. So beware of being like Herod.

 

HEROD HAD IT ALL IN THIS LIFE. You can have it all in this life and fail in the next .

HEROD LIVED FOR THE EARTH, NOT HEAVEN. If you live for the earth and not heaven you will lose everything .

HEROD HAD DEMON FAITH. You can tremble before God and still be damned .

HEROD PUT HIS FAITH IN HIMSELF, HIS POWER, HIS RICHES, HIS WEALTH, AND HIS PLEASURE. You can gain the whole world and lose your own soul .

HEROD MISSED HIS CHANCE. You can get as close as Herod and still miss heaven .

Herod the Great Matthew 2:1-8, 13-18  

 

Antipas (son of Herod the Great) Mark 6:14-29 Luke 23:8-12

 

Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great) Acts 12:1-5, 18-24

 

Drusilla (wife of the governor Felix and daughter of Agrippa I) Acts 24:24-26

 

Agrippa II (great-grandson of Herod the Great) Acts 25:13,23,26:1-29

 

Bernice (great-granddaughter of Herod the Great) Acts 25:13,23,26:1-29

 

For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit  discoverthebook.org.

 

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