God’s People, part 250: Agrippa I

Read Acts 12:1-5

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  (Philippians 2:3-5, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 250: Agrippa I. King Herod Agrippa’s rise to power and reign is one of the most fascinating out of all of the kings in the Bible. His story is one of politics, deception, backstabbing, and vying for power. Born Marcus Julius Agrippa, he was the son of Aristobulus IV, and was grandson of King Herod the Great. Aristobulus the IV was one of two sons that King Herod had strangled to death on charges of treason; however, King Herod showed favor to Marcus and his other grandchildren despite this. In fact, Herod the Great had Marcus sent to Rome where he became beloved of future Emperor Tiberius, and received an education alongside the future emperor’s son.

While his early adulthood years were nearly squandered, he was able to pull through because of Tiberius’ love for him. Despite being accused of accepting a bribe by his own brother, and being exiled by King Herod Antipas, Agrippa was well-received back in Rome by Emperor Tiberius. It was there where he formed a close relationship with future Emperor Caligula. Having been overheard wishing for Tiberius to die so that Caligula could ascend as emperor, he was thrown into prison; however, that was short lived because, once Caligula became emperor, he released Agrippa and appointed him king of the regions of Auranitis, Batanaea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis, all of which his uncle Philip the Tetrarch had held. Eventually, Agrippa brought about the banishment of his uncle, King Herod Antipas, and ascended to rule over Galilee and Peraea.

Eventually, through supporting Claudius as Emperor following Caligula’s assassination, Agrippa was given dominion over all of Judaea and Samaria, and was king over a domain that equaled that of his grandfather, Herod the Great. As can be seen by this abbreviated historical biography, Agrippa was politically savvy, shrewd, and willing to do whatever it took to increase in power and authority. Nothing was off limits, and no one was going to stand in his way.

This is the same King Agrippa, simply named King Herod in Acts 12, who became a persecutor of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. It was this Agrippa, who had James, son of Zebedee (one of the earliest of Jesus’ disciples), violently executed and Peter imprisoned in order to send a message to anyone trying to disrupt the religious and political status quo. In fact, the crowd loved seeing the death of James so much that, for good sport and public approval, Agrippa was going to have Peter put on public trial as well.

How does someone allow power and status to corrup them so? How does someone go from being the son of a murdered parent, to a murderous ruler willing to do anything to maintain control? This should be a warning to all of us. Power is intoxicating and corruptive and it can cause the greatest of us to fall. While this devotion might be centered on a King with nearly absolute power, granted to him by Rome, it still speaks to us as well because we in the church can be seduced by power too.

The church has long forgotten that the roles and heirarchy are meant to SERVE the body of Christ as opposed to making the body of Christ SERVE the people in those roles. We as the church, while we must respect the need for heirarchy and we must respect the offices of the Church, we also must never forget that the ONLY one we worship is Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, I was called to be a pastor. Yes, others are called to be bishops, or church leaders. Yes, those positions are important in the life of the church; however, they are not more valuable than any other role in the church, no matter how big or small. Let us, as the Church, remember that all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are each other’s keepers, bound in love to all who are in Christ.

Lord, remind me that no matter my role or status, I am yours and am in service to all who are my family in Christ. Amen.

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