Art: “The Flight Into Egypt” by Ki-chang Kim 

Written by Hung-Su Lim, Associate Pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Richmond, VA

drawing of the flight to egypt
Art: “The Flight Into Egypt” by Ki-chang Kim
“The Flight Into Egypt” by Ki-chang Kim

When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. Matthew 2:13-14 

I see a picture of a Ukrainian family. The mother holds her son and stands with her husband in front of their home, which was destroyed by a missile strike. Her family is now displaced and stays in makeshift accommodation. This story of a Ukranian family reminds me of my grandmother and her family, who had to flee from her hometown to the south during the Korean War. She shared how my grandfather carried their three little children and necessities. She was pregnant, and my mother was born during the Korean War. It was, all sudden, confusing, terrifying, unknown, and panicky. They even lost their son during that difficult time. War is a time of sorrow, loss, despair, terror, horror, and fear. 

Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, had to flee to Egypt. They probably had a difficult time getting up and hurrying to save the family. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were forced to become refugees and immigrants. They experienced human suffering and pain. Even though the escape to Egypt may have a beautiful symbolic meaning – Jesus is the new Israel and the new Moses, and Egypt is again a place of refuge – Herod’s massacre of children aged two or under is an unimaginably evil act.  

The Korean artist Ki-chang Kim interprets biblical stories with a Korean perspective. One of them is “The Flight into Egypt.” Mary and Joseph wear traditional Korean clothes, and Mary holds the baby Jesus wrapped in cloth, riding on a donkey. Joseph looks back and checks on his wife and baby. It is a night when they flee in the painting. The tree that has lost all its foliage and the crescent moon indicates a dreary and gloomy night in a unique East Asian style  – in the style of 18th-century Korean painting.  

This painting is very meaningful to Korean people who have experienced the same escape, because Kim drew this painting during the Korean War. Seeing the family of Jesus from a Korean perspective is such a powerful way to comfort and encourage people because this painting conveys a message of the incarnate God who has known, seen, and experienced people’s pain and suffering. Jesus’ story is read and seen as people’s indigenous story. Jesus’ story becomes the story of the people, a story that reflects human life. 

Kim’s painting helps us to see that, through Jesus, God has already walked in the darkest valley of the earth. God has already known human agony and despair by being vulnerable. God has already worked in human brokenness to restore and reconcile. So, then, God has continuously invited people to be part of God’s redemptive works because God empowers the wounded, the sick, and the afflicted to bless others and help them flourish. 

Lent is a significant season in which we witness God undergoing a time of humiliation and suffering. We hope to see and experience God’s salvation in places of brokenness, hardship, sorrow, pain, and injustice. Through self-examination and repentance, we may focus on the Lord and be part of God’s redemptive works because God will use our sacrifices, suffering, and pains to bring redemption and restoration for others. We anchor in the mystery of faith and hope that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. 

Find previous “Picturing God” entries here:

April 4: The Taking of Christ

April 4: The Taking of Christ

Art: “The Taking of Christ” by Caravaggio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons  Available online at: …

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