Six Ways to Miss Christmas – Jealous Fear

from John MacArthur’s booklet, Six Ways to Miss Christmas.

Jealous Fear

In Matthew 2 we meet another man who missed Christmas: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem , saying, ‘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.’ And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…. Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem , and said, ‘Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him'” (vv. 1-3, 7-8). Herod was the king of the land. He feigned his desire to worship Jesus Christ, but he was fearful because One had been born who was called the King of the Jews. The Greek word translated “troubled” in verse three means “to be agitated” or “stirred up.” It carries the idea of total panic. Herod panicked. Why? He was afraid of Jesus—afraid of another king. Let’s see why.

Julius Caesar appointed Herod’s father, Antipater, to be procurator, or governor, of Judea under the Roman occupation. Antipater then managed to have his son Herod appointed prefect of Galilee . In that office Herod was successful in quelling the Jewish guerrilla bands who continued to fight against their foreign rulers. After fleeing to Egypt when the Parthians invaded Palestine, Herod then went to Rome and in 40 B.C. was declared by Octavian and Antony (with the concurrence of the Roman senate) to be king of the Jews. He invaded Palestine the next year and, after several years of fighting, drove out the Parthians and established his kingdom.

Because he was not Jewish, but Idumean (an Edomite), Herod married Mariamne, heiress to the Jewish Hasmonean house, to make himself more acceptable to the Jews he now ruled. He was a clever and capable warrior, orator, and diplomat. But he also was cruel and merciless. He was incredibly jealous, suspicious, and afraid for his position and power. Fearing a potential threat, he had the high priest Aristobulus, his wife’s brother, drowned—after which he provided a magnificent funeral where he pretended to weep. He then had Mariamne herself killed, and then her mother and two of his own sons. Five days before his death (about a year after Jesus was born) he had a third son executed. One of the greatest evidences of his bloodthirstiness and insane cruelty was having the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem arrested and imprisoned shortly before his death. Because he knew no one would mourn his own death, he gave orders for those prisoners to be executed the moment he died. Thus he guaranteed that there would be mourning in Jerusalem .

That barbaric act was exceeded in cruelty only by his slaughter of “all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16 ). By that action he hoped to kill any threat to his throne from the One the magi said had been born King of the Jews.

Why did Herod miss Christmas? Jealous fear. Lest you think there are no more Herods in this world, you need only read the daily newspaper. Man is depraved. There are Herods in every society. But there is a greater lesson for all humanity. Many people miss Christmas because of the same kind of fear Herod had. Herod was afraid that someone else would take his throne. Today people are fearful of giving up their own plans, priorities, values, and morals. They don’t want to come to Christ because He will cramp their style—He will lay claim on their lives. That means they will have to alter the way they live. The media tells people to do their own thing, master their own fate, and chart their own destiny. The world is full of kings who will not kneel before Jesus Christ, so they miss Christmas just like Herod.

What about you? Have you said no to Jesus Christ because you are afraid of the claim He will lay on you? Do you want to be the lord and master of your life and the king of your little kingdom? That’s tragic—His kingdom is so much more glorious!