Jesus, your New Israel - The Second Sunday after Christmas
[Matthew 2:13-15] Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, 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 destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Jesus, your New Israel
A whole nation from one man. A whole nation from one Son.
In our Old Testament reading today, we heard about Jacob, who is named Israel. Israel is the name of a nation – the nation of God’s people in the Old Testament – and the name of a man. We remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After a long wrestling match one night, God renamed Jacob, Israel. [Genesis 32:22-32]
From the man Israel came the whole nation of Israel, through Israel’s twelve sons. The nation of Israel bears the name of its forefather, the man Israel. In today’s reading from Genesis 46:1-7, the man Israel is going down to Egypt to dwell there – he, his sons, and their sons and daughters.
In Egypt, this one man Israel, through his offspring, will grow into a large nation of Israel – yet a nation in a foreign land, under slavery. One day though, about 400 hundred years later, Israel – the nation – would be taken up out of Egypt and be led back to their own land, the land to which the man Israel had been taken up already to be laid to rest.
Indeed, in the days of Moses, 400 years after the man Israel entered into Egypt, the whole nation of Israel was called out of Egypt. “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
These words, quoted in our Gospel, are first written by the prophet Hosea, and are first written about God’s son Israel, the nation. Hosea 11:1-2 – “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.”
Out of Egypt God called Israel, but Israel did not follow God. In the wilderness, and as a nation, the more God called them, the more they gave themselves to worshiping idols and putting their hope in false gods.
But, now Jesus is born a new Israel. God’s true and only Son. “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” At the command of the angel, Joseph took Jesus and His mother, Mary, down into Egypt. And, then, when king Herod had died, Joseph brought Jesus and Mary up out of Egypt. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
As is often the case, words spoken by one of God’s prophets first about the nation of Israel are ultimately and most truly words about Jesus.
The nation of Israel was called out of Egypt, yet disobeyed God. Jesus is called out of Egypt and obeys God even unto death, death on a cross. Where God’s children of Israel failed, His Son Jesus succeeded in their place. The course that the nation of Israel had walked quite unfaithfully and to their destruction, God sent His Son to retrace those steps for them in His own flesh and to do it well for their salvation.
In other words, it’s like this: Just as the nation of Israel began as one man (Israel) and grew into many, now, in Jesus – in that child born King of the Jews Christmas morning – the nation of Israel is reduced back down to one Man again. God’s Son becomes the stand-in for God’s whole nation. So that one man can die for the nation, rather than the whole nation be lost.
Jesus, as the stand-in for Israel, runs the course down to Egypt and back out. He crosses the Jordan as Israel did, but in His baptism. He wanders in the wilderness as they did, but in forty days, not forty years, and totally without bread. Jesus lives out the Law of Moses in their stead, the Law they had not kept He fulfills as their King in their place. And, after His obedience, He is then taken captive for their disobedience. He, as the stand-in for all Israel, fulfills the punishments due to them as He dies forsaken of God on His Cross in their place.
And then, for all Israel, He rises. Vindicated. Declared freed and righteous in their stead. So that in One Man, the whole nation is freed and made righteous in God’s eyes – for those who would have Him as their own, those who would believe.
And now, what about you and me? Jesus went to Egypt and back, and to the grave and back as your stand-in too. “He is the propitiation – the God-pleasing offering – for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” [1 John 2:2]. Christ is the new Israel-done-right for all Israel, and He is the New Adam, the new man-done-right for all men.
Jesus is your stand-in, and you become part of His nation, grafted into Him by your Baptism. Just as the man Israel became a whole nation through the multiplication of offspring, so now this One New Man, Jesus, becomes a whole nation – a heavenly nation above us, yet to come, yet of which we are already a part – a vast nation, not through offspring, but by you and I being grafted into him.
You are grafted into Jesus by Baptism. In you, He becomes a great nation, a spiritual nation. As you are grafted into Him, all that He did becomes yours.
In Him, you’ve been to Egypt and back. In Him, you’ve been to the Cross and back. In Him, your sins have already been died for. In Him, you’ve already been raised with Him. You’ve already been to the grave and back in Him who is your New Israel – the new and true nation to which you now belong.
“Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” Now, since you’ve been called out of the Egypt of this world, and have been grafted into the New heavenly Israel, why do you live as if still belonging to this world? “The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.”
You’ve been called out in Jesus. Therefore, no longer find your love or your passion or your leisure or your interests or your tranquility in the things that are now passing away. Instead, “If you have been raised with Christ (and you have), seek the things that are above, where Christ is.” “Occupy your mind with things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” [Colossians 3:1-2]
A whole nation – the New Israel – born in One Man, Jesus Christ. As grafted-in members of this New Israel, occupy your mind in His Word, in His worship, in His commandments, and in His life of love for God and love for neighbor. Live a life worthy of the heavenly nation to which you so freely have been added in Jesus. Amen.