A volunteer fireman in a small town had duty on Christmas morning. He had hoped to be done in time to have Christmas brunch with his wife, three children, and his father. He drove toward the station in the early dawn hours.
Icy roads made for treacherous conditions, and the fireman slowed down as he came to the bridge ahead. Crossing the bridge, he saw a car smashed against the bridge exit. He reported the situation, then hurried out with a flashlight. He stepped wrong, and felt the familiar pang in his side. He hadn’t had dialysis this week because of the holiday and he could feel it. His only functioning kidney was slowly failing.
He feared death enough to be put on the donor list, but not enough to tell his family. The idea of asking his children or father to lose a kidney for him was just too much, he would face death rather than risk their lives. The lights of an approaching vehicle caught his attention. It was going too fast, completely unaware of the disabled vehicle just ahead at the bridge entrance. He shuffled to the center, determined to alert the driver of the danger ahead and hoping he could prevent further tragedy.
Bravely he continued signaling with the flashlight as the headlights grew bright. The driver finally responded at the last minute. The brakes locked up and the vehicle skidded slightly. It fishtailed, and then slid on a patch of ice right into the other vehicle. The fireman’s body was thrown backward from the force of the impact. The moving vehicle ricocheted over the side, and into the water below.
Hours later, the fireman was in serious condition. The nurse informed his wife that although it seemed amazing, the dead man retrieved from the water was a perfect match for her husband’s kidney, which had failed from the impact. His wife gave her consent through tears, startled to hear he had been on a donor list for some time. The staff prepped the fireman for surgery while the donor kidney was still viable. Unfortunately, the fireman died before the operation could proceed.
Days later, the fireman’s wife and father were discussing him. She mentioned that she regretted being so focused on her children and being busy. She hadn’t noticed her husband’s condition, but in hindsight recognized that the symptoms were obvious. She wondered aloud at the amazing odds that the driver of the overturned vehicle had been a physical match for her husband. She commented that to her it seemed a cruel joke. To this, her father-in-law grimaced, and then began to speak.
He admitted that as a newborn he and his wife had let their younger son be adopted to a distant cousin who had no children. He had suspected this was his younger son, and had already confirmed it. This meant he had lost both his sons on the same night. He wished that he and his wife had faced their fears and told their son the truth years before. It was possible that the brothers would have reunited. It was even possible the kidney could have been donated voluntarily and under better circumstances. He broke off, weeping bitterly. It was too late for the truth to matter now.
Moral of the Story:
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
In Matthew 2:16-17 the tyrant is unleashed, he sees the usurper child has made foreigners side against him, so he must take care of the problem himself, and quickly. Rather than make an investigation or pretend to be religious any longer, he acts. How terrible it must have been to be both the mother trying to shield her child she bore and raised from a helpless, fragile thing; and to be a soldier given that order. No matter how hardened, everyone was once a child. To see love displayed by each mother as she begged her son be spared had to remind the soldiers of their own mother or wife.
A tragedy is described, innocent children are murdered, and it seems to have no answer. A tragedy at more than one level was also portrayed in this story. When tragedy happens, justice seems to have no answer. At the time of Jesus the Jewish nation had suffered in bondage under one dynasty after the next, and where was God? They had to wonder, were they still His chosen people, or were they in for 400 years of misery like in Egypt? On the surface the facts are clear, and if we focus on what we can see and touch, we see only this.
Beneath the physical tragedy is a deeper, more pervasive tragedy. Each mother, each child, each soldier, each fireman has no answer to their own sin. Ignored or not, it is a weight that causes all of us to fear dying. The fireman in this story faced that fear, and so must we. Even as a teen contemplating suicide, I still had a fear of death. Human history is filled with tragedy, but never was there an answer like God’s plan that was just around the corner now. Eradicate the sin, set the captives free from it!