The Greek king had tired of the obstinacy of these Jews, their joy in torture, of the insults they heaped on him. He would have the last one sacrifice. “Speak to the boy as a mother”, he told the mother, “at least save him.” She had watched as in turn all but her youngest had their heads scalped, their tongues, their hands, their feet cut off, as they were roasted rather than eat the pig’s meat from a demonic sacrifice.
But the pangs of childbirth were no match for the ways of her fathers. In her native tongue, she encouraged her last to join his brothers, to endure short pain now to attain eternal life.
And the boy cried out that he gladly took on himself the justified anger of God who had left the Jewish nation to this foreign king. After him, his mother burned quietly, her children no longer a worry.
And later God took his revenge. The King was taken in a hail of stones and his body was dismembered. God’s anger also ceased. Until the Romans came, the Jews were free to rule their holy land.
This story from 2 Maccabees grew popular in our century, despite coming from a time before Jesus. These models of loyalty to God. Their story captures some of God’s expectations of us and his involvement in the world.