What Jesus Did! 'Slaying the Innocents' — Matthew 2:16-18

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him [by not returning to tell him where Jesus was. Herod] sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men's report of the star's first appearance. Herod's brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

"A cry was heard in Ramah —
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead."

— Matthew 2:16-18 NLT

Key Thought

I don't know about you, but I don't like this story. It spoils the sentimentality of the birth story of Jesus. But, at a more primal level of truth, this story of Herod's brutal paranoia shocks us awake and helps us understand why Jesus had to come. Without a reverence for God and his word, we human beings sometimes show a remarkable propensity for brutality as culture loses sight of the preciousness of each person created in the image of God. The slaying of the innocents reminds us of how easily we can slip into a mentality that puts personal protection, reputation, and position above the rights of those who are vulnerable and powerless. Just because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that doesn't mean he came to a safe and pristine world or was somehow insulated from the realities of evil unleashed among us. This brutal world awaited him. That's the core of the story. Even the innocents are not protected, even if that innocent is God among us — as later events in Jesus life revealed.

Today's Prayer

O God, please forgive us for the "slaying of innocents" today — especially when we do such things to maintain appearances while we extinguish any unexpected and unwanted "surprises." Thank you for sending Jesus in a time and in a way that exposed him to the brutality of the world, a brutality that still haunts us to this day. Thank you that his blood will cleanse any repentant sinner, even those who have been a part of the brutality. Father, please forgive me for the times I have looked at others without your love for them in my heart. In Jesus' precious name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Genesis 6:5-6
  • Matthew 18:3-6
  • Matthew 18:10


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Illustration of Matthew 2:16-18 NLT — "A cry was heard in Ramah —
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead."

About This Devotional

What Jesus Did! is a series of one-year devotional guides through each gospel, using one short scripture passage each day and following the Gospel in sequential order. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage and a reflection and a prayer which open up the day's scripture and show how it challenges you to live for Jesus.

What Jesus Did! is written by Phil Ware and is available in book form.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.