Greater Than Rome

GREATER – THAN ROME by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever played “King of the Hill” as kids? The objective is to stay on top of the hill or pile and keep others from pushing you off. Unfortunately, people don’t stop playing that game when they grow up. They become rulers, kings, queens, and emperors. With Christmas upon us, we will be going through a 3-week series titled “GREATER.” We will learn how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this first message, we will see that Jesus was “GREATER THAN ROME.” Please find Luke 2. Here’s the main point: Our world has seen rulers rise and fall, and empires come and go. But, there is only one who stands greater than all, and whose kingdom has no end. It is Jesus Christ. Many have tried to overshadow him, but, as someone said, “When small men cast long shadows, it is a sign that their sun is about to set.” Jesus stands greater than all, and the sun cannot set on him because he made the sun and the moon and the stars.

Luke 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Context: The passage I just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas time. We usually rush past this to Joseph going to his hometown of Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus and wrapping him in swaddling clothes because there was no room for them in the inn. Then, there were shepherds in the fields watching over their flocks by night and the angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid, and on and on. We miss something very important in the opening verses of Luke 2. The gospel writer Luke has given us some very important information about the world in which Jesus came. Listen again to verse 1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” The Greek word for “decree” is dogma, an imperial declaration. With just one decree, your entire world could be turned upside down.

Application: Do ya’ll understand what that means? This is why it is vital that we speak out and we know our rights. Having our voices heard and be strong in politics is not optional.

Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the great nephew and the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome until he was assassinated. Octavius ascended the throne after him, but he wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with 2 Roman generals and politicians – Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus – and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” But, he was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him and gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – there were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Antony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – “Augustus,” which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax deorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior. The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are thinking – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August. None of this was by accident. The Romans had a “complex and vibrant ideological matrix” (David Nystrom) on how to leave a Roman legacy. One scholar (Nystrom) said it this way – “He (Augustus) did not fundamentally alter it by assuming the trappings of personal supremacy, but rather magnified it by directing Roman tradition through the prism of his own story.” In other words, what did it mean to worship Augustus or to call an emperor “king”? (Nystrom)

  1. The Romans claimed that they were ordained by the gods to conquer and civilize.
  2. The Romans believed in the conviction that their rule was just.
  3. The Romans believed that their domination was not fixed by the “limits of the earth but by the limits of the sky” (Cicero).
  4. The Romans had a steep social pyramid based on wealth, class, ancestry, and location.
  5. The Roman empire was an urban phenomenon, with Rome as the ideal and the goal was to spread “Romanitas” – Roman values or Romanness.
  6. The Romans expected and practiced self-promotion, with ultimate power being in the hands of a select few.
  7. The Roman religion was not about faith. In fact, it was looked down upon as being weak. Religion was about gods, sacrifices, and duty.

Why did Augustus want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so he can prove a point. Verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. In short, Augustus had turned everybody’s life upside down with one decree.

How about Jesus? 4 “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” Augustus thinks that he has really told Herod. What he doesn’t realize is that he was just a pawn in God’s eternal plan. Eight hundred years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Greatness is found when you are faithful and obedient, and God writes your legacy.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied.

Greatness is not in turning other peoples’ lives upside down. It is in laying our lives down for others.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Greatness is when God comes to you and you know that you don’t deserve it.

Augustus had his “Res Gestae” (things done) left with the Vestal Virgins (Priestess to the goddess Vesta) to be read in the senate after his death. Only 3 copies have been found. Series of inscriptions were also written in the Forum Augusti with statutes of great men all round and Augustus in the middle riding in a chariot with the title “Father of his country.

What is the legacy of Jesus Christ? Eternity is not enough to list it!

Invitation: The world has an idea of greatness that fades away. God’s greatness never fades. Are you faithful and obedient? Are you laying your life down for others? Do you realize that you don’t deserve anything but hell? Are you saved?

