THE WAR AGAINST JESUS
Dear Christian friends,
Christmas is the season of highs and lows. Psychologists and Psychiatrists find that the Christmas season is a busy season for them. It is a season that gets people depressed. Not every family can be together. Not every person is going through good times. I once saw a news broadcast that was done from an orphanage. A staff member said it is so difficult to convince children to feel Christmas joy because they feel they are living in a place termed “The Place of the Unwanteds.” Feeling unwanted is devastating and depressing.
But that’s hard to escape when we live life in a sinful world. I was born in 1951. You can figure out the math. In my lifetime, I can think of all the times our nation has experienced times where we struggled. As a gradeschooler the news of President Kennedy’s assassination was traumatic to all. It didn’t make any difference if Republican or Democrat. There were the race riots of the 60’s and the killings, the War in Viet Nam, President Nixon’s resignation. When Jimmy Carter became president the Iranian Revolution took place. An ally nation turned into an enemy when the Shah of Iran was deposed and it has been that way ever since.
After the assassination of President Kennedy this nation was depressed. President Nixon, after he resigned, felt depressed. Jimmy Carter, whose presidency seemed so riddled with controversy and mistakes, was voted out of office after four years went into depression.
The feeling of being unwanted is certainly not foreign to the Christian. This whole controversy with Phil Robertson, the patriarch from Duck Dynasty, proves that. Already as a baby “The War Against Jesus” was waged. This story from Jesus’ life gives us opportunity to see 1) There is a war against Jesus; 2) The war is useless.
All was not pleasant in the Lord’s Christmas story, because the story has a villain. His name is Herod. He reigned over Jerusalem for 37 years. He wasn’t always bad. He made some positive changes earlier in his reign, but seemed to lose his mental capacity when he became older. Jerusalem’s skyline changed under him. He began an urban renewal program. He erected newer and better buildings. He built a new aqueduct to bring water into the city that was desperately needed. He made Caesarea an international city by improving the harbor. He also improved the temple. In spite of the fact that he was tax exempt, he paid taxes especially in years of famine.
As the years passed his spiritual deadness became very evident. He became more and more immoral. He married ten wives. The sons of those ten wives were a source of fear for him. He was constantly afraid they would seek to take over the royal palace. To relieve his fears, he killed his sons – his own flesh and blood. Caesar Augustus heard about this and is quoted very famously in saying, “I’d rather be one of Herod’s pigs that one of his sons.”
Knowing that about Herod we can probably understand why Herod was afraid of Jesus. The Wise Men came searching for Jesus because the miraculous star had guided them to Jerusalem. “’Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him,’ the Wise Men asked”
Herod became paranoid. He was very familiar with the talk of the faithful Jews and their expectations of the Messiah. Here were these foreigners who followed a star to get to see him. Herod needed to do something about this. In false admiration he told the Magi to go and find him and come back to tell him where he was so that he could worship too. Yeah right!
The Magi did go to Bethlehem and they worshipped the Christ Child, but God protected the Savior and the Lord’s plan to save the world. He warned the Magi to go home another way. Herod believed he had been double-crossed. He did one of those despicable acts in history that particularly evil people do now and then. He slaughtered all the male children two and younger in the city of Bethlehem. Certainly the aspiring king would have been among them.
But the Heavenly Father had stepped into the picture once more. “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Satan was having his way with Herod, wasn’t he?
But in spite of the wicked plan the Bible passage is so true, “While man proposes, God disposes.” God sent an angel to Joseph to warn him to take the special child to a special and safe place – to Egypt. Joseph, the faithful foster father did what the Lord commanded.
What a rude awakening this must have been for Mary and Joseph. There were a lot of miraculous aspects about the birth of that Son. There was the conception by the Holy Spirit and birth from the Virgin Mary. There were the shepherds who said they saw the glory of the Lord and heard a chorus of angels. There was the visit of the Wise Men who were guided by a miraculous star. But now their infant son, this miraculous son, was on a most wanted list. The King of Kings was a most wanted baby. The Lord of lords was the target of an assassination attempt.
Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to a small island in the Atlantic Ocean to die a sick and broken man. Why? He tried to conquer the world by force. The Shah of Iran many years ago was exiled too and accused of social injustices and murder. But what crime did Jesus commit? He was a child, so young! What did he do? What could he do?
The Savior was forced to live in exile at the very event that bears his name.
The anger with Jesus and his entry into to the world event seems to build among unbelievers each year. There are those who are loud and rude who say that it is offensive to call Christmas, Christmas. It isn’t nice and respectful to people who are Islamic or Hindu or any other religion that doesn’t believe in Jesus. Headlines this Christmas read, “Three times a week without fail, the sound of ancient chants reverberates from the blackened walls of the Church of the Archangel Michael. Once aglow with precious icons and flickering candlelight, the Coptic church outside Cairo now stands nearly bare, looted and burned by an angry mob more than four months ago.” Those were headlines this year in the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago.
Look what is happening in our country. Instead of freeing the courts to try murderers and thieves and child molesters, lawsuits are brought to court at great expense to get rid of the word Christmas in titles and Nativity scenes. Only 51% of our population believes that Christmas is a religious celebration –the birthday of the Savior of all.
Unfortunately Christians are guilty of doing the same. We get burned out on church. Attendance drops off the week after Christmas when Christmas Eve packs the house. Is there no afterglow? Church is for many a chore instead of a treasure. The music stops. The energy wanes. There is not as much excitement. There is a war on Jesus and it’s not just at Christmas. Don’t be on the wrong side!
Yet there is another lesson to be learned from all this – a very positive one. This story reassures us who really controls history. Herod had a plan –the Wise Men would return and tell him where the Messiah was. I think you know what Herod wanted to do with him. Herod’s backup plan was to kill male children in the city of Bethlehem two and younger. That had to include the blood of the one the Wise Men worshipped. He was ready to tear the hearts out of very happy parents by killing their babies. What cruelty!
It might seem like the world is coming apart by the seams. Better than 50 million lives of babies have been snuffed out by abortion, human trafficking doesn’t get the talk it ought to. We might wonder if God is in control. We must remember that God does not treat us like puppets and put us on strings to do what he wants. Even though it is obvious that the evil of man’s ways are so apparent, our omnipotent and omniscient and omnipresent God is in heaven and he promises that even evil will serve his purpose. I saw this posted a day or two ago, “Something happens for a reason, but the reason might be because you’re being foolish and make bad decisions.” Some empires were as evil as evil can be; some emperors are evil as evil can be, but Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, is over all things - to the joy of his church and to the dread of the unchurched.
But our King in exile teaches still another lesson and is the most important truth of all. That trip to Egypt was doubtlessly a rigorous one – hard on Mary, hard on Joseph and hard on the baby Jesus. There was no easy way to get there. Already the little baby was learning what it meant to suffer for us. That was his ultimate mission. He had come to die for the sins of the world, the sins of Herod, the sins of Hitler, the sins of Phil Robertson and the sins of the lesbian and gay community, and, yes, the sins of you and me.
A common complaint that people utter these days is that we have people in Congress and a person in the White House that just don’t know the struggle of the common people. They make laws that seem to punch people in the stomach and make life harder than making life easier. What do many really know about making a living?
We have a Savior who does understand. Although he is the King of kings and Lord of lords, although he created the heavens and the earth, the visible and the invisible, the gigantic universe and the tiny atom, he became for us the man of sorrows. He bore our guilt and endured our sorrow. He walked in our shoes and understands the problems we do. He bore our sins and died for every last one of them.
The road to Egypt was just part of the journey. Finally it would wind through the streets of Jerusalem and go to Calvary. There on the cross and at the empty grave, he won the war and we become the victors. Amen