How To Build a Kingdom
HOW TO BUILD A KINGDOM
Herod the Great was the king of Judea at the time Jesus was born. He was more of a puppet king. A tool of the Roman Empire to enforce their rule on the Jewish people. And as long as Herod did what the Romans wanted the Romans let Herod do what he wanted. And one of the main things Herod did was build some pretty spectacular structures. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and constructed one of the most ornate Temples the Jewish people had ever seen. Herod built himself a palace, called the Herodian, about three miles south east of Bethlehem. Herod built his palace on one of the tallest hills in the Judean desert, about 2585 feet above sea level. The top of the palace was 2635 feet above sea level. The Herodian came equipped with bathhouses, a Roman Amphitheater, and a garden that Herod could walk through. The Herodian was also a fortress designed to protect Herod against a revolt by the Jewish people many of whom saw him as an illegitimate leader. It was a cross between a swanky hotel and fort knox.
So when Herod told the wise men to return to him when they found the Messiah so he could worship him as well, we know he was lying. Herod saw Jesus as a threat. And when the wise men didn’t return Herod sent his soldiers to kill every baby boy in Bethlehem. Jesus was only spared because an Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to flee with his family to Egypt. I had always thought that Herod was far away when he heard about the birth of Jesus, the child born King of the Jews. But in fact, he was probably three miles away in his palace. A usurper to his reign had been born right under his nose. And when the wise men did not return the Holy Family would not have had long to flee. They probably left with little more than the clothes on their backs.
I have been to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. While I don’t think I went to the Herodian, I went to many similar sites like Masada, another mountain fortress of King Herod’s. Despite all of King Herod’s power and might, despite the glory of the Temple and His palace, little is left of his memory but some ruins and a story about him trying to kill babies. I am sure that wasn’t exactly the legacy he would have wanted. Herod tried to buil a Kingdom but his Kingdom did not stand.
When I was over in the Middle East I saw the ruins of many great men of the past who’s Kingdoms did not stand. In Egypt I remember looking at the pyramids, these great monuments marking the tombs of great Kings. Most of those tombs have been robbed through the ages. I remember walking up the sphynx, which no longer has a nose, and a little boy pointing at me and shouting, “Rambo, Rambo!”. I considered that to be a compliment, depending upon which Rambo movie we are talking about. Then the kid tried to sell me something. I don’t think the Pharaohs expected their monuments to be turned into tourist traps.
One of my fondest memories of the Middle East has nothing to do with ruins of Kingdom’s past. My favorite place was the Sea of Galilee. There was a Catholic retreat Center there were you could have pancakes and bacon. Generally, pancakes are more important to me, but in the Middle East bacon is pretty hard to find. While we were staying there we took a boat ride out onto the Sea of Galilee with Daniel Carmel. Daniel is a Messianic Jew. A Jew that claims Jesus as His Messiah and Lord. Daniel is a musician and a tour guide. He took us to the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And he and his band sang, “How Great is our God,” in Hebrew. As I looked upon the waves upon which Jesus walked, and I heard His praises sung across the sea, I saw a Kingdom that would not fall. A Kingdom that brings men and women from near and far to offer their gifts to the one true King. His Kingdom lives in our hearts. His Kingdom lives in our song. His Kingdom lives in our good works and our prayers. And His Kingdom is greater than all these things. His light shines in the darkness and shall not be overcome by tyrants. He Is a King who came first in a manager in humility. And he will come again in glory. And that is how you build a Kingdom.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.