Galatians 4:4 has a very interesting statement. It says that Jesus was born at the fullness of time. The phrase here is full of meaning, as Paul says that God orchestrated the events of history bringing the entire story to one point in time where He sent His Son. For Joseph and Mary, the events must have seemed completely random and chaotic. Angels had appeared to them, and as an engaged couple they were most likely barely making ends meet. And then they get message from the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus that they must travel from Galilee to Bethlehem for a census. How would a pregnant woman make this trip, and for the love of God, how could the Sovereign of the universe allow this decree at such a time as this. But to Bethlehem they traveled, and Jesus was born in the little shepherding town six miles outside of Jerusalem. Yet, the location of Jesus’ birth was prophesied in Micah 5:2 nearly 8 centuries earlier. Do you get this, it may have seemed chaotic to the earthly parents of Jesus, but God’s divine plan was being orchestrated just as He had set out, and God even swayed the sinful and greedy heart of Augustus to decree this census, because the Caesar wanted more taxes so he could have more power and money. But that very decree was the mechanism God used to send Jesus’ parents to Bethlehem.
This is one small example of the meaning of the words, “The fullness of time.” A study of history will demonstrate that there were a myriad of cultural, political, economic, and religious forces that led to the story of Jesus. The rise of the Roman Empire in 63 BC led to Roman rule in Palestine. The events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah a century and a half before the birth of Jesus caused the creation of several political and religious groups including the Pharisees. For over six hundred years the Jewish people had lived under oppressive rule from heathen kings and leaders, the result being that there was great unrest. These kings, especially the Roman Caesars oppressed the people greatly and taxed them heavily. But they also made lots of technological improvements, the most important being the building of roads that went throughout Palestine leading to all places important in the world. This meant there were lots of Gentile travelers whom Jews tended not to like. And the Hebrews had the Old Testament prophesies leading to a messianic fervor as the Jews were looking for a political leader who would overthrow Rome and make Israel great. For the common Jew, these events seemed to be a random order of very tough issues that caused them to live hard lives in great fear. It was into this world that Jesus was born. But this was the fullness of time. These very factors, and a myriad of others gave Jesus the platform to teach and heal, and also caused the rejection of his ministry by the religious leaders. The conflict between the Jews and the Romans was a direct cause of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. And the roads built by the Romans were used by Paul and the other Apostles to go to every corner of the world which was a primary factor in the incredibly fast spread of the Gospel all over the Roman Empire.
This week as you look into the manger scene, think of all the issues that seem to be random, chaotic, and out of control. Just this week I was thinking about how Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in a manger. The pictures are cute, but the truth is that this is a feed trough for animals, not the most sanitary of baby beds. But this was the fullness of time, and God was orchestrating the events of history to accomplish his purpose. What a great message. God did all this to redeem us, to buy our freedom from the law and sin, and to bring us into His family. What a God! What a Savior! He is the God who accomplishes his will in the fullness of time.