“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ‘ ” (Matthew 2:3-6)
In this short passage we begin to see the public reaction to the news that Jesus was the Messiah foretold in Scripture. Up until this point, the news had only been given to specific individuals: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, etc. But in this passage, the Good News began to reach the nations.
The most striking aspect of the public proclamation of the birth of the awaited Messiah was the immediate response of the contemporary public authority against Him. Opposition from those in power would become a common theme for Jesus’ short life – He will meet contention at every turn.
An insight we get in this passage, however, is that this often-vehement opposition is fear-based. In verse 3 we see that Herod was troubled at the news of the Savior’s birth. Why was he troubled? Because Jesus was a threat to his status, power and position. We’ll see the same fear in the Pharisees when Jesus later begins his public ministry. The odd beauty of Herod’s opposition in this passage is that it highlights the fact that we have a new ruler who is nothing like existing earthly authorities. He will not just be a ruler or king, but will also be called a “shepherd”. His concern will not just be for the management of his people and the preservation of his power and position, but he will instead seek the well-being of his people.
If Herod had ruled as a shepherd, he would have rejoiced at the rise of a ruler who was greater than himself and who could provide his people with something more significant and lasting than what he himself could provide. As a shepherd, Jesus was willing to lay down his life for his people. Herod was not even willing to lay down his title. Instead of encouraging his people toward God and His Son, Herod sought to kill the reputed Messiah, unconcerned that his actions – if successful – would have deprived his people and the world of God’s plan for eternal salvation.
We celebrate at Christmas because we have a good ruler who knows what it means to shepherd His people, and because we have a King whose plans cannot be thwarted by men or Satan.
Discipleship Challenge: In the course of conversation today (kids, discipleship relationships, non-Christians) ask someone what it means to be a good leader. Tell them about this passage and ask if they would rather have an authority in their life who exerts power for the sake of power or who seeks to shepherd as well. Spend time praising God together (if they are open to it) for being a God that seeks not only His glory, but our good as well.
Kelly Masters is Downline’s Chief Administrator.