Summary: Doesn’t it strike you as strange that the birth of an obscure Jewish Carpenter born two thousand years ago has had such an impact on our civilisation unless he really is.........
Brinton, Binham and Blakeney 08-12-02
Doesn’t it strike you as strange?
Today is the second Sunday in Advent – a time that we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in an Inn in a small village called Bethlehem.
But doesn’t it strike you as strange that the birth of an obscure Jewish Carpenter has had such an impact on the Civilised World for the last 1500 years?
Who was this Man?
He was born in an obscure village, Bethlehem – apparently the illegitimate child of a peasant woman, in a society where illegitimacy was a terrible birthright to have to bear.
He was the member of a defeated race, a second-class citizen in his own country, with no rights at all.
He grew up in still another village, Nazareth where he worked with his stepfather in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty.
2. His ministry:
Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher, where he chose twelve disciples to follow him around- who all in the end deserted him.
He never wrote a book. Yet what he has said has been preserved over two thousand years in a book, the Bible that has been the best seller for decades year in and year out. What is it about this book that fascinates?
His moral teaching, if you read the Gospels is phenomenal. Mahatma Gandhi, despite rejecting formal Christianity described Jesus teaching as incomparable. Had it not been for the inconsistencies of so-called Christians whom he knew, he would probably himself have taken the name of Christian.
His message, like that of John the Baptist’s in this morning’s Gospel reading called man and women to repent of their sins. This is not something today’s spin-doctors would have recommended – if you are courting popularity.
He had a brilliant, sharp and incisive mind. Let me give you an example of this brilliance.
One day, one of the finest Jewish lawyers wanted to set him up for a fall and so he asked him:
“Is it right to pay taxes the Caesar?
Jesus was in a no win situation. If he said yes, the crowds – his main support would turn against him because Caesar was their oppressor. If, on the other hand he said no he would be up on a charge of sedition before the Roman governor.
However he gave a quite brilliant answer. He asked for them to bring him a coin.
“Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s” they replied
Then he said to them: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. (Mt. 22:21,22)
He never held a public office. If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to get the good and the great on your side.
The good – the religious parties all united against him. The great – the Romans also did not take his part.
He never had a family to pass on his family name and, so far as we know he never owned a house.
He never went to University or college.
He never visited the big cities of the Roman Empire, Rome, Alexandria or Athens to peddle his teaching. In fact the only big city he visited was Jerusalem, which was in a backwoods of the Roman Empire.
Indeed, He never travelled more than 200 miles from the place where he was born.
He did none of the things we associate with greatness.
3. His death
He was only thirty-three years of age when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends all deserted Him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was crucified, an ignominious and painful death hanging on a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
4. His movement
When the prophet Mohammed (the founder of Islam) died, he left a powerful empire in place to enforce his teaching.
When the Buddha died he left a powerful group of followers in the Kingdom of Nepal to propagate his teaching.
When Jesus died, his followers and disciples fled and were scattered. For example Peter, James and John his main disciples returned to fishing in Galilee
Conventional wisdom would dictate that this is not a great way to start a worldwide movement.
And then - when his disciples did get their act together - they made that apparently ridiculous claim –that Jesus had risen from the dead.
What a preposterous way to start a movement – UNLESS THAT IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.
Clearly Jesus’ ministry wasn’t a chance thing.