… for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. (Mt 2:13)
Matthew chapter 2 is a tale of two kings: Herod who looks and acts like a king, and Jesus, a child displaying none of the attributes associated with regality. The legal king, Herod, proves by his behavior to be the illegitimate ruler; while Jesus, the child whose conception and birth was clouded with suspicions of illegitimacy, turns out to be God’s legitimate king.
Near the end of his life, Herod killed three of his own sons in order to keep his throne. His final act in the gospel was to slaughter all of the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem in an effort to destroy one child in particular. This illustrates that those who begin by hating THE child, end up hurting ALL children. To this day, the root of genocide and abortion can be traced to a hatred of Jesus Christ. Herod is an illustration of the Apostle Paul’s indictment of all humankind in Romans 1. He is the one who proverbially suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, upon whom the wrath of God is revealed (Ro 1:18-20). As such, Herod is more than merely the villain; he is every man. Herod is what I am deep down inside – a rebel who prefers to reign on the throne of my own life, than to surrender and bow before another monarch. Herod stands as a warning of what may happen to any of us, if we despise grace. Even as a Christian, Herod still lives in me, ever tempting me to doubt, despise and rebel against God’s King. Luther said, “Man is not able to want God to be God; indeed he wants himself to be God, and not God to be God.”
The story of Matthew chapter 2 points to two monarchs who are contending in the world and in all of us. We know which one will win in the end, but until the war is over, Herod will continually pursue the child Jesus, in order to, if it were possible, destroy Him. If King Herod points to our utter depravity, the child, King Jesus points to God’s faithfulness. If Herod points to man’s sinful nature, Jesus points to humanities hope found in a new representative who fulfills all righteousness for humanity. The eighth question of the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes Matthew chapter 2 when it asks, “Are we so perverted that we are altogether unable to do good and prone to do evil?” Matthew 2 similarly asks, “Are we all as wicked as Herod? The catechism’s answer is, “Yes, unless we are born again through the Spirit of God.”