Luke 2: 1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (KJV)
Why include Caesar Augustus? Why did God pick that as the fullness of time?
I remember a lyric from the song Superstar, from the movie Jesus Christ: Superstar
“Now why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you’d come today, you could have reached a whole nation Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”
The song—that lyric—struck me as really reasonable.
Back then, when I first heard that song, I asked my dad, who loved his Bible and read it faithfully all his life, why then?
Why did God pick then and there?
We think of today as so connected, word of every little thing can spread across the world in minutes if not seconds. But that’s not really true. There are vast stretches of the world almost completely cut off by tyrannical governments from any kind of news.
Augustus Caesar took over after the assassination of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar. Augustus teamed up with Marc Antony and punished the men who’d killed Julius then turned on each other and eventually Antony married Cleopatra, and the two were allowed to rule Egypt. Augustus retained the rest of the Roman Empire. Finally a battle broke out between them ending in Antony and Cleopatra committing suicide. Remember Cleopatra and that infamous asp?
By the time Jesus was born, Augustus ruled the whole world (the whole known western world) Yes there were other people in other parts of the world, but never before or after was the world this united and this at peace.
Augustus ruled from 27 BC until his death in AD 14 at age 75…extreme old age in those days. When news spread it could cover most all of the world in a very short time. Add in the three wise men, who I believe came from corners of the world NOT controlled by Rome, and you did indeed get the word out to almost the whole world in very short order.
When Augustus decided to tax and do a census of the whole Roman world he set in motion a prophecy made 8 centuries before. Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Why did a man have to go to his ancestral home to pay taxes? Why not just be counted and taxed in the town he lived? That was Caesar’s ruling, and eight centuries before God knew where Mary could be when her time came to give birth.
God called Jesus a Nazarene, he said ‘out of Egypt I will call my son. And he said the ruler would come from Bethlehem. Scholars of the time might believe this was three men or they might believe it was proof the prophets weren’t infallible.
Did it occur to anyone the answer was as simple as Jesus’ family moved? I consider these three scriptures to be proof that our understanding of the Bible is limited and when verses seem to conflict, we need to look to ourselves and our own limits.
Augustus Caesar picked Bethlehem and God knew he would. This was the perfect time. The perfect place.
Augustus was around 60 years old. A settled, respected and feared emperor. His word was law. The Empire was united and at peace. And here comes Jesus into a time of cruel but efficient order in a place where word of him could travel to all corners of the world.
It was indeed, the fullness of time.
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Discuss: Have you ever struggled with the time Jesus came? Have you ever wondered by he didn’t come back today? Imagine, if he did come back today. How do you think he would be received? How would it have been different?
Pray: God help us to remember that no part of the Bible is ‘small’. No detail is unimportant. The Fullness of Time was not chosen by chance. You saw it all eight centuries before it would happen, even more, you saw it all from the very beginning. Bless us with trust in Your divinity, Your wisdom, Your guiding hand. Thank You for the precious gift and sacrifice of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen