Luke’s gospel starts out with a census. The Jewish people were under Roman occupation, and they were looking for a savior to make Israel great again. They were angry. They wondered why God did not act and why they were still under the rule of the Roman Empire.
The ancient scrolls talked about the coming day of vengeance, but it had been a long time since God spoke through a prophet. When Augustus Caesar became the emperor of Rome, the prophets of Israel had been silent for 400 years. But then, in the City of David, God sent His son.
Everyone was looking for a warrior King, and God sent a baby?
As Jesus grew bigger, He still didn't fit the script. People were looking for a Samson, the kind of deliverer that would destroy a thousand Romans with the jawbone of a donkey. But Jesus didn't come as Samson. He told His followers that instead of cursing their enemies, they were supposed to love them. He spoke of good Samaritans, the faith of a Roman centurion and allowed tax collectors to be among his disciples.
Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, but was despised by the religious rulers. They viewed him as a threat. He ignored their cherished traditions, reinterpreted their prophecies and said He had power to forgive sins.
The Roman state was apprehensive as well. They had bad experiences with a long line of "messiah" figures. They were afraid Jesus was the latest who would declare Himself king and try to overthrow the government.
The church and the state were on alert. They watched His every move. In the Sermon on the Mount, there was anticipation that this may be the time Jesus declared himself king.
Instead, He began His sermon:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are those who mourn,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are the merciful,
Blessed are the peacemakers,
Blessed are the persecuted.
No one was prepared for this. They were expecting Rambo, not Mr. Rodgers. They were prepared for a Warlord, not the Prince of Peace. Some Roman soldiers were so enamored that even though they were given the mission to arrest Jesus, they couldn’t do it. They simply said, “No one ever spoke like this man.”
From birth to death, Jesus was an enigma. He didn’t come as a God of war, He came as a baby. He didn’t ride into Jerusalem on a majestic stallion, He rode in on a donkey.
They wanted a king to enact revenge. But Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. They wanted vengeance, He offered peace. He came unto His own, but His own received him not.
It was the governor's custom at Passover to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time, they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. Barabbas is Aramaic for son of the father.
Pilate offered the Jewish nation a choice between two sons. One spoke of peace, and the other vengeance. One called for a sword, and the other a cross. They chose the murderous son. They wanted an insurrection of violence; Christ brought an insurrection of love.
The church united with the state and hung Him to a tree. The sign, “King of the Jews” was displayed above His head as a warning to any other so-called “messiah.”
Jesus was not crucified for telling people to "love their neighbor." He got crucified for critiquing publicly the religious and political authorities of His day. Christ and His teachings clashed with the empire, and the empire struck back.
Anyone who has been hurt by political or religious systems can take hope. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. He didn't announce His arrival with the power of an army, His arrival was birthed in a manger.
Power and greatness in God's kingdom doesn't look like Rome or Washington D.C., it looks like Bethlehem and Calvary!
The true King came as a baby and died on a cross. His Kingdom was legitimized with a cross, not a sword.