Children in the kingdom of Herod and the kingdom of Jesus (children in Matthew 2, 18 & 19)
December 29, 2007
We find Matthew using padion (the Greek for child) 18 times. In 11:16 it is used (if I remember correctly) in the words of a well known saying spoken by Matthew’s Jesus. In 14:21 and 15:38 in reference to the numerous people in the crowd (woman and children). And then, in chapter 2:13-23 9 times in the story about Herod’s murdering of the little boys in order to kill Jesus, and 6 times in chapters 18 and 19 in accounts of Jesus and children. IN 18:1-5 he use a child as an example of how we should become, and in 19 he blesses the children although the disciples want to prevent them from going to Jesus.
We end up with two stories, two kingdoms. In Herod’s kingdom, we find a massacre of the little children, in the kingdom of Jesus, children are given a prime spot. And we find one of the most beautiful double meanings of what the kingdom of God is about. Children on the one hand provide the ideal image of what people in the kingdom of God should look like, we should humble ourselves like children. Children who had no worth in antique society, who were expendables, who could be slaughtered if needed, provide the image for who we should be.
On the other hand these passages say something about what the place of children is in the kingdom of God, and how the followers of Jesus should think about children. Thus the children, I believe, should not be understood as metaphor, but as ideal example, and also simply as children, and then Jesus becomes the example for the rest of us, and he stands in stark contrast with Herod, and with the kingdom of Herod.
In this post I found a few days ago you’ll find a very well-written critique on the way religions have sacrificed children in the past, the way of Jesus stands in contrast with this. All over you’ll find references to the suffering of children, the kingdom of God stands in stark contrast with this. And still children are subjected to the worst forms of violence thinkable; the way of Jesus stands in stark contrast to this as well.