When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: (see Jeremiah 31:15)
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:16-18 (NRSV)
Recently we talked about how Jesus came to earth not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)
Those who are in power wish to remain in power. Powerful people will go to great lengths to maintain and grow their influence. Herod saw Jesus as an earthly threat to his throne. Herod dealt with the challenge to his power by attempting to eliminate it. Jesus was spared Herod’s knife only because His parents were warned to take him to Egypt for a time to avoid Herod’s assassins.
Sadly, while Jesus was spared, scores of innocent children were massacred in the name of one man’s insecurity. Unfortunately the slaughter of innocents continues today. Children die untimely deaths every day- some from illness or accident, some from neglect and abuse. Some are simply sacrificed because they offend their parents’ sense of economy or timing, or they carry a genetic flaw. This world is not a safe place for children.
The correlation between slaughter and power is as old as time. The old kingdoms and the old paradigms don’t go away without a fight, even when the change of regime is good and ultimately necessary. The problem with the fight over power is that the sacrifice and the suffering are most often borne by the most fragile and vulnerable.
It is a sad reality that children still die in the name of convenience, from lack of material resources, as collateral damage in war, and at the brutal hands of abusers.
There are some who would say if God is a gracious and good God, why does He permit this to continue on? Why did He allow it then, and why does it still go on now?
There is no easy or acceptable answer to the question of human evil. Jesus came into this world of suffering and evil as a vulnerable child and entered into the human experience with us, but evil is still with us.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 (NRSV)
Perhaps our calling as Jesus followers is to let His light shine in and through us- even when we are surrounded by darkness, death and evil that we can’t understand or conquer alone.
Jesus came into our world precisely because we so desperately need the light that darkness cannot overcome. Evil and suffering exist but that is not the end of the story. There will come a day when no mother will weep for her children.