Monday, February 4, 2019

Refuge & Jesus' Family

Jesus was a refugee. He might not remember much as it happened when he was between one to two years old but his family had to pack real quick and left Judea for Egypt to flee from Herod's wrath. There Jesus spent several years until as a kid he was back in Nazareth and later came to be known as Jesus of Nazareth. I wonder how Joseph and Mary with an infant or young child escaped at the dead of night. It is not as if they took a plane for a few hours and arrived at a safe destination. From Judea to Egypt takes a few weeks of walking or riding on a donkey or camel. Where did they sleep on the journey? Who took them in? Were there strangers like Abraham and his wife when he saw three strangers walking past and invited them in and prepared a feast for them (Genesis 18) and because of his hospitality received the promise of a son within a year? Did not James say Abraham was justified by his works and not just by faith because he acted to bring strangers into his home and fed them with the best of what he had? Where did Jesus' family stay in Egypt?
For sure they did not have relatives and friends but perhaps recipients of oriental hospitality and protection from strangers. No wonder there are so many verses in the Law of Moses speaking about showing love to strangers and loving your neighbour as yourself which was adopted by Jesus in his twin most important commandments. Perhaps Joseph and Mary told Jesus about how the family survived as refugees in a foreign land and how by God's grace, Egyptians showed kindness and hospitality to them. Perhaps that could be a reason that one day Assyria and Egypt would call on the name of the Lord and be saved (Isaiah) because God remembers the nation's kindness shown to His Son while on earth as an infant.

The Chinese has strong traditions of familial ties or values just like many other cultures. No wonder Jesus' teachings would seem unpalatable to many. "Unless you hate your father or mother, brothers or sisters, you cannot be my disciples.." To put Jesus above one's own flesh and blood. How many Christians do that nowadays? No wonder Jesus says, "you esteem your traditions above God's Word and make null His Word for the sake of your traditions". How many treat Jesus' family better than their own? Jesus' family is our brothers and sisters who love God and do His will. I spoke of this spiritual family being more important than our natural families several times in my NT Theology class last week. I made clear to my students that I spent three plus years apart from my family, travelling up and down almost every other week for the sake of Jesus' work. Why did I do that? It was for the sake of Jesus' family, my brothers and sisters whom I love dearly, and one day in heaven and also now on earth is my true family.

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