The Roman Senate had called Herod the Great “king of the Jews” for nearly forty years. But no one, especially the Jews, believed he was the Messiah — the long awaited, God-appointed Ruler of rulers that would come to establish the everlasting kingdom of God on earth. In fact, the Magi were not looking for Herod when they came seeking the king of the Jews; they were looking for the Christ (Matthew 2:1-2).
The Bible says Herod became “disturbed” by the news that a king had been born. That word in the original language means, “to throw into turmoil and confusion, to agitate.” No wonder Herod was unsettled. News of the newborn king meant that Herod was an illegitimate ruler. The Herodians, influential Jews that derived their power from Herod, could not have welcomed the news either. The Pharisees often plotted with the Herodians against Jesus (Mark 3:6).
As time passed, Herod became increasingly paranoid about threats to his throne. He protected himself by building impregnable palace-fortresses like Masada. He also foiled alleged plots to overthrow his throne by killing off anyone close to him, including his sons and wives. As a result, Herod was so disliked that even Caesar Augustus said, “I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.”
When the Magi arrived inquiring about “the one who is born king of the Jews,” Herod feigned interest by gathering the religious leaders to learn more about the ancient prophecies concerning Messiah. His worst fears confirmed, he then encouraged the Magi to report back to him about the Child king. His endgame became a holocaust of all males less than two years of age. No wonder Rachel wept in Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18).
Herod illustrates for us one of the ways people respond to Jesus. They reject his rule and authority. Herod did everything he could to stay seated on his own throne and control his own destiny. Are we any different today? Who is your king? Rather than acting like our own potentates trying to rule our own lives, let us surrender to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Death may be the King of terrors, but Jesus is the King of kings. Dwight L. Moody