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First Sunday After Christmas
Series C

Option #1: "The Message of The Holy Innocents"
Matthew 2:13-18
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.A., M.Div.
 

1) They were victims of a violent enemy attack because Christ came to destroy the devil’s work--1 John 3:8b; text, vv13-15; Matt 10:34

2) Their blood was shed because of  man’s lust for power--text, v16; see also 1 John 2:16; Jer 31:15; Gen 35:16-20--the Rachel reference is to birth pains and correlates with Matt 24:8 and especially Rom 8:22-25

John Mac Arthur Jr.: The slaughter in Bethlehem was the beginning of the tragedy and bloodshed that would result from Israel’s rejection of her Savior and true King. Those innocent and precious babies of Bethlehem were the first casualties in the now-intensified warfare between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God’s Christ, God’s Anointed. Within two generations from that time (in A.D. 70) Jerusalem would see its Temple destroyed and over a million of its people massacred by the troops of Titus. All of that bloodshed is over the conflict with the Messiah.

3) Christ’s Gospel brings peace and reconciliation--Luke 2:14, 24:36ff; John 14:27, 16:33; Rom 5:1, 16:20; Eph 2:10-22; Col 1:20

Albert Barnes regarding Matt. 2:13: It is remarkable that this is the only time in which our Savior was out of Palestine, and that this was in the land where the children of Israel had suffered so much and so long under the oppression of the Egyptian kings. The very land which was the land of bondage and groaning for the Jews became now the land of refuge and safety for the new-born King of Judea. God can overturn nations and kingdoms so that those whom he loves shall be safe anywhere.

The tomb of Rachel, which is supposed to mark the precise spot where Rachel was buried (compare Gen. 35:18-20; 48:7), is near to Bethlehem, and she is represented as rising and weeping again over her children. By a beautiful figure of speech the prophet introduces the mother weeping over the tribe, her children, and with them weeping over the fallen destiny of Israel and over the calamities about te come upon the land. Few images could be more striking than thus to introduce a mother, long dead, whose tomb was near, weeping bitterly over the terrible calamities that befell her descendants. The language and the image also aptly and beautifully expressed the sorrows of the mothers in Bethlehem when Herod slew their infant children. Under the cruelty of the tyrant almost every family was a family of tears, and well might there be lamentation and weeping and great mourning.

John F. MacArthur Jr.:  It seems as if, from the earliest part of his message, Matthew wanted to portray the rejection of the Messiah by those from among whom He came and in whose behalf He first came (Acts 3:26; Rom 1:16). The chief priests and the scribes, along with the many other Jews in Jerusalem who must have heard or known about the Magi’s message of the one "who has been born King of the Jews," showed no interest at all in finding Him, much less in worshiping Him (see Matt 2:2-5). Though Herod was not himself a Jew and had no right to a Jewish throne, he nevertheless declared himself to be the king of the Jews and made a pretense of concern for Jewish religious and economic interests. In an illegitimate and perverted way, therefore, Herod’s rejection of Christ both reflected and represented the Jews’ rejection of Him.

Ramah, a town about five miles north of Jerusalem, was on the border of the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms. It was also the place where Jewish captives were assembled for deportation to Babylon (Jer 40:1). Rachel, the wife of Jacob-Israel, was the mother of Joseph, whose two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, became progenitors of the two half-tribes that bore their names. Ephraim is often used in the Old Testament as a synonym for the northern kingdom. Rachel was also the mother of Benjamin, whose tribe became part of the southern kingdom. She had once cried, "Give me children, or else I die" (Gen 30:1), and now her beloved "children," her immeasurably multiplied descendants, were being taken captive to a foreign and pagan land.

Rachel weeping for her children therefore represented the lamentation of all Jewish mothers who wept over Israel’s great tragedy in the days of Jeremiah, and most specifically typified and prefigured the mothers of Bethlehem weeping bitterly over the massacre of their children by Herod in His attempt to kill the Messiah. So even while Israel’s Messiah was still a babe, Rachel had cause to weep again, even as the Messiah Himself would later weep over Jerusalem because of His people’s rejection of Him and the afflictions they would suffer as a consequence (Luke 19:41-44).

