When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” [Matthew 2:16-18, NIV]
Even with guidance from God, the journey of the wise men was not easy. It was long and arduous, but the faith that inspired them surmounted all hardships. They did not have the modern ability of hopping a private jet to Jerusalem and then own to Bethlehem. They walked and rode camels over dusty unpaved trails for several days. Having ridden a camel, I assure you it is no presidential limousine.
The Magi dealt with uncertainties and fears of traveling unknown territory, and all the time trying to sort out the meaning of this unusual event. Was it real? Where was the prince, and who was he? If you set out to seek Jesus, if you deny yourself, take up His cross daily, and follow Him, your way will be long, arduous, and beset with great difficulties. People will talk about you. Can you imagine how the family and friends of these wise men must have talked about them?
You will have the enemies of hell march against you. Can you imagine the torment of knowing that your actions resulted in hundreds of innocent babies being killed? Had the wise men told Herod, only Jesus would have died. Herod was a master in the art of assassination, when it benefited his goals. He paid careful attention to the news the wise men brought him. He pondered the maximum age that Jesus could be, and he had no doubt heard that Joseph and Mary had acquired a house in which to live in Bethlehem. He surmised that Jesus could not be more than two years old, so he ordered the assassination of all male children less than two years of age.
Some scholars claim that the assassination of the children did not occur, because it is not mentioned outside of Scripture. On this topic William Baclay writes, “The fact that a thing is not mentioned, even in the places where one might expect it to be mentioned, is no proof at all that it did not happen. The whole incident is so typical of Herod that we need not doubt that Matthew is passing the truth down to us.” [Baclay, Gospel of Mathew, p. 37]
Herod was no different from many people today. He was a very selfish and ambitious person who was willing to eliminate anything and anyone who got in the way. He was willing to assassinate another person’s character, work performance, or even life itself. Nothing was going to stop Herod! Like Herod, many people today see Christ as one who will interfere with their lifestyle, their ambitions, and their agenda. Like Herod, these men and women will go to great lengths to eliminate Jesus and to justify their horrible actions. Like many sinners today, Herod knew that Jesus would smash ambitious, self-centered, and worldly dreams. Every true believer bows to worship Jesus as a broken man or woman whose sinful self-centered dreams have been broken by the love of Jesus. The irony is that when brokenness bows before the Potter, a priceless treasure is sculptured. Jesus takes broken people and creates fearless warriors for righteousness, justice, and peace.
Seeking Jesus may be the hardest thing you will ever do. In your search, know that the faith that has saved you and given you everlasting life will make it possible to surmount all obstacles. For you see, as a follower of Jesus I am in the presence of Jesus. If I develop cancer, I will still be in the presence of Jesus. If I am in some terrible car crash and become paralyzed, I remain in the presence of Jesus. If every one of my friends and family turn against me, I will still be in the presence of Jesus because I remain in a personal relationship with him and he will never leave me. When death calls me home, by whatever method, I will still be in the presence of Jesus. This is what the Magi understood. They understood that this plan of God had to unfold for the greater good of all humanity. It was sin that caused Herod to assassinate the children, not the action of the wise men. Likewise, sin still causes people to steal, kill, and destroy the lives of others.
Matthew 7:16-20 teaches that the fruit we bear reveals the type of tree we are. Do you find your fruit to be more like that of Herod, or the Magi? Whatever the difficulties in finding Jesus and developing a relationship with him, it is worth the effort. The hardships you and I go through are minuscule in comparison to the knowledge that babies and toddlers were killed to protect God’s plan for our salvation. Perhaps our insensitive and callous hearts toward the slaughter of unborn babies in our country and throughout many other countries has made us more accepting of the actions of Herod. In fact, we may be more like Herod than we want to admit.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me be true to you in our relationship. Help me to spend time with you daily in reading your Bible, talking with you, and worshiping you. Help me to be daily like the Magi and not like Herod. Give me a heart that constantly searches for you. Amen.