Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him… (Matt 2:1-3)
Herod the king wasn’t Herod the invincible or Herod the inevitable. He may have seemed like it at times. “The days of Herod the king” were unimaginably tough for many who lived through them. Evil could be seen and felt. Selfishness and greed wrought havoc on the innocent. But Herod the king was Herod the finite.
He could scheme.
…assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (2:4)
He could lie.
“Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (2:8)
He could rage.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious… (2:16)
He could murder.
…he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under… (2:16)
He could unleash terrible heartache.
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (2:18)
But Herod the finite couldn’t keep God’s plan from coming to fruition.
Jesus was born “in the days of Herod the king” because the Almighty deemed it “the right time” (Rom 5:6). More than 700 years before Herod was born, the prophet Micah had foretold…
“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.” (2:6)
…and there wasn’t one thing Herod the finite could do to prevent it.
As hard as it would have been to see in those dark days, Herod was limited. Herod the king was Herod the temporary. Joseph, Mary, and the child “departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod” (2:14-15). Matthew 2:19-20 puts it bluntly:
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
Evil is real. It’s on heartbreaking display throughout Matthew 2. Some days, it seems like it’s everywhere. Some nights, it can be felt. Some seasons, it’s easy to wonder whether evil won’t eventually swallow everything up in terrible triumph.
But Matthew 2 is also a timeless reminder that the shadows are temporary. The “Herods” of this world continue to rage, yielding their hearts and lending their power to the spiritual forces of evil…
…for a little while. They are not invincible. They are not inevitable. Darkness in the present will not have the definitive last word.
Wickedness is, but will not be forever.
The darkness has already done its worst. The Son has risen.
The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one. The kingdom of heaven remains.
Herod died. Jesus lives.