At the beginning, new year, many people reflect back on the year before and ask themselves questions, question like, “Why did this or not happen?” There may be answers to the questions, but then again, some questions do not have answers, just possible explanations.
Why do we human beings do this? Why is it so important to us to seek answers to questions? Why are we so frustrated we things cannot be explained? Why does it bother us so much when we do not or cannot understand? Well, there I go asking questions.
We are hardwired to seek to understand. It is part of our survival instinct for protection and provisions. Our questioning is a foundation for our choices. It is how chose to distinguish what is true and false, what is good or bad, what is right or wrong, dangerous or helpful, what we trust or doubt.
Our passage today raises questions, questions of why. Jesus, God incarnate is born. The shepherds were the first to hear the news. They were told peace had come. Peace, the possibility of peace, between humanity and God had come to us in Jesus. However, this did not bring peace to the world. Our passage makes this clear in the person of Herod.
Then comes the account of the wise men, the magi. This is an amazing account. The coming of the magi is a revelation that God was not just working through the nation of Judea, but had made the revelation of what God was available to all of humankind. The magi, wise men, put so much trust in what they had learned about the event of God becoming human that they made the dangerous and difficult journey of faith just to behold this event.
In a prelude to our passage, Matthew writes about the encounter the wise men had with Herod. Herod believes the birth of Jesus is a threat. Herod tries to manipulate the Magi to help him find Jesus and eliminate the threat. The magi do not go along with Herod’s plan. So, Herod moves from manipulation to violent aggression.
Joseph has a dream and based on that dream he takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
Do you trust your dreams? I don’t. I believe many of my dreams are influenced by what I have had for dinner or what stressors I am currently facing. But Joseph does and flees before Herod’s evil actions are carried out.
Here is the question. Why was only Joseph warned? Why were the other parents not given a dream? One of the hardest things a pastor ever faces in when something bad happens to one of the members of the church or someone who they care about. What do you say when you visit a parent who has lost a child in an auto accident and they ask why? What do you say to a spouse who has just lost a husband or a wife and they ask you why?
If you are ever in this situation, please, please do not give some answer like, “God needed them more than you”, or “All things work for good for those who love the Lord.” These words do not help, they hurt. If you are faced with this situation don’t speculate of believe you have the answer because you do not. Just be with them. Just care for them, just cry with them.
Well, what do you say when someone asks why something happens to them? How do you reply? Is this God’s plan? Did God what those children in Bethlehem to be killed? Did God plan this so that a prophesy could be fulfilled? If God allowed this how can God be good?
Here is where questions enter a realm that we cannot answer. We can only look at such a situation in the light of what we know rather than what we do not know.
We know bad things happen to good people as well as bad people. We know that this world is not fair. We know that pain and problems, conflict and crisis come, not matter how we prepare. We know that death is a reality no one avoids.
We also know that that love does exist. We know that beauty can be seen. We know that compassion can be shown and caring can be experienced. We know that trust can be given and faith developed. We know that hope does have power. But most importantly, we know that we have a choice to how we respond to the mystery of questions.
It is really arrogant and ignorant of human beings to think they can judge what God does or does not do. It is arrogant and ignorant for human beings to think that we can figure out every question.
The Prophet Isaiah once spoke in behalf of God saying, “My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.” (Isa. 55:8-9 CEB)
This we know. God entered this world to become one of us. God, in Jesus, went through everything we human beings must endure and more. God, in Jesus, even had to go through the anguish of the unanswerable question. On the cross, during the pain and the coming certainty of death, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” (Mk. 15:34 CEB) Heaven was silent.
What was God’s motive, God’s purpose, God’s plan in becoming human? God answers this question. God loves us. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16 CEB)
So, what do we do? What do we do when questions come up that trouble us? What do we do when we cannot understand or grasp the reason why things happen? Maybe all we can do is to follow Jesus example, “Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.” (Lk. 23:46 CEB)
Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. (Heb. 11:1 CEB) Joseph acted his dream because of his faith that come from experience and trust.
The only answer to unanswerable question is to understand that for now they will remain unanswerable. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. (1 Cor. 13:12 CEB)
Oh, the prophesy quoted in this passage from Jeremiah about the death of the children is from Jeremiah 31:15. The rest of the prophesy states, “The LORD proclaims: Keep your voice from crying and your eyes from weeping, because your endurance will be rewarded, declares the LORD. They will return from the land of their enemy! There’s hope for your future, declares the LORD. Your children will return home!” (Jer. 31:16-17 CEB)
It is only through faith and trust that we are not overcome by the unanswerable questions and hold to a belief, “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 CEB)
Again, the choice is ours to make.