His Throne And Kingdom Are For You (Matthew 2:13-23)

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In 37 BC, some 35 years before the birth of Jesus, King Herod became king of the Jews.  King Herod the Great, as he was called, was not born the king of the Jews and wasn’t even a Jew to begin with.  King Herod was a Roman Citizen who acquired the throne of Judaea (Judaea was the land that surrounded the cities of Jerusalem, and Bethlehem in the first-century) by a Roman Senate appointment.  Now, even though he was named King of the Jews, it took him 3 years of fighting to get this title to stick and to be effective. 

As a king, Herod was fond of splendor, and spent great sums of money in rebuilding and adorning the cities of his small empire.  He rebuilt the city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, and also the city of Samaria in honor of Emperor Caesar Augustus.  He restored the ruined temple in Jerusalem, a work which he began some 15 years before the birth of Jesus and a work that wasn’t finished until after his death.  Just a side note, this temple was even named after him.

Now, why do I mention all of this?  Am I simply interested in giving you a history lesson for today’s sermon?  Yes, I am interested in giving you history, but the reason for doing so is for you to understand today’s Gospel text within its historical context.  I want you to understand Herod, for when you understand the person of Herod, you will be able to understand his actions towards the birth of Jesus and ultimately be able to understand yourself in relationship to Christ.

You see, in Matthew 2:3 we read that Herod was troubled about the news that he received from the Wise Men about Jesus, the King of the Jews, being born.  Did you hear that? The Wise Men came to King Herod the Great who at that time was the ‘King of the Jews,’ and asked him where the ‘King of the Jews’ had been born.  The Wise Men revealed to King Herod that God had brought about the birth of the rightful heir to King David’s throne, the Christ-child; Jesus.

Can you imagine how threatening this news must have been to King Herod?  What would’ve you felt like if you were in King Herod’s shoes?  He wasn’t a naturally born king; he acquired the throne and the title “King of the Jews” by fighting and ruled his kingdom by force.  In fact King Herod had long feared the loss of his position.  Over the years Herod grew increasingly paranoid.  He put many people to death to secure his power and he even killed his wife and 2 children because he was considered by some to simply be ‘mad.’  No wonder why King Herod was disturbed about the news of Jesus being born.  He was fearful of losing control, losing his legacy, losing his accomplishment, losing his achievements, losing his power and so forth.  Therefore, after hearing the news about the Messiah being born in Jerusalem, through the Wise Men, it makes sense why Herod became furious and decided to protect his kingdom and rule by going on the offense.  Yes, he was not going to sit back and let a newly born baby take his spot as the King of the Jews.  Thus, King Herod made the command to have every young boy two years old and under slaughtered.  Herod didn’t know which boy was the king, so he ordered a mass killing of these ‘Holy Innocents’ in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.  The murder of these children by Herod resulted in the first martyrs of the Gospel in the New Testament. 

My friends, while it would be easy to write Herod off as a madman and simply be done with him, the reality is that he does capture and characterize our human condition.  You see there is not a person alive who does not have the need and desire to be right, to be in control, to seek comfort, to have recognition, to have esteem, to be whole, to be happy, and on and on.  In other words, the human condition is that each and every one of us, like Herod, wants and needs recognition of ourselves, we want to be fulfilled; we want to establish and maintain our ‘own’ thrones; our ‘own’ empires where we are at the center and where we rule with complete freedom.  Thus, when the throne of ‘self’ is challenged, we get defensive.  Indeed, we defend our comfort, our control, our identity, and our autonomy.  We defend our legacy; what we have built; what we’ve achieved in life; what we’ve accomplished.  We not only defend but we ‘fight’ for the preservation of our empire when the king of me, myself, and I is threatened.  Indeed, this is the tactic of our old Adam, what we call our sinful nature.  You see, the old Adam doesn’t believe the Gospel, never has believed the Gospel and never will believe the Gospel. He operates from the context of unbelief. The old Adam, our sinful nature, wants independence, not dependence.  Our sinful flesh wants to be God, to be all knowing, all powerful, and so forth.  Therefore, the idea of the kingdom of God found in the person and work of Jesus Christ is a threat to the sinful nature.  The sinful nature does not want to be de-throned and the sinful nature will resists God’s Word and the Christ at all costs.

Even though the Devil, the World, and our sinful nature have resisted the kingdom of God throughout history, there is good news.  The good news is that the Kingdom of God found in the Christ has not and cannot be overcome.  This kingdom has been protected and maintained throughout hundreds of generations even though there has been tremendous opposition towards it.  God preserved the lineage of Jesus in the Old Testament.  The Christ-child was preserved from the attacks of Herod.  The reason why?  Nothing can stand in the way of God’s plan of redemption.  Despite Herod’s attempts to stand in the way of the coming throne of Christ; despite the world’s attempts and our hard hearts towards the Gospel, Christ still came and still comes to us.  Nothing could stand in the way of Christ’s coming, nothing can overcome Christ’s rule.  Not even the gates of Hades can overcome the Gospel truth that Jesus is the Son of the Living God who was born into human history and journeyed towards the Cross.  Yes, there was nothing that could’ve kept Jesus from going to the Cross or kept Him in the grave.  There is nothing that we can say, think, or do that can go back into time and prevent Jesus from dying or prevent Him from rising.  God’s plan of redemption would not be deterred by the events of the past, present or future. 

What this means is that the very thing that King Herod was standing against, the Christ-child born in Bethlehem, is the very thing that He truly needed.  Yes, the very thing that we often resist as sinners is the very thing that we need.  In other words, Herod was fighting to keep things such as: His kingdom of comfort, his legacy, his esteem, and his worth, yet this was the very thing that Christ was born to deliver to him.  Is this also not the same with you?

In the Gospel, that is good news, you are given the comfort of knowing that your sins are actually forgiven.  In the Gospel, you are given assurance that Jesus achieved everything for you.  In Jesus Christ you are given a legacy of being a chosen, baptized child of the King.  In Jesus Christ you are not given esteem in yourself but unshakable esteem found in Christ.  In Christ’s work for you, you are given an identity, an identity of being Saints in God’s eye; Saints clothed the forgiving waters of your baptism.  Yes, Christ frees you and me from our self-enslaving thrones.  Christ frees you from the need to justify yourself, the need to be in control, the need to have recognition, and the need to seek manmade fulfillment.  May the old Sinful nature in each and every one of us be utterly killed and destroyed, for we are forgiven of this idolatry, placed in the shadows of the Cross and given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. 

Baptized Saints of Zion Lutheran Church, the sins of your past, the sins of today and the sins of tomorrow cannot and will not destroy the authority, power and work of Christ and His Word for you.  You, who have ears, hear this present reality.  In Christ you are forgiven, are chosen, have a legacy, and have an identity.  In Christ, God is well pleased with you, for Christ has sufficiently accomplished everything for you and has made you citizens not of any earthly kingdom, but His kingdom that will have no end. 

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Note: Sermon preached at Zion Lutheran Church December 29th of 2013.

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