A Christmas Devotion by Kendra Graham
Will You Follow Jesus?
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, (2) “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”
What does it say?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in the days of Herod the king, magi arrived from the east in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the King of the Jews? We have come to worship Him
What does it mean?
In the Days of Herod the king…. Herod was king of Judea. Herod was not Jewish by birth, but was Idumean, an Arab, by birth, but he married a Jewish woman, Miriam, and so by marriage he was connected to the Jewish people. Herod spent his life focused and obsessed with legacy and power. The sitting emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus placed Herod on the throne along with Marc Antony, and they bestowed upon him the title, “King of the Jews”. The days of Herod the king…..
Photo: Port of Caesarea
Herod was an incredible builder. Herod had a brilliant engineering mind. He built the port city of Caesarea, which was transformed into an incredible Roman city complete with an amphitheater, palace and hippodrome.
Herod built the palace of Masada, of which the ruins today will still take your breath away. Herod was a shrewd politician as well as visionary; so to seek favor among the people he ruled, he built the most incredible temple of all time in Jerusalem. The ruins of the western wall are still visible and the Jewish people of today daily pray at that wall for the temple to be rebuilt.
Photo: Herodium in the distance…he took away one mountain to add to the other so it would stand out.
Herod’s crowning achievement was the only thing that bore his name, the palace called Herodium. This palace was built by literally removing a mountain and adding that dirt to the mountain next to it, Herodium would be majestic and visible for miles. Again, the ruins of this palace are still being uncovered today, and will blow your mind when you see the skill and vision Herod had to literally make the desert into a lush oasis.
Photo: Herodium (an artist rendition of what it looked like)
Herod built on an incredible scale so that he would get the praise and awe he believed his position demanded. Herod built for Herod. Herod did what he had to do in order to solidify his position. He wanted safety and security in uncertain Roman times where title and position could be given to the next smarter, shrewder and more ambitious favored person of Rome.
In the middle of these days… Roman days… Herod’s days as the king of the Jews… Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Photo: Typical Bethlehem house with cave for sheep
Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, who spoke the world into existence took off His robe of power, and stepped into humanity, and was born not in a place with marble floors, hot and cold baths, and gardens, but in a place where animals sleep and eat.
Imagine what the magi were thinking as they entered the grand city of Jerusalem, a city on the hill! What was inscribed on the palace Herod lived in? Did it say Herod, King of the Jews resides here? It would have been an obvious connection for the magi to think, “Ahhhh Herod must have had an heir!” Herod, however, had no heir. The magi were told by the religious leaders to go to Bethlehem, that is where the Messiah, the true King of the Jews was to be born.
SO why didn’t the religious leaders go with the magi? Were they not super pumped that the Deliverer Moses spoke of was finally here, and at the exact perfect time! Herod, king of the Jews was no king of the Jews, and neither was Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome, the “Divine son of god” as his coins claimed him to be.
I have thought about this for a long time. Faith is never easy. We love to look back at the times, and with the benefit of history, say, “Oh, I would have gone to Bethlehem if I was them!” Herod was an incredible engineer, yes, but Herod was a monster. History says that Herod had 9 high priests put to death in 10 years because he was afraid the high priest was liked and honored more than he was, so out of jealousy he had anyone who rivaled him, killed. If any of those leaders went to Bethlehem, surely Herod would have heard about it and had them and their families killed on the spot. Going to Jesus would cost them their lives. Faith is hard, it will cost you. Think about it, the magi left everything they knew, not knowing if they would return again to “home” safely, not knowing if they would even make it to Jesus safely. The magi were asked to put their life on the line to come to Jesus, and they did. The shepherds, were asked by heaven itself to leave their sheep, the sheep which according to tradition were Passover sheep. The lives of the Passover sheep mattered more to the temple leaders than the lives of the shepherds watching them. These shepherds were asked to put their jobs, security, and lives on the line to go to Jesus, and they went. Mary and Joseph, don’t you know the shadow that surely followed them, because of the story of Jesus born of a virgin? God asked of them, their lives. Some will put their lives on the line and come to Jesus no matter the cost, and some of us, well, the self preservation model is still in effect today. Who can blame us?
The question today is, where do you fall on the matter?
Herod was an incredible builder, no one can argue that. You can go to Israel today and still see the ruins of what he built, the key word being, ruins.
Photo: Herodium today
Honestly, most people remember Herod because he killed a bunch of baby boys, and we read about it at Christmastime. The vision of Herod, died with Herod.
Jesus, that baby born in a stable; however, His vision still continues and grows today. Jesus, did not leave two stones on top of another that we know of, yet, a community of faith continues to be built upon who Jesus is. Jesus is the true Son of the Living God. Jesus, today, is still transforming lives, and calling us to faith. The call remains the same as it has always been; He wants your life.
As we celebrate this Christmas the birth of Jesus, Immanuel, Messiah, the righteous One of Israel, will you come? Many of us have been just as religious as the leaders in Jerusalem, but we have never made the trek to the feet of Jesus, because, well, self preservation still rules the day as it did so long ago. This year, I pray, that the community of believers will live in such a way that we see the greatness of God in ways we cannot explain.
I do not know the days that describe your life, but if you are like me, the days are hard, and darkness threatens to extinguish the Light. I pray the testimony of each of our lives not be described as lost to ruins when we are gone, but the living testimony of Jesus, who continues to redeem the ruin each of us has experienced.
Matthew 2:1 ….. Jesus was born in Bethlehem… in the days of Herod the king.
What does it mean to me?
What are the days and times of your life? What is keeping you from giving Jesus your life?
When did you give your life to Jesus? How have you seen Him redeeming the ruin around you?
LIVE IT OUT
Lord Jesus, I give you my life, open my eyes today to see where You are working and give me the faith to follow.
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