The birth story of Jesus is a story that a lot of the church misconstrues into something that is common. We see it as the birth of Jesus, the son of God; which is very true! However, we don't see the story behind the story. When I read the birthing story from the Gospel of Luke, I normally read over the first passage. Here is what Luke 2:1-3 says,
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
When I read this, I normally thought and was taught that this was the reason that Mary and Joseph were going back to Bethlehem. When taking a closer look, this was not the only reason that Luke made this account. Here, he is setting up a time when two kingdoms are about to collide.
In High School, we are taught that Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC because many of the Roman senate thought he had too much power. Before his death, he adopted a grandnephew and named him heir to the Roman empire. After Caesar's murder, Octavian did three things:
1. He adopted the name Caesar.
2. He set out to kill his father's murderer's, which set up a decade long civil war.
3. He set up games that were in honor of his fallen father.
During the games, a comet appeared and many saw this as a sign of the divinity of Julius Caesar. Octavian used this against his enemies. If his father was a God, this meant that he was the son of a god. After this, a decade long civil war engulfed the Roman region. In 31 BC, Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony. This was the beginning of "peace" in the Roman empire. People labeled Octavian as the "bringer of peace". Priests included his name in prayers and they made his birthday a national holiday. Soon Octavian was given the name Augustus which means "the illustrious one". He became known as a "savior" and was starting to earn his own divinity on earth. After all, he was the son of a god.
Caesar went on and started to bring "peace" in the region, but it was by the sword. His divinity was political and "divine" in his own eyes. You either chose to be part of the Roman Empire and worship Caesar Augustus or you were killed.
The reason for this quick history lesson is to set up something major. Luke's mention of the census was to set up the stage for how Caesar was trying to take control of the Roman Empire and how far his power reached. The census was to show his power and to see how far his empire reached. Luke set up the stage for the birth of Jesus. In one corner you have the Roman Empire, the greatest kingdom on earth and in the other you have the birth of Jesus who was ushering in a new kingdom. One that would challenge the being of the Roman Empire to the core.
When we look further into The Gospel according to Luke chapter 2:-14,
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The two different empires were established when Jesus was born. The amazing part about these two passages from Luke is that we see that the story is not just of Jesus being born and that Mary and Joseph were going to Bethlehem for a census. We can clearly see Luke is showing that Jesus, even from birth was starting to be a radical Christian. He came into this world, already setting up issues and problems that challenged the authority of that day.
I am writing this blog to see if we can challenge the way we think about God. Challenge what we know about Jesus and start to act as Jesus of Nazareth did. He challenged the authority of the day to get people to worship the true God. I am asking us to seek the true Jesus that walked the walk and talked the talk. We see a Jesus who does one or the other, and in a lot of churches this is how we are taught. Rethink what we know. Don't love the westernized Jesus, we need to love and show the love as the Jesus of Nazareth.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! It is refreshing to know I can be thankful for so many things. Family, Friends, a great church family and youth group, an amazing wife, and a God who loves me unconditionally.
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