Summary: 1st in Christmas series based on Galatians 4:4 - why the time was right for Jesus to come. This is one describes the right time CULTURALLY - one language.
Galatians 4:4 – The Time Came
(With a healthy dose of help from John Eldredge.)
“In the beginning.” It might just as well say, “Once upon a time.” It’s a wonderful phrase, full of legend and myth, promise and mystery. And it’s a sort of invitation, too. “Come here, let me show you something…”
Everybody loves a good story. Once upon a time there were a good king and queen who were very sad because they had no children. Once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden who lived with her wicked step-sisters. Once upon a time a heroic knight named Beowulf set off to avenge his brothers by slaying the troll Grendel. Once upon a time the gladiator Maximus fought hand to hand against the evil emperor Commodus. (Once upon a time an ogre and a donkey set off to find a beautiful princess trapped in a high tower.) Long long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. All of the really good stories start off that way.
I guess mankind loves an epic. We long for a grand sweeping story of heroism and courage, of sacrifice and compassion, of valor in the face of danger, and victory in spite of the odds stacked against the champion.
And the Bible is no different. The Bible is a sweeping epic of grand proportions. The Bible tells of something hidden in the ancient past. It tells of something dangerous and wicked now unfolding. It tells of something in the future for us to discover. And it tells of some crucial role for us to play.
Christianity, undistorted by its well-meaning followers, tells of the Author, one who is true and good, and is the source of all things true and good. Christianity tells of the constant danger of this good being perverted by the master Villain. And it tells of the Story which will provide meaning for our lives.
Frederick Buechner writes of this story called Christianity: “It is a world of magic and mystery, of seep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name… That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept happening ever since and is happening still.”
We know this story to varying degrees, varying both in knowledge and in experience. And we also know that every story has a setting, a time and place where it happened. We know less about those details. Over the next several weeks, I would like to look at the setting of the Christmas story. What was happening when this epic we call the Gospel took a turn for the better, when Jesus Christ was brought into the world? What was the backdrop? What were the conditions? What was the timing of it all? Turn with me to Galatians 4 as we look at several verses but focus on one in particular. Galatians 4:1-5.
In this passage, Paul is describing the difference between the old and the new. He compares the way things were under the law to being slaves. We worked for God’s blessing. Pleasing God was through faith, but it was also through following the Law. It was as if we were in the family as His children, but we still worked for a wage like a servant or slave.
But that changed when Christ came. Trusting in His works are all the works we need. Being good isn’t as important as admitting we need Him. And just as a child is an heir to all that the father has in store for him, but he or she is not entitled to it until they reach the right age, so too, at just the right time, followers of God were transformed from slaves to children. At just the right time, when the fullness of time came, when the time was perfect, God sent His Son Jesus to bring a better way of pleasing the Father, a way of faith, simply accepting His offer.
Today I would like to show you how the culture was ready to receive the message. God sent His Son Jesus at a time when the time was right culturally speaking. We need to look at the setting of the civilization that Jesus was born into.