“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:1-2)
Part of Luke’s point here is just to locate the beginnings of the story of Jesus. When and where did it begin? When this guy was in charge. What that guy was High Priest. But there’s more here than that. There’s something here to see about who God talks to, who God shares himself with.
Begin with the Who’s Who from the first-century, a red carpet line up of Israel’s power-brokers, influencers, cultural and religious authorities. Her shakers and movers.
– Tiberius Caesar – ruler of the world,
– Pontius Pilate, in charge of Caesar’s occupation of Palestine,
– Herod, son of King Herod (member of a powerful ruling family, favored by Rome), in charge of Galilee,
– Philip, Herod’s brother, and Lysanias, each holding a political position of his own.
– Lastly, Annas and Caiaphas, in charge of the Temple and managers of its power.
That’s the ‘who’. Now for the ‘what’. There’s an event here, and occurrence of cosmic proportions not to be missed. Luke describes it: “The word of God came.” God spoke, just not to whom one might expect. So while the naming of known leaders is just a way to locate the story. On the other hand Luke’s drive-by tells us something about God.
Surely the word of God would come to one of the established power-brokers. Surely if God had something to say to the whole world, he’d get his message to and through Caesar or Pilate. They’re the political powers of the day. They control the news media. But if not them, surely the God of Israel would go to Annas or Caiaphas, Israel’s religious leaders. They are the gatekeepers. They own the synagogues, run the houses of Scripture, control the seminaries, write the curricula, control the process of ordination and decide what the religious publishing houses put out. Managing and distributing “the word of God” is their business. It’s their whole reason for being. So surely “the word of God” would come to them. But God doesn’t talk to them either. He passes by the high priest. What about the elite, the rich and the famous, and the celebrities of the day? Surely God would consult Forbes, or People Magazine, or US Weekly; surely he’d ride the wave of popular personalities who are listened to and followed by millions. Makes sense—get your word out through the most connected people on the planet, right? Only the best for God. No. God passes them all by.
Who’s the word of God come to? It comes to “John the Son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
You should be laughing. You’re meant to laugh. Everybody else laughed.
If this were today, it might include bits and pieces of this:
– When Barak Obama was President of the most powerful nation on earth,
– When Bill Gates was the richest man in the world,
– When Donald Trump was buying his way to a seat of international power,
– When Eminem was shocking the world with his raps,
– Adele was singing “Hello!” and Drake was “Summer Sixteen,”
– Justin Bieber ‘never said never’ and Lady Gaga was singing her own “Applause,”
– Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon,
– Albert Einstein redefined what the Moon was,
– Pope Francis and Oprah were the spiritual authorities of the day—
– the word of God came to ___________ .
Put your name in.
“Dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many of you were powerful or influential, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important. God did all this to keep anyone from bragging.” (1Corinthians 1:26-29)
Prayer: Father, let me hear your voice. Plant your word in my heart. Involve me in your work. Employ me in your service.