WHEN Christ was born, many were troubled because of Him. Matthew says that “Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” It is an unusual thing to hear of a king being troubled by a babe. Proud Herod, the fire-eater, troubled by a babe in swaddling-bands, lying in a manger? Ah, me! how little is the real greatness of wickedness, and how small a power of goodness may bring it grief!
When some people hear the Gospel, and find that it has power in it, they are troubled. Herod was troubled, because he feared that he should lose his throne; he thought that the house of David, in the person of the new-born Child would take possession of his throne; so he trembled, and was troubled. How many there are still who think that, if religion be true, they will lose by it! Business will suffer. There are some businesses that ought to suffer; and as true godliness spreads, they will suffer. I need not indicate them; but those who are engaged in them usually feel that they had better cry out, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” for they get their living by making and selling her shrines; and if their shrines are in danger, and their craft is in danger, then they are troubled. I have known men, who have been ringleaders in sin, and they have thought that they should lose some of their followers through Christ’s coming; so they have been troubled.
But: “all Jerusalem” was troubled with Herod. Why was that? It was most probably because the people thought there would be contention. If there was a new King born, there would be a fight between Him and Herod, and there would be trouble for Jerusalem. So there are some men who say, “Do not bring that religion here; it makes such contention. One believes this, and one believes that, and another believes nothing at all. We shall have trouble in the family if we get religion into it.” Yes, you will; that is acknowledged in the Scriptures, for our Lord came to bring fire on the earth. He has come, with a sword in His hand, on purpose to fight against everything that is evil; and there must, therefore, be contention. Hence I do not wonder that the lovers of ease are troubled.
Yet it is very sad that the Gospel, which is meant to be good news to men, should trouble them; that the heavenly offer of free grace should trouble them; that to have Heaven’s gate widely opened before them should trouble them; that to be asked to wash themselves or to be washed in the blood of Christ should trouble them. Troubled by infinite mercy! Troubled by almighty love! Yet such is the depravity of human nature that, to many who hear the Gospel every day, it is still nothing but a trouble to them.
Herod tried to get out of the trouble by playing the part of a hypocrite. “Yes,” he says to the wise men, “there is One who is born King of the Jews. Will you kindly tell me all about it? You say that you saw a star; when did it appear? Be very precise in your account of it. Did you take note of its movements? What time in the evening was it first visible? What day of the month did it appear?”
Herod is very particular in getting all the information that he can about the star; and now he sends for the doctors of divinity, and the scribes, and the priests, and he says to them, “When ought this Messiah, that you talk about, to be born, and where ought He to be born? Tell me.” Herod, you see, is a wonderful disciple, is he not? He is sitting at the feet of the doctors; he is willing to be instructed by the magi; and then he finishes up by saying to the wise men, “You go and worship the new-born King; you are quite right to have come all this distance to worship this Child. Be particular, too, to take notes as to where you find Him, and then come and tell me about Him, that I also may go and worship Him.”
So we always find that, where Christ is, there is a Herod or a Judas somewhere, near. If the Gospel comes to any place, there is a certain number of persons who say, “Oh, yes, yes, yes, we shall attend that place!”
I know a certain town where there is one true preacher of the Gospel, who has won many to Christ; but there are a great many who go there who know nothing at all about Christ. A certain number of people would think that all was wrong with them if they did not hear sound doctrine; but all the while they have made up their minds that sound doctrine shall never change their lives, and shall never affect their inward character. They are hypocrites, just as this man Herod was. They will not have Christ to reign over them. They do not mind hearing about Him; they do not mind acknowledging to a certain extent His rights; but they will not yield allegiance to Him, they will not practically submit to His rule, and become believers in Him, and followers of Him.