This time of the year is always busy and is a time of celebration as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child. It is also a time in which the secular world is full of frustration, uncertainty and in need of divine intervention. Thousands of years ago a divine intervention came about…God sent his Son…Jesus Christ as an instrument of salvation and restoration, an instrument of reconciliation between God and his people. What kind of world was he born into?
When Jesus was born all of Jewish Palestine and some of the neighboring Gentile areas were ruled by Rome’s friend an ally Herod the Great. He was appointed By Rome to be the King of Judea. He built many fortresses, aqueducts, theaters, and other public buildings. He was known for having raised the prosperity of his land. In New Testament writings he is portrayed as a tyrant, into whose kingdom Jesus of Nazareth was born. Palestine lay between Syria and Egypt which were two of Romes most valuable possessions. Herod was allowed to remain King as long as he maintained the requirements of stability and loyalty demanded by Rome and granted him pretty much a free hand in his governing his kingdom. Herod died shortly after Jesus was born. The kingdom was divided into five parts. The Gentile areas were separated from the Jewish areas, which were spilt between two of Herod’s sons. There is much more information concerning the politics of the day but we will simply focus on just those in the area of Jesus’ birth that affected his future ministry. Over time and in the time of Christ’s ministry Augustus disposed of Archelaus and transformed Judaea, Idumaea, and Samaria from a client kingdom into an “imperial province.” A minor Roman aristocrat later referred to as a procurator was sent to govern and protect Rome’s interest. During Jesus’ public career, the Roman Prefect was Pontius Pilate (ruled 26–36 CE).
Now normally the area of Judaea, Samaria and Idumaea, was govern directly by the Prefect, but in this instance the Perfect relied on local leaders. He was supported by a small Roman army numbering about 3,000 men and they came from the mostly Gentile cities of Caesarea and Sebaste. Most of the officers for this force came from Italy and if needed in Jerusalem this force could be there in two days. I am going to passover a large part of the organization of the government and go straight to the way it was in the Lord’s Day.
At the time of Jesus’ public career, Galilee was governed by the tetrarch Antipas, Judaea (including Jerusalem) was nominally governed by Pilate, but the actual daily rule of Jerusalem was in the hands of Caiaphas and his council.
( Caiaphas served as the Jewish high priest in the Jerusalem temple and president of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus Christ’s death. Caiaphas accused Jesus of blasphemy, which led to his death sentence by crucifixion.)
It was a strange partnership the truth being that the Romans wanted to protect their investment and the Jews wished to protect the Temple and rule over their people. Just as the Romans would not tolerate disorder and non-compliance with Roman law, the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court of justice and the supreme council in ancient Jerusalem were protective of their power and the beliefs of the faith. The Jews had been waiting for the coming of their Messiah…he who would free them now from the harsh rule of the Romans. As the folks used to say “there ain’t no sense plowing old ground.” The world into which he came was a cruel and harsh one. There were those who had much and those who had little or nothing. There was no in-between. That’s about as simple as I can tell it.
It has been interesting taking time to consider some of the back stories of those bible stories that we read every year at this time. Two weeks ago as I wrote….
… That Star has lost some of its glow. The scripture in 2nd chapter of Luke is one we have read every year and behind those words lie the rest of the story.
Behind those words that came from a couple of weeks ago comes the realization that we are still struggling with greed, anger and hate for other people. But consider this…That Star is still there and so is our Lord and Savior.We must put aside those things that separate us from our God and let the STAR glow bright in our world today. Next week will be our annual Christmas post…Charlie Brown will be back.
Life is Good… May you find abundance, kindness and love…That Star is still with us and our Savior Christ is among us this very day.