“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, 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.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ” (Matthew 2:1-3)
I’ve wondered at times what is meant by the last statement in this passage – “and all Jerusalem with him.” It’s easy enough to understand why Herod would have been troubled by this news. Herod had a clue, however faint, of the threat this “King of the Jews” represented to his authority.
But why was “all Jerusalem” disturbed with him? We’re talking about the Jews, who were looking eagerly for the appearance of their Messiah. Why would the fulfillment of their greatest hope have been troubling to them? It’s particularly ironic that Jerusalem joined Herod in being troubled, since he stood as the most prominent representation of the bondage from which they awaited deliverance. Perhaps, even though they were ruled over by Rome, their preference at the time was to endure whatever hardships that involved in order to maintain some sense of peace; whereas the arrival of a new King might create too great a shift for that peace to survive.
I wonder also if this sense of trouble had something to do with the way the news was announced. The magis’ statement was not, “Where’s that cute little baby with the glowing head? For we saw his picture on a card, and have come to gaze serenely at him.” The Magi had come looking for a King – someone who not only posed a threat to the authority of a Gentile king, but who would claim absolute authority over the Jews, thereby disturbing whatever remnant of peace they were currently clinging on to.
The question then becomes, what about us? Do we find ourselves troubled by the entrance of a king into our lives? Do we fear that it will shake things up too much, or inconvenience us in a way we’re not prepared for? Do we prefer Baby Jesus over King Jesus? I fear that often, we would rather constrain the role of Jesus to a nice little Christmas gift from God, who brings us seasonal cheer but doesn’t claim the absolute right to rule our lives.
This Christmas season, even as we consider the wonder of all that God did in sending His Son for us, let’s carefully avoid any attempt to take Jesus off His throne and put Him back in the manger. Let’s trust Him to rule our lives, and even to shake them up as He sees fit, for our good and His glory.