Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: In the Shadow of Herod

faithlessonsWe now begin the third of the “Faith Lessons” DVDs. The lessons on this DVD are about the Messiah.

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.

herodianVander 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?

From there, we can refer to posts on power as Paul discusses it in Colossians. The Power Argument and the Powers Argument.

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?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: In the Shadow of Herod

  1. greg says:

    maybe we wouldnt need such big beautiful churches but a more humble setting and use the money for the poor.Same with our own homes and cars.Christmas would be more on giving and helping others than expensive gifts or toys.We wouldnt worry so much on silly things.

  2. Tim Archer says:

    Not to take a tangent, but it reminds me of the contrast between the builders of the tower of Babel and Abraham. Abraham didn't build a tower, nor a city. The only thing we see him building are altars.

    The men of Babel sought, above all else, to make a name for themselves. Abraham sought to honor God and received this promise: "I will make your name great."

    We don't remember any of the tower builders for their achievement. Three of the world's major religions look to Abraham as father.

    The Bible is pretty consistent in presenting which path to follow. Men are pretty consistent in not wanting to follow it.

    Grace and peace,

  3. Matthew says:

    In terms of the Powers hypothesis, I think it helps us live in a way which doesn't actually see various institutions as evil (American empire, Wall Street, etc) but as something that can be redeemed if only there is a will. I am thankful for Walter Wink's work in this area.

    By the by Jay, have you ever considered covering some of the enigmatic Son of Man statements by Jesus and their meaning?

    Peace, Matt

  4. Jay Guin says:

    The most thoughtful explanation I've read is from N. T. Wright. Here's a summary:

    The longer, more thorough explanation would be in his book Jesus and the Victory of God. It's not light reading but nonetheless worth the effort.

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