Jesus the Refugee
a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. (Quoted from http://www.unhcr.ch/un&ref/who/whois.htm as at December 29 2001)
By this definition Jesus was a refugee. There is no question of this, despite the fact that some Christians are clearly embarrassed by the fact.
So, without a doubt Jesus, fleeing for his life from King Herod, would have been
stuck in a detention centre.
Jesus by biblical standards, this is what the bible says:
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Strangers is one of the biblical word for refugees.
To really live the Christian Faith is to have concern for justice for all people, including “the strangers and widows and orphans” the Old Testament called the oppressed and nobodies of the time.
In Matthew 9:13 Jesus told people to go and learn the meaning of the word compassion. Compassion is the modern word for mercy. It means to walk in the shoes of someone, or to feel how a situation feels to them.
Jesus quoted the scripture where God says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Keeping the law and making sacrifices in the temple was the “right thing” a good Jew of Jesus time did to keep the law. But, says Jesus, God desires mercy or compassion, not rigid keeping of the law. He was alluding to the words of the Old Testament Prophet Hosea who says as God’s word, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The Old Testament prophets were damming of those who kept religious observance and yet did not live out justice. Amos 5:21 has God saying, “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” Jesus was damming of those who kept religious observance hard heartedly and had no compassion. He called them “whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” Matthew 23:27
The law of Moses was to be interpreted through compassion. Compassion, then the law. Let us be compassionate first and then worry about the law, if you like.
Remember the story at the end of time when the people are brought one at a time before The Son Of Man and some are placed at his left hand? He said
(Mat 25:41-45) ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
He is speaking to us, as a nation. If this is how we treat the strangers, the refugees among whom Jesus himself stands, how are we treating the poor and the widows and the orphans?
This sermon is not just a political diatribe about refugees. This is about the very fabric and nature of our society. The way we treat asylum seekers shows how far we have fallen.
The church has called Jesus The Son of God, God “in the flesh.” It says we saw The Divine in this human being above all human beings. In fact, as we think about it, we conclude that God has planned this from the beginning… To fulfil the prophets.
This son of God was with the lowest of the low. He was a refugee by the calling of God– worshipped by the wise foreigners, and the unclean shepherds, but not recognised by his own people.
Will we be the same and not recognise the sons and daughters of God who come to us? What law will we obey… Jesus’ call to compassion or the convenient, selfish legalism of the land. Our Christian Discipleship will be judged by this.
Will we repeat the myths and lies about refugees and asylum seekers? Or will we stand up to the xenophobes and racists of this land despite the lack of courage and compassion of our political leaders?
Will we be Christians, or are we something less?
2: 13-23 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and
remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to
Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and
went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil
what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have
called my son.”
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he
was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem
who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from
the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet
Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel
weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to
Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the
land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then
Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father
Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went
away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called
Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,
“He will be called a Nazorean.”