“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” Matthew 2:16
A big part of me very much wanted to just skip over this part of Matthew’s gospel. I think this is for me the worst verse in all the Bible. Whenever I think about it my heart aches and I mourn for the desperate fear and grief their parents must have experienced. There’s so much evil communicated in those few lines.
Part of me also cry’s out, “Why God? Why did that have to happen? Why couldn’t you stop it? Why did it need to be recorded for me to have to read about it?”
Over the years I’ve wrestled with those four questions and I’d like to share with you part of the answers I’ve found.
First. “Why God?” Because sin has brought evil into this world, and that evil is bent on destruction and death. We may deceive ourselves enough to become convinced that this isn’t true but events like this remind us of this ugly truth.
Second. “Why did it have to happen?” It didn’t HAVE to happen. Everyone involved in making it happen had a choice. Herod chose to defend his paranoid delusions, his peers chose to allow him to, and his officers chosen to obey him.
Third. “Why couldn’t you stop it, God?” God was capable of stopping the event. However, merely stopping evil actions from happening doesn’t make an end of evil. God is working out a plan to make an eternal end of evil and part of that plan is that some of the horrific things people choose to do are allowed to be done. God does, however, promise that he will make things right in the end but for now evil is permitted to demonstrate just how evil it is.
And fourth. “Why did it have to be recorded?” Two reasons. First, because God wanted us to know that his Son was the focus of deliberate efforts to destroy him from the moment he was born. The Messiah would not have a peaceful life leading him to the cross. And second, because we’re forgetful. We forget how unjust and violent this sinful world is. In truth, we want to forget. At times we work hard to forget. Maybe our forgetfulness is one reason we don’t take more seriously the work of evangelizing this world so that Jesus can return and finally make an end of the violence. Because of our forgetfulness God included this reminder as part of the good news of our Saviors birth.
The gospel is such very good news because of all the very bad news we can get. Lest we be tempted to devalue the gift God has given us our Heavenly Father includes verses like today’s focus text.
Thank you God for the wonder of your Gospel.