The Entire Roman World

Stan Mast

READ : Luke 2:1-4

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (v. 1 NIV)

Can we expect to find the grace of God in godless twenty-first-century America? Well, consider those opening words of the nativity story in Luke. Caesar Augustus was the first and greatest Roman emperor. Under him Rome conquered all of the surrounding nations, quelled civil wars, and instituted the great Pax Romana, enforced by Roman legions stationed all over the known world. Rome was the greatest nation on earth, and Caesar Augustus was its head.

When he issued a decree, everyone obeyed. So Joseph and his very pregnant wife made the 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Airlines today wouldn’t let Mary on a plane in her condition, but the donkey had no such rules. So for three or four days she bounced to Bethlehem because the power of government said she had to.

The census had two purposes—military and commercial. The census would tell Caesar how many soldiers he could afford. The military was the key to his power, so it needed to be as strong as possible. And, of course, he needed money to run the government, so he had to discover the extent of his tax base.

The entire Roman world was thoroughly pagan, a culture that worshiped empire, and Caesar, and power, and money, and multiple gods. It was the place you’d least expect to find God. And yet that is where he came.


Almighty God, thank you for not allowing the conditions of our lives to hinder your irresistible grace. Amen.