Deeply Disturbed By Christ's Birth (Jerusalem's Story)
By: Kristen L. McNulty
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This week I was reading the Christmas story from the book of Matthew and something stood out to me that I had never noticed before. Let me read it to you:
"Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.' King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem." (Matthew 2:1-3 NLT)
Allow me to repeat that last line: "King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem."
When thinking about the Christmas story before, I knew King Herod wasn't a happy camper when he heard what the wise men had to say. After all, he was comfortable in his palace and didn't want to be upstaged by anyone, let alone a baby who could be part of the royal bloodline.
But why was everyone else in Jerusalem disturbed? Wouldn't you think they would be rejoicing at the news of their Jewish king's birth?
Maybe the answer to that question lies in the city's history. We know that Jerusalem was a sleepy town when King David conquered it and David worked hard to turn it into something of splendor, a job his son Solomon also took ownership of and he really turned it into something magnificent, complete with a temple where God could call home. But then in 6th century BC, King Nebuchadnezzar comes along and completely destroys the temple and the city, casting its residents into exile and taking away the Jewish people's meeting place with God. For generations a whole people group longed for their great city to be restored to its former glory, but even after they were returned to their land and able to start rebuilding, it always fell short of its former glory. That is, until King Herod came along.
During his reign, Herod transformed the city as no other ruler had since Solomon had been on the throne. He built palaces, an amphitheater, monuments, bridges, making the city that the rebuilt temple resided in, something truly spectacular.
While I can only speculate here, do you think it's possible the reason why news of the Messiah's birth disturbed both King Herod and the people of Jerusalem is because somewhere along the way they had traded their hope of a coming savior from God for the certainty of stones laid by man?
Could it be that they were so fixated on what they could see, the temple, their homes, the bridge down the block, that they couldn't see how truly incredible it was that their long awaited king had arrived?
Had the people of Jerusalem put their faith in the man that had rebuilt their beloved city over the God who allowed buildings to once fall so the real Messiah could rise?
I don't think the idea is that far fetched especially considering the fact that as far as we know, there was no caravan following the wise men to the Savior. As far as we can gleam from the text, the wise men went searching for the Messiah while the thousands of residents who called Jerusalem home at the time stayed home to worship their walls and buildings, instead of the Messiah in the manger.
And it wasn't a one time instance. Over and over again we see the people of Jerusalem put their alliance to King Herod before Jesus Christ, the Messiah and King of Kings.
But the point of bringing this up isn't to point fingers at them. No let's reel it in and do some self-examination right here and right now. We don't live in the same time or place that they did, but we all have things that we have made an alliance with or put before Jesus. And maybe for some of us, if we're being perfectly honest, would say that if Jesus called us to leave our hometown to follow Him to the mission field, we'd stay at home pretending we never heard the call in the first place because in the words of my Mom "our comfort zone takes priority over our Christ zone".
Or if Jesus called us to leave our addictions to follow Him to freedom, whether the addiction is alcohol or drugs or lust or approval, we'd return to our drug of choice and pretend to be free on the outside while living like a prisoner behind closed doors.
Or if Jesus called us to repent of our sins and call on His name for forgiveness, which by the way He does, we turn Him down time and time again because we're determined to build our own way to heaven or earn our own salivation.
But this Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Christ, let's draw a line in the sand and say enough. Enough with the excuses. Enough with wanting to do things our way. Enough with trying to say we believe while refusing to obey. Right here and right now, I can't think of a better Christmas gift to give Christ, the one who gave it all for us, than to give Him ourselves wholly and completely to Him, holding nothing back.
Let's do it right now. Join with me in prayer and let's commit ourselves to Him 100% this Christmas.
Jesus, I know you're the Messiah, the only one who can save me from my sins and from myself. Please tear down the pride that causes me to turn away from you. Take away the things that I've put before you. And help me to live wholly and completely for you, holding nothing back. Let me never become so comfortable in sin or selfishness that I stay in my own version of Jerusalem instead of following and worshiping you. Save me lord. In you holy name I pray. Amen.
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