Matthew’s Gospel has blood spattered all over it. The story opens “in the time of King Herod” (2:1), the tyrant about whom even the Romans joked, “Better Herod’s hus than his huios” (luckier to be Herod’s pig than one of his sons). Of the latter, nearly all died by their father’s orders, lest any supplant him. The slaughter of Bethlehem’s innocents, which roused ancient mother Rachel’s mournful voice in Matthew’s telling, would have barely raised eyebrows in Herod’s Jerusalem.
The other end of Matthew’s story proves equally bloody. There, the Immanuel child who escaped Herod falls victim to a new cadre of frightened leaders. His lifeblood mingles in the dust with that of all the others who died amid screams of horror. This time, however, the bloodshed changes everything.