And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. Matthew 2:13 KJV
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” he said. “Take the Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are now dead.”… Matthew 2:19, 20
So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. Luke 2:39
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. Hosea 1:11
Pictures have filled the newscasts of the Syrian refugees. Millions of people fleeing war. What causes people to run for their lives, leaving homes, employment, and family? The images are startling. Children crying in hunger. Dirty, weary, and fearful faces of mothers. Old men attempting to lead the way. The sick and infirmed quickly left behind. Walking barefoot across barren land going to places to seek asylum: Each one seeking just to survive and with the knowledge they are not wanted and will not be welcomed for fear they will steal jobs, deplete resources, and require care. Do you tear up at the sights and sounds heard of those far away? Or are you numb because there are so many and you can do nothing to change their situation so you grab the remote and change the channel to something less convicting?
Exactly who is a refugee? The definition is: Someone forced to leave home (country) because of war, fear of persecution for reason of race, religion, nationality, or particular social or political group. An asylum seeker due to violence.
Jesus was a refugee child by definition! Forced to leave his homeland in the middle of the night because Herod’s jealousy turned to insanity and he wanted THIS baby DEAD! Violence was headed to Bethlehem. His age, somewhere around six months to two years: A difficult age to travel across the desert on short notice for a distance of some one to four hundred miles. He may have still been nursing and if so the likelihood Mary’s milk dried up is great due to the lack of water. This is a harsh way to wean. HUNGER for a small child. Jesus knew hunger.
The terrain to Egypt is barren. Hot by day. Freezing by night. Windy. Jesus knew the discomfort of extreme temperature. So hot you cannot breathe. So cold you cannot feel your fingers and toes; shivering in the night.
As a refugee in Egypt………Egyptians hate Jews, then and now….this family was unwelcomed. How long did they stay? Different historians all think different time frames from just a few months up to seven years. As a carpenter, Joseph would have a difficult time working without trees–it is barren land. How did they find housing? Since leaving Nazareth to go to Bethlehem to pay taxes, this young family have been nomads. They are at a disadvantage due to language and cultural barriers. One shocking statistic is boys are more vulnerable than girls in adapting to “melting pot” culture. Whatever the length of time it was not conducive to childhood comfort needed to grow and learn. Yet another trial in a very young life.
Was this really a temptation (trial) for the young Jesus. If so, how did He “sin not.” Did He not cry though He was hot, hungry, thirsty, sunburned, shivering, or tired? Did he grow up to the age of five to seven in Egypt and suffer from the taunts of children from Egypt and feel the sting of exclusion in play? Was he bullied as a Jew forcing Him to “turn the other cheek” and out of His mouth was found no guile? (I Peter 2:22, Matthew 5:38-40)
Jesus said “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) If I saw Jesus on the screen of my television would I do something to ease His pain, the pressure His family faced as a refugee family? Would I run to pick up this small child, give him a bath, a hot meal, some cool water, and a bed to sleep on? Would I turn away and ignore the situation? Would I fear this small family and the culture and religion they represented?
James tells us trials can cause us to yield to temptations. When the heat is turned up the dross rises to the surface to be skimmed away. This is Heaven’s agenda. These temptations according to James arise from our flesh, our lust, our desires: OUR SELFISHNESS! If I turn away from another in need I do so because I am selfish and not willing to share or be inconvenienced.
Can I solve the Syrian refugee crisis? No, but here is the reality. GOD sent this “Holy family” into Egypt. He made them refugees! Why? The safety of His only Son. Egypt was safer than Judea. Others, even in Egypt were used by God to provide for this family. Why is it the “heathen” are kinder than the “saints?”
Mary, Joseph, and sweet Jesus were refugees. Through no fault of their own they were on the run–in fact they are on the run because they were obedient to God’s plan!!! Their basic needs did not end. They were separated from their nuclear family. Jesus feels the pain of every single person who is a refugee: the victim/witness in a relocation program, a Syrian running from war, Christians running from persecution in Korea, Cubans fleeing a murderous dictator due to political differences, the Romas who are not welcomed anywhere in Europe, or those in urban slums. God SENT Jesus to Egypt to fulfill prophecy. He then called Him out of Egypt just as He called all of the Jews out of Egypt under Moses and the Jews were refugees until they reached the edge of the promised land.
I wonder if when I see these souls (1 out of every 100 people are refugees) on the run, can I see the image of God’s Son in them on the run and if so, will I see them differently. Will my actions change? Will my voice say something different about how they should be treated? These are very hard questions to take before the throne of God. Can I take my questions to God and receive His answers? If I do, I will be held accountable for I will no longer be uninformed. Rich Stearns wrote in worldvision.org 12/25/14 these profound words: “We can all enter into this story of being refugees. Spiritually, we are exiled from God, and it is Jesus, Prince of Peace and the child refugee who provides us a way back home.” May our remembrance of Jesus the refugee child give us compassion for the those we see today facing this poverty stricken (no food, clean water, shelter, clothing, or social order) state.
Yes, Jesus can feel this in His bones, in His stomach, in His heart. He too was a refugee and this would have been some of His first recollections of childhood!
Look for the image of Christ in the faces you see! WE are created in HIS image.
Orphans of God Avalon
Treading in the sea of searchers of truth,