What a bother it must have been! In the dead of winter having to walk well over eighty miles (and that’s as the ‘crow flies’!) simply to go from their home in Nazareth to get to Bethlehem to take a census! In the dead of winter no less!
Pregnant with a child that supposedly came from the Lord God Himself! Of course Mary didn’t doubt this part. After all she and Joseph had never had sexual relations and Gabriel himself told her it would happen! Then there was the episode with Elizabeth! Can you imagine? Two dignified grown women prophesying! They were talking and Zechariah was not! Mary was contributing her seed to the ‘God’ child and her husband was contributing nothing except his love and support! The world had gone positively topsy-turvy on them!
Why had God chosen them? Mary knew she and Joseph came from humble origins! Heck it was Bethlehem they were going to! Not Jerusalem or any other of the great cities! Caiaphas and the other high priests where not expecting this! The King of Kings should have been born to royalty no? And here was this young pregnant girl and her husband soon to be out on the road, in the middle of winter walking for days across some very dangerous roads! Wasn’t God concerned that something could happen to them along the way?
And what of their reception when they got into town? Joseph apparently didn’t know anyone well enough to impose on them for hospitality even though he knew his wife was about to give birth. God hadn’t even provided an inn to stay in! Couldn’t God have made things a little easier for them? After all, it was His Son and the Savior of the world about ready to be born! Freezing cold temperatures and stables filled with animals are hardly sanitary conditions! And where were the mid wives? Hadn’t God thought this thing through? The Pharisees would never have approved! Uncleanliness everywhere!
Speaking of the religious authorities. Can you imagine if they had been in charge of the whole proceeding? To fully understand the implications of this statement you need to know that the Pharisees were equivalent to our Billy Graham, Pope John, the Supreme Court AND your local Congressman all rolled into one! Not to mention they ran the Israelite ‘army’ as well (i.e. the Temple guards). There was zero separation of church and state. The church WAS the state, the military, the judicial system and the financial institutions all wrapped into one! The only thing that was holding them back was the Roman legions parked out on their front doorstep and they were sure the Messiah, when He came. Would take care of them in short order!
But God didn’t put them in charge! He didn’t even invite them to the proceedings! Instead the angels invited some ‘no nothing’ shepherds to the joyous event! Oh royalty did eventually come in the form of the three wise men. But these three kings came from outside the country of Israel! Outsiders! Unclean and unwashed shepherds! Unclean and unwashed Gentiles! What was God thinking?
And what of this King? A baby? The Lord of Lord’s had humbled Himself to the state of being totally dependent upon His parents for everything! Didn’t He have any pride and dignity? Couldn’t He, in all His infinite wisdom have come up with something a little less humiliating? I’m sure Satan had a good laugh over this one! ‘This is my adversary?’ I’m sure the kingdom of darkness partied all night long once they saw the form the Messiah had taken! Shoot, if Satan where to show up he would have at least shown up on Caiaphas’ doorstep! Show a little dignity after all! No TV campaign, no media blitz, no dignitaries signing on for the campaign trail, no Air Force One, no armed guards. Heck before Paul showed up His disciples hardly had a religious credential between them! Not a theological school graduate could be found! Who was there to tell them that they shouldn’t take the Word of God quite so literally?
And women! Who allowed the women and children to tag along! Things just weren’t done like this! They would never gain the authorities respect at this rate! How would the Word get out? No one was a trained writer, speaker or internet guru! Without these folks how could the Message ever be properly conveyed? With such a rag-tag group, who would believe the message anyway? Hadn’t God thought this thing through?
Jesus’ earthly credentials weren’t any better! His Gospel? He proclaimed to be sent by God Himself (John 8:18)! The audacity of the man! Saying that He and God were “one” (John 10:30) and that He existed, yes existed(!), before the dawn of time itself (John 1:1-2, 8:58; Revelations 22:13)! If that wasn’t bad enough He said He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:16-17, 26:63-64; Luke 22:66-69)! Can you imagine? We’re not talking about some secret discussion He had with a few of His closest followers. We’re talking about boldly pronouncing to Caiaphas, the high priest himself that He was the Messiah! What was He thinking!
Matthew 26:63-64 (NIV) The high priest (Caiaphas) said to Him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
On top of that He told others that He was the one and only “gate” and that “whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9). The Jews knew from their own Temple and the Tabernacle of Moses exactly what He meant when He said He was the gate! That meant Jesus was the ONLY way into God’s presence! Jesus confirmed these statements again when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Can you imagine the audacity? The Jews certainly couldn’t and picked up stones to kill Him on the spot!
After all it just isn’t ‘politically correct’ to say things so ‘cut and dry’! There’s protocol to think about and people’s feelings to consider. Not to mention political and religious institutions to protect! You just don’t go around telling everyone they’re going to hell if they don’t believe in you! The man had to be crazy! If not that then Satan himself sent to trip everyone up! Jesus was accused of both or more so!
And so here we are about to celebrate Jesus’ birth and we are still at the crossroads. What do we do with this babe in the manger? Is He the Messiah? Is He a lunatic? Or is He one of many great teachers the world has known throughout the ages? What do we do with this historical, living, breathing man of God who claimed to be mankind’s one and only Savior?
There is no doubt that He was a great teacher. After all His doctrines and sermons are still with us today. His followers are more numerous now than they were when He walked the earth! Yet a simple fact remains. He also claimed to be Mankind’s Salvation. It’s ONLY Salvation! The fulfillment of the prophecies made long ago by God Himself. The one and only “gate” that would lead man, once and for all to God. Can we discard this part of His teaching while accepting the rest?
Was He a liar? If He lied about one thing (i.e. that He was mankind’s Salvation) then His whole Gospel is suspect. Jesus Himself said that a person is known by their fruits. That we are to judge a person and the message they preach by their actions and their character. If He was a liar then, by His own teaching, we are to ignore His Gospel and His message completely.
Could He have been a lunatic? Some of his own family even thought so for a time! The Pharisees certainly thought He was mad and accused Him of it several times. Saying that Jesus was possessed by Satan himself! To this Jesus responded:
Mark 3:22-26 “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.”
Jesus told us plainly who and what He was and the mission God had sent Him to accomplish. But can we accept this? Can we have such faith? A faith that is “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)? Where is our faith today? Was Jesus a liar? Was He a lunatic? Or was He the Christ? He can only be one.
Reposted with permission from gaychurch.org.