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Herod – An Earthly King Trying to Stop the Heavenly King

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Herod – An Earthly King Trying to Stop the Heavenly King”

Series: The Characters of Christmas [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 12, 2021

Introductory Comments:

One of the most famous Christmas stories is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The main character is Ebenezer Scrooge. My favorite depiction of Scrooge is the Disney one. [on screen]Here’s another depiction of Scrooge. [on screen] Scrooge was a man who was all about himself. As the story goes, Scrooge would come to see his future and realize that no one really loved him because he loved nobody but himself and his money. In fact, he would see his own funeral in the future and realize that nobody was there except other businessmen who came because they thought there was a free lunch. If by chance you’ve never heard the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, read the book or watch the movie. 

There was another man who was associated with Christmas time, who, unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, actually lived on this earth. His name was Herod. Today’s character in our series “The Characters of Christmas” is “Herod – An Earthly King Trying to Stop the Heavenly King.” [on screen]

Before we go any further, let me correct something from last week. Something minor, but important. I said last week that Joseph’s father was Heli. That’s not correct. Heli was Mary’s father, so he was Joseph’s father-in-law. The irony is, I explained this in the week that I taught on Mary. Both genealogies of Jesus lead to Joseph at the end, because the husband was the head of the household. So, Mary’s father was Heli and Joseph’s father was Jacob. 

Ok, week one we spoke about Mary, week two we spoke about Joseph, and now we’re speaking about Herod. Before we go any further, let’s pray together.


So, what can we learn about Herod? Let’s look at this popular, yet troubled, character. 

First, we’ll look at . . .

I. Herod’s Life [on screen]

Herod did not just stumble into power. He was the son of a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, which was the ruling party of Palestine before it was under Roman control. 

However, Herod did have to fight for his position, and fight he did. 

After some struggle, he finally won power and earned the support of Rome. 

Herod’s quest for power, and his many achievements helped earn him the name “Herod the Great.”

Even though he was under the power of the Romans, Herod ruled as “King of the Jews” from 37 BC to 4 BC.

To be sure, even though he was referred to as “King of the Jews,” he was not a faithful Jew. 

In fact, Herod was not even fully from the Jewish line. Herod was actually an Idumean, or Edomite, meaning that he was a descendent of Esau, not of Jacob (the Jewish people were descended from Jacob). 

During his reign, Herod’s main goal was to protect his own power, which meant squashing his enemies and keeping Rome happy (because they helped maintain his power). 

As many kings did, Herod was a man who liked to have ladies around him. In fact, Herod had ten wives!

Herod eventually died in 4 BC. We actually read about his death in the sermon last week.

We learned this fact in the story of Joseph. Let’s look again at Matthew 2:19, “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.” [on screen]

After Herod died, his power would be divided among three of his sons: Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip. 

Well, that’s a little about Herod’s life. Now, let’s talk about . . .

II. Herod’s Legacy [on screen]

In terms of an earthly legacy, the greatest part of Herod’s legacy was his construction of magnificent buildings and structures. 

Among other places, Herod constructed the port city of Caesarea Maritima, the fortress of Masada, fortifications around Jerusalem, a magnificent palace, and he brought an extreme makeover to the temple in Jerusalem. 

Caesarea Maritima was a port city and was one of Herod’s greatest accomplishments. It’s pictured here. [on screen]

Also, Herod built a huge fortress in the desert, which is located at Masada. [on screen]

Perhaps the most famous of Herod’s building projects, and most relevant to God’s people was Herod’s Temple. Here’s what it would have looked like at the time of Jesus. [on screen]

By bringing making the temple so grand, Herod was able to win some brownie points with the Jewish people. As a matter of fact, the temple was even more magnificent during the time of Herod than it was during the time of King Solomon. 

Herod also had a dark legacy. He was a man who was always surrounded by death. 

Herod was very paranoid all the time and feared political rivals, particularly those who had Jewish blood. 

Herod killed his own brother-in-law (the high priest at the time), he killed 46 members of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling court), he killed his mother-in-law, he had his wife murdered, he killed some of his own sons, and more. 

