Saturday, December 22, 2012

Preparing For The King (part 3)

In the world of that day, it was Caesar that was great, it was Caesar that was the son of the most high, it was Caesar that was clearly ruling over the people of the house of Jacob, it was the Roman empire that was never going to end, and it was Caesar that was called the son of god.  Clearly, this is a revolutionary and subversive message that was being proclaimed by the community that claimed allegiance to Jesus.  Is it any wonder that it was so persecuted?  It is no wonder that Rome went to war against this message of Jesus and attempted to destroy the people that would dare to proclaim that Jesus was King, not just of Israel, but of a kingdom that encompassed the entire world---a kingdom that exceeded that of the vast Roman empire.

That message continues to be reinforced as the story unfolds.  When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, Elizabeth greets her and calls her “the mother of my Lord” (1:43).  “Lord” there is “kuriou.”  In first century context, and in the context of what has already been presented in regards to the titles bestowed upon Jesus, this is more kingly language.  As Theophilus, and anyone else who would happen to read this, would immediately be reminded that it is Caesar that is generally referred to as “kurios,” or “Lord.”  While “lord” is certainly an honorific title, used in both formal and informal pleasantries, the construct of Luke makes it very clear that references to Jesus as “Lord” indicate that he is such both like Caesar and ultimately of the Caesar. 

From there, with an apparent understanding of, and with reference to what had been told to her about her Son and His role as King by the angel, Mary goes on to speak in language reflecting the covenant that God had made with Abraham, saying “He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.  He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (1:51-56).  Again, as we read through this, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this information has been collected and sent to a believing Roman government official who would, no doubt, be sharing this with his circle of friends and associates, perhaps even hearing it in the first time in the company of that circle.  All of the kingly language, and preparations for a people and a world to receive its King would not go un-noticed. 

A few verses later, the author has Zechariah picking up where Mary left off, continuing the reference to the covenant that God had made with Israel through Abraham, which they hoped would be fulfilled in their messiah---in their King.  It is said that Zechariah “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days’.” (1:68-75) 

From there, Zechariah re-directs his thoughts toward his own newly born son, saying that he “will be called the prophet of the Most High” (there’s that kingly language again), and that he “will go before the Lord (kurios) to prepare His ways” (1:76).  As we reflect on this, could we not agree that not only was John sent to prepare the way for the King, but that Theophilus was being encouraged to continue preparing the way for the King in service to that King, and that we, having “certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (1:4), also are charged with an ongoing preparation for the way of the King through the preaching (in both word and deed) of the Gospel?   

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