The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ The Rev. Dcn. Scott Brown, OPI

Matthew 2:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[a]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[b]

Imagine you are a parent, enjoying the toddler years, or as we know them today, the terrible twos,  when suddenly your front door is blown open and a soldier slaughters your baby. Your baby was sentenced to death by a tyrannical ruler who is obviously not in his right mind.

To many Christians, King Herod is the bloodthirsty villain of the Bible, the jealous despot who ordered the slaughter of newborn babies throughout his kingdom following the birth of Jesus Christ. To his subjects, he was Herod the Great, the paranoid tyrant who imposed oppressive taxes to fund his massive building projects, and who crushed all opposition. And to his Roman masters, he was little more than a reliably loyal—and wealthy—puppet-king.

Throughout history, opinions of Herod the Great have not been…well, great. Herod was a client king, which means he was subordinate to a larger ruling government. In Herod’s case, that government was Republican Rome. Indeed, Herod wouldn’t have been king of Judea at all had it not been for the Romans: rather than inherit the throne as kings usually do, Herod was declared king by the Roman senate, with the understanding that he would lead Judea in a decidedly pro-Roman direction. With the help of the Romans, Herod was able to put down Antigonus’s revolt. With Phasael (his older brother and Governor of Jerusalem) and Hyrcanus (king of Judea) both killed in the strife, this left Herod as the sole claimant to the throne of Judea. The Romans assented, and Herod claimed the title “basileus,” or king, for himself in 36 BCE.

Though the Romans identified Herod as “King of the Jews,” there is some doubt as to the sincerity of Herod’s faith. By blood, he was an Edomite, an Arabic group who had only recently converted to Judaism. Herod’s frequent clashes with the Sanhedrin, not to mention the observant Pharisees and Sadducees who were his subjects, as well as his pro-Roman attitudes and tolerance of other religions, have led some to allege that Herod was not sincerely Jewish.

Look at what is happening in our country today. We as a country have forgotten how to love one another, we have forgotten how to feed the hungry, how to clothe the naked, and how to shelter the homeless. We are separating children from their parents, locking them up in what are essentially prisons and some of them are even dying in them. These children are the innocents today,  just as the murdered babies were in Herod’s time. King Herod was trying to protect his title of King of the Jews by attempting to kill the Son of God. Herod’s ego activated his paranoia, which in turn caused him to go on a murder spree, killing thousands of innocent children.

Possibly the same could be said for our nation and our leaders now. We are not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nor are we sheltering the homeless, all because of our (and our elected leaders’) huge egos. In John chapter 13 Jesus gave us one commandment:

33 Little children, I am with you only a little while longer. You will look for Me, and as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…

We as a nation, we as a people, and we as a world. need to love one another so that all will know that we are His disciples. This wasn’t a suggestion from our Lord – it was a commandment. A commandment given not to just Americans, Europeans, Mexicans, or Indians, but to everyone of all ethnicities, colors and creeds. Closing borders to the hungry and oppressed, is not the way of our Lord. Open our borders, open our hearts, open our minds and obey our Lord’s commandment to love one another and stop murdering innocents as Herod did. Stop feeding the egos of the modern-day King Herods, and obey the commandment Jesus left for us.

Heavenly Father in this season of giving and sharing, open our hearts and minds, take away our egos so that we can love one another. Keep our hearts open so that others will know we are Your disciples by our actions and words.  Amen.

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