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The birth of Jesus Part 1

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The birth of the King of Kings is the perfect illustration of how God works in the lives of nations and people to accomplish His plans.  It is a love story filled with emotions, drama and villains and spanning continents.  The cast of characters includes an emperor, a king, scholars, commoners and shepherds.  This highly anticipated event was predicted in hundreds of prophecies spoken over several thousand years by scores of prophets.

This simple love story beautifully illustrates how God moves nations, world leaders, emperors, kings, and common individuals to bring His plans to perfect completion, at the right time, the right place, and the right circumstances.  Hundreds of years before the birth of the King of Kings, God began setting in place everything necessary for the successful ministry of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity! 

Synagogues (586 B.C): Though the origins of the synagogue is somewhat cloudy, most scholars believe the synagogue as a permanent institution that bloomed during the period of the Babylonian captivity, when a place for common worship and instruction had become necessary and the synagogue evolved.  Deprived of the Temple, Jews met to read the scriptures and pray in synagogues.  After they were released from captivity, not all Jew's returned to Jerusalem.  Many groups scattered throughout the world.  Wherever ten or more Jewish men gathered, a synagogue was formed.  However, it's during the first century A.D., after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., that the synagogue emerges as an established institution that became the center of the social and religious life of the Jewish people. With the temple destroyed, the synagogues provided the bedrock of the Jewish faith. The role the synagogue played in Christian History? The apostles and early Christian leaders al,l used the synagogues scattered throughout the world as their pulpits or springboards to teach Jesus Christ as Messiah, Crucified, and Risen again and Savior and Lord.

Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BC: Conquered most of the known world of his day.  Alexander took with him Greek learning, philosophy and most of all, the Greek language.  It was the Greek language that eventually became the universal language of the world, used not only in Alexander's time, but also throughout the time of the Roman Empire.  The Greek language, as a universal language, allowed the apostles and early Christians to communicate the gospel throughout the Roman Empire to those who did not speak their language.

The Roman Empire: Following on the heels of the Greek Empire came the Roman Empire, which re-conquered the nations of the Greek Empire and beyond.  Where Rome went, Roman roads where built and protected.  The Pax Romana brought relative military peace throughout its Empire.  The Apostles and Christians used Roman roads with their safe passage to spread the gospel to the world.  As God intended, Christianity was able to use Roman roads to visit Jewish synagogues throughout the Roman Empire, and use Greek as the universal language.

 The Cast of Characters

 God used a full cast of characters in the Nativity Story, some never knowing the part they played!  The main characters:

 Caesar Augustus:  Emperor of Rome, master of the greatest empire to ever rule the world.  Never in his wildest dreams would Caesar have thought that God would use him as a pawn to bring about the completion of an ancient prophecy.  For many reasons, mainly taxes Augustus called for a census' throughout the Roman Empire.  His decree stated that every man was to return to the city of his Families birthplace to be counted.  Augustus never knew his decree would force a young couple expecting their first child, (the wife in advanced stage of pregnancy) to leave the city of Nazareth and travel seventy miles to a tiny little hamlet called Bethlehem.

 Joseph:  Age 18 to 30.  Josephis one of the unsung heroes of the Bible and history.  Everyone focuses on Mary, the mother of Christ, as the leading lady and co-star of the nativity story.  Poor Joseph on the other hand, is the quiet man in the background.  He’s the go to guy that gets things done with little or no credit or acknowledgement.  We know his name only because he was part of the nativity story and the early childhood of Jesus.  He never even gets any lines in scripture.  He does have a few action scenes, but then he slowly fades away into the mist of history.  What most people don’t realize is that even though he is little known, Joseph was given an incredible honor by God!  Joseph was chosen by God to be the adoptive father and guardian, of Jesus the long awaited Messiah of Israel.  Not only was he the adoptive father of the Messiah,  Joseph was also the father of Christianities first pastor, James, the writer of the book of James, and the father of Jude, also a writer in the New Testament.  Three famous sons recognized by history.

