Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Second Sunday After Christmas: A Devotional Commentary

Matthew 2:13-23 Now after they departed, look, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, "After getting up, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is about to seek the Child to destroy Him." After getting up, he took the Child and His mother at night and departed to Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, in order that what was being spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." Then Herod, after seeing that he was made a fool of by the Magi, was becoming exceedingly angry, and sending others, he did away with all the children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the Magi. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying: "A sound in Ramah was heard, A dirge and weeping and much mourning; Rachel crying for her children, and she was not willing to be encouraged, because they are no more." But after Herod died, look, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "After getting up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for the ones seeking the Child's life have died." And after getting up, he took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But after he heard that Archelaus is reigning over Judea in place of Herod his father, he was afraid to go there; and after being warned in a dream, he departed into the parts of Galilee, and after coming, dwelt in a city that was called Nazareth, in order that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled for He will be called a Nazarene.

The Holy Scriptures tell us of a horrible and shocking event. Herod is so angry and so determined to kill the Christ that he kills all the little boys two years old and younger in Bethlehem. The Scriptures do not tell us how many children were killed and estimates have ranged from twenty to over ten thousand but the number doesn't really matter. Herod was clearly a monster who was willing to do anything to hold on to his power. He saw Jesus as a threat to his kingship and was going to do anything he could and kill whoever he had to in order to make sure that nobody threatened his power. Extra-Biblical accounts number one of Herod's own sons as one of those who was killed in this slaughter. Later, Herod executed several members of his family including his wife.

When we read about all the horrendous deeds that Herod committed, our minds our drawn to more contemporary monsters like Hitler or Saddam Hussein. If we think about it a little more we could come up with similar atrocities to the ones committed by Herod. There are the millions of abortions that happen each year. Those under the age of nine months old are killed because they stand in the way of financial gain, the advancement of careers, or an environmentalist agenda. If we continue to ponder this horrible act of Herod our minds might be drawn to the examples of involuntary euthanasia or coerced euthanasia. The elderly and terminally ill are a drain on society. Their quality of life is just horrible. They aren't pulling their fair share and making a positive contribution to the GDP. Wouldn't it be better just to kill them off? If we keep thinking about the atrocities committed by Herod our minds might be drawn to just war theory. We might start thinking about all the civilians that have been killed by our armies in war because civilians were not protected as they should have been. We might think of our societies failure to care for the poor.

All of the above are legitimate observations. But Jesus said that whoever is angry with his brother is guilty of murder. Have you ever been angry with anyone? How many people have you been angry with? The number probably exceeds the twenty or so that Herod killed in the massacre. There is a good chance you may have even been angry with someone in the under two crowd at some point in your life. YOU are a little Herod. You may not have physically killed anybody, but that doesn't mean you are not a murderer. You gossiped that other person--perhaps even pretending it was because you really cared about them. Or you failed to stand up for someone who was being gossiped about because you didn't want people treating you like you're a weirdo. Maybe it was for a promotion or popularity or for money or for absolutely no reason at all. But the fact remains, YOU are a murderer. You are just like Herod--willing to murder everyone else to protect yourself and worthy of God's present and eternal punishment.

What hope is there? Hope can only be found in the Christ-child who would grow up and die for all the Herods like you. He would die for people like you who murdered Him. Matthew sees the flight of Jesus into and out of Egypt as a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Hosea 11:1 says, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." Matthew sees Jesus as the new Israel. Jesus did what Israel did not. God delivered Israel but Israel broke God's law. Christ kept God's law and did what Israel could not do.

The young boys slaughtered by Herod are traditionally numbered as being the first Christian martyrs and rightfully so. Jeremiah 31:15-16 says:

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

These young boys died in the place of Jesus and even more importantly Jesus shed His blood for them. These young boys are true saints of God. The world would count them as being of little worth except maybe to be cute to look at but the martyrdom they suffered for Christ is something far more valuable to the kingdom than all movies and self-proclaimed evangelists that tell you the lie that Christianity makes your life easier. We learn from these young boys that being joined to Christ might get you killed and that it's still more than worth it.

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still, Jesus shed His blood for a horrible murderer like you and has given you eternal life!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dad and I liked how you explained this. It was very well done! Love Mom and Dad