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Where Did It All Start: The Times Surrounding Christ's Birth
Growing up in a country that was "occupied" and seething with unrest had its influence on the people at the time that Jesus lived.
Where Did It All Start? The Times Surrounding Christ's Birth
Roman occupation had profound effects on the Jewish people and the politics of the region. First it produced the Zealots. This was a group fiercely opposed to anything Roman. At the opposite extreme were the Sadducees. They were the priests and land owners who had the most to lose. They hated the Romans presence but saw “coexistence” with them as the only means they could survive as a people. The Sadducees held the majority in an internal Jewish governing body called the Sanhedrin. It was a council of 71 Jewish members that the Romans allowed. Its chairman was called The High Priest.
The Pharisees were a third group of Jews known by their distinctive way of life. They didn’t like the Romans but were shrewd enough to see it was hopeless to fight them. Instead, they waited for God’s kingly intervention to overthrow the Romans. It was this group called the Pharisees that figured large in Christ’s story. Here is what Jesus had to say about them:
<Video clip – Jesus and the Pharisees- Matthew 23:1-5>
There was also a 4th group of Jews at the time of Christ’s birth called The Essenes. They lived in the desert south of the Dead Sea and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls were found only recently – from 1946 – 56 - by Bedouin shepherds in a series of caves. This group saw themselves as the only true believers and their own Jewish nation as ones who had abandoned God’s original way. They figured that the desert was a good enough place to await the judgment of God. They didn’t play any role in the story of Jesus and were wiped out by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Overall, Judea was seething with unrest and hatred filled the hearts of the Jews towards their oppressors. <Jewish-Roman clash – video clip>
The Jewish people were impoverished and yet they were intensely proud of their heritage going all the way back to their founder –Abraham. Everyone was on high alert in expectation of the Kingdom of God. They were sure that it would be coming soon.
It was against this backdrop that Joseph (a humble carpenter) and his very pregnant wife Mary traveled to Bethlehem for the registration. And wouldn’t you know it but Mary’s labor pains started and there was no room for her and Joseph at any of the inns! Some kind inn keeper had pity on them and showed them to his stable where he kept his cattle protected. And it was here that Jesus was born. This is where the story begins. And you must agree that it wasn’t a very hopeful beginning.