Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents

December 28, 2014
Text: Matt. 2:13-18

            Perhaps those Bethlehem mothers had just rocked their baby boys to sleep.  Finally, all was quiet.  They sat there by the fire, babes in arms, listening to the slow, slumbering breath of their precious little boys, entranced by the rhythm of those tiny little hearts.  Their own eyes were heavy with the weariness of the day.  Their heads began to nod.  Then suddenly the doors of their hovels flung open.  Herod’s soldiers came crashing in, brandishing swords, ripping those precious baby boys from their mothers’ arms, with no explanation, going about their murderous, bloody business.  Every male child, 2 years old and under, in Bethlehem and vicinity, slain.  Because jealous Herod heard from the wise men that one had been born King of the Jews, for they saw His star in the east, and had come to worship him (Matt. 2:2).  Herod could not allow this threat to his rule to stand.  Thus the soldiers and the flashing of steel.  The boys silenced for good, their mothers wailing, arms empty.  “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” (Matt. 2:18; ESV; cf. Jer. 31:15).  Merry Christmas! 
            We call them the Holy Innocents, not because they were sinless, but because they had done nothing to merit Herod’s ire.  And because they were righteous by faith, sins forgiven in Christ, innocent with His innocence.  For these boys were circumcised on the 8th Day.  They were Covenant boys, God’s boys.  They died because Herod was seeking to kill Jesus.  He figured if he killed them all, he would kill the One he perceived as a threat.  But it was not yet our Lord’s time.  His time would come, in just a little more than thirty years.  But for now, He escapes, Joseph being warned in a dream to take the Child, Jesus, and His  mother, Mary, down to Egypt and remain there until the threat has passed (Matt. 2:13-14).  Now, you may misunderstand this event, as though Jesus threw the Bethlehem boys under the bus to save His own neck.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus escaped to die another day for these boys, and for their mothers and fathers, for the whole world, the atoning death of the cross for you.  And these boys, they are comforted now.  They are safe.  They are with Christ in heaven.  They rejoice that they were counted worthy to shed their blood for Jesus.  They were the first Christian martyrs.  And the Lord Jesus will raise them from the dead and restore them to their mothers’ arms on the Last Day. 
            The great mystery that we find so hard to comprehend in all of this is that God works His good through death.  These boys die as a witness that our Lord would accomplish His saving mission by His own death.  These boys die as a witness against a cruel world ruled by murderous tyrants, exposing our great need for the salvation of the Lord.  These boys die to send the toddling Savior into Egypt, “to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (v. 15; cf. Hos. 11:1).  These boys die, and the sword of grief pierces the souls of their mothers, a type of the sword that would pierce Mary’s soul at the foot of the cross.  They are a type of Jesus.  Their blood foreshadows His blood shed for them.  Their blood is made holy by His blood, their death by His death, and as He is risen, they will be raised.  All of this is not to deny that their death was tragic.  Death always is, and especially the death of little children.  Betrayed to death by their own government, the government put in place by God to protect them.  Such is the wicked pattern of this world.  The Holy Innocents slaughtered by Herod’s soldiers.  Babies torn limb from limb or chemically burned to death by the thousands each day by government funded and endorsed abortion factories in our own nation, the holocaust of the unborn, a 9/11 every day. 
            I don’t know what the good of that is.  But I know the Lord will work great good even out of this horrendous evil, because He has promised (Rom. 8:28).  That is what He does.  He has done this before.  Recall the situation in Egypt.  Prophecies that a deliverer would come to free the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage.  Once again, a monarch is threatened by babies.  Every Hebrew baby boy is to be killed, cast into the Nile, Pharaoh’s orders.  Moses’ mother casts him into the Nile, but in a basket of bulrushes, and floats him down the river into the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He is raised as her own son, and grows up to be that promised deliverer to lead his people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  All those little boys died so that this one could live and save many more.  All of this is a type, of course, of what happened on a grander scale in Bethlehem.  Those boys died so that Jesus could live and save the whole world. 
            That is the ultimate good that our God works through death.  And that is the great comfort for those weeping and wailing mothers of Bethlehem, and Egypt, and for any parent who has ever lost a child.  God suffered the death of His Son, too.  In fact, He gave Him up willingly into that death, to save those baby boys and every one of us children of our mothers from the eternal death of hell.  It was the supreme sacrifice, God in the flesh nailed to the cross.  He is the sacrifice of atonement for your sins.  He bears your sins to death, so that you can live as God’s child, holy and righteous.  That is what Christmas is all about.  This Child was born to die for you.  The death of the Holy Innocents points to the death of the one true Holy Innocent for the life of the world.  The salvation of the world is accomplished in that death.  And the Child does not stay dead.  He is risen.  He is risen to give eternal life to you and to all who believe in Him.  He will raise the boys of Bethlehem.  He will raise their mothers.  He will raise you. 
            We do not understand the Lord’s ways.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways and thoughts are as much higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Is. 55:8-9).  He knows what is good for us.  We think we know, but we don’t.  God is God and we are not.  He knows, and He does all things for our good and for our salvation.  Even death.  So many suffer with grief during the holidays.  There are empty places at the table.  Loved ones who were so much a part of the festivities now celebrate the feast on the other side of the veil.  We don’t know how that can be for our good.  But faith confesses that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God is doing all things well.  And the proof of it is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.  The proof of it is the Body and Blood of the Lord placed into your mouth for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. 

            God even works your own death for your good.  The death you’ve already died at the font, baptized into the death of Christ, that even as He is risen from the dead, you, too, might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Because you died there, you need not fear death.  For you, it is nothing but a blessed sleep, your soul safe with Christ in heaven, your body in the ground, to be raised for all eternity on that blessed day when our Lord returns to judge the living and the dead.  As for the boys in Bethlehem, so for you.  Your death day is your birth into the joy and peace of heaven.  It is the day you will see for yourself what you now believe but do not see.  You will see Jesus.  And before you know it, you will see Him with your resurrection eyes.  Then it will all make sense.  Your questions will be answered.  Your aching heart will be relieved.  Rachel and you will be comforted.  And God will wipe away your tears.  For your loved ones who died in the Lord will be restored into your arms.  Merry Christmas!  Christ is born for you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.             


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home