Partners with the Holy Spirit: Part #59

The Apostle Paul gave the reader this introduction. Man is slow in growing up in his perception of the magnitude of God and God’s endless grace and power, that sustains all life by God’s indwelling Force and Spirit:

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is uncer guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (Galatians 4:1-7).

How Prepared Were The Jews When Christ Came?

It was definitely God’s time and not man’s time. God no longer could withhold His Love from the world, in spite of his people being unprepared and unwilling to receive His Son, the Christ, the Messiah. God loves the whole world and not just one small race (John 3:16). Thanks to the Romans and to their vision of a huge earthly kingdom, which would include Judea, Christ could come and spread “His Seed of Redemption.” Christ is the “Light” of the world and the “Sower” who spreads the “Good News” into an unprepared world and field to receive the seed.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.”) And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (John 1:9-18).

And when a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him (Jesus), he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing the may not see and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have not root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear; but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:4-15).

Who Were The People Who Invited The Romans To Prepare The World For Christ?

The widow Alexandra became the queen of Judea, her oldest son Hyrcanus II became the high priest; and Aristobulus became the commander over the army of the Sadducees. Upon her death, Hyrcanus surrendered to his brother, and then fled to Aretas, king of Arabia, where he met Herod the Great in exile. Herod was a descendant of Esau (Edom or Idumean) and he went by the name of Antipater. Antipater saw his chance to rise politically by befriending Hyrcanus and by having the Arabs help him defeat his brother Aristobulus. The Nabatean Arabs were pleased with Antipater’s proposal, to invaded Judea and besieged Jerusalem. Jerusalem became Aristobulus’ cage, but he managed to save his life by becoming a prisoner of Rome. 

Pompey, the eyes of Rome, found it convenient to arbitrate between the brothers of Hyracanus II and Aristobulus. Therefore Pompey lend him a hand in Palestine’s future, which included Judea. Rome was not disposed toward Aristobulus, who had intended to stage a revolt against Caesar. Pompey sided with Hyrcanus, besieged Jerusalem for three months, and then he assisted Hyrcanus in slaughtering twelve thousand followers of Aristobulus. Pompey did not disrupt the Jewish customs or the Jewish religion. So Pompey made Judea part of the Roman province of Syria. Judea ceased as an independent nation; and therefore, Judea became a vassal of Rome with no king. However, Judea did have an emperor (John 19:15). Pompey rewarded Hyrcanus II with the title “Ethnarch of Judea,” that comprised also of Galilee, Idumea, and Perea. And Hyrcanus II was reinstated as the High Priest. 

The Making Of The Herods

Antipater, also known as Antipas, became the power behind the throne of Hyrcanus II; and Antipater was a mortal enemy of Aristobulus II. That also made Antipater an enemy of the Jews; and therefore, he lost their nationhood to Rome. Antipas also expected to be rewarded from Rome with the title and crown of the “King of the Jews” at a time when Rome deemed it appropriate. He did not mind to swing and sway with the changing powers in Rome to secure prominence for his sons Phasael and Herod. Antipater and his sons were loyal to Julius Caesar, founder of the Roman Empire, on whom the Roman Senate conferred the title Augustus on January 16, 27 B.C. The first emperor’s name was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. When Hyrcanus II died, Gaius made Herod a “Procurator of Judea” king. And at this time, Judea was under the jurisdiction of the Roman province of Syria with Quirintus being the Roman governor. However, even powerful Egypt was only a province of Rome and Cleopatra was Caesar’s mistress. Herod, at best, was only a figurehead of a king guarding his office, with the right to stop anyone who tried to unseat him. According to Luke Two and Matthew Two, it was toward the end of Caesar’s and Herod’s lives that Jesus was born. And that was the time when two thousand little boys were killed to stop a man-child to grow up and be the “Spiritual King of kings.” Caesar was murdered by Brutus and Herod died of cancer. The worlds of both men began to crumble over forty years before Christ was born.

The death of Julius Caesar put a huge dent into Herod’s kingship. Rome was in disarray! Three leaders were in a life to death fight to become emperors; and the Parthians, who were not under Rome, invaded Jerusalem to put the son of Herod’s mortal enemy Aristabulus II, Antigonus on the Jewish throne and the high priest’s office. Herod fled to Rome and sided with Anthony, who bestowed on Herod the title “King of the Jews.” Anthony’s army did assist Herod’s army to drive out the Parthians. And Herod began to reign in 37 B.C. and ended his reign after he killed the infant boys in Bethlehem 4 B.C. Jesus called Herod’s son, “Go and tell the fox” (Luke 13:32). However, Herod Senior was a maverick politician contending with Rome, with the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Therefore, Herod’s kingdom was ruled by Rome and the two powerful Jewish parties, who were still under the spell of the Hasmoneans. To please the Hasmoneans Herod married Mariamne. Then when Herod appointed Hananiel of Babylon as his high priest, Alexandra, the mother of Mariamne demanded that Herod replace him with Aristobulus, grandson of Hyrcanus II. Alexandra had Cleopatra, and Anthony made Herod obey her. Unfortunately, the high priest drowned and Alexandra again accused Herod and had him appear before Anthony and Cleopatra. This time, Herod was not charged and he delayed his return. It was a plot during which time his man Joseph was to kill Mariamne. Joseph had feelings for Mariamne and disclosed the plot to her. Upon Herod’s return, he executed Joseph. 

Curiosity compels the question, why would two very powerful generals, who had it in their grasp to control the world, deal with a double-minded man like Herod? The answer was that Herod was needed to help them gain and maintain that power in the area. Anthony needed Herod to keep the Parthians and the Arabs out of his way. Anthony’s forces were weakened when he assisted Herod in restraining the Parthians, defeated Brutus, and Cassius; however, he could no longer help Herod against the Arabs. Anthony was defeated by Octavian in the battle of Actium on September 2, 31 B.C., and therefore Octavian emerged as the next emperor. Anthony and Cleopatra committed suicides. Herod went to meet Octavian on the Isle of Rhodes and pledged his loyalty to the new emperor of mighty Rome. 

At this time, Herod was fighting the Arabs alone and that benefited Octavian in taking over all of Anthony’s provinces, which included Egypt and Syria of which Judea was also a part. Judea was on the crossroads from North to South, and East to West, with an ideal coast to land the ships from Kittim (Rome) (Daniel 11:30). These same ships, from Rome, would one hundred and seven years later scatter and carry away the Jews to the far corners of the Roman empire in A.D. 70. In that sense, Herod was valuable to Rome, but far more valuable were men like Anthony, Octavian, and Herod for preparing an “earthly kingdom” large enough for Christ to spread salvation within. The Gentiles, and not the Jews, became the brokers of the “Gospel of God” in the world. It was hard, even for Paul, that the hated Esau had bypassed the beloved Jacob and partnered with God to bring the Christ to the world (Romans 9-11). God’s wheels never stopped rolling for want of drivers like Pharah, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Augustus, Herod, and many other Gentiles like Constantine and Charlemagne. These men were God’s tools as much as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. And if the world had to wait for these men to release the Christ to the world, would Christianity have happened? (Charles F. Pfeiffer, Between The Testaments, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan 1959, pp.102-110).

The Gentiles did not highjack Christ from the Jews. The Jews forced the Gentiles to accept Christ. And Christ became “their once for all sacrifices” (John 19:12-16). Shortly before Jesus was handed over to the Gentiles, the Greeks had come to invite Jesus into their world and Jesus had this reply:

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (John 12:20-23).