Rome. One loved her or hated her. She became the nucleus of corrupt government which ushered in a tension between devout Jews and the oppressive laws of the land.
Rome, with all her pomp and power, was the heart of the dominant world empire into which Jesus Christ would be born. Why would God allow His precious Son to burst into the vileness of Roman rule? Why would God allow Joseph and Mary to birth the holy Jesus in a stable where Roman soldiers were implementing a census?
Why, shortly after birth, did Joseph have to pack up his family and flee to Egypt because King Herod, an egotistical, power-hungry Roman satrap, would seek to slaughter God’s Son? Why, as an adult, would Jesus have to stand trial in Jerusalem before Pilate, a governor under Rome, who would have him crucified?
The answer is found in the prophecy which foretold the coming of the baby Jesus. It is found in Isaiah 9:6:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end . . . ”
It is no surprise that as baby Jesus grew into manhood, performing miracles, preaching, and teaching in the midst of Roman political correctness, the Jews thought the Savior had come to deliver them from an oppressive government. After all, the Jews were well aware of Isaiah 9, which stated that the Messiah’s government would increase! Hopes were rising! Jesus would set them free and rule the empire!
Imagine the devastation, however, when the rest of the story unfolded and Jesus hung on a cross for all to see. The followers of Jesus were confused, hurt, and perhaps felt like they had been deceived.
What they missed, and what we often miss in our day, are the words of Jesus while standing before Pilate during the interrogation before his crucifixion: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10.
So Jesus died. But, three days later, He rose from the dead, leaving behind an empty grave with His burial clothes neatly folded within the tomb a grave, remember, that was being guarded by Rome! The government did indeed rest upon his shoulders! God used it, in all its ruthlessness, to fulfill His plan.
Many Christians today have similar concerns to those who lived in the Roman era. Here in America, we are now witnessing Christians being imprisoned for refusing to bow to governmental laws that contradict God’s Word. We cry out in anguish for God’s hand of mercy on our nation which once honored Him, feared Him, and embraced His Son Jesus.
Yet, we now face terrorism, a failing economy, persecution for our faith, a morally despicable nation with politicians who think they can fix our problems and squeeze out Jesus from our land. Let’s not forget, however, that the government really rests on His shoulders . . . for His purpose . . . His plan!
Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Man thinks he is control; governments believe they have power; institutions and organizations that oppose the Creator God, the Bible, and His Son the Messiah arrogantly believe they have an upper hand, but “the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.” It is His promise.
So, go ahead. Remove the nativity scenes and crosses. Take away our candle-lit worship services and abolish baby Jesus songs in our school concerts it doesn’t matter! If Rome couldn’t keep Jesus in the grave, no world power will prevent Him from His Second Coming! He will break through the clouds just as He broke out of the tomb!
And when He does, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! Some will bow in horrible terror when they realize they have rejected the one who could save their souls? Others will bow in adoration and love of the one they received to save their souls. That is the choice for each person, but make no mistake, He will come . . . and there will be peace forever!
“And He shall reign forever and ever!”