Why did God send just one angel, to Joseph, telling him to run? Why not a bunch of them, to all the parents of young children in Bethlehem?
Why did Joseph not tell them to run? Or maybe he did and they didn't listen? If he did we're not told.
Babies, innocents, die all the time. To say this isn't callousness, it's sad and true. In this sense the issue is not that the Holy Innocents died. They're a specific instance of theodicy - why does God let bad things happen to good people? In this case it's not even a case of an "act of God", a natural disaster. The blood of the Holy Innocents is on Herod's head, and those of his murderers.
|Peter Bruegel the Elder - Massacre of the Innocents|
This is just - if you'll excuse that modifier - another massacre. Another slaughter. Another shedding of innocent blood, just like all the deaths from Able to Aleppo. This doesn't end - this is who we are. This is what men do in the name of religion, politics or their own power. To us, a vile mass murder. To Herod, just one of those nasty little jobs you have to do.
The one exception in this instance is that one baby with an unusual parentage and an odd set of presents. As that little town is not lying still but grieving, he's off out and heading for some precarious safety.
This is Jesus as Moses - and he so often is, in Matthew's Gospel. He is the one escaping the murder of the baby boys, just like his law-giving predecessor. This is Jesus as the people of Israel - going down to Egypt, and returning.
This is Jesus as remnant - one escaping to exile, as so many innocents die.
The evils of Empire caught him in the end. Just a few miles from Bethlehem. His contemporaries were sad memories by then in the hearts of ageing parents. But he joined them. He got there in the end.
God took on that planned and prophesied role. The holy Innocent dying at the hands of frightened men of power. The Servant suffering with every innocent victim of injustice. God the bereaved parent, knowing the pain of the people of Bethlehem.
And Mary stood at the foot of the cross, joining her tears to Rachel's, refusing to be comforted, because her child was no more.