The passage in Matthew 2:13-20 about the slaughter of children by King Herod is usually bypassed by most readers of the Christmas story. It is one of the passages which we would honestly like to ignore. We had rather think about the singing of angels, the birth of the child in the cattle stall, the shepherds, or the coming of the wise men. We want to focus on the joy, radiance, and beauty of Christmas. But in their telling of the birth of Christ, the gospel writers also pointed very clearly to the "beastly" element within the world.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.