This is part 3 of 5 in The Story of Christmas from the People Who Were Actually There sermonlink series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here.
Perspective makes all the difference in how we view Christmas. For King Herod “the Great,” the first Christmas was no celebration. Herod cared more about his kingship than he did about the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ’s spiritual kingdom threatened Herod’s physical kingship. Like Herod, we often seek to rule over our “little kingdoms” instead of submitting to God’s kingdom.
King Herod Wouldn’t Let Jesus Speak
After a long career of scheming, and killing, Herod had cemented himself as Rome’s puppet king of Israel. When the promised Jewish Messiah was born, he knew this Messiah posed a threat to everything he’d worked for.
Matthew 2:1-3 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
Before Jesus ever spoke, Herod rejected him. Many people today reject Jesus outright because of lackluster Christians they’ve met or because of a bias they have against the idea of God. Others do not wish to obey God and prefer disbelief, or a god (idol) in their own image.
Even Jesus’s followers can refuse to hear him. When we can be bothered to attend church, we don’t listen to the messages presented. If we study scripture, we fly through it thoughtlessly. We don’t worship during worship. When we encounter teachings that demand us to submit more of ourselves to God, we fight or flee from God. We, like Herod, refuse to let Jesus speak.
Jesus Threatened Herod’s Kingdom
Herod loved his “little kingdom” more than he loved God. But his kingship was only a mirror for what he loved most: himself. He loved his kingship so much he was willing to commit great evil to protect it:
Matthew 2:13, 16 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him…” …Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.
Herod wasn’t an atheist. He believed the magi and the Jewish leaders when they said the Messiah had come. Instead of honoring the true king, he let his “kingdom of ego” rule him.
We let our “little kingdoms” rule us (Matthew 6:20-21). We don’t want to be accountable. We want life on our terms. Jesus the king rules us whether we like it or not, and if we seek life on our terms, he threatens it. We must identify our “little kingdoms” and submit them to King Jesus.
Herod Died Without God and Without Hope
When Herod dies, Matthew 2:19-20 simply says that an angel told Joseph it was safe to return to Israel. After a lifetime of clawing for power, Herod was a footnote in the Bible. Later, Paul wrote that a life without Christ is a life without God and without hope.
Ephesians 2:12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.
Herod sought greatness, but he is mostly remembered for his minor role in the true king’s story. Herod failed to realize that a life following Jesus is true life. Without Jesus, life has no ultimate meaning. Herod’s great buildings were destroyed and are only ruins today. He died without Christ and without hope.
If you want to live a life of real purpose and value and inherit eternal life, you must hand over the keys of your “little kingdom” to Jesus.
Don’t Be Like Herod: Trust Jesus
It is possible to believe in God and be godless. It is not enough to acknowledge that God exists or even that Jesus is Savior and Lord. He must be your Savior and Lord. Herod believed Jesus was the Messiah, but he refused to submit to him as his Messiah.
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Instead of trusting in ourselves and in our “little kingdoms,” we must trust in the true king. We must trust him with our finances and families, with our salvation and our spiritual growth. We must trust him and keep trusting in him.
Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- From Jesus’s first appearance as a baby in the Gospel of Matthew, he is opposed. How should this inform our understanding of his earthly ministry?
- What are some ways in the past you’ve refused to let Jesus speak to you? What are some ways you are not listening to him presently?
- Read Matthew 6:20-21. Herod was so committed to his “little kingdom” that he sought to kill Jesus. Are you actively submitting your “little kingdoms” to Jesus? Why or why not?
- Read Ephesians 2:12. The Apostle Paul taught that a life without Jesus is a life “without God and without hope.” How have you seen this to be true in your own life or in others’ lives?
- Read Matthew 7:21. Explain the difference between “knowing” Jesus is the lord and living under his lordship.
- How does trusting Jesus change us?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.