DIGGING DEEP 8 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 8 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Greeks (1500-165BC)

  • Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture.
  • Koine Greek

Romans

One constant factor during the writing of the New Testament was Rome. Roman history can be divided into three parts:

  1. ROMAN KINGDOM – early stages of Rome. (753 BC – 509 BC) Not very significant for our discussion
  2. ROMAN REPUBLIC – still an early stage of our discussion (509 BC – 44 BC)
  3. ROMAN EMPIRE – (44 BC – 6th century AD)

Rome had great admiration for Ancient Greece. Unlike Persia and Greek, Rome knew how to make people Romans. Persian Empire tried to absorb the conquered people but they still did not create unity. Greece tried but not everybody could be a citizen of Greece. But Rome knew how to truly absorb the surrounding cultures – both people and gods.

Some key aspects of the Roman Empire:

  1. The Emperor
  • In 48 BC Julius Caesar declared himself the Dictator. After he was assassinated, his adopted son, Octavius through a series of battles and events became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Some of those battles might be familiar to you (Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).
  • In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title of Caesar Augustus and they became just an advisory council to the Emperor. His rule brought the PAX ROMANA. Rome’s first institutionalized police force and fire fighting force. He built roads throughout Italy.
  • The Imperial cult was typically instituted after the death of the emperor. Domitian (AD 81-96) was the first to institute it in his own lifetime. He demanded to be addressed as “dominus et deus” = “Lord and god. This was a major problem to the Christians. (See I Peter 3:12-17; and Revelation 2:13 – “Satan’s throne” in Pergamum)
  1. Provinces
  • Main administrative units; 2 kinds: Senatorial and imperial
  • Senatorial provinces were ruled by governors who were appointed by the Senate. They were no threat to peace. For e.g. Sicily, Spain, Pamphylia, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Crete, Cyprus, etc.
  • Imperial provinces were also ruled by governors who were appointed by the emperor. They were on the borders of the empire and had a threat of revolt. For e.g. Syria, Gaul, Galatia, and Britain.
  1. Client Kingdoms
  • Not directly administered by Rome but still under Roman rule.
  • They were independent rulers who could appoint their own officials and implement their own policies.
  • Palestine was ruled by Herod from 40BC – 4 BC (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumea)
  • After his death, his territory was divided into 3 parts: Judea, Idumea, and Samaria to Archelaus; North of Galilee to Philip; and Galilee and Peraea to Antipas.
  • Archelaus was removed after 10 years and Idumea and Samaria went under Roman procurators (Pilate, Felix, and Festus).
  • Later Herod Agrippa (Herod’s grandson) was a client king over North of Galilee, Galilee, Perea, and Judea. (Acts 12) His son Herod II (acts 25-26).
  1. Colonies and Free Cities
  • Self governing settlements of Roman Citizens
  • For e.g. Philippi and Corinth (locals who were granted Roman citizenship)
  1. Roman Citizenship
  • People could have dual citizenship like Paul (Tarsus and Rome).
  • It ensured loyalty.
  1. Roman Law
  • Basis of Roman Authority was Legal. It all depended on RIGHT and JURISDICTION. Magistrates had complete power. Measure of all things was the LAW. (Greek – man; East – king; Jewish people – God).
  • It was not perfect – THERE WAS CORRUPTION. The further from Rome, the more the corruption.
  • The power over life and death (ius gladii) was always retained by Governors.
  1. Roman Taxation
  • Poll tax was on every adult, including women and slaves.
  • An amount was set but the local governors could set their amount.
  1. Benefits
  • Pax Romana
  • Roads
  • Common Currency – Greek coins (lepta, drachmai,) and Roman coins (assaria, quadrans, denarius). Also temple currency was in shekels

Test Passages:

  1. Matthew 10:18; 11:8; 17:25; 18:23; 22:2; 25:40

 

  1. John 18:31

 

  1. Acts 16:19-40

 

  1. Galatians 3:28

 

  1. Acts 24:5

DIGGING DEEP 6 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 6 by Abidan Paul Shah 

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

The region in which the biblical events took place is between the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea on the West and the Zagros Mountains and the Persian Gulf in the East and between the Amanus and Ararat Mountains in the North and the Nafud Desert and the southern tip of Sinai in the South. The New Testament expanded the region into what today are Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain.

