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Christmas 2 – Matthew 2:13-23

by pastorjuhl ~ December 30th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

God’s wisdom is so great that no person can guess all of His reasons in letting evil or good things happen. It is disrespectful to name all the purposes that God permitted Herod to 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. God Himself has given clear signs in His Word why He permitted this tragic event.

Today’s Holy Gospel says, Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” Jeremiah clearly predicted the children’s death. There can be no doubt that the Child born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary is the promised Messiah. When Rachel, that is, when the Jewish mothers living in Bethlehem, loudly lamented the bloody death of her dear children, she was a tearful herald announcing the awaited King of Grace.

God could have chosen another sign and could have made a different prediction. God knew in advance that the fathers and mothers of Bethlehem would not accept the holy Christ Child but push Him into a stall. Because of His humble appearance, they would disown and reject Him. God therefore decided to permit the cruel tyrant Herod the Great to murder their children. God knew in advance that His Son would soon be rejected so He wanted to reveal what a great sin this is. If the inhabitants of Bethlehem did not wish to rejoice in the gracious Christ Child, then they should weep and lament over the corpses of their own children at His righteous judgment.

Why must the Holy Innocents be judged guilty? Why must they be sacrificed because of the malice of their parents? No one by nature can reconcile themselves to the incomprehensible ways and judgments of God. It appears unjust to our sinful reason that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. Someday in eternity, you will hear these children praise God that He killed them to become the first martyrs of Jesus Christ! You will hear them praise God that while there was still time He graciously took them from this vale of tears into eternal security, from a life of sin into the life of perfection. These children lost nothing but gained infinitely more. For Christ’s sake, they had lost their earthly life. In return, they found their eternal heavenly life. After their short crying and sobs came eternal laughing and rejoicing. After a short struggle came eternal rest and victory. They received an eternally radiant unfading martyr’s crown.

A Christian in this life must expect only the cross, persecution, misery, and death. As soon as you let the world know your heart and mind lives in and around Bethlehem, you must be ready to find a King Herod who lays traps for you. Learn from today’s Gospel that rejecting Christ out of fear of the cross as those in Bethlehem did will not free you from suffering. You either suffer here with Christ like the children of Bethlehem and someday enter with them into glory, or first rejoice here without Christ like the parents of Bethlehem, and then weep with them while you enter without Christ into eternal torment.

When you stand at the sickbed of a little child and are heartbroken because of their suffering, don’t murmur against God. He is your tenderhearted Father. He loves children more than you love children. Because He loves them, he lets them often suffer severely and bitterly in this life. There comes a day when they will reap much joy after sowing many tears now. They have great misery now, but someday they will be glorious with Him in heaven. What causes tears now will someday serve as an object of joy for you and for them in eternity. This is why it is best to pray for sick children and adults as our Savior did in the Garden of Gethsemane, not as I will, but as You will. It was God’s will that His only-begotten Son suffer cruel death upon the cross. It was God’s will that His only-begotten Son rise from the dead. It is God’s will that you believe Christ’s death and resurrection are for the sins of the whole world. It is God’s will that you rise from the grave to rejoice with the Holy Innocents in heaven for all eternity.

What looks to the world as the ultimate act of morbid foolishness actually brings joyful comfort. You clearly see in those innocent children that God often lays great suffering not only in wrath upon the unbelieving world to punish them for their sins. He also out of love lays suffering upon His own beloved children in order to glorify them. The bloody death of those children was not a punishment but a glorious deliverance. Don’t doubt God’s Fatherly love when He lays so much severe suffering upon mankind. The Lord chastens those He loves and loves those He chastens. Those whom He wishes to bring to the feast of victory He first permits to struggle. Those whom He someday wishes to comfort eternally, He first permits to grieve. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

(Adapted from a sermon by C.F.W. Walther)

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