The Cute and the Cruel
It would be a cold heart indeed that doesn’t begin to gush at the sight of fluffy ducklings or a cuddly Christmas puppy. As I watched a wagtail chick in my yard cry out and flutter its wings while its mother fed it I thanked God for the ‘cute factor’ He has built into animal young. Think about how many bags of kittens and sacks of puppies that have been saved from drowning because of their built in ‘cute factor.’
I’m now at the age where I find babies and little toddlers cuter than ever. But what was with that king who wanted to put to death all male children two years old and under in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago? What kind of hardness of heart is this? It reminds us of that murderous pharaoh at the time of Moses! The ‘cute factor’ may or may not have played a small part in the infant Moses escaping certain death as he was ‘a beautiful child.’ Moses’ mother had a plan how to save her baby. That’s how come pharaoh’s daughter found the three-month old Moses in an ark among the bulrushes. ‘And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, saying, “This is one of the Hebrew’s children.”’ Exodus 2:6.
Cute as babies and toddlers are, we don’t find the ‘wise men’ lining up to take turns to hold Jesus and gush over Him when He was a young Child. Rather, we find the following, ‘And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’ Matthew 2:11. Why the worship instead of hugs and kisses? The LORD through His prophet Isaiah some 700 years before the birth of Jesus answers this for us, ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah 9:6.
The wise men recognizing the type of baby Jesus was did the wise thing when they worshipped the One who carries the government of the world upon His shoulder. For Jesus is the eternal Son of God now also in the flesh. Indeed Scripture says, ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ John 1:3&14a. As Mighty God He built the ‘cute factor’ into bird chicks, animal young, and human babies.
But what’s with the murderous mind-set of pharaoh at the time of Moses’ birth and Herod at the time of Jesus’ birth? And, while we’re at it, what’s with the cruelty of some people toward other people and animals, and the cruelty of some animals towards people and other animals? While commenting on Isaiah 11:6 John Calvin was asking similar questions about the animals, ‘Whence comes the cruelty of brutes, which prompts the stronger to seize and rend and devour with dreadful violence the weaker animals? There would certainly have been no discord among the creatures of God, if they had remained in their first and original condition. When they exercise cruelty towards each other, and the weak need to be protected against the strong, it is an evidence of the disorder which has sprung from the sinfulness of man.’ Thus, the ‘cute factor’ is from God, but the ‘cruelty factor’ was introduced into creation when man rebelled against God and is fueled by that rebellion.
God had put the newly created Adam in His Garden, letting him name the animals that surrounded him. The newly born Jesus, no doubt surrounded by animals, was laid in an animal feed trough. Shepherds (animal keepers) came to see the Baby Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God,’ as He lay in a manger. Born in a stable, the One who is able, to take all our sins away. Infinite worth, yet so humble a birth! Thank God for the first Christmas Day. Who would lift the Baby Jesus out of the manger and nail Him to a cross? Yet Jesus was no less innocent when He underwent the cruelty of His mock trial and real crucifixion at the lawless hands of men. But it was God who sacrificed His Son as the Lamb of God. For He had Him nailed to that tree to take away the sins of the world. The Older Testament sacrificial system illustrated the fact that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission.’ Hebrews 9:22b. Death by drowning or being burned in the flames would never do for Jesus. He had to shed His blood. ‘For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.’ Colossians 1:19&20.
The new Adam came to fix what the old Adam had broken (i.e., our relationship with God, each other, animals etc.) The Prince of Peace has brought us peace with God. Thus the cruelty factor is removed, by, in, and through Jesus Christ.