  • Much of the Middle East is desert, as much as 487,000 square miles (not including the Negev, Sinai and Egyptian deserts).
  • The bodies of water, especially the Mediterranean Sea have played a big role in the biblical events.
  • The conflict was over the fertile land by the seacoast. Different peoples came from the Sea (Philistines, Greeks, and Romans) or towards the Sea (Amalekites, Moabites, Edomites, Israelites, and Ammonites). Others came from farther away (Babylonians and Assyrians). Most of the interaction was violent.
  • Some came for timber, building stones, copper, iron, tin, gold, silver, etc. This also led to the development of roads and highways (for e.g. Via Maris and the King’s Highway).
  • Along with rainwater, people have survived through the Nile River in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in in modern day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Also, natural springs, wells, and cisterns have been extremely important.
  • The area is often referred to as the Fertile Crescent or sometimes as the Sacred Bridge.
  • Modern Israel is 8,522 sq.mil. = New Jersey. 3-4 hours from the northern tip to the Southern and about 1-2 from east to the west and in parts just 9 miles apart (east-west).

The Land and the Bible:

  1. The Land of Beginnings
  • Mesopotamia “Land between the rivers”
  • Possible location of the Garden of Eden
  • This is where Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans.
  • Later under the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar took the Southern Kingdom of Judah into exile.
  • Further to the east is Persia, which overtook the Babylonian empire to become Medo-Persian Empire. This is where Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther were located.
  1. The Promised Land
  • Referred to as Canaan, incorporating the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.
  • It is divided into 5 major longitudinal zones: the coastal plain, the central mountain range, the Rift Valley, the Transjordanian mountains, and the eastern desert.
  • Much of the Old Testament (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, the Prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah) and New Testament (Gospels, Acts, James) history took place here.
  1. The Land of Slavery
  • Greek historian Herodotus (5 BC) called it Egypt – “the gift of the Nile.” It is 4,145 miles in length, the longest river in the world. The river was good for farming and transportation. Only 5% of the land is agricultural and the rest is stone, sand, and desert.
  • It’s biblical name is “Mizraim. The land is divided into Upper Egypt (from the head of the Delta up the valley to the South and Lower Egypt (the delta).
  • The final chapters of Genesis and the opening chapters of Exodus took place here. There was other interaction with Egypt throughout Israel’s history.
  1. The Land of the “first called Christians”
  • Phoenicia (remnants of the Canaanites) and Syria (ruled by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Seleucids)
  • Damascus is an oasis due to the melting snow from the mountains was important since ancient times (Abraham’s servant Eliezer) and New Testament times (Paul’s conversion).
  • Antioch in Syria became a Christian center (Acts 11:25-26)
  1. The Land of the Seven Churches and beyond
  • The region of modern day Turkey known variously as Anatolia, Asia Minor, and Cappadocia.
  • It is surrounded by Black Sea to the North, Aegean Sea to the West, and the Mediterranean Sea to the South.
  • Paul traveled throughout the region – Galatia, Lystra, Antioch in Pisidia and Derbe. John in his book of Revelation wrote to the 7 churches in western region.
  • In his second missionary journey Paul went into Greece (Macedonia)
  • Paul’s ultimate journey took him to Rome.

 

Test Passages:

  1. Genesis 12:1-6

 

  1. Jeremiah 29:11

  

  1. Mark 7:24-29 and Matthew 15:21-28

 

  1. Acts 27:13-20, 42-44; 28:1-2, 16
%d bloggers like this: