Monday, December 20, 2010

Reflections on Advent - XIX

The Jews, the Greeks, and now the Romans. While Alexander the Great set the stage for Bethlehem by disseminating the Greek culture and language, when Alexander died his Empire; if such a short-lived entity can be called an Empire; disintegrated into warring factions. The lands of Judea and Galilee were in the vortex of one military and political upheaval after another, sometimes of their own making, sometimes not.

The Mediterranean sea was infested by pirates, the roads were beset by robbers, and large and small kingdoms were in conflict throughout Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Egypt. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself were scenes of sacrilege, desecration, and killing. Perhaps the word that best describes the period of time between Alexander and Roman rule for the people of Judea and Galilee is uncertainty. The same can be said for the broader region.

What good is the Covenant perpetuated by the Jews, what good is the language transmitted by the Greeks, if one cannot safely traverse the seas and roads of the world to use the language to proclaim the Covenant that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ? The Jews and the Greeks need the Romans to set the stage for Bethlehem, for Golgotha, for Easter, and for Pentecost.

What irony that the power that provides stability for the proclamation of the Gospel is also the power that crucifies Christ and that persecutes His followers. What irony that Paul will use his Roman citizenship to travel to the place where he will eventually be executed. What irony that in apparent defeat Christ, Paul, and the Church achieve ultimate victory; this is a theme of John’s Revelation.

And so the Romans come to Asia Minor, they come to Syria and Judea, they come to Egypt, they quell the Mediterranean pirates, they build roads that can be seen today, they institute law and order; in short, they provide security for travel, security for the messengers of the Gospel.

Another irony is that this government of law and order would declare Christianity, a religion of peace, illegal. It would perceive Christianity a threat to its cohesion for Christians would not worship Caesar as a god – anymore than Christians today should worship any person or entity, including a governmental entity. Once again, this is a theme of John’s Revelation. Those who truly represented the least threat to Rome were considered to be one of the greatest threats to Rome; but perhaps the Emperor’s were right, just as perhaps Herod was right; there can be only one King of the Jews just as there can be only one King of kings and Lord of lords, and He who wears both crowns was born in Bethlehem.

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