What kind of man do you think God would choose as the guardian and adoptive father of His Son?  Do you think God would have chosen a man that was:

  • Harsh
  • Abusive
  • Self centered
   

 

  • Bitter
  • Judgmental
  • Weak
   

 

  • Cruel
  • Mean spirited
  • Stingy
  • Emotionally cold
  • Indifferent
  • Greedy
  • Religiously rigid
  • Temperamental
  • Scripturally uneducated
   

 

 

 

 

         

Or do you think He would choose a man that was:

 

  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Provider
  • Meek
  • Knowledgeable of Scripture
  • Gentle
  • Considerate
  • Patient
  • Humble
  • Peaceful
  • Hard working
  • A natural teacher
  • Compassionate
  • Righteous
  • Merciful
   

 Scripture does say Joseph was a righteous man. The Hebrew word for a righteous man is tsaddîyq. To the Jewish people, this meant he was zealous in keeping the Law of Moses.  Not because it was required by law, but because of his love for God!  Joseph obeyed God’s Laws and commandments because of his love and reverence for the God of his fathers. Joseph played a key role in the life of Christ.  The responsibilities of a Jewish father were enormous:

He was to be the provider of the family:

  1. He was commanded by law, to teach his children the commandments:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  5) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6) These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9) Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

 20) In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 2) 1tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22) Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23) But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24) The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25) And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Deuteronomy 6:20-25

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

  1. He was to teach Jesus a trade:

Rabbi Yehuda in the Babylonian said: “He that does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to rob. Teaches him to rob?”

 He was the Leader of the family:

In the Jewish Patriarchal system of the family, the father was the supreme leader.  This authority extended to his wife, his children, his children’s children, his servants and all in his household.  His word was law where the family was concerned.

In short, Joseph was the man chosen by God to fulfill the role of earthy father to His Son.  He was one of many thousands who belonged to the royal lineage of King David.  He was an honorable, devout, God fearing young man following in the tradition and trade of carpentry of his father and his father's father.  Carpentry in Israel was a poor but honorable profession.   As Joseph anticipated his up and coming marriage, he had no idea he’d been chosen to be receive a signal honor and job that most of the world would rarely acknowledge.  He would never begin to receive the recognition his young wife to be would receive, yet he is an interregnal part of the childhood of Jesus.

MaryAge 12 to 16 years was a typical young Jewish girl preparing for her marriage to Joseph.  Nothing is said of Mary’s personality or character except in Luke 1:28 where the angel Gabriel said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.”   What kind of character would a girl have to have to earn the title “Highly favored” by God?  Was she perfect or Sinless? No!  She was a normal girl pure in spirit, sweet, kind and considerate of other people and loved God. She like Joseph obeyed the Laws of God not because she had to but because she wanted to.  Mary probably displayed the characteristics of the wife of noble character described in Proverbs 31:10-31 before she was married. 

 Magi: Usually translated wise men, scholars, astrologers, or magicians. The Magi were believed to be from Mesopotamia, or Persia.   The wise men did not enter the scene until Jesus was nearly two years old.

 King Herod: Every good story has to have a villain and King Herod fit the bill to a t.   As a young man Herod seem to have the magical ability to be in the right place at the right time to help some powerful individual during their time of direst need. At one point he helped Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Augustus Caesar.  He had the skillful knack of switching allegiance back and forth between these powerful men in their times of direst needs and gaining their gratitude.  Through these adventures, Herod won promotions, wealth and power until he was eventually appointed King of Judea.  He became a tyrannical ruler not particularly loved by his people.  Although he did help his nation to flourish by initiating large building projects throughout Judea (creating employment opportunities).  Just one of the magnificent buildings Herod was responsible for rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

 While Herod was a skilled builder, he was also an extremely suspicious, paranoid distrustful man.   Herod’s greatest fear - losing his throne!   Two things exhibit Herod the man. 

 First, Herod constantly petitioned the emperor Augustus for permission to kill members of his family he suspected of treason. He had wives, uncles and sons killed who he thought were a threat to his throne.  Augustus said of Herod "It is better to be Herod's pig then his son.

 Second, when he was old and ill from arteriosclerosis, Herod worried no one would mourn his death.  So, he issued orders from his deathbed that thousands of leaders from all parts of Judea be rounded up and locked in the great hippodrome at Jericho.  His orders! The instant he died he wanted archers to massacre these leaders in cold blood so there would be mourning at his death. That was the paranoid, vicious king, the Magi asked, "where can we find this new born king of the Jews?"

 The Inn Keeper (No room in the Inn) usually given a bad rap as a heartless man and probably was more along the lines of a Good Samaritan.  He found a quiet, private, warm and snug place where Mary could give birth to her son.

 The Shepherds:  the duties of shepherd were considered the poorest and lowest position on the employment scale in Israel.  The work was simple, yet demanding.  The shepherd was midwife to the birthing of lambs, the physicians to heal them of sickness, worms or injury and protector against thieves, wolves and lions.  Tradition indicates that these shepherds may have been responsible for the flock to be used for sacrifice in the temple.  If so these shepherds stayed with their sheep throughout the year keeping watch over them night and day.  These simple poorly educated men were soon to be honored by being the first to hear the good news of the birth of the Messiah.

These are the people who played a part in the royal pageant surrounding the nativity of the Son of the Living God, Jesus of Nazareth!  

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