History, not Myth

“. . . the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:2) Luke begins the story about the ministry of John the Baptist – and that of Jesus of Nazareth – by telling us that it is in the 15th year of a Roman Caesar, Tiberius, who is no doubt busy governing his expanding empire. Then Luke cites the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate as another person of note. Pilate is probably too busy trying to quell the frequent outbreaks of insurrection and riots of the unruly Jewish people he governed. Herod – the son of Herod the Great, along with his brother Philip, are then mentioned and finally the high priest Annas and his son in-law Caiphas in Jerusalem are also identified. These last two men are probably busy working out how to maximise their profits from the pilgrims who came each year to the temple in Jerusalem. Yet it was during this specific period of Roman and Jewish history that the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah. Luke shows us that both Roman and Jewish history are intertwined with God’s inbreaking revelation. John’s announcement that it was time to prepare for God’s new work of salvation has occurred in a real time and in a real place. Why is it important for Luke to locate the events he narrates in real history? Very simply, Christianity is unlike the Roman and Greek gods who have no historical basis; they are myths. Myths are very appealing, especially when they are sugar coated to make it easy for children to swallow. They sprout up in every generation as an easy solution to an inability to trust God’s truth. One modern myth often recycled around an election period, is that a strong economy will save us, or make us happy. It won’t. Only Christ provides the salvation we seek.

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