Folks are asking, “Was Jesus really a refugee in his lifetime? Did his
family qualify for refugee status, given it was forced to leave Israel
and lay low in Egypt to avoid King Herod's dreadful war on baby
boys? The Gospel of Matthew recounts the family's flight to Egypt,
which (if historically accurate) would add Joseph, Mary and Jesus to
the epic listing of biblical refugees. By narrating the Scriptural story
from Joseph's view (rather than Mary's view as Luke does), Matthew
mirrors in this Joseph the memory of an earlier Joseph, son of Jacob.
Joseph, son of Jacob, was also forced into Egypt along with all his
brothers – a migration that led eventually to the enslavement of the
entire Hebrew nation. Like Herod centuries later, the Pharaoh of
Egypt also ordered the slaughter of male children to maintain his
control over an increasingly discontented and burgeoning people.
Outside this Gospel reference, there is no evidence of Herod's mas-
sacre of infants; but the litany of evil done by Herod is horrible
enough to include such a deed. Some scholars suggest Herod might
have killed 20 Jewish babies to make his point, and the death of these
babies would be unlikely to be entered into written human history.
The thought that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were once migrants or even
refugees fleeing their country's danger should awaken in believers a
compassionate response for the humane treatment of undocumented
people coming into our country. In very fact, the Bible is filled with
people who are beloved by God and yet at the mercy of others' kind-
ness: Adam & Eve, Cain, Abraham and Sarah, Hagar & Ishmael, Jac-
ob and his family, Moses and the people of the Exodus, Naomi and
Ruth, David, Elijah, Amos, Esther, Paul and all Jesus' original apos-
tles among others.
Should we close our doors to migrants and refugees today as some
suggest? Who knows how many of them may be playing a vital role
in God's yet unfolding story of grace! – adapted from Alice Camille