After an Angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus left on the tough trip across the Sinai Desert.
In 1980 I carried a 12-foot cross from Jerusalem to Cairo. It was difficult even in the modern day as I walked the paved roads. But to cross that desert with only local water and in the dirt and sand and heat and wind’¦wow!
Herod the King wanted to kill Jesus! They fled to a foreign land. It was the place Moses and the children of Israel had fled ‘from’ years before. Now it had become a refuge for the Son of God.
There were no disposable diapers. Water was difficult to get and heavy to carry. Food was scarce. Bandits could be anywhere. From cold nights to hot days there was almost no shade. The wind blows at times whipping up blinding sand storms. Sand covers everything and gets into your clothes, hair, eyes, nose and mouth.
The wise men had come from the East to see and worship Jesus. Among the gifts they brought was gold. God had provided provision for their journey but in that desert there were no stores.
After the difficult journey they settled in Egypt. Jesus grew up as a minority! He must have tasted the effects of prejudice and discrimination. He must also have learned a new language and learned to live in a different culture.
Some years later an Angel of the Lord again spoke to Joseph saying, “Arise take the young Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead’
Now the young Child Jesus with His mother and Joseph made the trip back across the desert and back to the town of Nazareth.
Here is how the Bible describes the story:
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying,
“Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,
and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.’
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.’
Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:13-23 in the Holy Bible)
As we look at the early years of Jesus we see that he faced the struggles common to the poor and suffering of the world. He experienced being a refugee. He could identify with the homeless. Jesus came to know the feeling of being a child in a foreign land. He lived through the threat of death. The family of Jesus must have known the other male babies that had been killed in and around Bethlehem. He knew the comfort of the loving arms of parents fleeing persecution and death.
With the birth of Jesus in a manger and his early years in the desert and in another country He came to be identified with the masses of the world.
As I write this the world is shocked with the news of the huge Tsunami that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and left millions homeless.
Jesus understands the suffering and the struggle. People can identify with Him.
For most people in the American religious culture these early years are seldom emphasized. They are simply a footnote to the life of Jesus. This is sad because as any person who know about babies and small infants what they feel and experience in the first few years greatly influences their lives for as long as they live.
A great part of the humanity of Jesus was these early years. His love for the poor, the sick, the suffering, the outcast and unloved, He had witnessed first hand as a child.
As we follow Jesus, we must follow Him in His love and compassion for the poorest and most needy.
One must be very careful today not to become cold and callous to the suffering masses.
Our common response in the Western religion is:
Give your entire tithe to the church they will correctly dispense it!
Give offerings above your tithes to projects the church emphasizes and guest speakers.
Give money to charities and they will meet the needs of others.
Give the food, clothing etc. that you do not like or want to a charity to give away.
Now I have trod into forbidden areas with the above statements. I am writing about the life of Jesus and am going to hold nothing back as we look at His life.
Now don’t get me wrong with what I wrote above. Consider the context. I am NOT saying don’t give to the church or charities etc. I am not judge of your life or whatever the Lord Jesus leads you to do.
Our own ministry receives donations to send us on to the world.
What I DO want to point to is a huge problem!
Our giving and generosity and compassion has often become “Second Hand’.
We never meet the refugee. We never take in the homeless. We never personally feed a hungry person. We never take a poor person to the mall and buy them new clothes. We never buy cold drinks for the thirsty standing outside the unemployment line. We never visit the unknown stranger in the hospital or nursing home.
How often do you personally help the needy beyond your family or friends?
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were strangers and pilgrims. They were homeless and needy. Had you met them on the road in the desert or in another country what would you have done for them?
Your tithe is safely in church and your love offering is blessing the youth outing. Nothing is left for this family. Our mission board decides where my money will go.
Sure we need to give to churches and organizations but what about the personal touch?
We will get to this later in the life of Jesus but just remember the story Jesus told of the ‘Good Samaritan’. He touched the wounded man and personally met his need. Jesus ‘touched’ again and again we read those words about Him as He healed and blessed.
It’s one thing to stand on a platform in front of a crowd and ‘heal and bless’ them. It’s another thing to walk the streets and markets in the heat of the day and with the sick and diseased and reach out your hand and ‘heal and bless’ and bring the message of Jesus.
I will be dealing with this subject time and again in the life of Jesus.
I just wonder if today in our mass of religious organizations and churches if we would miss helping Jesus, Mary and Joseph as they passed through your town today?
Remember Jesus said, “As you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto Me!’
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt