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Communion Meditations (2006)

Slaughter of the Innocents

Originally delivered January 1

Tucked away in the sweetness of the Christmas message is one horrible incident.  Herod determines that he will not let the newborn King of the Jews live, and therefore orders the slaughter of all male children two and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. 

This was prophesied by Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD, "A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more."   (Jer 31:15 NASB)

Many years later a great painter, Pieter Bruegel, portrayed this horrible moment.  If you examine his painting, you see the horror of the act:

· You see the anguish of the parents; a father kneeling before one of the officials, begging for his child’s life.  It’s winter; the father is lightly clad, and he’s on his knees in the snow.

· You see the nervousness of the soldiers, bunched together at the edge of town, seeking moral strength and self justification in their numbers and in their soldierly discipline.  They don’t approve, but they have their orders.

· You see the evil glee of the executioners, reveling in the abject humiliation of the people, teasing them with the life and death of their children.  They have power now; some old scores may be settled, or just the simple ego expansion that comes with the power to inflict misery and pain.

One thing Bruegel does that may surprise you.  He sets the painting not in Palestine, but in his native Holland, in his own time.  It is a message that, though the actual event happened long ago, the human drama and the failings it shows are still with us in any age.

But if those horrors are with us in any age, their reply (and ultimate resolution) is likewise found in any age—in Christ:

· He is the one who sends the Comforter to comfort the mournful.  He knows what it is to die; He has done it Himself.

· He is the one who will guide and encourage the wavering, putting backbone into the nervous soldier.

· He is the one who can forgive even those who slaughtered the innocent.

When you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death—and His power over it.  Indeed, we do this until He comes again.  When he does, we will see the rest of the prophecy fulfilled:

Thus says the LORD, "Restrain your voice from weeping And your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD, "And they will return from the land of the enemy. "There is hope for your future," declares the LORD, "And your children will return to their own territory.   (Jer 31:16-17 NASB)

God sees such horrors in a different way.  He knows that we are agonized by such things—but remember:  the Innocents will return at the resurrection, and God will wipe away each tear.  Until then, we remember His death while awaiting our eternal life.

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