Out of Egypt I have called my son – Jesus as exile

In Matthew 2::14 -15, we are told that Mary and Joseph fleeing from Herod with the baby Jesus to Egypt and then returning from there to Nazareth, when Herod died fulfilled the prophecy in Hosea 11:1

“Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

Hosea 11 retells the story of the Exodus. It is God’s people that are first of all his Son.  That’s perhaps why the final judgement on Egypt was the death of the firstborn son. Egypt had attacked and sought to kill God’s Son, the judgement was in response to that.  So, when Matthew picks up that prophecy, he is saying that Jesus was taking on himself the role of Israel.  Where Israel had been the disobedient son, a stubborn and ungrateful rebel, Jesus was the obedient one.

So, one of the first images in the Gospel is of Jesus going into the wilderness.  We are told by Mark that the Spirit sent, drove him even, there.[1]  Jesus is taking on the role of an exile sent into the desert place.   In the wilderness, Jesus is tempted by the devil, just as the people of Israel experienced testing during the Exodus.  Unlike the people of Israel, Jesus when tested does not succumb. Unlike the people, he does not put God to the test.  He is the obedient Son. 

Jesus takes on the role of “exile” first as the one who has been sent from his home in glory. He chooses to come and live among us.  Notice, that in John 1:14, when Jesus dwells among us, the imagery is of someone pitching their tent, just as the Israelites did in the wilderness.

However, there is a double exile because John tells us that:

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him.

He is refused and rejected by his own people.  Those who deserved banishment and exile attempted to turn the tables on him and banish him.  This is played out as he is handed over to Pilate and the Romans for trial and execution, just as they hard justly been handed over the Gentiles in Babylon and Persia and then under Greek and Roman rule.

Finally at Calvary, Jesus speaks the words of a banished one from the start of Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

On a side note, it’s worth observing how this Psalm is paired with Psalm 23. If one Psalm describes the experience of banishment and being forsaken, the other points us to God as the ever present Shepherd who provides and protects.

Back to Calvary and there we see Jesus crucified outside the city.  Criminals and lepers, the unclean and the cursed where banished outside of the camp in ancient Israel and so, outside of the City once the people had settled in the land.

So, the theme is persistent throughout the Gospels. Jesus takes on Israel’s banishment and exile even though he is the obedient son. Ultimately this is seen in the exile of physical death.  Jesus is not taking on Israel’s curse but yours and mine too. 

It is important then for us to remember the full story.  Because it is comedy not tragedy, it ultimately finishes with the triumph of resurrection.  Exiles are brought home and Jesus rises from death to return to his Father and prepare a home for us.

[1] Mark 1:12.

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