First Sunday after Christmas
Threatened by Jesus
Herod was a wise man. He knew Jesus was a threat. So he tried to kill him, in what we call the slaughter of the innocents, a preemptive strike against a political rival.
Is Jesus a threat? To us?
Matthew 1 gives a genealogy of Jesus, his Jewish ancestry. But then in Matthew 2 the wise men, non-Jews from the East, come to worship Jesus; then Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt, the coun-try of the onetime slave masters of the Jews. And Matthew closes his Gospel with the Great Commission: “Go into all the world!”
So Jesus is a threat to Jesus’ fellow Jews who believe God is concerned only or primarily about Jews. And Jesus is a threat to us if we believe God is concerned only or primarily about us, as Amer-icans, or Canadians, or Jamaicans—or whoever we think we are.
In Matthew 4 Jesus invites some fishermen, “Follow me.” And in Matthew 5–7, which we name the Sermon on the Mount, he gives a picture of what following him means.
If we think we have become what we think God wants us to be, the Sermon is pretty threatening. Jesus declares, “The tradition, what you have heard, is just a start. If you are satisfied with who you are, at ease with how you have used what God has given you, I say that God is not done with you. You can be much more for God and your neighbors than you have been.”
There is a bit of Herod in each of us. We see in Jesus someone appealing, someone inviting. But we also see someone frightening, someone threatening, who asks us to be different persons and a different society.
What will we do with this threatening Jesus? Are we wiser than Herod?
Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Moravian Church