Once we’ve reached a certain status, role or position of influence, the thought of being replaced can be quite disturbing.
Perhaps you’ve been promoted at work and finally find yourself in a position that allows you to have more influence and a bigger pay check. There is someone else on your team who is also very efficient and well-deserving of the same promotion or position and now you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, worried that at the slightest mistake you could be replaced.
Or maybe you’re a great hockey player and are considered top tier talent. You’re an all-star on your team but this year there are rumours of a potentially better and more impactful player joining the team. Your #1 status is threatened. How much better will this other player be? Will they take your spot? Will you be demoted to the 2nd line?
You’re a parent and you’ve been struggling with your kids. They are loud and they don’t listen. At the park one day you see another parent who seems to have it all figured out. Their kids listen, they have fun together and your kids are now asking to go play with them. You overhear your daughter say that the other kids mom is cool. Your child has never said this about you.
You’re a Pastor and you teach regularly on Sunday mornings. You dedicate much time in preparation for this because you want to connect the teachings of Jesus to the hearts of your parishioners. Yet, you observe and hear that more and more of them are somewhat disinterested in your preaching style and they’ve found a really great preacher online who they can’t stop talking about.
When we think we may lose what feels like an intrinsic part of our identity, something deep down within us is moved and shaken. We are disturbed. We become fearful. We might feel threatened.
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him. King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.Matthew 2:2-3 (NLT)
A deep anxiety may settle in and in this turbulence of mixed emotions and anxious fear, we start plotting how we will maintain our seat on our throne. The plan may look like excessive control or deliberate and calculated manipulation of events and people. For some it may look quite different as we plunge ourselves in despair, maybe some anger and resentfulness.
A few months ago I had an opportunity to step into an acting role a couple of levels above my regular position at work. It’s a role that I am well suited for and in which I know I can be successful. One week or two into this position as I continued looking at the pay system to ensure the proper updates were made, I finally saw the change. My salary was adjusted and it was obviously higher than my regular pay. It also turns out to be a higher salary than I’ve ever made before so for me it seemed like a lot! Immediately, no exaggeration, I became deeply and excessively anxious. All I could think about was, “I can’t lose this.” I became worried, fearful and began second guessing myself and doubting my abilities. Thankfully, after a few days of this intense worry, I was able to settle down although I can still often hear some noise in the back of my mind saying, “don’t lose this”, “you finally have a bit more financial freedom, you may never have this again”, “you need to show them how good you are so that they don’t replace you with someone else!”
Are you disturbed by the thought, and perhaps the real possibility, of being replaced, found to be lacking, or be less popular than another. So many things can threaten our positions, powers and preferences. As a result, we navigate a constant tension between managing our perceived, or real, threats, along with those instances when the perceived threat might actually be better for us in the bigger picture. An opportunity not to lose something but to gain in our wellbeing and personal growth if only we can acknowledge and embrace it without fear of what might be lost in the process. After all, there are things we hold onto thinking we need them when we would in fact be much better off without.
The entire city of Jerusalem was stirred as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.matthew 21:10 (NLT)
The verses quoted from the gospel of Matthew stood out to me in the way they simply yet strongly describe the impact Jesus had during his lifetime. In two particular events people were disturbed or stirred by the significance of Jesus. So much so that the impact is described as being felt by the whole city. I’m assuming there is some form of literary exaggeration here but the point is many many people where disturbed and then stirred.
Let’s begin with Herod. He’s king. He has a real throne and position of great influence and power. His people have a story, a prophecy, that has been passed on from generation to generation for centuries. This story speaks of one true King, a descendant of King David, who will one day come and deliver his people. Now, as a general rule, Herod and his people, as well as those who had come before, had a tendency to misunderstand the scope and specifications of who this king would be and, most of all, what exactly he would accomplish.
Nevertheless, Herod and his advisors knew enough to be concerned. Usually the king knows when an heir to the throne is born! When these strangers from a far away land show up in Jerusalem asking where they can find the new king, we can understand why Herod would have been disturbed. Not only Herod, but the whole city. How quickly word got around or whether or not literally everyone in the city was disturbed is beside the point. The context and manner in which this news was being delivered was disturbing for a King who could potentially lose his throne and for people trying to do the math and wondering if this could be the One.
My interest is with Herod. He was king and there was nothing wrong with that. As king he had power and influence. That is the nature of being king and there was technically nothing wrong or out of the ordinary here. Just like there is nothing wrong with benefiting from a promotion, being a highly skilled hockey player, wanting to have positive influence on your kids and caring whether or not your Sunday morning sermons are reaching their target and intended purpose. Power, positions and preferences aren’t necessarily the problem. Where we start running into difficulties is when we misunderstand and misuse that influence. When we hold onto it at the expense of others or as a result of fear.
King Herod was profoundly disturbed. If this was the long awaited Messiah, what would become of him and his current position of power. Would he be overthrown, assassinated, imprisoned? Herod did not want this Messiah to come during his lifetime. He felt threatened and took action. Pretending to be interested in visiting the new born child, he inquires about where the boy could be found and consults prophecy as to the whereabouts of his birth. The remainder of the story shows just how far one can go when propelled by fear, anxiety and jealousy. Not knowing exactly who or where this child was and not knowing exactly when he was born, Herod figured he wouldn’t take any chances. So he had all boys under the age of 2 killed.
Demonstration of power, check! Status secured. Influence … well, with all the baby boys assassinated, I imagine Herod probably lost the confidence of a big chunk, if not all, his people.
Jumping ahead approximately 30 years later, there is another instance where we are told that the entire city of Jerusalem is affected by Jesus. They were stirred. Jesus of course had spent the last number of years teaching and doing lots of miracles. Word had gotten around about him. Many had seen him accomplish amazing things. Many had heard him and been moved by his teachings. Some followed him, some were indifferent and others were plotting to kill him.
In Matthew 21 the city is stirred. As Jesus made his way into the city, riding a donkey, people were lining up on the sides of the road and using their coats and branches they could find to create a welcoming carpet. They were shouting in glee and singing praises to God as this moved along. At this moment no one was left indifferent. Something was going on that was beyond what they had ever seen, heard and experienced before. Here is our deliverer! Is this our deliverer? Who is this man being welcomed as a king? There was hope and anticipation of something long awaited. As I stated before, it was a somewhat misunderstood anticipation which can partly explain why a few days later this same crowd would be calling for his crucifixion.
Herod was disturbed because he had something to lose. For him to welcome and acknowledge Jesus meant giving up his most prized possession. His throne.
When the city was stirred by the arrival of Jesus they were moved by the excitement, hope and anticipation of being finally free from Roman oppression and delivered by the long awaited Messiah. They would eventually be disturbed when they realized things weren’t going to go down as they had expected and that Jesus was offering a different kind of deliverance which required a sort of surrendering.
Ok, I’ve been going on for a while now and “yeah!” if you made it this far. The point is, one cannot be faced with Jesus and not, at some point, be affected one way or another. Have you ever been disturbed or stirred by Jesus? Lately, or even right now, would you say Jesus disturbs you or does he stir you?
Is a “throne” being threatened in your life? How are you dealing with this?