History Connected by Coincidence? Or Coincidence Disguised as History?

Most casual observers might assess a seemingly random series of events and say, “Wow, That’s a Really Amazing Coincidence!” In fact, anyone looking at the birth of Jesus would have to admit there were some surprising coincidences that took place. I would submit that there is something more to it than that…

You Can Look It Up…

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2:1-4 NIV)

Joseph was from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Under normal circumstances, Jesus should have been born there at home in Nazareth, a relatively sleepy little village in Galilee. But a taxation decree from Caesar Augustus forced Joseph to take Mary from Galilee to Bethlehem, and it was there Jesus was born. Coincidence? This fulfilled a prediction written over 700 years before by the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV).

Facts, or Coincidence?

Look at a couple of things in Luke’s account: First, the birth of Jesus was a REAL event that took place in a REAL location in the midst of REAL historical events. There was a census (you can look it up), and by coincidence Quirinius was actually a mid-level governor in Judea. (Scholars place his time of service and the Roman census both at around 6 AD, which helps to date the birth of Christ around that time.)

Second, because Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered, Jesus was born away from his childhood home. Since Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the Pharisees did not associate him later on with Bethlehem, and it was one of the things that bothered them about Jesus. In fact, it kept them from seeing him as the Messiah. He wasn’t from the religious and cultural center of Jerusalem, and it diminished his importance in their eyes. In John 7:41-42 they argued about it: “But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” They thought they knew the Scriptures well enough, but they didn’t know the AUTHOR well enough…

A Case of Mistaken Nativity

coincidence

The Pharisees (like Herod’s elders who consulted the Magi in Matthew 2) knew that the Messiah would come from the city of David, and their tribal knowledge presumed that Jesus grew up in Nazareth. What they didn’t realize was that, perhaps by coincidence, out of all the places in all of Judea, Joseph had to leave Galilee and travel with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and the timing had to be such that she delivered not at home in Nazareth but while staying briefly in the city of David.

Pretty remarkable–a coincidence, you might say– that a Roman decree moved Hebrew people around so that Joseph and Mary ended up in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace of the Messiah, which fulfilled Micah’s prediction from over 700 years before…

Besides that particular prophecy about his birth, the Hebrew Scriptures also predicted that the Christ would: (1) be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); (2) be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); (3) ride the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9); (4) be descended from David (Isaiah 9:7 and Jeremiah 23:5); (5) be “lifted up” and “marred beyond recognition” (Isaiah 52:13-14); (6) be crucified, as depicted in Psalm 22. Those are but a few of the Hebrew scriptures written hundreds of years before Jesus, predicting some of the things that would happen to or around him… For all you logical, rational thinkers out there, doesn’t this alignment of events make you just a little bit more curious about who Jesus is? It’s worth considering…

Remarkable? Yes. Coincidence? No.

Coincidence

You don’t think He created earth; you can’t believe the Virgin birth.
His parables and works were fine, but you don’t see him as divine.
Perhaps if you could look and see the Hebrew Scriptures’ prophecy,
You’d come to find it all makes sense: if it’s just ONE coincidence,
Then you could push him out of mind, or call me intellectually blind!

But search the Scriptures, and you’ll find
A dozen prophecies aligned with things that Christ would do.
So was he God? Or was it just a coincidence or two?
A dozen? No, I think I undershot,
since actually there really are a LOT–
Just take that Bible down from off the shelf,
And do some research. Look it up yourself!
Those prophecies from hundreds of years before;
I’ve quoted a few, but there are many more.
To many folks it doesn’t make much sense;
But I don’t think it was coincidence!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Ordinary People Who Produced an Extraordinary Genealogy

(Author’s note: my posts from now through Christmas are from my book, Real People, Real Christmas https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )

The whole genealogy thing is really popular right now. People are looking at their DNA to see where they came from, what their genetic makeup is. Apparently there are hidden clues for each of us that can help us understand who we are!

