We’ve taken the best part of a week to look at all the characters who played a crucial role in the nativity account. There are two pivotal events in history that the human race revolves around…the birth of our Messiah and the death and resurrection of our Messiah. His purpose was to come and live among us, but His purpose in living among us, was to die for us and then rise again to new life to prove who He is.
In this program we’re going to pull all the characters together and see how their portion of the story matches up with each other.
First of all, tradition tells us that 3 wealthy kings who may have come from India or Persia or Europe or Africa or Saudi Arabia decided between themselves to travel all the way to Judea, a nation under the domination of Rome, to see a Jewish baby they had not connection or relationship with, and leave expensive gifts for Him. The Baby was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger where the three kings found him because of a bright star that was hovering over the stable, along with a group of shepherds found Him and they worshipped Him. When they left, Joseph had to quickly take his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to kill the baby and they waited there until Herod was dead and then they made their way back to Israel and to the town of Bethlehem.
What if the story was a bit different?
We’ve posed 6 hypothetical questions about all the characters involved in the Nativity story and now we’ll lay out their respective roles and see what conclusion we come to.
The religious leaders of Israel had become incredibly corrupt, making themselves wealthy on the backs of the people by charging exorbitant amounts of money for animals to be sacrificed and for converting their Roman currency to Temple currency. A new Jewish king, the long-awaited Messiah would in fact be a threat to their wealth, power and social standing. They had established a business model that ensured lambs, goats, oxen, pigeons and doves were in ready supply to be sold to the masses for a tidy profit.
The shepherds in charge of these breeding programs were most likely situated in Bethlehem, which had been a shepherding town since the days of Boaz and Ruth, who were the grandparents of King David, and or course, David was himself a shepherd.
It’s very probable, that the shepherds were breeding lambs who would eventually be sacrificed at the annual Passover feast, lambs that would shed their blood so that judgment would ‘passover’ the people, the blood of the lamb securing their redemption.
Unbeknownst to Joseph and Mary, a young couple engaged to be married who lived in the small town of Nazareth in the northern region of the Galilee, they both encountered an angel named Gabriel who informed them that God had chosen them to be the human parents of His Son, the Messiah. Upon agreeing to this calling, they began their life together, getting ready to raise the Son of God as best they could.
However, right before the imminent birth of their baby boy, Caesar Augustus called for a national census, which required them to travel 130km to Bethlehem and register. After travelling for a week or two, they arrive in Bethlehem with Mary in full labour but with absolutely nowhere for them to stay. Their only option was a cave where lambs were born.
Joseph helped deliver the Messiah and cared for his lovely young wife as they welcomed Him into their lives, probably wondering what lay ahead of them.
On that very same night, the shepherds, who would sometimes be in that very lambing cave caring for ewes and their babies, were out in the fields because it was still quite warm at that time of year. Without any forewarning, the sky suddenly filled with angels telling them the fantastic news that their Messiah, the Redeemer they’d been longing for had been born that very night and that they’d find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger, the feeding trough of animals.
They knew exactly which manger the angels referred to and made their way there immediately. They were the first human beings other than Mary and Joseph, to lay their eyes on the Messiah of Israel. They worshipped Him, and they kept His identity a secret for about 2 years.
The Magi were probably Jews descended from the Jews taken into captivity by the Babylonians, of whom Daniel was the first. Daniel the prophet, who was trained in all the areas of knowledge and education of the Magi, rose to highest position within this governmental group, and elevated other Jews and trained them not only in all things pertaining to Babylonian and eventually Persian culture and custom, but about the prophecies concerning their longed for Jewish Messiah.
Generations of Jews in the ranks of the Magi, watched and waited for the Messiah’s imminent arrival, beginning with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time Messiah would arrive and then be cut off, or executed. When that time was upon them, a star, or sign in the heavens indicated to them that the time had come and they assembled an official delegation to travel to Judea and welcome their Messiah and pay Him homage.
The rulers in Judea were of course the Romans, who were a brutal people, but a people who had never succeeded in conquering the Persians. They established Herod the Great to be the ‘king of the Jews’ even though he wasn’t Jewish at all. The Jews in fact hated Herod the Great, who was a delusional, paranoid and dangerous despot who even murdered his own sons because he thought they were plotting to take his throne.
When the Magi arrived, Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled because this Persian delegation, obviously a representation of authority and power of the Persian Empire, may have caused them to think an invasion was coming, especially when the Magi asked to see and worship the new born King of the Jews. Was this a threat to both Roman rule and Herod’s throne and a claim for the throne of a legitimate king?
When the Magi arrived in Bethlehem, they found Jesus – a child, with His mother Mary – in a house, not laying in a manger, and they too worshipped Him and gave gifts fitting a royalty and rather than return to Herod, they left secretly to return to Persia because an angel warned them of Herod’s plans to murder the child.
At the same time, Joseph had another dream in which Gabriel warned him to take Jesus and Mary and leave immediately because their lives were in danger so He got them up in the middle of the night and fled to Egypt. When Herod’s soldiers arrived, they butchered every little boy, aged 2 and under. Children of Bethlehem’s residents and possibly children of the shepherd’s who had protected Jesus during His first 2 years.
So to conclude, is it possible that God ensured His own people would be in Persia watching for His Son to be born, so they could not only identify Him officially, but provide Him with wealth for the years He and His parents would be in exile in Egypt?
And is it possible that God caused the leader of the Roman Empire to call for a census to ensure that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, a name which means ‘House of Bread’; Jesus of course would be called the ‘Bread of Life…that came down from heaven?
And is it possible that the very lambing caves that were used for the breeding and birth of first born, year old male lambs, who were destined to be sacrificed at Passover, ensuring that death and judgment would ‘passover’ His people, would be the very lambing cave where Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, would be born, who Himself was destined to be sacrificed to ensure that judgment would Passover all who would believe, and put their trust in Him?
That’s a conclusion we’ll leave up to you!