Rev. Krcha preached from Matthew 2:13-16 using the subject of “the opposition will not sit idly by…”
After the birth of Jesus, Maji came form the East following a star, saying, “Where is the King of the Jews who has been born? We have seen his star and have come to worship Him.” King Herod is immediately after him. He was told: Find him in Bethlehem of Judah. Herod sent the Maji to Jerusalem to find the infant boy and report his location. The star led them to Jesus where they worshipped him and offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said him, Arise, take the infant boy and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is ready to demand the child in order to destroy him. They escaped to Egypt.
Why did God include this in the Bible? How tragic. Evil is real. Sin produces evil. Evil is the destruction and suffering that result from sin. Anxiety often precedes sin. I think the fancy word is “anticipatory anxiety”. Herod was anticipating the loss of power and control. And Herod was not going to sit idly by. Herod was enraged and ordered all boys, two years old and younger, to be killed. And that’s about as evil as it gets. Murdering innocent children to maintain the “status quo” is unthinkable. It is difficult to think of all the grieving mothers of Bethlehem that had their children murdered by Herod. It’s just too awful to think about. Jewish mothers were praying for the coming Messiah Emmanuel and I suppose all of them could not have expected the horror of having their children murdered.
Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” (Matthew 2:17-18)
Rachel had died giving birth to Benjamin. Rachel had wept when Israel [Northern Kingdom] had been taken into exile. And now, Rachel weeps yet again: this time over the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem – as ordered by Herod. “There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land”. (Jeremiah 31.17) I believe that is why Matthew reminded the children of Israel about Rachel. They knew the stories of Rachel, and the stories of their ancestors going into exile, and how God had rescued them. Matthew is comforting God’s people reminding them how God had saved them, even in the worst of times. He rescued them not once, but many times. The very next verse speaks of Herod’s death. And after Herod dies, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to the land of Israel.
Just as in Jeremiah’s day, the situation seems bleak, but the hope of salvation lives on. Perhaps this is why, we, as God’s people, need to remember the slaughter of the innocents the Sunday after Merry Christmas. Maybe we need to be reminded that God’s people have faced evil many times.
Maybe we need to be reminded this is precisely WHY God needed to send His Son. It is because of evil incarnate such as Herod. This resistance and evil still goes on today. Those in control will absolutely resist the Kingdom of God on earth, especially if ‘they’ have to ‘give up’ anything. Especially if they have to give up something they view will be given to aid someone who doesn’t ‘deserve it’.
Emmanuel, God is with us. King Herod doesn’t like it, and “will not sit idly by...“ There will be wailing and loud lamentation as we journey toward the full consummation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Dr Richter describes “the Kingdom of God on earth like this: In the new covenant, God’s people are no longer limited to the offspring of Abraham, God’s presence is no longer confined to the Temple, and God’s place is no longer limited to that hilly patch of real estate along the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Jesus has been born to rule a kingdom whose citizens are drawn from every nation on earth. The New Covenant is big and bold and the opposition “will not sit idly by…”.
This week, as I thought and prayed about all of the families of Bethlehem, and their grief as Herod had all of the children under the age of 2 murdered, I wondered about those families as Jesus emerged into his ministry at about age 30. I wondered about those families as they saw Jesus being crucified. I thought also the same about the families of Newtown, Connecticut and the 20 first graders massacred by the young mentally ill man. If you have heard how many of them have responded to the deaths of their precious children, it should give all us of courage and hope as we go forward. They prayed and they lobbied to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. It would be evil incarnate to allow an untreated mentally ill person to carry a weapon into yet another school in the Kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus being born on Christmas initiated the Kingdom of God on earth. It is not yet fully consummated. Battles remain. Evil is still about the earth. How would our community be different if we refused to allow anyone to sell drugs? How would our community be different if we refused to let one child go hungry tonight? The opposition will not sit “idly by” to allow it. This is the Christmas story, too.
Christmas is about giving gifts. And Jesus, our savior, invites us to give our lives as holy and living sacrifices in response to what He did on Calvary. Salvation is ours. How then shall we live? Hunker down? Build a bunker? Love your neighbor.