Out of Egypt: The Final Exodus
As we find ourselves in another Christmas season, it is always good to return to the Gospels and remind ourselves why it is we celebrate. For me, that means returning to Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ, reading and pondering Matthew’s side of the story. But this story of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem has a much larger meta-narrative running through the background that transforms the whole of Matthew’s Gospel.
The Beginning of the End: “Now the Birth of Jesus Christ Took Place in This Way”
The genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel sets Jesus in his family, a majestic and royal tree. The birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and to David. Further, is it announced to Joseph that the one to be born is Emmanuel, God with us (1:22-23; Isa 7:14), thus fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah. With the announcement and birth of Christ, the eschaton was set in motion. The long awaited Messiah had finally come.
The Return from Exile: “Out of Egypt I called My Son”
The most fascinating aspect of Matthew’s account is the intertextual echoes to the Exodus story. First, note the birth of Christ. Just as Moses was born to redeem Israel from the hands of Pharaoh, so to Christ was born to deliver his people from a much greater oppressor (1:21). Second, the birth of Jesus led to the slaughter of baby boys, that was also the case with the birth of Moses. Finally, like Israel before him, God also called Christ from Israel (2:15).
As you progress through Matthew’s Gospel you see even more the echoes of the Exodus. For example, the temptation of Christ in the wilderness and the temptation of Israel in the wilderness and the Sermon on the Mount and the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai to name a few. So, as we read the story of the birth of Christ this Christmas season let us try to read it in its fuller context and part of the greater story, the story of God’s glory through the redemption of man and the restoration of all things.