16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more."
Baby Boys of Bethlehem
This is not the typical story for Christmas sermon.
It’s a story of a tyrant king trying to murder the new born king. In his failure, Herod unleashed his murderous fury on innocent two-year olds. Such demonic cruelty, injustice, and oppression! Most people prefer a more sanitized Christmas, speaking only of the wonderful and fuzzy feelings of a festive holiday season.
But human suffering is real, and our faith would be shallow if we cannot face the reality of human sufferings.
We may not have the answer, and even if we do, we fumble for words. But Christ has the answer, indeed Christ is the answer!
Christmas is the birth of Christ, and Christ was born for a reason. He was born with a mission, to be the Saviour of the world.
Why do we need a Saviour? Because we need to be saved.
I. We Need to be Saved from Sinfulness
Matthew 2:16 Herod became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under.
The Bible says that all have sinned. But sometimes we forget how sinful is sin and how wicked is wickedness.
It is in a story like this that we are reminded of the sinfulness of human heart.
Today Bethlehem is a bustling town of 28,000 people. Back then it was a tiny village six miles south of Jerusalem. Its population in Jesus’ day was no more than a few hundred people.
How many baby boys were under the age of 2 in Bethlehem? Maybe around 20 were killed. But of course, even one is too many!
Hard to imagine, 20 baby boys, rounded up by Herod’s soldiers, slaughtered on the spot, run through with swords and spears. A brutal, vicious, bloodthirsty murder of innocent babies.
Why would a man do this? How could he be so cruel?
As we look at these verses we are struck with an enormous sense of evil. In fact, it’s hard to find the right words to describe the act— barbaric, despicable, hideous, inhuman, unspeakably cruel. It is an act worthy of Hitler, Pol Pot, or ISIS.
Herod the Great was a killer. Human life meant nothing to him. He even killed his family: mother-in-law, wife, two sons.
He killed out of spite and he killed to stay in power. He wouldn’t have thought twice about killing a couple dozen baby boys in a little town like Bethlehem. The great historian Josephus called him “barbaric.” Caesar Augustus said, “It is safer to be Herod’s sow than his son.”
It’s easy to read about a man like Herod and to turn him into some kind of monster. But sin is in all of us - not just the temptation to sin, but sin itself dwells in us.
We don’t like to hear this truth, which is why we don’t like to think about stories like the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. They force us to confront the truth about who we really are.
You may think that you would never do what Herod did. Don’t be so sure!
Ordinary men have done horrible acts in the face of survival. Atrocities have been committed when tempted with huge profits. Lowly compromises have been made for self-interest.
Apart from the grace of God, there is no sin we won’t commit.
The slaughter of the infants reminds us again why Christ had to be born.
Jesus came to be a Savior, and we are all sinners desperately in need of a Savior.
II. We Need to be Saved from Suffering
Jesus was born into a world of suffering.
The slaughter of the innocent baby boys epitomized the helplessness and hopelessness of the common folks.
But perhaps the greatest struggle with the problem of suffering is the question, “Where was God? Why didn’t He do something?”
We read of angel warning Joseph and Mary, guiding them to bring baby Jesus out of harm’s way. What about the other baby boys? Does God not love them as well? Why weren’t their parents warned?
In our own lives, we too may question God when bad things took place. Why didn’t God warn us or prevent it from happening?
I don’t pretend to have the perfect answer to the question of suffering, but a few points to note:
1. God speaks, and He’s been speaking, but we refuse to listen.
The Bible says that God has been calling out to the world to repent and return to Him, yet man will not listen. In other words, we refused to listen to God about sin and morality, but we blamed God for not warning us about danger and calamity. Sin brings suffering. We can’t choose between sin and refuse suffering.
2. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, as the answer to suffering.
Christ suffered so that we can overcome suffering. His body was broken so that ours can be made whole. He died so that we may live.
This doesn’t mean that we are spared of all sufferings, for we are still living in this sinful and fallen world. This world is imperfect, that’s why we look forward to a better world to come.
3. God will put an end to suffering, once for all, at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
God intervenes and saves many from danger, but not all the time and not all people. If it is all the time and for all people, then it’d be the final judgment day. That day is not yet, giving us a chance to share the gospel and save as many as we can.
Today, you may think that your suffering makes no sense. But put your trust in Jesus Christ. Obey Him, follow Him.
One day, you will find yourself walking with Him in heaven, free from the bondages of this world. Free at last, free forever.
III. We Need to be Saved from Sorrow
Matthew 2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.
There are many types of sorrow, but this is the sorrow of death.
The pain of losing your loved ones is unbearable. But the greatest would be for a mother to lose her young child.
We cannot comfort such sorrow, only God the Father and His Word can.
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God the Father knows the pain of losing your child, in fact, the only child! And He did it because He loves the world, He loves you.
Some may point out that Jesus rose from the dead, so the Father did not actually lose Him. But that is the point, the Father gave the Son so that you shall not perish but have eternal life. When life on earth ends, life in heaven begins. If you love your family so much, all the more so you’d want to make sure they believe in Jesus. That is the only way that your family can be together forever.
Christ the Saviour was born to save you from sinfulness, suffering and sorrow.
Many have personally tasted of His saving grace, lived a transformed life of holiness instead of sinfulness, blessing instead of suffering, joyful instead of sorrowful.
Has the world changed since the first Christmas?
Yes. On one hand, it has changed for the worst, as Satan doubled and tripled his effort to destroy the world. On the other hand, it has changed for the better, because Christ has come, and He is coming again. Moreover, His disciples all over the world, living as salt and light, sharing His love and hope.
The Herod of 2000 years ago failed to destroy Christmas, the Herods today still fail.
Remember, God always wins!
Let's be encouraged, be hopeful, trust in God and commit ourselves to Jesus Christ now and forever.