Saturday, 12 January 2008

King Herod

The story of King Herod is well known. That when he heard of the coming of the Christ from the wise men, he resolved to seek the child to kill it. But when the child eluded his grasp, he slaughtered all the male infants in Bethlehem.

It is clear from the accounts of Matthew that Herod knew exactly who the Christ child was. He had consulted the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and from the visit of the Magi it was clear to him that the infant Christ was the Messiah. But why did he seek to kill him? Because Herod saw Christ as a potential threat to his own temporal power? This is most unlikely, for Herod was a quisling puppet king who was supported by the Romans, and it would be many years before the Christ would come of age.

It is more likely that Herod sought to kill the Messiah for the same motivation that has been behind almost every persecution of the church in its history. The babe in Bethlehem was a sign that rendered Herod's sham glory to nothingness. For the incarnation of Christ is an existential threat to the powers of the world, and the repudiation and the denial of their divinity. The idolatry of kings, emperors, tyrants and dictators is rendered to dust and nothingness,and their power made vain and futile. By becoming powerless, God has destroyed power.

The great persecutions of the church in history follow a very similar pattern. The early Christians were thrown to the lions for refusing to burn incense before the image of the emperor. Catholics in Elizabethan England were persecuted for denying the spiritual authority of the queen, a cult that was known as the 'Crown Rights of the Redeemer.' In Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia it was for denying the 'will of the people' in the acts of mass murder, embodied in the cult figures of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler. And more recently Christians is the Islamic world are seen as obstacles to the pure society of Islam, brought into being by the alienated Islamist intellectual, whom like the Ayatollah Khomeini a great personality cult is built.

But as the Christ child was snatched from danger and fled into Egypt, Herod failed in his objective and killed the infants of Bethlehem. Likewise, persecutions invariably fail to destroy the church, but lead to great atrocities and the spilling of the blood of the innocent. In Elizabethan England, thousands were murdered, in Soviet Russia, millions. Yet the blood of martyrs is the seed of faith, for the death of Christ in his mystical body leads to his resurrection in glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another inspiring post..& always thought provoking!.