1 March, 2024

A Life Given, Not Taken

by | 4 December, 2023 | 0 comments

By Doug Redford 

The biblical record of Jesus’ birth calls our attention to two kings. One is King Herod, the despicable man who ruled Judea when Jesus was born. He is described by one source as “a bloodthirsty tyrant who murdered his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons, among others.” Small wonder, then, that when King Herod was “disturbed” at news from the Magi of another king, a newborn king of the Jews, “all Jerusalem” was disturbed with him (Matthew 2:3). Who knew what could happen when a ruler who was already disturbed became even more disturbed? 

Scripture does not hide the sad truth of how this man attempted to eliminate the infant he perceived as a rival to his throne. In fact, Matthew notes that Herod’s brutality fulfilled a Scripture (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18). We sing the carol “Away in a Manger,” with the words, “But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” Yet in Bethlehem and the vicinity, there was a lot of crying—of infants screaming in pain and their families overcome with grief. 

The infant Jesus was spared from the death King Herod intended for him. But Jesus was not spared completely from death. He came, as the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21, to “save his people from their sins.” And that would happen through a death that was completely out of Herod’s hands. 

As Jesus’ ministry grew in its impact, many wanted to take his life, just like Herod did, but Jesus’ life was never meant to be taken. His life was meant to be a gift. So said the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6, emphasis added). Jesus himself made that more than clear in John 10:17-18: “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  

Here at Communion, we remember the king who defied all efforts to take his life before it was time. This king, unlike Herod who wanted to take the lives of others to preserve his power, relinquished his power and gave his life to save lost humanity. Jesus’ words in the upper room with his disciples reflect the futility of any and all attempts to take his life, beginning with infancy and continuing through adulthood: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). 

Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Now retired, he continues to write and speak as opportunities come. 

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