Our Christmas Message

Posted: December 23, 2013 by J in Bible


15-Flight-Into-Egypt
We’ve chosen to go through Matthew chapters 1-2 this year for Christmas. The final talk, this Sunday is on Matthew 2: 13-23. “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

I’ll post it over the next few days.

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Matthew 2:13-23                Jesus and the new exodus

Do you have a favourite book that’s been turned into a movie? Or a favourite movie that’s been remade, an updated version?

An old story told new. It might be The Hobbit. Or maybe Titanic. Or Batman. And you watch it anxiously: will it be as good as the original?. Will they change things? Baz Luhrmann redid Romeo Juliet in the 90s, in his version they drove fast cars and carried guns. When you retell a story, it gives you the chance to play around with it, to say new things. Throw in a few surprises.

In this passage in Matthew ch. 2, the writer Matthew takes the Jewish people’s favourite story, and gives it an update. And the new version is full of surprises.

It helps if you know the old version! Every Jewish family knew it. It’s the beginning of people of God. Birth of nation Israel. It goes like this: the Hebrew people are trapped in Egypt. Pharaoh has made them slaves. He is crushing them with hard labour, he is killing all their boys. ‘Throw them into the Nile River!’ The baby Moses is hidden from Pharaoh’s men in the reeds at the river’s edge, floating in a basket.

Moses survives, grows up. Later Pharaoh gets so angry with Moses he tried again to kill him, and Moses has to flee for his life. Leaves Egypt. Eventually the whole people Israel do the same. The have to get out. They run for their lives, heading for the promised land. It’s Israel’s favourite story: it’s the story of the exodus. And it revolves around two lands: the land of Egypt (=death) and the land of Israel (=life).

Every year as the passover festival, Jewish families would gather and retell the story, and roast their lamb and sing their songs and remember. Remember the day of their freedom. The day God rescued them out of slavery, into his land.

Now Matthew tells us a new story: the story of Jesus. But he does a slightly naughty thing. He confuses the readers a bit by throwing in lots of bits of the old exodus story. He’s making this a kind of updated version. Playing the role of the baby Moses, there’s this new baby called Jesus. And in the role of Pharaoh, there’s a local ruler: Herod. A murderer.

All the elements of the old story are here: the evil ruler crushes God’s people, kills their boys – that’s Herod. One special family hides their son, saves him from the slaughter. That’s Mary and Joseph. The hero must escape, run away to safety before he is killed: that’s Jesus. It’s the old story of the exodus, only it’s been updated.

If we listen to Matthew’s new version of the old story, it contains an unexpected message, a message to challenge us. Let’s take a few minutes to see what Matthew does with this favourite old story.

There are some shocking surprises here…

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