January 13, 2008

Volume One Summary

[1/21/08; NOTE: This is NOT the planned summary of Volume One, but it'll do for now. ;)]

The passing of time is part of how God works, but its easy to miss TIME when reading the Bible.

Jesus Christ was born in the days of Augustus Caesar and Herod the Great. About thirty years later - 34 to be exact - Jesus was baptized and began preaching all over Israel. Those decades in-between didn't just happen overnight! The opening chapters of the Gospels cover 37 years!

Here's a short survey of what happened in that time:

Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the autumn of 9 BC. For a while, the doubting, pouting, mute old priest couldn't or wouldn't explain things to his wife... until her barren womb suddenly began menstruating! The miracle kicked them into action. Within weeks, Elizabeth was pregnant. John the Baptist was conceived around late February or early March of 8 BC. Over five months later, Gabriel made his next and final earthly appearance. That August, in 8 BC, the Holy Spirit entered Mary and she conceived a child.

Jesus was born in late May of 7 BC. These were the days of Augustus Caesar and Herod the Great. Herod was supposed to be an independent King who paid "tribute" to Rome once a year. (Only Roman Provinces were registered for "tax".) But Herod got into trouble with the Arabs of Nabatea (in 9 BC). As punishment, Caesar ordered a census of Herod's Kingdom. The Governor of Syria in 8 and 7 BC was a man named Saturninus. This Governor Saturninus organized the first Roman census of Israel, that happened when Jesus was born.

(As Luke's gospel originally said, this was "before" the famous census when Quirinius was Governor. We'll get to that one, in 6 AD. This one, the census of 7 BC, was almost forgotten to the pages of history. But Josephus wrote of Saturninus, and Tertullian said he made the census.)

Astrologers from Babylon saw signs in the heavens that drew them to Israel. They arrived in early December, 7 BC, looking for a King they thought was nearly a year old. King Herod heard this and ordered all young babies (in Bethlehem) killed. To be safe, Herod told his soldiers to double the age according to what the star gazers had said. He figured a divine messiah-baby might be walking at 7 months old - and might look like a 2 year old!

Joseph & Mary fled to Egypt and lived there until March of 4 BC, when King Herod finally died just a few days after a lunar eclipse. (The eclipse just happened to fall on the night of the Jewish holiday, Purim.) The night Herod died, an angel told Joseph it was safe to go back to Israel.

The new King of Israel was Herod's son, Archelaus. Barely three weeks into his new reign, Archelaus caused the death of 3,000 pilgrims at the Passover Festival in Jerusalem. At that time, Joseph & Mary were almost to Jerusalem themselves, having travelled for about three weeks from Alexandria, Egypt.

When Joseph heard the news about Archelaus and Passover, he was afraid to take Jesus back into Judea. Again, an angel appeared to Joseph and said, go to Galilee. They reached Nazareth safely, before May. A month or so before his third birthday, Jesus finally met his mother's parents.

Then war broke out all over Israel!

From April until September, the new Governor Varus used three Roman Legions to end four seperate rebellions in Judea and Galilee. By late summer, the worst rebels were being crucified outside Jerusalem. After several weeks of crucifixions, Varus had executed 2,000 Jews. Rocks and trees by the roadside were still blood stained as the pilgrims came up, early that Autumn, for the high holy season. This made an impression! (No major rebellion takes place in Judea for another 69 years!)

The year 4 BC was that busy! Then history reset to a more normal speed...

For ten years, Joseph kept Jesus out of Judea. Every year, Joseph took Mary down to Jerusalem for Passover, but as long as Archelaus was ruling Judea, they left Jesus at home with family.

There was drama elsewhere during this decade. Wars broke out everywhere. Macedonia and Galatia were threatened. An Arabian Princess married the tetrarch of Galilee. Caesar's oldest grandsons died, and his step-son Tiberius became heir to the Empire.

For this decade, from 4 BC to 6 AD, Archelaus ruled Judea both harshly and poorly. He hoarded their wealth, defied their religious laws and ignored their requests. The Pharisees, Saducees and Essenes were ALL upset with Archelaus. Even the Judeans and Samaritans were willing to work together to get rid of him! In 4, 5 and 6 AD, they worked on a plan... mainly, the plan was to tattle on Archelaus to Augustus in Rome!

Meanwhile, all these years, Jesus was just a little kid in Nazareth. He was getting to know his heavenly Father, bit by bit. Over time, he was finding out (remembering) who he really was.

Then, in May of 6 AD, Jesus turned twelve.

That summer, Augustus Caesar called Archelaus to Rome. When Archelaus left, the, the new Roman Governor of Syria - the famous one, Quirinius - came into Israel. Governor Quirinius held the second Roman census of Israel, but the first one to register property, not just men's names.

There was a major plot to revolt. The leader, Judas the Galilean, taught philosophies that didn't catch on at this time, in 6 AD. But Judas' teachings get remembered when his infant sons grow up - in the 40's and 50's AD this man's teachings will help found the Zealot party! But at this time, Judas was just a schemer, destined to fail.

The plot to rebel made a lot of progress, but Judas' plans were snuffed out. Somehow, Quirinius and others put an end to the rebellion before it began. This was one reason the Governor Quirinius was so famous in Israel - he kept perfect peace during the takeover. And of course, the takeover itself was the other reason for this Governor's fame.

Quirinius was the man who began direct Roman control over Judea.

That next spring, in 7 AD, Jesus was still 12 years old. Since Archelaus was gone, Joseph was no longer afraid to take Jesus into Judea. For the first time in a decade, Jesus wasn't going to get left at home during the Passover! And so, weeks away from his own bar-mitzvah, Jesus finally got to visit Jerusalem for the second time in his life.

What happened there, for two and a half weeks, is an amazing story!

After Jesus came home and turned 13, he was a man in the eyes of his people.

That was 7 AD. Seven years later, Tiberius Caesar was ruling the world as Emperor. Fourteen years after that, Jesus' cousin John began preaching in the desert. John had some new ideas about the (post-exilic) Jewish custom of Baptism. John was preparing a way for the Lord.

But in 7 AD, that was still 21 years away! Those 21 years were Jesus' chance to grow up. Yes, Jesus had to mature. But this time was for far more than that.

Most of all, those 21 years were Jesus' chance to LIVE! Year by year, the Father was more and more pleased! Year by year, His Son filled up all He expected - to the fullest degree! And Jesus not only lived up to the level of righteousness God desired... Jesus actually also lived WITH God. They lived together. They talked all the time. God lived inside of his Son! At last, God had a house on the earth!

Those 21 years were a chance for God the Father to have what he'd wanted since Eden. At last, there was a man on God's Earth, showing people what God was like, showing GOD what His Man could be like!!! Jesus was born to be King over all the earth - just not in a way people would understand. He wasn't ready to rule, and he wasn't ready to multiply, but he LIVED!

Now... those 21 years, while Jesus just lived unto God... those years were also filled with many other events... and those other events affect future events...

Most of the New Testament records events that happened from 28 to 70 AD. The passing of time is one part of that story.

God could have done things all in one weekend! But that isn't his way. That's not how he works.

There is much more to tell...
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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton