When Infants Threaten Kings

Kings don’t frighten easily.

Kings, presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders are generally a self-confident lot. Usually surrounded by armed security and ensconced behind barricades, they don’t lie awake wondering about noises in the night.

They command armies. Decide fates. Determine futures. They speak, and people act. If they are unafraid of armed forces, they certainly do not fear newborn babies.

But, human power is a fragile thing.

Thrones are lost or toppled. Offices change hands. Elections dictate change. Assassins await opportunities and find their mark. Funny that rather than great, marching armies, it’s the small things – a lone gunman, the single voter, or tiny secret that most likely brings human power to its knees.

It’s how it was for Herod. Appointed King of the Jews by the Romans, he was known (according to historian Josephus) for his colossal building projects. Herod liked to go big or go home and he was most at home on the throne.

Yes, Herod existed in history. He commanded construction expansions and created monuments. Ancient historians wrote about him. And his jurisdiction was a place we can still find on a map.

Then why do people imagine the infant that inspired Herod to massacre thousands of toddlers was any less real?

There is no one who knows better than a king that there is power in blood, yes? You see, Herod was appointed to power by those who oppressed his people. He wasn’t so much a king as a puppet, a pawn, a powerful chess piece on a living minefield of a board.

They gave him his title – King of the Jews – but they could just as easily take it away.

So, on the day that astrologers arrived from the east, probably Persia, announcing the birth of one who was born king of the Jews, Herod felt the blood in his veins run cold.

How could an infant be a threat to a grown man seated in power? Why would a child, born in a stable, cause a world leader even a moment of unrest?

Because, as anyone knows who has lived for any length of time in the presence of a baby, they can bring the lives of the powerful to their knees, upset our best laid plans, and wrest control from the toughest NASA launch commander.

Each infant that arrives squawling and screaming from the womb is a reminder that we aren’t as in control as we think we are and that the greatest power is bestowed by God, not bequeathed or earned by man.

The wise men probably didn’t even see Herod blink. Humans on thrones are great posers, their faces masks, their hearts encased in the precious metal of their crowns. Perhaps he smiled as he lied, commissioning them to make a diligent search for this one with royal blood that he, too, might bow down.

Fools that believe any ruler too ready to bow to another.

But, the Greater King ruling the greatest story didn’t blink either as the human pawn made plans to destroy the deliverer of human kind before His time.

The wise men bore gifts – practical, earthly gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrhh. Provision for a poor carpenter and the mother of his infant son to enable their escape to Egypt and provide for them in a foreign land when the human king tried to thwart the power of blood by shedding that of innocent babes.

 Blood prevails over appointed crowns. Every time.

For each of us is Herod in our own right. The great oppressor of humankind has appointed us rulers of our own lives, granting us power to rule from our own thrones.

And in the presence of the Christ-child born with blood to rule, too often we don’t blink either, as we plot His demise and, smiling, vow not to allow Him to wrest control from our hands. We like our thrones.

And we ignore the repetition of the massacre of the innocents as it plays out in our day, sanitized as it is in medical facilities and clinics, cloaked in politics and dressed in language meant to reduce the impact of the truly heinous crime.

As humanity repeatedly sends the message that we are afraid another infant will topple us from our thrones and take away the control we worship like the finest idol – as if control will provide for our needs. As if power will save our souls. As if ruling in this life will grant us eternity in the next.

And everyone involved wears a smile as we sanitize the shedding of blood, trying to slaughter the truth that blood prevails over appointed crowns every time.

Don’t let anyone convince you, this season, that the birth of Jesus is anything but historical truth. Remind them we still see danger in babies when we love power and crowns and refuse to bow down to the One True King of all creation.

And remind them, there is still power in the blood, life-giving eternal power.

But not if we see danger in infants. Not if we smile as we plot evil from our thrones. Not if we believe power can be handed us from the one who is outcast forever.

Only if we bend our knees before the One who shed His blood and rules forever from His throne.

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    The Conversation

  1. jerry crawford says:

    Amazing perspective!

  2. Rob McCullough says:

    Amen Lori. Excellent and timely!

  3. Sherry Carter says:

    What a unique perspective, Lori! Throughout time, rulers have killed their family members, even their own children, to remove those who might claim authority through their bloodlines.

    Herod was no different. Little did he know that the blood of the King of Kings flowed through this Baby’s veins.

    As usual, you bless and challenge me.

  4. Stephanie Pavlantos says:

    Excellent and so true. The power of a baby to topple human thrones.

    I loved the line, “Fools that believe any ruler too ready to bow to another.” Thank you for your insight.