One of the things a theology student learns in studying the Gospel of Matthew is that one of the goals of Matthew’s writing is to show how the story of Jesus’ life parallels the story of Israel.
One of the places we see this parallel within the birth narratives is in Matthew 2. Here see the threat of evil already rising against the plan of God in the self-preserving schemes of Herod. Herod, hearing of the birth of a Jewish king attempts to silence any threat by killing the male babies of Bethlehem. Jesus, however, is secretly taken into Egypt.
Knowing the story of the Exodus, one can see the similarities: Pharaoh and Herod both take the lives of innocent male children, Moses and Jesus both escape this fate and both the Hebrews (God’s people) and Jesus (as the perfect embodiment of God’s people) come out of Egypt.
What’s the importance of Jesus paralleling the story of Israel?
Most basically, is because the story of how God interacted with his people is a story that is so important it is worth retelling. And it is a story worth retelling right.
From time to time over the last several years, Hollywood has been overrun with the remake. It seemed like no movie writer could develop an original idea, and so the industry took old movie after old movie and remade them.
That is what God did with Jesus and the story of Israel. The difference though is that this wasn’t God failing to think up a new idea, rather, God, in Jesus, was retelling the story the way it should have been.
The story of Israel ended like a Shakespearian tragedy: disobedience, idolatry, oppression of the poor, war and exile. Jesus’ story turned the tragedy into the climax of all of human history; not because Jesus was somehow super human but because God, the author and director of the story, came to play the lead role.
Every year when we celebrate Christmas or Easter and every Sunday when churches gather to worship, it is our turn to retell the story Jesus. By re-telling the story of Jesus, we are retelling the story of how God saves and redeems his people- a people that fail, mess up and turn life into a tragedy. But that’s all of us and it’s our story and the story of our salvation is a story worth retelling.