King Herod wanted to stay king so badly that he was willing to manipulate some mystics and kill a couple dozen children under the age of 2 to keep status quo. He died shortly after Jesus was born, little more than a detour for the divine rescue mission.
And that's about all Matthew's gospel tells you about Herod. He's a stock character in the Story of God. And I don't know why, but I found myself filling in the details of his life. A tiny bald spot on the right side of his beard. A billowing laugh you could hear in the other room, so baritone and self-forgetting your heart jumps at the sound. The first time his father peered in and found him lacking. An in-between moment of his Tuesday afternoon rule, the creeping thought that he achieved everything he originally wanted... and still wanted more.
So much of my Bible reading is aspirational: who wouldn't want Mary's courage or Jeremiah's faithfulness? Leadership books are drawn from Esther and Paul. And I don't know why, but I'm drawn to the bad Bible characters these days.
We read the Bible to find all that we were, all that we are, & all that we might yet become. But other than Jesus, do you know any Bible character that lives in only one of those categories? We'll admit the flaws of the good characters (and we better, because holy crap). But when you imagine the bad Bible characters, what do you see? The wicked kings of Israel, the married couple that lied about their property value to the apostles, the Pharaoh who refused to let 'em go, Judas Iscariot: do you imagine them all waking up planning how to screw everybody over just for oppression's sake?
And what about the bad characters of your life? Do you have them in your mind's eye? I do. And though black-and-white distinctions of good-and-bad people are time-efficient ways to organize your relationships, they hide an important truth: God sees the gray.
I'm not trying to push the good people down a couple notches. In fact, I know my special vision turns specks into sticks and sticks into logs in other people's eyes. That's why I just assume good people are (imperfectly) good people. That's also why I've got hunches about the bad characters, both in the Bible and my life. I bet if we look long enough, we'll see their grayed goodness. I bet if we look long enough, we'll see the stuff swirling around their life, making their ugly actions (a little more) understandable.
After all, all of us are some parts alive, some parts dead, and every part desperate for a resurrection.
photo cred: pretty sure that's me