Wednesday, August 16, 2017

🎄 Two Kings

December 22, 2016 by  
Filed under 2016 Christmas, Monthly Articles

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Two Kings
by Ken Bridge

The stories of two kings intersect in the Nativity, one king desperate to hold on, another king who came to freely give all.

Matthew 2:2  … Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Herod pondered the meaning of their request. The Magi were men of the East. The Kings of the Medes and Persians were powerful rulers, but they depended on the support of the Magi. They could not rule effectively without it. But Judea was part of Imperial Rome, and the Magi had no power here, political or mystical. Still they were here, at his court, and their very presence was unnerving in itself. And they were seeking a king other than him, one who was born “King of the Jews!”

Standing by the window that gave light to his courtroom, Herod saw in the dusty corner a spider in a web. “Someone is not fulfilling their responsibility!” The great builder took his work seriously, and if his servants didn’t, they would regret it. As he watched he saw a fly land on a wispy filament. The spider was instantly alert and headed toward his prey. Herod smiled. The slightest, most remote disturbance did not catch the spider by surprise.

“Thank you, Decius, the priests and scribes are also here now, you may let them all in. I will hear them now.” Herod’s eyes followed Decius as he departed on his errand. “And tell all this to Caesar!” he silently implored. Caesar’s spies could be useful to him, too, provided that he knew who they were. Let Caesar see how Herod ruled Judea with a firm hand and shrewd calculation. If his own children and wives were less safe than the family pig when they plotted against his rule, how much more this pretender to kingship the Magi were seeking would know the peril in threatening his throne.

Herod stood as the men entered the courtroom. He looked past the Priests and scribes. Some were toadying sycophants, others barely concealed their scorn for him, an Idumean ruling as King of the Jews, Esau ruling Jacob’s house. He returned their scorn. He needed them, and used them, and it amused him that they were, despite their insufferable arrogance, mere pawns for him to manipulate. The Magi were a different breed. They seemed outwardly respectful, but something in their demeanor hinted at an insolent belief in their equality with him. Still, he needed to hear what they they had to say. It was seldom safe to act on mere rumors. He intended to find the underlying, real threat, and extinguish it without mercy.

So it was a celestial sign that excited them. A belief in an outworking of divine prophecy. Herod doubted the truth of their prophecy, but knew that others believed, and that made the belief dangerous. Someone born within the last two years, destined for royalty. This could not stand.

“What do the Scriptures say about this king?” he asked the scribes. “Where can these men find him to pay their respects? And I also would seek to worship God’s own Messiah, if he should have arrived.”

“The Prophet Micah of Moresheth prophesied thus, when Ahaz was King, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, not the least among the princes of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth a ruler in Israel.”

As the men all departed, Herod bid Decius to stay. “See that the Magi are followed, so I know where this king is, and if he is truly God’s anointed.”

That night, Herod’s dreams were troubled with ominous, shuffling presences that skirted the shadowy edges of his sight, sibilant whispers that failed to form into words, menacing sounds that hid their meaning.

In the throes of panic, Herod awoke and stared into the darkness, into the deepest shadows, black folded on blackness, cold and empty. His racing heart found a steady, icier beat as he met the challenge, staring down the dark abyss before him from the darker abyss within. Whatever evil is to befall him, Herod would oppose with stronger evil. Having risen to the challenge, he fell back into slumber, and all Jerusalem shuddered.

Matthew 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.

They came into the house the star had singled out. The couple seemed unsurprised by their arrival, as if this were normal and expected. They saw the boy, a toddler, black curls framing his face, eyes that showed curiosity without fear. The first Magi saw in those eyes such royalty as never had reigned on this earth and bowed deeply as he laid gold at his feet. The next saw in his eyes a profound union with God  and proffered frankincense for worship. The final Magi, looking into the boy’s eyes, saw tumult and sorrow and suffering and blood, and offered myrrh, sensing somehow that the funeral he foresaw would be a beginning and not an end.

The Magi explained that Herod had expressed interest in finding this boy, but they had been warned in a dream to depart without seeing him again. That night Joseph also dreamed and the following morning he gathered his wife and son and told his relatives he had to leave before darkness fell.

In his castle Herod watched as another spider, despite persistent scrubbing, had formed a web into which a moth with iridescent wings flew. An invisible vibration alerted the spider, who immediately began to approach its prey.

“Herod, the Magi have left for the east!”

“Decius! No matter! It’s been taken care of!” As he spun around, a portion of Herod’s indigo cloak sliced through the tendril of web. Herod did not see the iridescent wings of the moth as it escaped into the night.

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