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Children's Message

Visual aid: picture of a mother weeping; nativity set figures of the Wise Men

Christmas has come and gone for another year. In the house where I grew up, we often kept the presents under the tree for a few days. It was our way of displaying the kindness of those who gave us gifts.

There was another kind of Christmas aftermath that happened at the first Christmas. We don’t talk about it very much because it was so very sad. (Show Wise Men characters from a nativity scene.) When these men came to Jerusalem, they first went to King Herod. They asked him where to find the newborn King of the Jews.

Herod was a vicious man, a man who would do anything to remain King. He killed at least one of his wives and two of his sons. Jewish people then did not eat pork or bacon or ham, and Herod would have tried to live up to that, even though he wasn’t a Jew. Thus, as the Roman emperor said, "It would be better to be Herod’s pig than his son."

Herod wouldn’t kill a pig, but he did kill children--we don’t know how many; maybe 10 or 12 boys under 2 years old-- when he was trying to kill Jesus. Mothers were crying for their children, such as we see in this picture (mother crying) because soldiers killed them with a sword.

Jesus was the target, but it wasn’t his time yet. Some 30 years later, Jesus allowed himself to be captured, punished and killed--all for our sins.

It was sin that killed those babies, just as sin still takes the lives of children today. Jesus is the only way to be sure that death at any age means the doorway to eternal life with Jesus, in a place where there will be no sorrow, crying, tears or pain.

If you’re close to Jesus, you can get hurt, but he will set it right at the end. The death of these children was a terrible tragedy; their mothers cried for years. The death of Jesus was God’s way of making things right. He rose from death and He tells us: "Because I live, you will live also." That’s a Christmas gift that you will enjoy for your whole life!

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"Child Find!"
Jeremiah 31:15-17
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.

The Point: mourning and weeping is inevitable as family members are lost
 
The Problem: distant, difficult, and different--yea, sinful!--relatives 
 
The Promise: God's family will be reunited because of the return/Resurrection of Jesus
 
Notes:
 
1. Ramah {raw-maw'}, v15: Ramah = "hill"; a town in Benjamin on the border of Ephraim about 5 miles (8 km) from Jerusalem and near to Gibeah; the home place of Samuel located in the hill country of Ephraim; a fortified city in Naphtali; landmark on the boundary of Asher, apparently between Tyre and Zidon; a place of battle between Israel and Syria; also "Ramoth-gilead"; a place rehabited by the Benjamites after the return from captivity. (Strong's)
 
2. Rachel {raw-khale'}, v15: Rachel = "ewe." (Strong's) Pardon the pun/punishment: Rachel was bleating to death. (c;
 
3. These little babies murdered for Christ's sake, the first martyrs, are not lost to their mothers nor to the kingdom of Israel, the Church. God tells them that their work shall be rewarded. What they have done, their labor in bearing children, shall not be in vain. Their children are not annihilated. They still are members of His covenant nation. They shall come again from the land of the enemy, the enemy of the New Testament Church, death (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). "There is hope in thine end," for thy end. "Hope for" always indicates the one for whose welfare there is hope; and "end" here means either "future," as in chapter 29:11, or as it is used in several passages, "your posterity," offspring (Psalm 37:38; 109:13; Daniel 11:4). In both translations the hope of resurrection is expressed. So they shall come to their "own land," the new heaven and earth, of which the Promised Land, Canaan, was a pledge and guarantee (Hebrews 11:14-16). The true Israelites regarded themselves merely as sojourners and pilgrims in the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:8; 23:4; Psalm 39:12). (Theodore Laetsch)
 
4. A Child Loaned 
    "I'll lend you for a little time a child of Mine," He said,
    "for you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he's dead.
    It may be six or seven years or twenty-two or -three,
    but will you, 'til I call him back, take care of him for Me?
    He'll bring his charms to gladden you and, should his stay be brief,
    you'll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
    I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth return,
    but there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
    I've looked this wide world over in my search for teachers true
    and, from the throngs that crowd life's lanes, I have selected you.
    Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,
    nor hate Me when I come to call and take him back again?
    I fancied that I heard them say, 'Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
    for all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we'll run.
    We'll shelter him with tenderness, we'll love him while we may
    and, for the happiness we've known, forever grateful stay.
    But should the angels call for him much sooner than we planned,
    we'll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.'"
    (Author Unknown)

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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:34 PM