TODAY’S READING: Luke 1; John 1
The Jewish Maccabean revolt (166–160 BC) led to independence from Greek-ruled Syria and ushered in the Hasmonean dynasty, a dynasty of infighting, terrorism, and conflict. Rome, led by Pompey the Great, invaded Palestine in 63 BC, leaving Roman soldiers stationed in Jerusalem for the next 100 years. In 37 BC Rome allowed Herod the Great to become governor of Galilee and then king of Judea, even though he was technically an Idumean (Edomite) with roots in Jordan. Caesar defeated Pompey and was then assassinated, and in the power struggle that followed Octavian (who took the title Augustus) defeated Anthony and Cleopatra (31 BC). Jesus was born “in the fullness of time” around 5 BC in a land where a Jordanian king served an Italian emperor.
Jesus of Nazareth was born into time and space, a space that included Greeks in the Decapolis, Nabatean Arabs (Herodais, wife of Herod Antipas, an Edomite), Samaritans, Romans, and Lebanese among others. John’s Gospel makes it very clear at the beginning that Jesus is the eternal God from outside time and space in whom is life for all men, the light for the whole world, for as many as receive Him from any nation, He gives the right to become a child of God because they were born of the will of God, not because they were born Jewish (1:1–5, 12–13)! In fact, John opens his reflections on Jesus with a Greek word logos and uses it in a way that neither the Jews (divine wisdom) nor the Greeks (universal reason) understood. John says the Word became flesh and lived among His people! In other words, Jesus is God and condescended to live among men, all men, not just Hebrews.
Luke, a Greek, wrote to a Greek named Theophilus. He picks up the universal scope of who Jesus is: Jesus will be given the throne of His father David, a direct reference to the Messiah, the One who will rule over all nations as Abraham’s promised seed (Luke 1:32, 55). This international inclusion of all peoples must surely be part of Mary’s question, even beyond virgin birth. “Lord, how can it be that all peoples are included in Your kingdom?” asked Mary, and she was told, “Nothing is impossible with God” (vv. 34–37). When Mary acquiesced to the plan and means of God, she became in effect the first missionary mother (v. 38): “Let it be, Jehovah. Let my son who is God include all nations in His kingdom, by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit.” May the missionary spirit of Mary rise all over this world. May mothers of every nation believe in faith that the Spirit of God will overshadow their children to reconcile many sons from every people to glory (vv. 15–16). May fathers claim over their sons the promises God made to Abraham that all nations will be blest, believing their sons will herald the Messiah who brings light to all who sit in darkness (vv. 72–73, 79).
For at the end of the day, all the sons and daughters of the Church must stand with John and point all men, especially unreached peoples who have never heard this astounding news, to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).