In fact, Herod was so ruthless to some of his own family, that legend has it that Caesar Augustus reportedly said, “It is better to be Herod’s dog than one of his children.”

Of course, when it comes to Christmas, you probably remember the evil act that Herod tried to commit against baby Jesus. Herod sought to have Jesus put to death by deceiving the Magi. Matthew 2:8 says, He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.” [on screen]

Because the Magi did not lead Herod to Jesus, Herod committed one of his most awful crimes, by killing all the young Jewish boys near Bethlehem. Matthew 2:16-18 says, Then Herod, when he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they are no more. [on screen]

So, Herod’s legacy would center around Herod. He would try to get power for himself, he would build great structures to show how great he was, and he would try to stop anyone who stood in his way. 

Of course, that which he is most famous for, is opposing the true King of Israel. Herod would create a legacy of opposing Jesus and his ways, and that legacy would continue through Herod’s sons. 

Well, let’s now shift to see what we can learn from Herod’s life. Let’s look at . . .

III. Herod’s Lesson [on screen]

What are the lessons that we can learn from looking at the life of Herod? We have three; you can jot these down somewhere on your note taking sheet.

Lesson #1 – Building your own kingdom will ultimately fail. [on screen]

You can build the greatest empires, the largest buildings, collect the most money, but ultimately those things will fail. 

Don’t forget that Jesus said this in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [on screen]

Since Herod’s time, people have built much greater structures than what Herod ever built. Herod eventually died. Where Herod’s Temple stood, now stands a mosque. 

Listen, church: don’t build a kingdom for yourself. That kingdom will ultimately come crashing down. Invest in the things of God and His ways. Those investments will never fail. 

Lesson #2 – The lust for selfish gain will destroy you and those around you. [on screen]

Herod was so consumed with himself and gaining more for himself that it literally drove him to turn against those he loved and those who loved him. He killed his own sons because he was afraid that they might take away from his kingship. That’s crazy! Yet, the lust for selfish gain will drive you to that level of craziness!

Remember, the apostle Paul said this in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” [on screen]

Herod committed all kinds of evil because he was all about himself and gaining more for himself. 

Learn the lesson from Herod. The lust for selfish gain will destroy you and those around you. 

Lesson #3 – Jesus is greater than you and He is worthy of your worship. [on screen]

That’s pretty straightforward, right? Jesus is greater. Don’t try to make yourself king of all things: Jesus is king! Don’t try to gain more power: Jesus deserves all the power! Don’t try to make more people serve you: serve Jesus!

Remember these words, concerning Jesus, the Lamb of God, which will be uttered in heaven. Revelation 5:11-13 says, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say, ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” [on screen]

Church, if Christmas teaches us anything, we should learn that life is not about us making ourselves great. Let us proclaim how great Jesus is!

Let this bottom line draw us in to what we can learn from the life of Herod.

Bottom Line: Herod was all about himself; we should be all about Jesus. [on screen]


No matter how hard Herod tried, he could not destroy Jesus and he could not destroy the mission of Jesus. 

Jesus would come as King, He would defeat evil, and He would establish Himself as the true King. Herod is long gone; Herod’s family is long gone; the Roman Empire is long gone; but Jesus is still on His throne as King!

Christmas is about the coming of the true King! When you remember Herod, remember that Jesus is the better King!

Challenge yourself to live out this lesson in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Rate your submission to the King. [on screen]

How are you doing when it comes to submitting to King Jesus?

Do you submit to His authority? Do you praise Him as King? Do you serve Him as King?

Take some time this week and reflect upon your submission to King Jesus. 

2. Thank God for the kingship of Jesus. [on screen]

Aren’t you glad Jesus is King and not Herod? Aren’t you glad Jesus is King and not yourself? I know that I am. I’m glad that you’re not king and I’m glad that I’m not king. 

Take some time this week and thank God for the kingship of Jesus. 


Herod learned the hard way that it wasn’t about him. Have you learned that life is not all about you? 

It’s all about Jesus! Are you living that way? Are you submitted to Jesus?

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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