Responding To The Robbery Of Death

Text: Matthew 2:13-23

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

There is a peculiar lust for power that is as old as time. It works like this. When a person first gets a taste of power, it can be very addicting. The reason is, with power comes an expanded kingdom. In other words, the more power a person can typically accumulate for themselves, the larger their territory and dominance becomes.  


Now, many people new to power really enjoy the perks – they become intoxicated with the luxurious lifestyle of good meals, notoriety, and posh treatment. For them, they actually enjoy drinking their tea with their pinky in the air with a nose tipped up ever so slightly, and it feels good.  


But truth be told, this is not the main reason why power is so tempting. After all, many powerful people could lose their positions of power and still have plenty of money and resources to live a luxurious lifestyle. So, what is so addicting about power itself?  


At the age of 33, Alexander the Great reportedly wept because he had no more worlds to conquer. Now, there are many who would dispute the accuracy of this account, but it is still very applicable for us to consider. In other words, the point is that the thirst for power is limitless because the threat of death is unending.  


Let me explain.  


The thirst for power and building a kingdom for oneself is a reaction to the robbery of death. As you and I already know, death stings, kills, and destroys. And so, power has a way of enticing us humans to build our little empires – and with our little empires, we accumulate money, property, influence, prestige, love, sex, and luxury. These things are layers of comfort that we put between ourselves and the sting of death. Logically, the bigger the empire, the more layers of protection we have against death.  The bigger the power, the higher we stand above the robbery of death – or so we think.  


It makes sense, doesn't it? When death is on the line – when death is out to rob us and take from us – we all scramble to get power. Like children, we scramble to be king of the hill. We get as much as we can to buffer ourselves from death's sting. And this is exactly what King Herod did. Yes, the King Herod from our reading in the Gospel of Matthew.   


King Herod had obtained his power and kingdom through great crimes and by shedding much blood. He was a bloodthirsty ruler who would commit any crime necessary to gratify his ambitions. He even killed seven of his ten wives, two of his sons, and his father-in-law. He had hundreds of ordinary people thrown in dungeons and tortured to keep his kingdom intact while masterminding gruesome public executions. The point being, King Herod was a ruthless tyrant who used his corrupt power to prop up his kingdom – a kingdom that he hid within. Technically, he was a very weak man.  


Now, knowing this helps us make a lot more sense of what is going in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. When Herod heard the news of the Messiah being born, he freaked out. He was terrified and troubled. That is to say, the news of the Messiah being born led Herod to anxiety, restlessness, inward commotion, and agitation. Simply stated, a Messiah would threaten Herod's kingdom, stripping away layers of so-called security – putting Herod that much closer to the sting of death. And that is why Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the male children who were two years old and under.  


And so, while it is very easy to condemn Herod as a ruthless and bloodthirsty tyrant, truth be told, we have to admit that his tactics make sense. He killed to maintain his own life, and he attacked whatever would threaten his kingdom. For Herod, the first is first, the last is the last, the strong are blessed, and the weak are cursed.  


Tragically, this is what happens when humanity has no solution to death itself. When people have no solution to death, well… they act foolishly like Herod. "Every man to himself," as they say. When there is no solution to death, everyone competes with every ounce of power they have to build the biggest kingdom they can, to put as many layers between them and death itself. And if anyone threatens their power or their kingdom, well… they get stomped on. They get shoved before a moving train. It is better for them to be dead than oneself be stung by death.    


As we think about it, isn't this all so incredible backward to Christianity? Isn't the spirit of Herod incredibly narcissistic, that is, self-centered and selfish? It is!  And unfortunately, it is not only contained with Herod but is in every culture of every generation and on every continent. It is even amongst us, right here today. Dear friends, oh how quickly we fight to keep our positions of power and uphold our tiny little kingdoms, to feel as if we are somehow insulated from mortality.  


Lord have mercy!  


But dear friends, it need not be this way. The reason why? In Christ, death cannot rob you. In Christ, you have a solution – an antidote – to death itself.  


This is the reason why Jesus can tell you,  


"Whoever loses their life for me will find it."


           "The last will be first."


In other words, if it is up to you to build your own kingdom to protect you from death, you will never have thick enough walls – enough layers. If it is up to you to climb your throne to guard yourself against death, you will never rise high enough. If it is up to you to build your own kingdom with your own power, you will not only go the way of corruption, but you will also end up with a paranoid delusion – stomping on anyone and everything that would threaten you and your tiny little kingdom, just like Herod did. 


Ah, but Baptized Saints, it is not this way with you. You do not have to use power to acquire your own little kingdoms. But instead, the Kingdom comes to you as a gift. Do not forget, where you have Christ; you have the Kingdom of God. And where the Kingdom of God is, there you have King Jesus.  


As we embark on 2022, much fear will be pandered, just like the last two years. People will sell you a bill of goods – 


"Do this, and your kingdom will last."  


"Buy this, and your kingdom will be safe."  


"Apply this technique, and your kingdom will prosper more than your neighbor."  


"Use this power to protect your kingdom when this next calamity happens." 


And on and on and on it will go.  


But you, Baptized Saints, make no mistake; this would all be true if it were up to you to establish and build your own kingdoms, like Herod. Fear would be applicable if you could lose a kingdom. But this is not the nature of Christianity. In Christianity, you do not build 'a' kingdom but are given 'the' Kingdom. And the Kingdom of Christ? It is an antidote to sin, the devil, and death itself. It is a Kingdom that will not end. And so, it does not matter if you lose your life. If you have the Kingdom with no end, it does not matter if you are last. In fact, in the Kingdom of Christ, there is no fear. Remember that fear has to do with losing something. And with Christ, nothing will be lost, but all is given. In Christ and at the last day, all things will be made anew and given back to you.


Baptized Saints, do not fear what the world threatens to take that is not for the world's taking. Furthermore, hear this loud and clear! You don't need layers upon layers of a flimsy kingdom to protect you from death, for you have Christ – and that is enough. Indeed, you don't have to fight and huff and puff to fend off threats against your kingdoms, for you have already been baptized into Christ's Kingdom. You have already been given the Kingdom, for your Christ was born unto you, died for you, and has risen for you. And His Kingdom has no end.  


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes

CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean