Theme: The Error of King and Cleric
In this week’s lessons, we examine people in the Christmas story who did not respond to the birth of Christ as they should have.
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
The second man who missed Christmas was Herod. Herod was the king of Judaea, or as we should more accurately say, an under-king of a border province of the far-flung Roman Empire. There was nothing likable about Herod. He was a sly old fox, guilty of many murders, including at least one wife and three sons. He probably had no religion. He was a cynic. He knew the traditions of Israel, but he only half-believed them if, indeed, he believed them at all. Yet he should have found Christmas, if only because he had such a large stake in the outcome.
Matthew is the one who tells us Herod’s story. Herod was at home in Jerusalem when news reached him that wise men had come from the east. They were asking where they could find the king of the Jews, the one born recently. Herod did not have anyone like that in his palace. There were no recent births. Besides, he was well aware that the wise men were talking about the Messiah, and he knew of no Messiah. Talk like that was dangerous.
Herod therefore called the religious leaders to find out where the future king should be born. The answer was “Bethlehem!” After that he called the wise men themselves and persuaded them to report to him if their search in Bethlehem proved fruitful. “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also” (Matthew 2:8). It was a sly maneuver, for murder, not worship, was in the old king’s heart. It was a pity also, for Herod knew of the birth. He even knew its significance. Yet he missed it through the encrusted habit of greed and self-interest.
Does that describe you? I do not mean that question to be insulting. But isn’t it true that many people miss practically everything good in life through greed and self-interest? If that is true of such things as friendship, beauty, love, good times, and happiness, how much more true is it that many miss Jesus? If you are a Herod, even in a small way, perhaps you should pay attention to something that Jesus Himself said. He said, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Your real self-interest lies in finding the one who loved you and died to be your Savior.
Well, the innkeeper missed Christmas. King Herod missed Christmas. But there was another group who also missed Christmas. These were the religious leaders, the chief priests and the scribes. They of all men should not have missed the birth of Christ, for they had the Scriptures. They were the ones who could tell Herod where the Christ was to be born. They knew it was in Bethlehem. Yet they did not leave their own homes or the palace to investigate His arrival.
What was it that kept these men from going along with the wise men? We do not know for certain, of course. But it may well have been their pride in the fact that Herod had called them instead of others and that they had been able to produce the right answer to his question.
What do we know about Herod, and how does this help explain why he also missed Christmas?
What possible reason might be why the religious leaders, of all people, missed Christmas? Can you think of any others?
Herod apparently felt threatened by the news of the birth of the king of the Jews. How does Jesus still produce this effect on unbelievers today?
Application: Who among your family or friends miss Christmas every year by their failure to submit in obedience to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? Pray for opportunities to talk with them.