Looking For Clues

Well, if that’s so, think about this: have you ever wondered who Jesus of Nazareth really was? Where he came from? If you’ve ever read his teachings, you know he was something special, but I find it fascinating that his ancestry was preserved with such passion and detail. Look into it, and you will find Ordinary, Everyday People. And an Extraordinary Genealogy.

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NIV) Matthew (also known as Levi, the former tax collector) begins his biography of Jesus in a logical Hebrew fashion: he recounts his genealogy. This makes sense because patriarchal lineage was incredibly important in Israel, and every schoolboy could tell you who his father’s father’s father was, going back through multiple generations. Patriarchal Lineage was important. “Who’s your Daddy?” was important in Jerusalem two thousand years ago…

genealogy tree
Why are They in There?

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, however, there is something very surprising. Read it and see if it stands out to you: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother (Bathsheba) had been Uriah’s wife…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NIV)

What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and then Mary have in common? If you read Matthew 1, you’ll find they are the only women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. It’s not an aberration that there were so few; what is remarkable is that a Jewish genealogy mentioned ANY. Luke’s genealogy doesn’t mention females. Hebrew family trees were usually only traced back through the fathers, so they did not normally include any women.

More Important Than You Think

Matthew, whose gospel was written for a Jewish audience, presented Jesus as the Messiah. He had been foretold in the Scriptures, and was the promised King who would lead Israel out of bondage. Yet Matthew departs from Hebrew tradition in the opening stanza of his narrative. It might be instructive to look at their stories and ask, why does Matthew include females in a patriarchal list normally populated with only men?

Why do these women stand out? How come they are mentioned specifically and centrally in the most amazing story within the best-selling book of all time? Why are these women, who are normally marginalized and relegated to the kitchen in ancient Middle Eastern culture, placed upon center stage in Matthew’s Jewish gospel?

As we enjoy the season of Advent, it is worthwhile to consider the circumstances around the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s unique introduction gives us something to ponder as we look at the arrival of the baby whose birth in an obscure place in a relatively primitive time has absolutely changed all of human history.

His Story is Still Being Made

As you read the story of Jesus, never forget that God often chooses unlikely and little-known candidates to change history. Never forget that the next candidate might be YOU. Perhaps your influence in the unfolding drama of history is even now being scripted and will yet bear fruit beyond your wildest expectations. After all, it happened to Mary and Joseph. It could happen to you, or one of your children’s children. Remember: you read it here first.

Genealogy Matters

The mystery of history is that the genealogy
Of Jesus out of Galilee defied conventionality,
The cultural philosophy, and practice of philology.
Matthew’s careful document somehow put several women in it!
The genealogy was bent, a thing which he could not have meant
To prove the Christ was heaven-sent!

Yet there they are, genealogical sleuth:
Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, recorded in the book of Truth!
Perhaps, if this was meant to be, it means God changes history
With folks who aren’t celebrities, but people just like you and me.
Within your genealogy, what changes will yet come to be?
What names will people someday see, and what will be your legacy?
They say the truth will set you free: investigate this, friend, and see…

My book contains a full month of Advent reflections and interesting facts about the birth and life of Jesus. To purchase Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mommy, Where did I Come From?

