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From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21

Innocent Children of Bethlehem (1st century)
In Christ’s Place

When told of Jesus’ birth by the wise men, King Herod of Judea was filled with jealousy and fear because the King of the Jews had been born in his kingdom. He was then greatly angered by the wise men’s failure to report the exact location of the young Messiah. He acted swiftly and ruthlessly in an attempt to protect his own position:

When Herod realised 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. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “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.” (Matthew 2:16-18)

These deaths – considered martyrdoms because the little boys were the first people to die explicitly for Christ – are traditionally remembered on 28 December. God delivered Jesus from Herod’s wrath by telling Joseph to take his family to Egypt. These children died in the place of Christ, just as He was to die in the place of them, and us, upon the cross.

O Christ, whose wondrous birth meaneth nothing unless we be born again, whose death and sacrifice nothing unless we die unto sin, whose resurrection nothing if thou be risen alone: raise and exalt us, O Saviour, both now to the estate of grace and hereafter to the state of glory; where with the Father and Holy Spirit thou livest and reignest, God forever and ever.

George Appleton (1902–93)