While we recognize the eternal aspects of Jesus, God the Son, we must also recognize the historical nature of Jesus – the Son of Man. The Gospel of John reports, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NASB95) Jesus entered the world at a particular time and place.
The Gospel of Luke provides a historical timeframe for Jesus birth. “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” (Luke 2:1–2, NASB95) But Jesus didn’t just appear as an angel and disappear. He lived a life. He was born, had a childhood, grew to be a man, and at around the age of 30 began a traveling ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
What we read in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John occurred in a particular time and place. It was a time of turmoil, of enforced peace, and of racial tensions. The Jewish homeland was annexed by Rome. The power of Rome brought peace, trade, and ease of movement although at a brutal price. While Jesus’ native languages were Aramaic and Hebrew, Latin was the language of government, and Greek the language of the marketplace in the Roman world. In Jerusalem, the Temple stood resplendent and called all Jews to worship in accordance with the Law of Moses.
We will explore more of what happened during Jesus’ time on earth as this section progresses. For now, it is important to recognize that all this happened in a monumental moment of history. There have been many monumental moments of history. Each generation seems to have their “day”. For my grandparents’ generation it was Pearl Harbor, for my parents it was the assassination of President Kennedy, for me it is the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Each of those days changed their world in dramatic and enduring ways.
As life-changing as those events were they are limited, their ripples only reach so far for so long. Jesus’ time on earth, however, still ripples and reverberates around the world, still changing the lives of people and the courses of nations.
In terms of Biblical history, Jesus is the pivot point. All that came before him pointed towards his time. All that has come afterward points back to his time. Christians understand the Law of Moses and the books of the previous testament through the words and actions of Jesus. But Christians also carry forward the ministry of Jesus in the spirit of Jesus. What is that mission, that ministry?
One day at the very beginnings of his traveling ministry Jesus attended a Jewish synagogue and was asked to read. Luke records:
“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:16–21, NLT)
A ripple, a moment in time, that still moves and guides all who choose to follow Jesus. The mission to bring Good News to the poor, proclaim the release of captives, to open the eyes of the blind, to free the oppressed, and the celebration the Lord’s favor continues in Jesus’ name. Sometimes in a literal sense, sometimes in a figurative sense. Whether someone is literally a captive or chained by guilt, shame, or fear there is freedom in Christ.
No one else in the pages of history has impacted humanity in the same way as Jesus. The powerful, the notorious, and the famous all have their day. Some have even declared they were greater than Jesus. But a few years later they are eclipsed and forgotten as someone else with power or fame takes their place. Not so with Jesus. His teaching, actions, death, and resurrection continue to change lives and reshape the world. A moment in time, the pivot point of history.