A child, considered a threat to national security, narrowly escapes a mass execution by being smuggled across the border to live as a refugee. No, this isn’t “fake news,” this is the picture of God-with-us (Emmanuel) painted in Matthew 2:1-15.
Matthew 2:1-15 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born…
At a time when so many families in South East Los Angeles have been demonized and are living in a constant state of panic, Matthew 2:1-15 challenges me to check my privilege and love my neighbors. The message couldn’t get any clearer—God identifies with the vulnerable.
God identifies with the vulnerable even when the political elite plot against him. His reaction to the arrival of Christ exposed King Herod for what he really was—a cold, calculating, deceptive, and violent opportunist. While Herod may have provided some with the illusion of traditional values, civic righteousness, national sovereignty, and economic prosperity, in reality he was an agent of imperialism (Rome). His faith was in an alternative gospel—peace through militarism and materialism. His allegiance was to an alternative son of god—Caesar Augustus.
God identifies with the vulnerable even when the religious elite betray him. They weren’t actively plotting against Jesus like Herod, they were resisting him indirectly. Maintaining plausible deniability, they camouflaged Herod with the appearance of religious legitimacy. Appearing pious, they were deeply embedded in the same hypocrisy as their government—so wrapped up in the idolatry of empire and self-preservation they could not afford to discern the truth. Privately they may have looked down on Herod, but they were more than willing to allow him to do their sinning for them.
Pondering this familiar story I find myself asking, are things really that different today? I can’t get that image out of my head—a child, labeled a threat to national security, smuggled across the border, surviving as a refugee. This is God-with-us. Dios con Nosotros.