Herod and his mountain

Yesterday archaeologists announced the discovery of what they believe is Herod’s tomb in his fortress-palace outside Jerusalem, known as the Herodion. Herod the Great ruled Judea (on behalf of Rome) at the time of Jesus’ birth.


To build his palace, Herod performed one of the most amazing architectural feats of his day. He sawed the top off of one mountain and leveled another mountain altogether.

It may have been the sight of the Herodion that inspired one of Jesus’ most memorable teachings about faith:

[Jesus] replied… “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” —Matthew 17:20 (TNIV)

But there were a few crucial differences between the mountain-moving powers of Herod and Jesus.

The mountain-moving power of Herod was, by nature, oppressive—his accomplishments made possible only by the use of slave labor. The mountain-moving power of Jesus was liberating; for people like the possessed child in Matthew 17:14-20, it brought healing and deliverance from oppression.

The mountain-moving power of Herod was self-serving; the Herodion was meant to be a massive reminder of Herod’s own greatness. The mountain-moving power of Jesus was of an entirely different order. It was meant to be used for the benefit of those who, like the possessed child, had no power of their own.

Last… the mountain-moving power of Herod died with him. The Herodion was supposed to be a lasting monument to his power, one that would survive long after Herod was dead. But it’s just that—a monument and nothing more. The mountain-moving power of Jesus, on the other hand, could not be killed—not even by the most powerful empire on earth.

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