Slaughter of the Innocents
Originally scheduled for June 13
painting of the Slaughter of the Innocents.
Massacre of the Innocents,” an 1824 painting by Léon Cogniet.
first thing you expect to see in the painting on this subject is a
tableau of soldiers running amok. You see very little of that,
happening just behind the inadequate hiding place the woman is
using. The painter has chosen to emphasize the effects of their
action rather than show us the soldiers themselves. The soldiers,
after all, are nothing but political pawns.
figure of the woman, on the other hand, dominates the painting. If
you are perceptive, the thing that you will see first is her stare —
directly into your eyes. You can see the terror she has; the
soldiers are coming to kill her baby. You can also see the despair.
She is barefoot; she has to carry a baby and the soldiers will be so
much faster than she can run. Her eyes turn to you, silently begging
for help. She’s cornered; no place to run and a poor place to hide.
also at the child’s eyes. His mother’s hand is over his mouth,
forbidding him to make a noise — why? The infant is bewildered by
his mother’s actions in the clamor going on around him. He is
helpless; he is frightened; therefore he is terrified.
reaction is one of instant sympathy. Why do we sympathize with the
victims in this situation?
Built into each of us is a
natural reaction to an infant. If you think not, watch what happens
when a mother brings an infant onto the playground at school. The
girls all gather around the baby. There are smiles on each face. God
designed us to love and protect the infant. The slaughter of the
innocents cuts across everything we know and feel about babies.
There is also our sense of
justice. This is not an unfortunate accident; if an infant dies in a
traffic accident we are, of course, sympathetic. If an infant is
slaughtered by the agents of the government we are outraged.
Particularly for those who
have felt the responsibility of great authority, the reaction also
includes our revulsion of abuse of authority. Just because you’re
the king doesn’t mean you get to slaughter anybody you particularly
these reasons we are outraged at the slaughter of the innocent.
Consider then, the ultimate slaughter of innocent — the crucifixion
of Christ. He was completely innocent; sinless. It’s not like he was
innocuously standing around; he had established himself as someone
exceptional by his miracles, particularly his healing miracles. We
would like to think today that such a man would be highly valued,
applauded and protected — a national asset, if you will. His
execution was an abuse of power by a cynical Roman governor, egged
on by his manipulators. Our natural reaction should be one of
Remember that today as you partake of communion. The bread
represents his body, the cup, his blood — a sacred body, innocent
blood. The holy, innocent one who was sacrificed for our sins is
shown to us in these emblems. As you partake, remember it was not
just any body who died for us. It was the son of God in the flesh,
sacrificed for our sins. Be outraged at the slaughter of the
innocent; be grateful for the salvation of the guilty.