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The flip side of Christmas

November 2017 | by John Thornbury

Massacre of Innocents, Pieter Bruegel
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Christians around the world are praising God for the gift of Jesus Christ to be the Saviour. The good news of Jesus’ coming was proclaimed by the angels, welcomed by the shepherds, and celebrated by the wise men.

It is well to be reminded, however, that this glorious event was not good news to everybody. At least one, King Herod, was not glad that the Saviour had come. Matthew 2:3 says: ‘When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled’.

Herod was aware of the expectation among the Israelites that their king would some day come to earth. The possibility that the infant sought by the wise men might be that king filled him with anger and resentment, so much so that he had all the baby boys two years old and under around Bethlehem put to death.

Herod was notoriously tyrannical and cruel. It has been said that he stole to the throne like a fox, ruled like a lion and died like a dog. He murdered many in his own family, whom he perceived as rivals to his own power and authority. His slaughter of the infant boys shows the extent he was willing to go to keep his own position secure.

Still controversial

The coming of Jesus into the world troubled Herod, but he is not alone in that regard. Not all are thankful, like the shepherds, that the Lord has come; not all wise, like the Magi; not all, like Simeon, are watching and waiting for blessings from the Messiah.

Jesus Christ is, without a doubt, the most controversial figure in history. Although he is loved by millions, he is also rejected by millions. That idea that Jesus is a ‘jolly good fellow’ that no one objects to is obviously false. His message was despised when he was on earth. One of his own disciples betrayed him. A temporising governor consented to have him crucified, simply to pacify a jealous crowd of religious hypocrites. He died a shameful and painful death. Truly Jesus was ‘despised and rejected by man’.

Times are really no different now. In spite of much lip service given at this time of the year to Jesus’ birth, few really open their hearts to him; few bow to his sovereign authority and serve him.

There was no room in the inn, and there is no room in many hearts today for the King of kings. How about you? Will you welcome him as your Saviour and Lord?

John Thornbury served for many years as a pastor in Baptist churches in Pennsylvania and Kentucky