“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son...”
“…Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” Matthew 2:1-16
It seems almost incomprehensible that the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World would also occasion the death of so many innocent children. The vileness and cruelty of Herod is equally incredulous. That any one could be so completely evil and full of murderous passion staggers the mind of any reasonable person. But this is the world into which Jesus was born. The world was mad with violence and evil of all kinds.
The rich and powerful agents of the Roman Empire, lusting evermore for greater power and wealth would do anything to gain and keep them. The Jews were particularly targeted in the province of Judea because of the promised coming of a Messiah from among them, who would challenge the authority of Caesar and of Rome giving allegiance to another king.
And this indeed is the reason Jesus came, not to establish an earthly kingdom but to destroy the works of the devil and to establish the righteous kingdom of God on the earth.
But death and darkness were over the earth, Evil and the evil ways of men ruled for a season. But all Herod’s vile attempts to destroy the Messiah were for naught. He tried to quench the revival fires of John the Baptist who came preaching repentance from sin and baptism, by having him beheaded. He thought he could trick the kings into telling Him where Jesus was born so that he could kill him that too could not stop the light from coming into the world. Then in His most treacherous and horrifying act of madness he commanded every child two years old and younger in Israel to be slaughtered. Whose mind can be so depraved that such a ting would even be considered notwithstanding carried out. But such was the way of Herod the king. But the king of this darkness was no match or the King of Light and Life.
Now, by the word spoken to Joseph in a dream he took Jesus and Mary and fled into Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath until he died. Evil men may strut about and do all manner of evil deeds for a while a season but their end is death. But the end of this life for the righteous is the beginning of eternal life in Christ.
It is fascinating to me that this horrible act of violence and slaughter of the innocent by Herod at Jesus’s birth is contrasted with the amazing event of many people being raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit at His Jesus’ death.
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:50-53
Could these have been the souls of the innocent slaughtered by Herod, now returned to their mother’s and fathers?
The death of Jesus broke the curse of sin and opened a pathway for us to eternal life. Herod and all those in league with him ate dead, but Jesus and His people, His church his brothers and sisters are alive and alive forever more.
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming but in this world of sin
Where meek sols will receive Him
Still, the dear Christ enters in.”
[O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 3]