Devotional: The Jerusalem Community

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, 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.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2: 1-3

Why was all of Jerusalem disturbed?

History teaches us about Herod the Great and the blog devotional from two weeks ago explains. Herod was an evil, paranoid genius. He would stop at nothing to keep the power and wealth for himself and the throne for his descendants. He knew his Bible. He knew that, if a baby born in Bethlehem was the promised messiah king, his time on the throne was coming to an end.

But why was Jerusalem disturbed. Jerusalem was God’s place. His holy Temple was there. His presence dwelt in the holy place in that Temple. Pilgrims and worshippers came there religiously. Jerusalem was under the political and military authority of Rome, the control of Rome’s puppet Herod, and the religious rule of the priests and Sadducees.

Our text does not specify who was disturbed. It says “all of Jerusalem”.

Why would common people be disturbed? The answer is not religious; it is practical. When Herod was riled up both the guilty and innocent suffered. His reputation for paranoia and brutality was known by all. If assuring that a threat was eliminated, Herod would spare no one. If any of us were a parent, grandparent, relative or friend of a couple with a young boy; we would be disturbed. What will the king do? What will he order? Who will be butchered this time? When madness grips despots, fear grips the innocent.

Why would the Romans be disturbed? Herod was in charge of keeping the pesky Jews in line. If he needed to use brutality to that end, fine. The Romans were likely not at all disturbed. Matthew was addressing believers. Romans were occupiers in the city and country. It is reasonable to conclude the pagan Romans were not among the “all of Jerusalem” that Matthew was referencing.

Why would the religious leaders (the chief priests, the Sadducees) be disturbed? Certainly there were some among the priests who were compassionate shepherds. After all, John the Baptist’s father was a priest. But truth be told, the chief priests and Sadducees were personally profiting from the Temple and from their liaisons with Herod and Rome. Unbalanced weights have been found in the archaeological ruins of their mansions demonstrating that they were skimming from the Temple pilgrims. They were most interested in a political stability that would continue to fill their coffers. They were thriving financially because of their corrupt alliances and had no interest in disruption, even if it might have been related to a rumor that the long promised king was born.

Imagine Jerusalem, the city which was God’s chosen place. Imagine its religious leaders, content to turn a blind eye to corruption for the sake of personal gain. Imagine a pilgrims and worshippers at the Temple, pleading with their Father in heaven for about 1500 years to send the promised Messiah, now disturbed that their lives might be disrupted if the Son of the Most High was actually born.

Imagine yourself. Our Messiah has come. He is a disrupter!

Messiah Jesus says that anyone who chooses to follow must take up his cross. Messiah Jesus says that anyone who choose to be his disciple must leave the past behind and follow. Messiah Jesus says that his disciples must be people of the Word, obediently follow, be like him, and make disciples. Messiah Jesus expects his disciples to be bold advancers of his kingdom, disrupters of evil, champions for good, and lovers of God and neighbor.

Imagine yourself! You are called to lead. Do you embrace the gospel call of Christmas to welcome the Messiah and to be like him? Or are you happy with the status quo and a little disturbed by the possible disruption of the Messiah’s message to our lives?

Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services

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