Back into the story of Jesus and the virgin birth. The story of a young virgin who’s about to become a teen mom, who’s about to become a teen mom despite the fact that she has not left home to live with her betrothed, despite the fact that her marriage has not been consummated. Quite the scandal, a scandal that would follow her the rest of her life.
Mary and Joseph are both from house and lineage of David. This means that Jesus is, in fact, the son of David, qualified to be messiah, which simply means to be king, the king of Israel. Ancient Israel did not crown their kings, they anointed them with oil. To be the anointed one is to be the crowned. To speak of the crowned, that means you’re talking abut the king. The ancient Jews speak of the “anointed” one, they are talking about their king.
So they’re both from house and lineage of David, as we’ve always heard. This child will be the son of David, qualified to be messiah, king of Israel.
The angel says he will be called the Son of God, which rightfully we hear with lots of deep theological implications. But for Mary, she would have heard this as at least as much of a political statement as theological, probably much more so. The title son of god was already in use. Let’s look at the timeline for a minute. We know King Herod died 4 BC. Jesus was born before death of Herod, so this is about 5 or 6 BC (yes, the Christ was born about 5 years Before Christ, there were some errors made in calculating our calendar. Go figure). At this time the son of god meant the one who had divine right to rule, because after all they are god’s son and have the right to rule the world.
Jesus is born a subject of the Roman Empire This is very important to understanding the Jesus story. Jesus was born during the booming economy of the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. Every coin in the empire had the inscription “Augustus Caesar – Son of God”. Think about this, how often does money pass through our hands in the course of a day’s activities? Every coin passing through the hands of the wealthy, and the few coins passing through Mary and Joseph’s hands, declared “Augustus Caesar -Son of God”, meaning Augustus Caesar had the divine right to rule.
What mattered most was the economy. Augustus Caesar had given the empire a booming economy. Therefore he had the right to rule. Therefore he was the son of god.
But now…an angel is telling a poor peasant girl that the true son of God was going to come into the world through her life and share in her poverty. It’s not the economy that matters most but the reign of god and he works in ways we can almost never anticipate. We must remember that every time you hear the economy spoken of as if it’s the most important thing, you are hearing a lie.
The angel tells Mary her son will be given a throne and an eternal kingdom. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. It’s this understanding of the birth of Jesus that causes all the trouble. Hear these titles – Lord, Son of God, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Savior of the World – these are all imperial titles belonging to Caesar. When you heard these titles everyone understood you were talking about Augustus Caesar When the angel Gabriel shows up in Nazareth, these titles were all in circulation. But the angel says this virgin will bear a child who will claim all these titles for himself. Trouble is brewing in Nazareth…
Caesar in and of himself is not important. Caesars come and Caesars go. One dies, they just appoint another to take his place. What’s really important is the empire, Caesar is a personification of the empire. They call him the son of god, but it’s really about the empire. The mighty Roman Empire, that’s the savior of the world, that’s where peace and prosperity comes from, that’s what saves the world. After all, the last, best hope of the world is the mighty Roman Empire….
Jesus was in trouble with the superpower from the moment he was born. Remember, King Herod wanted him dead The Christmas story is not all about angels appearing to shepherds in the night, it’s also about Herod’s death squads killing babies in Bethlehem. There is a dark side to Christmas because the principalities and powers do not want to let go of the night. They want the darkness to remain. It’s the darkness that keeps them in power. But we are told darkness can not overcome the light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 ESV
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
Luke 1:26-38 ESV