“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:3)
We justifiably focused on the horrifying trial of a young man who crossed state lines to “protect property” during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. By now, too many of us have forgotten the name of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police, whose shooting led to the protests Kyle Rittenhouse loathed so deeply.
We don’t yet know what the Rittenhouse verdict will mean for the safety of protesters in this era of Boogaloo Boys and insurrectionists who understand themselves as defenders of American values, but the Kenosha judge told the jury that if they believed Rittenhouse had reasonable fear for his life, they needed to acquit. (Wisconsin permits “imperfect self-defense,” where reasonable fear doesn’t have to be correct.)
Months and months before the birth of Jesus, the wise men would have seen the star and begun their journey towards Bethlehem (Matthew 2). Herod wanted the wise men to lead him to the infant they sought. Would a jury of his peers have determined that his fear was reasonable? Was his fear possibly even correct?
We journey with the wise men towards the promise of salvation from a world of oppression. It is worth remembering that the world into which Jesus was born was a terrifying one: an oppressive and extractive colonizing regime, and a violent puppet leader threatened by a baby arriving on the scene.
Perhaps Herod’s fear was reasonable. Jesus was ushering in a world where the name of Jacob Blake would not be forgotten. Jesus was ushering in an era where Herod’s bodyguards wouldn’t be allowed to murder the next Jacob Blake.
May we today show up for that baby Jesus who will grow up to fight for the life and thriving of his brother Jacob Blake. May we co-create a world that dismantles systems that allow the Kyle Rittenhouses and Herods to perceive themselves as under threat for placing power and property above human thriving. May we make a space into which our salvation can be born. Amen.
Sandhya Jha is an anti-racism/anti-oppression trainer with Reconciliation Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and founder of the Oakland Peace Center. She is the author of the devotional Liberating Love: 365 Love Notes from God.