Pretender to the Throne (Matthew 2)

Over the next few months I am leading a Bible study on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) through the awesome women’s ministry at my awesome church. This is my second time through this portion of the Bible in the past year, and I am EXCITED.

Thanks to this study, I’ve been spending more time in the early portion of Matthew than I usually do outside of the holidays. Reading about Jesus’ birth outside of the focus of Christmas helped me to see things I’ve never noticed before. The first of which is that Jesus was born into a land of CONFLICT.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king… (Matthew 2:1)

Matthew chapter 2 introduces Herod the King. This Jewish Messiah King is born  into a land with a sitting King. And while Jesus was born in the royal line of David, Herod wasn’t even a true Israelite – he is a pretender to the throne.

What happens when God’s authority, God’s right to rule comes into a place where there’s a sitting ruler, a pretender to the throne?

Herod goes to search for the child to destroy Him.

In this particular context, when God’s right to rule came into a place where there was a sitting ruler, the result was genocide. Herod had every male child under 2 in Bethlehem killed.

At the heart of the Christmas story in Matthew’s gospel is a baby who poses such a threat to the most powerful man around that he kills a whole village full of other babies in order to try to get rid of him…

In fact, the shadow of the cross falls over the story from this moment on. The gospel of Jesus the Messiah was born, then, in a land and at a time of trouble, tension, violence and fear. Banish all thoughts of peaceful Christmas scenes. Before the Prince of Peace had learned to walk and talk, he was a homeless refugee with a price on his head. (NT Wright)

I am going to keep this in mind as I study the Sermon on the Mount –Jesus speaks the Sermon in the context of Kingdom conflict. The Kingdom of God is opposed to the Kingdoms of this world.

And as almost always happens in Kingdom conflicts, the innocent are the first to suffer.

I have been asking myself, where do I see the Spirit of Herod the Great? In the world around me I see that power corrupts. Where there is power and influence it is human nature to do anything to keep that power.

This hurts my heart.

SO MUCH of the hurt and suffering in our fallen world is based on this principle. When the sitting authority is threatened, it can turn murderous very quickly, and it is usually the young, the powerless, the innocent who suffer.

But I also want to ask where I see the spirit of Herod in myself.

Where do I find myself clinging to control or power or influence, threatened by God’s authority, or by another’s calling?


Do you see that spirit in yourself? It is true for all of us – Jesus comes as King into a life, a heart, where there is a sitting ruler. A pretender on the throne.

My prayer is that through my study of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would get more and more of that throne.

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