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NIV). This simple statement provides an amazing foundation for the Bible. Just break it down and you’ll see what I mean. First, it addresses the notion of time by saying, “In the beginning”. It doesn’t try to quantify time or define it in a linear sense. It doesn’t apply assumptions to a geological aging process and come up with a number. It doesn’t say that God began with time or even that time has any particular relevance to God. It merely states that our heaven and earth had a beginning, and that God preceded them in existence. I’m sure early man would lay outside at night gazing up at the stars, or think while walking the world around him, “what started this? Where did all this come from?” Genesis 1 addresses those questions with profound simplicity. Second, it says, “In the beginning, God”. It makes a logical assumption about God, His place in the universe, and the nature of eternity. It presupposes God. Some scientists object to this because it was not observable, but I would submit to you that those same scientists are also basing many of their conclusions about origin on assumptions as well. To me, “In the beginning, matter”; or “In the beginning, gases were floating in the cosmos” is no more scientific than “In the beginning, GOD.” The notion of God existing in the beginning is every bit as logical and rational as any of those other things. Also, read that verse again and think about its perspective; it is talking about OUR beginning, not God’s. He was already in existence. There is no assumptive logic or attempt to try to explain where He came from. In our quest for logical, scientific answers to everything, God makes every bit as much (and perhaps more) intellectual sense as Random Elements affected by Random Chance. Third, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” The writer of Genesis (Moses) knew that man did not create heaven and earth. Scientists today have confirmed this is true. Man can build some pretty nifty stuff out of created elements; he has yet to accomplish ‘creatio ex nihilo’ (creation out of nothing). But God designed, and God created. Walk out tonight and look up at the stars. Hold a baby. Look at a flower. Reflect upon the fact that you alone, of all the animals, have spiritual inclinations and moral obligations. All of those things make sense when you put them in context right after the sentence, “In the beginning, God created”. Placing the world of physical things into a spiritual context changes everything. It means that there is a God of order and intelligence, and that we are made in His image, with the ability for spiritual as well as physical sight. As you appreciate the heavens and as you walk the earth, remember who you came from.

Glories, Past, Present and Possible

I am awakened at 5:53 am by construction, but what is being built nearby is not something visible or even tangible. It is construction on the most ambitious and yet most intricate scale, rivaling the wonders of ancient Roma, which we toured yesterday… Even though there is no irritating, shrill back-up warning from bull dozers, no literal clanking of machines or hammering, the bustling construction is just as real to me as if there were hundreds or even thousands of weary slaves working under the relentless direction of their Roman taskmasters. There is a vast mosaic of Rome being built in my mind, still in its early stages of formation, but teeming with multitudes of scenes and vistas bursting with colors of culture, nature and personality. The mosaic is complex and beautiful, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of images, monuments and people. There are many scenes and impressions, each being inlaid into the landscape of my mind with chaotic precision all at once. It is filled with contradictions and incongruity, monuments to the past amidst relentless change, like the young Catholic clergyman waiting next to me to cross the street, wearing the timeless, cream-colored robes of his order but carrying a briefcase; it is young Italian boy, gawking and pointing out to his father the tall, over-endowed blonde in the red top at the Coliseum, whose shape is a testament to artificial construction of a different sort. The mental mural is alive and ever-changing, bustling with commerce and change, smudged with dirt from excavation and construction. It began with Alessandro B, my seat-mate from Heathrow to Rome. He is a nice-looking man with a leonine salt and pepper mane, a Roman businessman returning home from a productive trip.
He owns his own company, and is experiencing success navigating the currents of trade with emerging African nations. He has been doing business there for years, and is now close to the President of Ghana, having gotten to know him in the past when he was an up-and-coming young politician.
He is articulate and thoughtful, this man descended from empire-builders… He is smart and a bit cynical about the politics of Italy but still he is optimistic. He even allows that although the current prime minister is a Comedian, he is doing a pretty good job! This of course is natural for Italy.
Our driver Guiseppe not only drives but owns the tour company, and works hard building a life for his family. The Romans we meet are interesting, polite, a little fatalistic, but still optimistic that any people with such a glorious past can one day build a solid future. In the meantime, the Roman mosaic has scenes of past and present intertwined, churches inside of temples, nuns with their dark habits, Carbinieri with their dashing uniforms, people eating (and loving!) gelato, sidewalk cafes, pictures of the pope for sale on street carts, Christianity placed alongside mythology, beautiful fountains, monuments and an ancient history that still casts its shadow over modern Rome. As we scan the rich, vibrant scenes of the eternal city, we see hope and bustle and a unique vibe that will continue to be the heartbeat of people like Alessandro, and the inspiration to millions of visitors like me who cannot merely view the vista unfolding in Rome, but– having visited– have also become part of the mosaic itself, carrying the lessons of the past into the future.

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