The Christmas Story Challenges Our Prejudices Part 2
I wrote in my last post that Matthew’s gospel account of Jesus’ birth uses a literary device of contrasting characters – the faith seeking Magi in contrast to the faith rejecting Herod. Matthew challenges our prejudice against pagan outsiders by using their idols to draw the Magi to the Christ child but he also challenges our prejudices that favor political power.
Even though he was Arab by birth , Herod had converted to Judaism and thus considered himself the King of the Jews. But whereas the pagan outsiders act like God’s people, seeking and worshipping, the King of God’s people acts like the pagan King of Egypt, rebelling and killing. (Exodus 1:16). When the Magi inquired about the location of the new born King, Herod began to realize that if Jesus was the new born King, then he was the dethroned king. Even as he instructs the wise men to go to Bethlehem in search of the child, Herod can’t bring himself to call Jesus the King. The Magi thought differently however and after encountering King Jesus they resist Herod’s bidding to return, going home another way.
Author and professor Craig Keener writes, “When we side with the political powerful to seek human help against common foes, we could actually find ourselves fighting God’s agenda.” Jesus came to serve the most vulnerable amongst us while depending solely on His heavenly Father. When “Bethlehem” was read in his hearing, Herod was given the opportunity to seek the new born King in His most embryonic form but he not only rejected it he sought to murder it. As we face the great challenges of our day, both personally and as a nation, which King will we look to for our help? This season of the year is a good time to renew our decision to go to Bethlehem, worship the new born King and go home a different way.