“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”
The Bible records many personalities mentioned in various other historical documents and one such person is Augustus Caesar in whose honour this month has been named. Augustus Caesar changed the history by being the first Roman Emperor. He attempted to bring organizational changes and establish peace in his kingdom, and most of all fulfilled the old prophecy by issuing a decree on the census.
It is said he would have wanted the people registered for tax purposes. Whatever be the reason of his decree, he has been an instrument in associating Joseph and Jesus in their birthplaces. Joseph would have had no great sentimental association in the birth of a child conceived by the Holy Spirit though he fully bore the responsibility as advised by the divine intervention.
It is in this context, Joseph along with his full term pregnant wife were heading towards his native place yielding to the command of Augustus Caesar where Mary had to deliver her little boy. It is not a coincidence but a divine setting foretold almost six centuries ago, though the name of this great Emperor is mentioned only once in the entire Bible.
Though it is not Christmas time and may seem out of season, isn’t Jesus the King who was born with a purpose that serves generations? Hence, as we enter this month, let us meditate upon the contrast between the first Roman Emperor and the Emperor of both the seen and the unseen world born during his reign.
1) Sense of ownership:
Augustus Caesar, when he took over his Supreme responsibility wanted the account of people scattered across the land and united them together under his leadership. Though it could have been for administrative reasons, he also would have gained a sense of ownership of a vast area and people. Alongside was born an unassuming emperor with no great place to lay His head but sent with an intention to unite and own the people of the entire land even those far beyond the knowledge of Augustus Caesar. He did not need people to come and register their names but knew everyone with their thoughts, deepest desires and needs (Refer Matthew 9:4, John 1:47,48). The sense of ownership He had possessed was so great that He underwent extreme humiliation on the Cross, though the people disowned him. How long can a sense of ownership last when the other side is totally undeserving and non-co-operative? Any earthly king would have considered such people a rebel and refused any voluntary help.
2) Sense of Sovereignty:
The Roman coins bore the image of Caesar and he was worshipped as son of the god. Augustus Caesar would have for sure felt a sense of sovereignty with his towering fame. In parallel, we find the real Son of God born in a scenario where his life was threatened even as a toddler yet testified by God, heavenly beings, demons, and nature as the Sovereign God. He needed not physical symbols or marks but His very being demonstrated His Sovereignty. His supremacy is indescribable yet He chose to be humble. He did not compel, demonstrate power or misuse His position as God’s own Son but chose love and service as His tools to Sovereignty.
3) Sense of leadership:
Augustus Caesar, sure would have been a great administrative leader. While taking a closer look into the etymology of calendar months, one can note it is majorly attributed to the god or goddesses if not for the number associations. The only person in whose honour a month is named is that of Augustus Caesar. This speaks by itself of his mighty leadership and administrative capabilities. Jesus, on the other hand, displayed no great administrative responsibilities, nor did He have a huge crowd supporting his rule. He chose to be a simple and compassionate Servant leader. Despite so many oppositions, religions, faiths and disputes, His greatness has divided the entire human history into BC and AD.
While the first Roman Emperor played a vital role in fulfilling the divine purpose and will, he died shortly after the birth of Jesus who had exceeded the vision of Augustus Caesar by incomparable measures. To him, the world was only the Roman Empire but to Jesus, it is the entire Universe. Augustus Caesar had to call people and was concerned only about the numbers, but the mighty God we have has numbered even our hairs. This mighty God sent Jesus during the reign of Caesar probably to help people see the scale-up on the power, supremacy and Sovereignty of Emperorship in the divine King. As we begin this new month, may we worship the Sovereign King who transforms the history of the world now and forever.