Monday, December 26, 2011

The Herodians are Alive and Well

Herod the Great must have been shaking in his boots. He had fallen into disfavor with his longstanding friend Caesar Augustus, placing Herod’s powerbase on tenuous soil. This only fueled the paranoia that possessed Herod to the degree he had two of his sons assassinated for fear of a coup. Now three wealthy and influential Magi have arrived with their entourages from the East talking about some King who had recently been born, whom they wanted to honor. No doubt, Herod was wiping the sweat from his brow as he listened to these three calm, sincere, and determined men adulating a new usurper to Herod’s throne.

We know the rest of the story. Herod consulted the Scribes to teach him the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and then feigned his own interest in this King in the hopes of dispatching him quickly. But of course God had different ideas and warned the Magi of Herod’s schemes and sent them home by another route. Undaunted, Herod executed a reign of terror on Bethlehem, ordering the death of all male children aged two years or less. In a great piece of irony so typical of God, God protected His infant son by sending Him to Egypt until after Herod’s death.

Such was Herod’s response to the advent of the Christ. And, I fear, is the response of most of us.

To the secularists, as with Herod and his loyal Jewish subjects, the Herodians, who patronized the reigning government for their own gain, the advent of Christ threatens their position of power. By power is meant everything between and including political influence and security to self-determinism. We recognize it in the position of atheism today, where god is ostensibly Reason, yet in actuality is blatant self-authority. We see it in our politicians who instead of working for the good of the people who placed them in office, continue to manipulate the shells so as to always possess the pea. All of which is classic Herodianism, of course; Herodians in their many incarnations always turn their ships to the prevailing winds in order to keep sailing to their own secret destination, where they hope to land on high ground and reap the obeisance and fear of a compliant and desperate world.

To the religious, such as the Pharisees, the Calvinists, the Arminians, the Papists, the Evangelicals, the Baptists, the Wesleyans, the Lutherans, the Independents, the Pentecostals, the Presbyterians, and all others who have aligned themselves with personalities and doctrines as the basis of their faith, the advent of the Christ threatens their righteousness. For many of these pious people, their systems have become god; their carefully and meticulously laid out constructs of god defines their reason and practice of being, and the basis of excluding others. For the rest not so pious, religion is nothing more than a social status and the basis by which to be judged good—that is, acceptable--in the end.

Wait a minute. Surely the religious are threatened by the advent of Christ for different reasons than the secularists. But no, it’s all about power, isn’t it?—intellectual, or social, or both. At the end of the day, we are all only interested in power. We all end up surrounding ourselves with our intellect, our wealth, and our society, in order to insulate ourselves from our own frailty—the reality of our own powerlessness in the face of our conceit in being all-powerful. This was the reason the rich man walked downcast away from Christ after Jesus told the man that to receive eternal life, he only needed to sell all of his possessions and follow Christ.

That rich man, the secularists, and the religious, they are all Herodians of the highest rank.

Those three Magi of the Christmas story had seen it correctly, though. At least for that moment, they willingly placed their wisdom, their earthly authority, their wealth, their reputation, their social status, and all they held dear in themselves and what others held dear in them, at the feet of the King Jesus—despite the fact He was yet a child.

The gifts they offered Jesus suggested Jesus would have their total allegiance: Gold, Christ the sovereign King; Frankincense, Christ the divine high priest; and Myrrh, Christ the atoning sacrifice for Mankind. With that testimony, nothing remained for them but to knell before Jesus.

We all need to be like-minded. We need to humble ourselves before the King Jesus by trusting Him completely by loving Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength by obeying Him with unqualified abandon. We need to leap fearlessly in to the open arms of the terrible, loving, holy, infinite, and changeless God. This is what Christ demands and what He created us for--to be a kingdom of people who willingly forfeit their own agendas and even their own perceptions of God to the reality He carries them.

Most people are threatened by this awful demand of Christ—yes, even many who profess His name. Indeed, the Herodians are alive and well.


Jeff said...

Really frightening picture you paint here Bruce! Christ made it so simple - love God and care for your neighbor (the hungry, the lonely, the needy..). We continue to worry about a "Christian" label instead of doing the things Christ told us to do.

Tim said...

Well said Bruce. It is always and always has been about the simple reality that we are subject to Jesus. We want to make it so much more and so much less – making it something else is the only way to 'glorify' ourselves – rather than be glorified through a life of submission.