When Jesus was born, Caesar Augustus had recently ushered in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity that would make the Reagan years look like the Great Depression. Roads were built, robbers were kept at bay, the military was invincible, luxury was all around, and distant nations that would otherwise pose a threat kept to themselves. This was the Pax Romana—the “peace of Rome”—and Jesus was born smack dab in the middle of it.
When Jesus was around five, Augustus celebrated his twenty-fifth year as emperor, which happened to be the 750th anniversary of Rome’s foundation. Augustus had risen to godlike status, and the people eagerly hailed him as “Savior,” “Lord,” “King of Kings,” “Prince of Peace,” and “Son of God.”
Meanwhile, back at the farm wailed a baby born out of wedlock to a teenage girl in a small village in Judea—a backwater province nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the desert sands. No pomp or prestige, parades or accolades. The Son of God entered human history in a whisper—through the virgin womb of a young Jewish girl. Shame, scandal, and humility clothed the birth of Christ. In the flurry of power and violence, religious pride and unprecedented economic success, the Creator of the universe descended from His glorious throne and thrust Himself into a feeding trough.
“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).”
Augustus was a tough act to follow. So when Jesus’s followers hailed Him as “Savior,” “Lord,” “King of Kings,” “Prince of Peace,” “Son of God,” Roman citizens certainly raised an eyebrow and, if need be, a sword. It made no sense to the Roman worldview that a suffering, humiliated, crucified Jew would rule the world.
But He did, and He does, and He always will. Our cruciform Creator-King attained unprecedented glory because He first served and suffered. He was exalted because he first descended. And this suffering King invites us to journey with him—all the way to Calvary.
Christians who wish to imitate their Lord and Savior must follow the downward trajectory of humility. Our glory begins in a feeding trough. It is energized and validated by the crucified power of servitude and suffering.
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” (Phil 2:5-6 NLT)