I sit writing this post as fireworks and a concert go all night long right outside our hotel window. I think the celebration and excitement is about the President of the United State’s first international visit to Israel tomorrow, which (political opinions aside) I can’t believe I’m going to be present for. I see Israeli flags partnered along American flags all over the highways. It’s a bit exciting, even if it also means being locked inside the old city gates with armed guards right outside our hotel for 24 hours straight.
Still, I found it funny that the day we prepare for Donald Trump to arrive in Israel, we also visit the ancient palace of Herod the Great. Besides a pretty decently sized ego, both our President and Herod were hugely influential in infrasturcture. Both had their multiple homes. And both, also, loved luxury.Herod the Great earned his nickname, but not by being nice. He was great because he built massive, ginormous structures that were way past his time. As a Roman ruler over Israel, he rebuilt the second temple to look worthy of God, and he built up Jerusalem to be worthy of him (who had the ego of a god…). Yes, he was the King that tried to kill little helpless baby Jesus right after birth, but that’s probably because he was so paranoid. He even issued the decree in the Bible to kill every baby two years or younger after he’d heard lil’ Jesus was among them.
For many reasons, he is argued by some to be either a villain or a hero. This guy had four palaces all over Israel in which he could creep back and forth, staying hidden from enemies but also living the luxurious life. The palace we visited recently was his infamous Herodium, which looms (ironically) right above Bethlehem. It is here that he is also buried in a massive tomb (had to be huge).
In fact, Herodium was built and then Herod decided to build a mountain over it. A MOUNTAIN. For protection, so if under attack it would be near impossible for any soldier to climb up. And, even if they tried, they had a huge supply of round rocks they could roll down the slopes, knocking the soldiers down like bowling pins. It was a sight to be seen, for sure, and really helps one realize just how incredible Herod must’ve seemed at the time rumors of Jesus were circuiting. No wonder Herod was paranoid, the King of the World was rumored to be at his doorstep (and, in truth, he was). Herod built the mountain over his palace by taking apart another mountain, and then moving it. He moved a mountain! This puts Jesus’s statement, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him,” into a whole new perspective (Mark 11:23).
To the people of Israel, Jesus is saying even a little faith is powerful as long as it’s genuine faith. But at that time, genuine faith meant having as much power as the most powerful King to ever rule over their country! Not only was Jesus using an example of great natural beauty and power, but he was also using an example of human power. To have faith in Christ is to be more powerful than your most powerful King.
Herod moved one mountain to an adjacent mountain, but Jesus said you have the power to move a mountain across the entire country itself. Now that’s power.