The Agony – How do insiders respond to this news? The birth of this King troubles and agitates insiders… the power brokers of the establishment (both political and ecclesiastical). Rather than rejoicing at this news, they are troubled by it. Now, if we are honest, most of us find repulsive the idea of someone ruling over us.
A. One word in verse 3 summarizes the insiders’ response: Troubled. This word means “to cause one inward commotion and take away calmness of mind.” This sense of agitation and trouble is reflected in two types of opposition. Indifference and hostility.
Indifference – Spiritual apathy and complacency. The first kind is a group of people who simply do nothing about this news of a newborn King. The chief priests and scribes represent this group. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” The sheer passivity and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening. This is not only their failure, but ours at times.
Matthew challenges what he regards as spiritual complacency. The insiders knew precisely where their Messiah would be born, but they refused to join the Magi on their quest. Their sin of taking Jesus for granted is a sin that can especially characterize the leaders of God’s people.
B. Indignant/hostile – A new ruler meant one thing for King Herod: political instability. He would interfere with Herod’s power, position, and control.
Herod the Great reigned from 37-34 b.c. The Roman Senate appointed him king. He was ruthless: murdering his wife, three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, and many others. It is no surprise he had no problem killing babies in the surrounding district of Bethlehem.
C. Practical Implications:
1. People concerned with their own status, position and stability refuse to acknowledge and bow before King Jesus as the only rightful ruler of His people.
2. People of the establishment in positions of power and control typically resist God’s purposes, while the lowly and marginal (the Gentile magi) embrace them.
3. I, like Herod, am a pretender-king, and Jesus, is the real King. How often I have been more interested in saving my good name, my kingdom, and my throne rather than saving my soul.