For followers of Jesus, the story of his life, death, and resurrection is the absolute center of our practice, belief, and worldview. It’s the central event which generated the entire Christian story and the New Testament. One of the most important events in the Old Testament is the exile of the Israelites to Babylon. This experience shaped every part of the Bible, and the theme of exile and return from exile is the backbone of the entire biblical story from the garden, all the way to Revelation.
- The Fall of Man sent them into exile. (Genesis 3) They live in the Garden on one condition; that they trust and follow God’s one command. But they don’t, so the consequence is banishment from the garden.
- Then Israel is given the gift of the promised land, but were there on one condition; that they be faithful to the terms of their covenant relationship with God. However, they are not faithful and are sent into exile.
- Eventually the Israelites do get to travel back to the promised homeland. However, it wasn’t home sweet home. Oppressive empires were still ruling over them, and the people kept acting in the same corrupt ways as their ancestors. The biblical prophets said that exile wasn’t actually over. Israel’s exile became an image of something more universal. It’s that feeling of alienation and longing for something more, no matter where you live.
- The Bible is the product of a displaced, exiled people and a document for exiles—people who have a complex relationship with their actual “home” as they long for a greater “home” that is not possible in the current world order. The story of the Bible is about people who had to cultivate a unique identity as God’s people, while integrating into the dominant cultures that were totally contrary to the Kingdom of God.
- Jesus claimed that Israel and all humanity had lost its way, that our self-centeredness drives us to create false homes based on status and power, and these inevitably exclude others. We live in an exile of our own making. But Jesus said the true way home is one of weakness, of service, and of forgiveness. Then Jesus went into exile alongside us to show us the true way home.
- His life and self-giving love proved more powerful than humanity’s failure. He opened up a pathway to our real home. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
- Jesus’ followers committed themselves to him. They discovered this new way of being human. They believed that the real return from exile had begun, and so they would call themselves, “sojournersor wanderers.” “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” 1 Peter 1:1-2
Talk About It
- What do you think of when you think about Home?
- Have any of you ever been forced to leave Home? How did that make you feel?
- How did the Israelites end up in exile? After they where able to return to their promised homeland, how could they think they were still in exile when they’re at home?
- Jesus shows us they way we are to live and treat others. How are you living in they way Jesus would want you to? And what do you need to change?
- Where is our home and how do we get there? (John 14:6)
- So as we live this life as aliens waiting to return home what are to be doing?