In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (or there was not guest room available).
Among the gospel writers, Luke usually seems the most polished and most educated. He also seems to demonstrate a knowledge of history and politics much more than the other gospel writers. As such, we have great details given by Luke that are often overlooked.
In the story of Jesus’ birth we learn a very important name, Quirinius, who was a governor over Syria. At this time in history, Syria has recently annexed Judea (and Samaria) which was previously a separate province. When Judea was annexed into Syria Quirinius needed to asses the newly acquired land to collected taxes from them. The normal way to do this was via a census, which was illegal according to Jewish law. Naturally, this created problems for many Jews.
The 6 CE census by Quirinius was so reviled by the Jews that Josephus (the 1st century historian) recorded that the Jews were on the edge of mass revolt, if not for the efforts of the current high priest, Joazar (Josephus, “Ant.” xvii. 13, § 5, 2, § 1). But despite the revolt being squashed, a fringe group of “zealots” were formed by Judas, the Galilean. This group was formed to violently resist their captors through means of guerrilla warfare. About Judas, Josephus said the he was
“the founder of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, who taught that God is the only Ruler and Lord, and neither death nor any dread should make them call any man Lord” (Ant.” xviii. 1)
Thus, while the introduction Luke provides for Jesus’ birth may sound like boring boring reading, is actually attempting to set the stage appropriately for what is about to take place. Luke wants the reader to understand the crisis that the Jews were in as Jesus was being brought into the world. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea was on the verge of war with the Romans. A war that would most assuredly devastate the Jewish people.
However, Jesus’ birth was going to bring a Jewish messiah that would not provide the military leadership that the people so desired. Rather than bringing death, Jesus came to bring life.
The time has now come for the birth of Jesus Christ. The Savior of mankind has just entered into the world and here we have reached the pivotal point in which history is about to take place and the lives of the entire world are about change. God’s plan is in full swing and there is nothing that can stop it.
One of the most profound parts of this story is how Jesus entered into this world. He was not born in a palace nor was He privy to any high end medical care of that time. They were only able to find a place connected to an Inn that held all the barn animals. There is where the Savior of the world, the true King of Kings was born. His entrance was marked with humility and love.
Jesus Christ from the time of birth set the standard of what it means to live as a Christian. Humility characterized the life of Christ and it is important that we see this playing out literally from birth. What a beautiful picture that we see painted before us about God’s act of love and grace being put on display through the birth of Jesus Christ.
Pursuing a life filled with humility is indicative of our desire to represent Christ. His birth alone shows us that He came into this world to focus on the welfare of mankind due to His unconditional love for us.