When I think of Herod, I think of a man controlled and motivated by bitterness and pride. Herod was a man of great power but he was plagued for his entire adult life (and who knows how much of his childhood) by the need to get ahead and have more. Constantly fighting to be good enough and at least a little bit better than everyone else in order to keep a grasp on his power and wealth. Because power and wealth were all he had, he clung to them and his entire identity was rooted in them.
Sounds like an awfully sad way to live, doesn’t it!? When we read all of the things that Herod did to get ahead and stay on top, we are mortified and find it so dramatic and hard to believe. We have a hard time understanding how a person could be driven to such extremes by his own greed and pride and insecurities… at least I do. I judge the character of Herod pretty harshly every time I read the story. But what I know to be true is this…and it’s a harsh truth, so prepare yourself.
As much as I hate to admit it, I think what I dislike most about Herod are many of the awful things I know to be true of myself. I would like to think that I am selfless and humble and content. The truth is, that in the depth of myself, I am actually extremely selfish and discontented, and prideful most of the time. Maybe not out loud, but still I see those awful flaws glaring at me on the inside, threatening to show themselves if I don’t somehow get them under control.
And it’s easy to think that I would never let those things get so out of control that they took over my personality and began to control and dictate my actions and words and relationship dynamics…but something tells me that Herod thought the very same things.
I am so guilty of that. Minimizing my own flaws and awful characteristics (whether to myself or out loud) or comparing them with those of others to make myself feel better or to make excuses that get me out of making hard realizations or changes.
But, I have. I have allowed bitterness to take such deep roots in my heart and I have watched it come out in ways that I never imagined I was capable of. I have said things and acted in ways I am ashamed to admit. Bitterness has landed me in situations that are painful to call to memory. Bitterness and pride have damaged relationships that I valued. BUT, by the grace of God, and only by His grace, I am painfully aware that these things exist in me and even more aware that they need to die.
The truth is, we are all Herod-y to our very cores. We are born with a nature that is prone to selfishness and pride and greed. I am so much like Herod it is uncomfortable to say.
The difference is this Herod pushed away the one person that could change those things in him.
Jesus came into the world to deal directly with all of those things. He came humbly and selflessly and asked for nothing except to be accepted and embraced for who He was. He came to be the example of what we could and should be. And rather than embracing Jesus and welcoming Him into His world, Herod did everything to push Him away and get rid of His person. And that is exactly what destroyed Herod. His world crumbled because without Jesus it was impossible for him to survive under the weight of his sinful nature. Without Jesus, pride and selfishness and greed are uncontrollable and destructive.
So yes. The unfortunate truth about me is that I am no different or better than Herod. Pride and greed and selfishness are very real threats in my life too. Without Jesus, they are certain to destroy me and push me to unimaginable extremes just like Herod.
I choose to embrace Jesus and everything that He is. I choose to invite Him into my life and my world rather than pushing Him away. I choose to run to Him rather than away from Him and to beg Him daily to take away the awful, Herod-y parts of me lurking on the inside and waiting to rear their ugly heads. I choose to recognize and confront the ugliest parts of me and to allow Jesus to take control of them before my own story becomes one like Herod’s. I choose to use my life and my voice to send people in His direction instead of away from Him.
And that will make all the difference.
The story of Herod is one of tragedy. It is one that makes us shake our head and that leaves our hearts heavy with regret for the choices that he made. It’s hard to not feel a heavy sadness when we realize how close He was to Jesus and the life changing opportunity he refused to be a part of.