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The Days of Caesar

Shane Willard

Page 6 of 9
It was lawful for a Roman soldier to ask a Jew to carry his pack a mile, but more than a mile was cruelty - because when you're raping and pillaging the whole world, you have to worry about being cruel.

So Jesus says: if someone asks you to carry their pack one mile, go two. Get a reputation for going above and beyond.

Roman law, according to Josephus, says that if a Roman soldier was caught making a slave carry his pack more than a mile, he would be court marshalled, and docked a week's pay. So Jesus says: you want to get one-up on the Roman soldiers, next time they ask you to carry their pack a mile, gladly do it - and at the mile mark, take off running. You'll have a Roman soldier chasing you down, trying to get you to stop! Jesus was brilliant! He was brilliant, in the days of Caesar Augustus.

Caesar Augustus was said to have established a ‘kingdom of peace’, but instead he established a ‘kingdom of fear’. Caesar Augustus got followers through forced confession. He'd have big guys come in and put crosses in your front yard. The Ku Klux Klan did not make that up - Roman soldiers made that up: a cross in the front yard - ultimate intimidation, forced confession.

He financed his kingdom with oppressive taxes, extreme taxation on folks. Some historians agree that in Galilee, which is where Jesus grew up - in Galilee, between temple tax, wages tax, goods and services tax, that they were all paying about 80% of their wages to taxes.

People were losing land, which had been given to them since the Book of Judges. The people couldn't maintain the land, so a very few rich people would come in, and they'd buy the land off these people. Then they would either: make them slaves on their own land; or the people would leave, and go to another town, and pick up a trade.

How many of Jesus' stories are started by saying the kingdom of God is like a group of people, and they're working this land that they don't own, but they really care about it? Everybody had been standing there going: that's us - He's talking about us. We're the kingdom of God.

How can we be the kingdom of God? We're slaves. What's going on here? People were losing everything, so they had to go make a living somewhere else. Now with that as the backdrop let's look at Luke 2, and it happened in the days of Caesar Augustus...

Everything we just described, that the entire world should be taxed, as if they weren't doing that enough. This taxing was first made when Quirinius was governor of Syria; and all went to be registered, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee (to be taxed), out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David - which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David.

So what does that tell you about Joseph (Jesus' Father on earth)? It meant that he had lost his land, and now he was forced to work as a carpenter in Nazareth – this vastly affected him.

He took Mary, his betrothed wife, being with child. While they were there, the days for her deliverance was fulfilled, and she brought forth her Son, the firstborn and wrapped Him and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“In the same country, there were shepherds living in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came on them and the glory of the Lord shone around about them and they were grievously afraid.”

In Hebrew culture, an angel did not invoke comfort. We like to think about ‘guardian angels’ and stuff - it makes us feel good; but to a Hebrew culture, they did not want to see angels - it meant that death was imminent.

The first angel in the whole Bible was an angel set to guard the tree of life in the garden - and if you came by, you would be killed. There were angels over the mercy seat, and even if the high priest went behind that, he would be killed. There were angels sewn into the veil that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies - angels were sewn into there! The statement was: get back, get back! Death is imminent!