Herod built a fortress called “The Herodian” near where Ruth gleaned fields and near Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The fortress literally casts a shadow across Bethlehem. It was the third largest fortress of its time, covering over 45 acres and having double walls. Herod and his family lived in a tower over 100 feet high. You can see the Dead Sea and hills of Moab from the tower. The Herodian was surrounded by grounds of 100s of acres, with a huge swimming pool.
Edom was populated by the descendants of Esau. God prophesied that Esau would serve Jacob, and yet Herod was an Edomite and he ruled the Jews. Of course, the Maccabees had rules the Edomites for a time after they’d thrown off Seleucid rule, even forcing them to convert to Judaism at sword point. The Jews saw this as fullfillment of the prophesy — and so othey were particularly incensed when Herod was made king of the Jews by Caesar.
Vander Laan points out the contrast between Herod’s glorious towers and fortress and the humble birth of Jesus. And yet Herod is remembered for little other killing babies at the time of the birth of Jesus, and although Jesus built no buildings, he changed the world.
When we look at the world, Vander Laan says, we seem overwhelmed by Hollywood, New York, Washington — or for that matter, poverty and greed — and yet we should live as though God is stronger than any worldly power. Vander Laan says we actually live as though God isn’t strong enough, retreating to our “monasteries” to escape the world rather than going into the world to win God’s victory.
This is one of Vander Laan’s shortest lessons, but it’s truly a “faith” lesson. He challenges us to consider whether we have enough faith to live as though the Herodians of today will be the ruins of tomorrow — and Jesus will remain the one true power on earth.
In the Simply Missional series, we’ve considered a similar question: what does it really mean to live like Jesus? What is the life to which Jesus calls us?
See the previous posts on mIssional leadership and private schools. Ask the class what the church would be like if we took Jesus’ claims seriously, if we really believed that he is more powerful than poverty, persecution, and even death. How would it change us as parents? As spouses? In the workplace?
How would that change the church? the church’s budget? the church’s programs?
If God’s mission is eternal and the United States is temporal, how would this change how we live and how we do church? How does the crucifixion of Jesus defeat earthly powers? How do we live if that defeat is real?