Slaughter of the Innocents
The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
28 December 2017
Wickedness is inured of blindness. King Herod is an example of that blindness in us humans. Herod is a mad, lewd, decrepit and hypocritical schemer. His wickedness seems so deep that critics of the Bible's veracity took him for a cartoon character invented by the evangelist, Matthew (Mt 2:1-18). No one could have been so depraved as to order the slaughter of a whole town's children on the hope of killing a future rival, and this by a man who would be dead in a couple of years. This kind of sin is a morality play, an invention of Matthew. Such critics lived under the delusion that humanity would grow to perfection through progressive education and high art. But this misplaced optimism ended when the guns erupted in August 1914 ushering in a century of slaughter of unparalleled proportions. Progressive education and high art divorced from God was put at the disposal of maniacal men like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others, who among them slew their 100 million human beings. They did this to secure what they thought would be a better world for all people. So certain were they of this that they were willing to kill anyone who stood in the way of their better world. Their murderous reign over the age makes Herod look like a piker by comparison. Herod is likely to have been responsible for the death of a couple of dozen children in Bethlehem. He only came a close second to our Adam Lanza.
 
The slaughter of the innocents by Herod cannot merely be a fairy story made up to frighten children and the weak-minded, for it has been repeated here among us. How blind can people be? Are we so blind to human wickedness that we could only presume it in others and not in or among ourselves. We think of ourselves as, after all, good people, educated in the best schools, the very best and brightest of our society. Maybe our unwillingness to invest the Herodian wickedness with reality simply reflects our presumption that we ourselves would not be capable of true wickedness, certainly not the kind of wickedness that commands the death of children. We can't imagine how this could happen because we do not know the depth of wickedness in our own hearts.
 
Christ has loved every person, and has borne the sins of every person, even and especially of those first martyrs slain by raging Herod. He has loved those who were kept in Stalin's gulag, Hitler's death camps, Pol Pot's killing fields, and America's abortuaria, never to emerge in this life. Jesus did not flee for His own convenience as cowards do, expecting others to do their dying, but to do His dying at just the right time for all those who belonged to Him, both dead and alive. He did not love humanity, but every person; every little child slaughtered by our madmen. He loved them to death. Not theirs. His.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church
   Origen of Alexandria
"We should not wonder that Herod conspired against the Child (Mt 2:13-23). For wickedness is in a certain sense blind, and would desire to defeat fate, as if it were stronger than it. This being Herod's condition, he both believed that a king of the Jews had been born, and yet cherished a purpose contradictory of such a belief. He could not see that the Child is assuredly either a king and will come to the throne, or he is not to be a king, and that his death, therefore, will be useless. Herod desired accordingly to kill Him, his mind being agitated by contending passions because of his wickedness, and being instigated by the blind and wicked devil who from the very beginning plotted against the Savior, imagining that he was and would become some mighty one. An angel, however, perceiving the course of events, intimated to Joseph that he was to withdraw with the Child and His mother into Egypt, while Herod slew all the infants that were in Bethlehem and the surrounding borders, in the hope that he would thus destroy Him also who had been born King of the Jews.
 
"For he did not see the sleepless guardian that surrounds those who deserve to be protected and preserved for the salvation of men, of whom Jesus is the chief, superior to all others in honor and excellence. He was to be a King indeed, but not in the sense that Herod supposed, but in that in which it became God to bestow a kingdom. He bestowed it for the benefit of those who were to be under His authority. He was to confer no ordinary and unimportant blessings, so to speak, upon His subjects, but He was to train them and to subject them to laws that were truly from God. And Jesus, knowing this well, and denying that He was a king in the sense that the multitude expected, declared the superiority of His kingdom, saying: 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world' (Jn 18:36).
 
"Now, it is not dishonorable to avoid exposing one's self to dangers, but to guard carefully against them, when this is done, not through fear of death, but from a desire to benefit others by remaining in life, until the proper time comes for one who has assumed human nature to die a death that will be useful to mankind. This is plain to him who reflects that Jesus died for the sake of men."

Origen, Contra Celsum, 1.61
Matthew 2:13-23

Now when the wise men had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son." Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "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."
 
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene." (ESV)
Collect
Almighty God, whose praise was proclaimed by the wicked death of innocent children, giving us thereby a picture of the death of Your beloved Son, mortify and destroy in us all that is in conflict with You that we who have been called in faith to be Your children may in life and death bear witness to Your salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
For the holy innocents, that suffer death for the sake of the madness of humanity, that the Lord's grace would extend to them

For Neil and Rosie Matthys, who received the gift of a baby boy, Luke, that mother and child would be kept under God's care until Luke can be brought to the sacrament of new life in baptism
 
For police and other servants of community tranquility, that we might appreciate their service especially during the holiday season, and that they might be kept safe
 
For the family of John Hatteberg, that the Lord Jesus would give them the peace that surpasses human understanding as they mourn his death
Art: MARATTI, Carlo  The Holy Night (1650s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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