So [Joseph] got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt. But behold, at the border they were met by Roman soldiers, who challenged them, saying, “Why are you coming into Egypt? Are you not from Judea?”
“We are fleeing to save the life of our child,” said Joseph, “for He was born in Bethlehem, and Herod decreed that all the boys in Bethlehem and vicinity under two years old are to be killed, so we were greatly afraid, and an angel of the Lord told us to flee to a land of safety.”
“This is indeed a land of safety,” said the soldier, “but only for us Romans, and to some extent for our Egyptian subjects. Herod has reason to fear you Judeans, for your land is a hotbed of rebels and terrorists. Our governor, Gaius Tyrannus, has decreed that he will not allow Egypt to be infested with illegal Judeans. You must return to your own country.”
“You would have us return to a land where our son’s life is in danger? The king seeks to have Him killed!”
“King Herod upholds the Pax Romana, as does governor Gaius Tyrannus,” declared the soldier. “If you persist in crossing into Egyptian territory, you will both be imprisoned.”
Then Mary cried aloud, and said, “Have mercy on us! I am the handmaiden of the Lord, and He has given us this child to bring down the rulers from their thrones, and cast down the mighty!”
And Joseph tried to quiet her, and was sore afraid, for he knew that rulers did not like that kind of talk.
“Now I know you are rebels!” said the soldier, “For the crime of illegally entering the Roman province of Egypt, you and your husband will be thrown in prison.”
“I cannot take my child to prison!” cried Mary.
“Of course not,” said the soldier. “Your child will be taken into our custody, and when your sentence is complete, He will be returned to you. If we can find Him, and if He is able to tell us His parents’ names.”
“He is but a babe!” cried Mary, as the soldier took Jesus from her arms. “He is still nursing at the breast! Please, have mercy!!”
But the soldier hardened his heart, though he had babes of his own at home and it tore his soul to hear the cries of the infant Jesus. He remembered the degree of Gaius Tyrannus, and the mighty power of Caesar Augustus far away in Rome. And he took the child away to a detention facility that was almost definitely not a cage, while the other soldiers led Mary and Joseph away.
And the cries of the infant Jesus mingled with the cries of Mary His mother in the Egyptian night, so that it might be fulfilled as the prophet had spoken:.
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
(Artwork: Flight into Egypt, Gentile da Fabriano, 1370-1427)