Scholars have stared incredulously at Matthew 2:16-18 because the text possesses no parallel in the writings of Josephus or any other ancient historian. But the absence of a story does not prove it did not occur. Matthew’s story matches the sentiment of Josephus’s narratives which recount Herod’s murder of his second wife, his assignation of three of his sons, and the wrongful execution of the families of his political opponents. Hours before his death, Herod also ordered his family to kill a group of prominent Jewish leaders the moment cruel king breathed his last so that Jerusalem would mourn at his death. The violence described in Matthew 2 aligns with Josephus’s description of the troubled monarch.
The fact that the deaths of around twenty children from an insignificant town of about 1000 people failed to make it into the annuals of a secular history is not surprising. Rather it is the point. The history of God’s mercy is not tied to the history of secular power.
The Proof of God’s Care
The events that prove significant for the people of God often occur in the Bethlehems of the world out of the view of the power, politics, and prestige which reside in Jerusalem. God saw the tears of those families long ago that escaped the notice of Josephus. He still sees the tears of his little people. He knows the grief of the traumatized teenager who was abused, of the single mom who was overwhelmed, and of the old man who has been left a widow. Though all of these and thousands of other souls walk the streets of life unknown to the world of politics, power, and fame, God knows them. More importantly, he left heaven to redeem them from this broken world.
Though our tears, sorrows, and griefs are real, they are not the end of our story because they are not the end of Jesus’s story. The prophet Jeremiah reminded those mothers long ago, “There is hope for your future…and your children shall come back (Jer. 31:17).” While Jesus escaped the murderous hatred of Herod, he would too would one day be pinned unjustly to a cross, dying for crimes he did not commit. But he would not stay dead. After three days in the tomb, Christ burst forth, breaking the bonds of sin and death and offering salvation to all those who repented and believed. In other words, He triumphed over death so that Rachel’s children could return. Those babies in Bethlehem that fateful night now reside with Christ in heaven. One day soon, they will reside in the new heavens and the new earth. Their sorrow was only the beginning of a much larger story that ends with men and women from every tribe gathered together in heaven praising God in a land free of tears, sickness, and sorrow. God sees the grief that millions of people secretly suffer. Jesus comes and suffers under that same grief so that he can once and for all rescue us from this broken world. The words of Jeremiah 31:3 ring ever true: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
In Christ, there are no insignificant people. There are no insignificant sorrows. Christ died the for babies in Bethlehem. He died for you. Place your hope in Him! We will all be home soon!