Christmas Character: Caesar Augustus
Suggested reading: Luke 2:1
When I drew the name of Caesar Augustus, I only remembered that he was mentioned in the Bible; he named a month after himself (it was formerly Sextilis); and he succeeded Julius Caesar. Searches revealed that Augustus was a great nephew later adopted by Julius Caesar who inherited power at the age of 18 when Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Augustus ruled for more than 40 years and died at the age of 75 in 14 AD. He shrewdly and cruelly combined military might, institution building and lawmaking to become Rome’s sole ruler. Under the leadership of Augustus and his successors, Latin became the common language, Rome’s prosperity and efficient transportation grew, financial advancements (minting coins) were made, marriage laws were reformed, and the foundation was laid of the 200-year period known as Pax Romana (Roman peace). During Augustus’ reign, the Roman province of Judea was created, and he appointed Herod as governor.
This brings us to why Caesar Augustus is a character of Christmas. God controls all history. By the decree of Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for His birth (Micah 5:2) even though His parents didn’t live there. Although Roman records mention tax censuses, this one is not documented other than by Luke. Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of David and numerous prophesies in the Old Testament predict that Jesus would be born in David’s line (Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 33:15, Ezekiel 37:24, Hosea 3:5). Joseph and Mary, his espoused wife, left Galilee to travel 70 miles (about a three-day trip) to Bethlehem to pay the required taxes. Soon after their arrival, Jesus was born.
The Savior of the world was born during a period of extreme political turmoil. Jerusalem was a hotbed of political strife. Augustus was an oppressive occupier of Jewish lands who, assisted by the local governor (Herod), ruled from afar with a merciless hand. God sent His Son to come at this exact moment—planned since the beginning of time—to deliver His message of peace and love. Jesus’ words of peace, not strife (Philemon 4:6-7) and love, not hate (1 Peter 3:8-9), still prevail. Caesar Augustus was an important figure in world history and was declared a God by the Roman Senate. Jesus Christ, the son of God, far exceeds his stature, however, by providing everlasting life (John 3:16) to those who believe in Him.