Happy Mother’s Day! Hope you had a chance to thank your mom today. Husbands, I trust that you’ve been extra nice to your wife. If you haven’t already, take her out to a nice dinner. Cook, do the dishes, laundry, give her a break. Being a mom is very hard and often a thankless job. So all the mom’s out there, thank you for all that you do.
Read Matt 3 responsively.
It’s neat to see God at work in recent Sundays through the preaching. 3 preachers teaching from 3 different texts, but there has been an amazing overlap recently. Bro. Daniel preached from Psalms and King David’s sin and his repentance. Last week, Pastor John spoke from 1 Samuel about the Philistines hardening their hearts toward God and he connected it to the parable of the sower and the 4 soils. Today’s sermon feels like a follow-up to P. John’s message. For me, when the messages overlap, I think this is God’s way of telling us as a congregation, time out, listen up, pay attention because this is really important. God desperately wants to show me, he wants to show you what repentance looks like.
In Matthew 2-3, we have two Kings and a Baptist. King Herod, King Jesus and John the Baptist. A sinful king and a sinless King of Kings, and in between, in the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God is a Baptist minister. It says it right there in the text. John was a Baptist. It makes me proud to be a Baptist. We were the first denomination even before Catholics, even before Christ came onto the scene. And read the text, there is no sprinkling going on here, no infant baptisms. John was baptizing in a river and Jesus was baptized and these were full body underwater immersions. Anyway, I digress.
By now, everyone should know what repentance is.
1) What is repentance?
It’s a turning away from sin and a turning in faith toward Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith – that’s how one repents unto salvation.
What is the essence of sin and what are we turning away from?
Sin, right? Yes, but sin at its core is more than sinful acts like lying and cheating and stealing. Sin at its essence is the act of putting oneself at the center. Today, we are going to start by studying the life of King Herod in Matthew chapter 2 to get an idea of what a life where self is at the center looks like, a life devoid of repentance.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
King Herod was known as Herod the Great. How would you like your nickname to be the Great? With a nickname like that, you’re either really proud, or you’re really insecure. It’s like calling yourself, Peter the Precocious, or Matthew the Magnificent, or Sam the Elder. Herod, the Great? Come on, what’s wrong with this guy? How proud, or how insecure do you have to be to give yourself the nickname Great? It’s ridiculous. But this is the insanity of human sin where self is at the center.
We may not say we’re great, but I bet many of us out there are thinking we’re great. Right? Come on, be honest. Even at Timothy’s age, 8-9 year olds who play basketball are already keeping stats to determine who the greatest is. Or maybe it’s just my son. How many points did I score? How many assists? Who had the most rebounds? From a young age, we learn that we are living in a world where people are striving to be great. Therefore, everyone is a competitor. You get into high school and there are multiple arenas to compete in. The jocks are seeing who can bench press the most weight. You got others in the musical arena. Who is the first chair concert master? Who got into the District, Regional, State orchestra? For many of us in this room, the arena was grades. Who has the higher GPA? Who got into the best Ivy League school? Later on, it’s your title on your business card. Who has the VP next to their name? Or who makes the most money? Or who is more famous in their field?
Herod was bold enough or perhaps foolish enough to add the nickname “the Great” to the end of his name. And all of us have Herod in us. We want to be great, we want to be the best in this competition called life where we are fighting to be recognized in whatever arena that we’re in. We want others to recognize us as great in their eyes. And if you define the boundaries of your arena to be small enough, everyone can be great. Like me, I am the best basketball player in my home. I dunk over Elijah all the time. I’m the greatest in this small arena called my family.
In Herod’s case, he got the position as King of Judea not because the nation of Israel was in power and not because Israel had defeated neighboring nations. Israel was taken over by the Roman Empire and as part of Rome’s foreign policy, a person from the conquered nation, in this case, Israel, so a Jewish person would be placed in power as a kind of puppet king subservient to Rome. So Herod knew, he had no real power. His power was illegitimate, it was delegated power. A title was given to him by Rome. This was all part of Rome’s strategy to maintain peace throughout their ever growing empire. Give the Jews the illusion that they have some semblance of power, but everyone knows the king of Judea answers to the emperor.
It’s no wonder that Herod the Great was a proud man but he was also incredibly insecure. Herod, a man who was known to have killed his own wife and 2 of his sons, who acted like he was capable of exerting force to get his way in most situations, this man suddenly feels insecure when he hears rumors of a baby. A newborn. A helpless, defenseless infant. A baby who at birth is rumored to be the king of the Jews. King of the Jews? Herod must be thinking, that’s my jurisdiction. That’s my title. Who is this so called king?
Herod felt threatened. So he reasoned, I gotta take this wannabe king out now while he is young. So he goes to the Magi and he feigns worship. Where is this baby? Tell me so that I can go and worship him. But the Magi go and worship the baby Jesus and they know Herod is up to no good so they don’t report anything back to him. And when Herod realizes that he’s been duped by the Magi, he throws a tantrum. He issues a death sentence for all Hebrew boys under the age of 2 throughout the entire region. That’s like trying to kill a gnat with a sledge hammer.
What kind of madman is this? This guy is too much. One moment he is feeling superior and powerful. And the very next moment, he’s an insecure little boy who throws a tantrum. Herod is a mixed bag. His heart is like a pendulum swinging from one extreme of pride to the other extreme of insecurity depending on the situation and the audience. And we look at this story and we are horrified that this kind of man actually lived in human history. You can read about him.
But I want us to think about this–is he that different from you and me? Is he that different? Think about it. More than we care to admit, his life is not too far off from our own. When you meet someone, don’t you immediately size them up? You look another person up and down. You see how they look, what they are wearing and you make an instant snap judgment about that person. He looks smart. She’s beautiful. She’s a sharp dresser. He is charismatic. Look at how others are giving him all the attention.