In this gospel lesson of St. Matthew 2:13-23 is often referred or known as the gospel of the Fight in to Egypt or Refuge in Egypt, when Joseph took the holy family into Egypt after being warned by the angel of the Lord that the Christ child was in danger of being killed by Herod’s soldiers. This gospel makes reference to Joseph fleeing at night to Egypt, strange as it may seem he (Joseph) takes the holy family back to the land (Egypt) where the Jews (Jesus’s ancestors) were held hostage so to speak by Pharaoh in the Old Testament. As we know in scripture (Old Testament), it was God who told Moses to leave this place (Egypt). “The Lord said to Moses, leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt and go to the land I promised (Exodus 33:1)!” Thus, the baby Jesus and the holy family, like their ancestors who were once held captive in Egypt are now exiled in Egypt. Some theologians refer to the Fight into Egypt as Jesus’s beginning stages of Him being in exile, whereby his people or God’s people must evade the powers at be so that He (Jesus) will eventually be able to do His work. “Out of Egypt I called my Son (Matthew 2:15)” makes reference to Israel (Jesus) meaning that Jesus Christ is the new Israel. Furthermore, in the Old Testament (HOS.11:1) as one as the same words “out of Egypt” or meaning the same as Jesus is the new Israel. We can relate and compare Herod’s wickedness by killing all male children 2 and under to Pharaoh in the Old Testament where Pharaoh tried to wipe out the old Israel by killing all male children. In Matthew 2:18, we hear of Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel who died years before Christ, in this case, Rachel weeps for the mothers of those innocent male children of Bethlehem that were killed. We hear again of the angel of the Lord after Herod’s death appearing to Joseph in a dream telling him to take the holy family back to Israel, instead they go to the town of Nazareth, because Joseph was warned by God in a dream not to go there, Jesus will eventually begin his ministry, hence he will be called Jesus of Nazareth.
When we read this gospel lesson of Matthew, a lot of people will ask, “How can God allow these innocent children of God to be slaughtered?” In the Orthodox church, we recognize these children as “The Holy Innocents” (also as saints and martyrs). Some theologians will say, everyone who has a share in suffering with Christ will rise with Him in eternal glory, ergo justice and mercy are beyond comprehension. Others might say, “God wanted to make an example of what evil can do, because of what sinful people are capable of.” Nobody really has a conclusive answer of why, we only know these children died as martyrs for Christ and became saints in order for Jesus to begin his earthly ministry and eventually be called Jesus of Nazareth, which was spoken by the prophets “He shall be called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23).”One point to note here, speaking of Nazarene, early in Christ’s ministry, followers of Jesus were also called Nazarenes and eventually they were called Christians, as in today’s world. Another point is after the Exodus in the Old Testament and as it was mentioned by Matthew “out of Egypt my Son”, meaning Jesus and the New Israel, is the new beginning from Egypt where the Jews were captives in the Old (Old Testament) to Nazareth or the New (New Testament) where it starts all over for us as the new Israel in order for Jesus to proclaim the good news and the promise He gave to us that we will have everlasting life with Him if we believe He is the Son of God.