Hespeler, 6 January 2019 © Scott McAndless
Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
understand why King Herod is frightened. I mean, that makes perfect sense to me. Here a bunch of foreigners show up in one of his grand palaces. They’ve traveled from a distant country far in the east and they certainly come across as rather wise individuals. They are looking, they say, for one who is born the king of the Jews. Yes, Herod is not going to like that.
King of the Jews was one of his titles and he was certainly not interested in hearing about another claimant to that throne. In fact, Herod was so self-important that he could hardly even tolerate the idea of his own sons succeeding him on the throne and had a number of them put to death. These strangers arriving with news that a new king has been born, one who is obviously not even related to Herod’s family, is bound to upset him and, given his somewhat fragile ego, to frighten him.
But I have always wondered about the little detail that Matthew adds to Herod’s reaction. He says that all Jerusalem was frightened with him. Why would that particular piece of news frighten an entire city? We certainly know that they had no great love for Herod.
I always understood Jerusalem’s fear in the way we often think that politics works today. When a powerful politician, like, say, the president of the United States, gets some bad news, everybody in Washington DC tends to get on edge. But this is not (perhaps especially in the present political context) because everyone in Washington loves the president. This is because they know that a frightened and upset president is an unstable president who can sometimes react in pretty dangerous ways and do things that can throw things into great chaos. (And I’m not particularly making any comments on the present political context here. This has been true of many presidents.)
So often when powerful people get frightened, the people around them do get frightened too but not necessarily for the same reasons. So I always thought but that was what was going on in this story of the visit of the wise men. The people were nervous about Herod’s reaction.
But today, we read this all-too-familiar story in a bit of a different way than I have for a w