The exodus went horribly wrong. The promised freedom never arrived. Instead of being the promised land, now it’s become a land of horror and bloodshed. The land that wants to kill the baby.
This is very interesting for us today isn’t it. We live in the lucky country. The land of freedom. We have everything here. On the surface it seems like life is good.
Around our area, there are lots of people who like to buy flash cars: BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Audis, you know. And you look at them driving past, and you think, wow they’re doing well for themselves. But I’ve gradually got to know some of those people, and I’ve discovered that may of them take out loans to buy those cars. They look great, but what the car really says is, this guy is in debt.
I reckon our lives are a bit like that. Most of us like to seem like we’re going ok, don’t we. The people with the problems, they’re the other guys. Not us. You know, the criminals, the bikies, the druggies, the ones who abuse their wives, people over in Syria and Egypt. It’s the others that have messed up lives. Our lives are pretty nice – we enjoy freedom.
But scratch beneath the surface of our lives, and you’ll find some ugly things. Some disturbing things. Our lives are not as beautiful, not as free as we like to think. Many people are being crushed and damaged in our city. So many people are damaged by discrimination and racism. The rich despise those less well off and exploit them. Unskilled workers are ground down by their employers – many suffering under injustice for years, and never finding a voice to speak out.
Our homes are not safe havens either. So many people live in abusive family situations, where their loved ones hurt them. We also carry a heavy burden of addictions and obsessions: most families I know in Canterbury are plagued by addictions. We like to think we’re in control of our lives, but these dark forces push us around and enslave us.
And then there’s hatred and fear. So many people nursing secret bitterness, hidden hatreds, jealousies. Sometimes, under pressure they burst out. Hatred and fear of brothers or sisters. Hatred and fear of foreigners and migrants. Of women. Of the next door neighbours. Of people who are different. People talk to me and tell me their stories and their thoughts, and so often the bitterness they are nursing comes to the surface. Its everywhere. We have police and prisons so things don’t usually go as far as murder and violence. But what would our neighbourhood be like if you took away the laws? Took away the police? Bloodshed. Hatred and fear have us in their grip.
Just like Israelites, we like to think, We’re ok. We’re in the good country. We’re free. We’re nice people. But the horror followed Israel, it came out of Egypt with them, and turned the promised land into a place of fear. It turned out the evil was inside them. And it’s inside us still today. In our familes. And many people in our church family have been touched by these things over and over again: violence and abuse, addictions, family bitterness and fears, workplace hatreds and strife, marriage breakdown. This isn’t about someone else: this is about us.
The gospel of Jesus confronts us with reality. It says to us, ‘Get real.’ Things are not ok for you. You need help. Big time. I think this is why so many people liked the movie The Matrix. Remember it? Life seemed so happy and simple, but underneath that surface veneer was a very different reality. I’ll never forget the moment when Neo wakes up and finds out what’s really going on: it’s scarey. That story resonates with people. We know, in the back of our minds, that things are not right. The gospel comes and says to us ‘wake up! Get real!’
I think in the church we’ve let people down at this point. We’ve always taught people about the guilt of sin. You’re guilty before God and you need forgiveness. Well that’s true, but what we’ve failed to teach is the evil of sin. The misery of it. The damage, the destruction it brings into our lives. The way it enslaves us. That’s what these Gospels are always emphasising. We should have emphasised this too, over the past 1000 years or so!
Here we are, Jesus has only just been born and already he is surrounded by murder. He’s in the promised land but He needs to escape! And we need to escape from sin too. We need rescue.
So it’s the old exodus story, but the locations have been reversed. the promised land has become an Egypt. That would be a big shock to a Jewish person hearing this story.