Today’s is a bittersweet post. This is a part of the story I might have conveniently omitted. Not Matthew. Very straightforward – Jesus is born and innocent babies die!
He doesn’t even try to spin it – you know the Bethlehem area was very sparsely populated at the time. We’re talking ten or twenty babies at the most...
Matthew doesn’t want to spin it. He slaps us in the face with the cold hard truth. Jesus invades the world and evil wants to kill Him. It is a truth that will follow Jesus all His life. We know how it ends.
Neither does Matthew deal with the obvious question: Why did God allow those mothers to suffer the loss of their innocent children while Jesus and His family escape to Egypt? Why doesn’t he?
I don’t know. Maybe because Matthew knew Jesus ultimately suffered the same fate – he saw an innocent man on a cross and a sorrowing mother at His feet. Those babies died on account of Jesus, but Jesus escaped to die and rise for them. In saving Jesus from the slaughter, God ultimately saves them all.
Wendy Zoba wrote in Christianity Today:
How shall we reconcile the glorious birth of the Savior with the bloody deaths of the boys of Bethlehem? The disastrous event that took place in Bethlehem...is part of the picture of Christmas, too. But we tend to allow sleigh bells, evergreens, and shopping frenzies to push it out of view. Yet it is, in fact, in all its brutality, what Christmas is about: the Savior's invasion...and his confrontation with the forces of evil...Matthew's narrative of Christ's birth juxtaposes noble and wretched characters in stark contrasts: stars and swords; majestic kingly visitations and twisted kingly agitation; Mary rejoicing, Rachel weeping; the children who die, and the Child who gets away…
Jesus had to get away in order to face the day when the angels would not intervene and when Joseph would not whisk him to Egypt; when Mary, not Rachel, wept and could not be comforted. Jesus 'got away' [this time] so that He could later on 'atone for' the blood of those children and their mothers' tears.
And now the world waits for Jesus once more and the final restoration of all things. Only then, I believe we will fully understand this story and why bad things happen to good people.
1 Wendy Zoba, "Mary Rejoicing, Rachel Weeping" in Christianity Today, December 8,
1997, p. 25.