Last year I wrote a popular series for Our Daily Bread’s Off The Page blog, who gave me permission to reproduce it here. The Prepare Them Room series is four monologues of Bible characters, looking at Jesus’ birth through the lens of refugees and hospitality. Some are more comfortable to read than others: I would encourage you to try to see yourself in the ‘villains’ as well as the heroes.
Everyone hates the politicians. Right? You already hate me, I can see it. You think you’re better than me.
You’re poisoned by the propaganda against me. But it’s fake news!
The killing of infants in Bethlehem?
Okay, that one is real, but there are good reasons for everything. You just don’t understand how politics works.
Sit down, take a cup of my finest wine. I’ll have the servant rustle up my best roast pork, I mean lamb, for you. I never eat pork, I’m a very religious man. Don’t believe the ignorant lies.
The media have twisted it to say I was slaughtering innocent children. But I’m the hero – destroying a traitor who could bring down this whole country.
The security of our country was at stake – do you even realise that? It wasn’t about power, it was about the good of the country.
People want a strong leader. They want someone to make their decisions for them and take the hard line. They won’t admit to this, but they’re happier with a strong, tough leader – even a strong, tough God – because then they know what they’re getting.
I’ve got a conscience. I’ve suffered sleepless nights. (Three, in fact.)
But, as a leader, you have to make tough choices – for the sake of the people. This was one of them. Desperate times, desperate measures.
No, it wasn’t at ALL about increasing my power – I’m insulted you’d say that.
Well, perhaps a tiny bit.
It was maybe 90% about the good of the country, 10% about power.
And why not? I work hard. I deserve a bit of luxury, a little adulation every now and then. It’s nothing compared to the Roman rulers! Think of the praise they get! I’m not asking to be worshipped as a god, just a little respect.
I do really want to help the country. That’s what God chose me for. If God hadn’t, do you think I would be here, in place, ruling so successfully? God approves of me, and you better get used to it.
I don’t have very much power, when you think about it. Being a king in Israel is not what it once was. I see myself in the line of David, ruling over God’s people. Under God – yes, of course, naturally. But in those days the king had real power.
Me? I’m stuck between the Romans and a hard place. ‘Do more for our nation!’ the people cry, but they have no idea what restraints I’m under. Never mind the marble pillars, this life isn’t easy. (Did you notice my newest statue as you came in? I love promoting the arts.)
I am just the handmaid of the subconscious will of the people.
You don’t want a messiah, not really. Think of it: there would be chaos. “I’m the messiah!” says one. Then in joins another. And before you know it, there’s dissatisfaction, in-fighting, rebellions – and that’s when the Romans start taking notice of us.
You think killing a few infants in one measly town is bad? Think about what the Romans would do to us! Do you have any idea how fragile our status is? It’s all very well saying you’re trusting in God, but I know the power of the Romans, and God doesn’t look like he’s coming to rescue us any time soon.
I met one of those desert mystics, once. He amused me, with his matted hair and his wild ways, so I brought him to the palace and we chatted. (See – I love the people of this fine nation!)
The subject came round to the whole issue of the messiah.
He looked straight at me and said, “You don’t believe the Messiah will come, because you don’t want to meet the messiah. You want to be the messiah. In fact, you think you are the messiah.”
I didn’t want to meet the messiah, I thought I was the messiah? What an outrageous accusation! He was insinuating I was an immoral, arrogant tyrant. Naturally, I had him beheaded for his cheek.
Once I’d had time to think through what he’d said, I chuckled to myself. He was right, and I’ll tell you why.
I have no need for a messiah. God has blessed me and chosen me for this. I’ve got a good life. I’ve got a little power, and I use it well. I don’t need someone to rescue me. Who are these people so helpless that they need a rescuer?
I pardon others, I don’t need someone to pardon me. I help others, people don’t help me. I control my own destiny, write my own story, seek to change history for good.
I don’t need a messiah. I’m my own messiah.
Come on, admit it – you’re like me. You pay lip service to depending on God, but when do you actually worry about food? When have you truly faced danger? Don’t you have plans for next year, the next five years? You speak about God being in control, but you’re the one at the helm.
You don’t want a messiah. Be honest: you are your own messiah.
You still insist you want a messiah? Fine!
I’m protecting you, right now, from Romans entirely crushing you as a nation. God chose me for this, but you did, too. I do your dirty work.
I’m your messiah, if you really want one.
And there isn’t room for two.
So, yes, when the foreigners came in with their fake news about a new leader being born, I needed to quash the story before it started. I needed to show you people I was in control, to protect you from a worse fate.
I did it to protect the country – which it has. And God approves of it.
So don’t be so quick to judge me.
Be honest. You would have done the same.
Over to you:
- What does it mean to seek a messiah today?
Tweetables:'God chose me for this, but you did, too. I do your dirty work.' - Herod's Story, #PrepareThemRoom @Tanya_Marlow: Click To Tweet 'Don’t be so quick to judge me.' - Herod's Story, #PrepareThemRoom - @Tanya_Marlow: Click To Tweet 'You don’t want a messiah. Be honest: you are your own messiah.' Herod's Story, #PrepareThemRoom - @Tanya_Marlow Click To Tweet 'It was maybe 90% about the good of the country, 10% about power.' - Herod's Story, #PrepareThemRoom - @Tanya_Marlow Click To Tweet
For further reading – memoirs about a Christian response to refugees:
– Shawn Smucker – Once We Were Strangers. Check it out here
– DL Mayfield – Assimilate or Go Home. Check it out here
Beautiful children’s book retelling the nativity through the lens of Mary and Joseph as Refugees
– Anne Booth and Sam Usher – Refuge. Check it out here
AND – If you liked this story, you’ll love Those Who Wait by Tanya Marlow – following the life of four Bible characters who wrestled with waiting. Check it out here.