This morning at Journey we covered quite a chapter of the realities of Jesus’ birth – the 3 wise men, Egypt, God coming to those who we wouldn’t expect… there was plenty to discuss. but i was stuck on v. 3 – “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” I get the King Herod part – his civic authority was about to be challenged and he knew it. But Jerusalem? What message is Matthew trying to say here?
Thanks to that seminary edumacation i have some very heavy books and decided to put them to use (other than applying pressure to pet stains). Here’s what i’ve got.
First, according to my New Bible Dictionary, Jerusalem “frequently stand[s] for the body of citizens, the whole of Judah, the whole of Israel or the entire people of God.” Interesting. The following verse makes mention of the chief priests and teachers of the law, so i also wonder if “jerusalem” is making reference to that? I’m inclined to think so, because, according to the entry about pharisees, it seems that the pharisees, saducees and teachers of the law were the people with pull. Interestingly, the NBD author says “the traditional image of thr all-powerful legalistic Pharisee is manifestly incorrect. Claims that they controlled cultic practice are increadible and contradicted by the evidence. However, our sources do suggest a disproportionate influence on society… [sources] suggest that their influence was limited to the environs of Jerusalem.”
That’s enough research. Here are my thoughts. Why would Jerusalem, whoever Matthew is referring, be shaking in their booties at the thought of a coming Messiah? From what we’ve been taught, the Jewish people were watching and waiting for a Christ to come save them (and continue to do so today). Why would they be “disturbed”? (sorry, no time for Greek etymological research). Anxious? yes. Apprehensive? maybe. Fearful? sure. but disturbed in the same way that Herod was? i mean, Herod didn’t like the idea because of what he might loose. surely the People of God wouldn’t feel that, would they?
Would we- i mean they? (because in talking about others it’s much easier to remove similar notions from ourselves, right? ) The news that a Savior has been born, in the city of David nonetheless, and the people of God, whether it be the power-weilders or the whole of the nation, were disturbed.
Do we truly know the implications of the presence of a savior? Maybe to stretch it further – maybe there are things, places, ways of life that we don’t necessarily want to be “saved” from. It’s easy to point a misgiving finger at the chief priests and teachers of the law if we think about how they’d loose their position and influence (not to mention, i do believe i’ve heard that there was a faction of these folk who were pretty cozy with Rome, so political status is also in jeapordy… not at all an issue we face today *insert eyeroll* but that’s a whole other post).
If we’re really honest, aren’t there times when we think that life is much easier and more manageable if Jesus just stayed out of it? i mean, really, there are places in our lives that Jesus causes more “disturbance” than the other things like peace, hope and joy that we are regularly promised. Calling us to be more generous rather than selfish… forgive rather then hang on to grievences… give away parts of ourselves and allow others in rather than keeping closed and cold. None of that is easy. And we don’t want to deny the fact that so many of us unknowingly live with position and influence that, if taken away, would cause some discomfort as well.
This still seems like a hodgepodge of thoughts. But here’s where i’ve landed: through advent we’re continually asked “are you preparing for the coming of the savior?” now that Christmas is over and the baby was born, and as i read through passages like this, i ask: “am i accepting of the change this savior will bring?”