Summary: A look at the killing of the innocent children by Herod

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Innocents

March 16, 2014

This morning, we’re going to look at a passage which comes from the Christmas story, but is readily avoided during the Christmas season. It’s a passage of scripture I’ve never preached from and is maybe one of the least preached on passages in the Bible.

As we lead up to the joy of Easter, each message leading up to that great day, will focus on some aspect of tears, but hopefully, I won’t leave you in tears, I’ll lead you to the joy of Christ. So, if you would turn in your Bibles to the first book of the New Testament, in the gospel of Matthew 2, we read the story about the wise men coming to see Jesus.

If we go back to the time when Jesus was born — the wise men came to the home where Jesus was. We don’t know how old Jesus was, all we know is that He was under 2 years old. Matthew 2 tells us ~ 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews?

That starts the story about the wise men, who then find the star and come and bring gifts to Jesus. The story ends this way, in verses 13-18 ~

13 Now when the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,

and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.”

14 And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt

15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem

and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be comforted,

because they are no more.”

As you can see, this is not a passage most want to talk about. But there is important truth which surrounds this passage which I believe can bring us hope. Even in the midst of grief and sorrow.

Let’s take this in stages. What happened is pretty obvious.

Now, you need to know this about Herod, he was a paranoid, scared ruler. He was not a nice guy. For example, he had 3 of his sons executed, one of his wives, a mother in law and 2 brother in laws. That’s who we know. I’m sure the list goes on. He even thought that when he died the people wouldn’t grieve his death, so he wanted 70 men killed, so people would grieve. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

When Herod heard about a rival king of the Jews being born, he freaked out, and everyone with him. Something had to be done. He tried to get information from the wise men, but they played dumb. Eventually, the wise men found Jesus, worshiped Him, then left on the back roads and Herod had no clue where this new rival king was, so this paranoid, evil man, did the only thing he could think of, he ordered his soldiers to go into the region around Bethlehem and kill all boys under 2 years of age.

I can’t imagine the wailing and screaming of what was happening on those days. So, even though we are moving towards Easter, the sounds weren’t all happy and celebratory. There was also anguish and terror and great loss. Matthew recounts what was said through the prophet Jeremiah ~

Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.

In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah talking about Rachel, who was considered to be the mother of the Israelite nation; crying and grieving over the captivity and exile of the Israelites. Ultimately, God said the people of Israel would return from exile.

Yet, we can’t remove the fact that there was death for others, death for these innocent children, babies, who hadn’t been given a chance to live. The life of the Man of Sorrows also began with the sound of weeping in the streets of Bethlehem.

So many times we think that if we draw closer to Christ, then all of our troubles will disappear. And wouldn’t that be a nice thought. I wonder how many of us have had that thought at one time or another? Or, because I believe, no problems, at least not big ones should come my way, or to my loved ones? But we know that doesn’t always hold true.

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