God's TIME!

"Unfortunately for Jesus, his timing isn't great" - historian Prof. M. Scott in a documentary(*). Dr Scott had examined the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. He looked for acceptable explanations in antagonism from Jewish Temple authorities and Roman power requirements.  Dr Scott went on to describe the political and military situation in the eastern Roman frontier province of Judaea in the year 33 CE. Clearly that was an area of sensitivity for the empire, with the rival unsubdued Parthian Empire at the door.

At this point I distinguish information from opinion. Did Dr Scott have a particular view of Jesus' mission and intent? Perhaps he interprets Jesus in terms of human history, or precedent, or politics. Perhaps we are to suppose God was taken by surprise? Did Jesus misjudge the moment? Was this but another human tragedy (of errors)?

The professor was contemplating the emergence of what he calls 'Christianity' as the official religion of the Empire. With that is bound up the notion of Jesus achieving power (posthumously).

That word 'Christianity' is a word which seems to describe something substantial but does not actually. It is an umbrella term which falls in the category of the metaphysical or philosophical. Nothing tangible or accountable exists which is described by that word. We could compare it with 'society' - an abstract expression which is broad and general but which can not be found in reality. Under the label 'Christianity' people speak of power, control, structure, status, wealth, exclusion and entitlement. 

What does the NT/Jesus say?

Jesus himself and his followers see the situation in a different light. (I accept their interpretation and 'opinion'.)

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. 15 Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.
17 The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so that I may receive it back again. 18 No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.
19 The people took sides because of what Jesus had told them. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon in him! He is crazy! Why listen to him?” John 10

Specifically, in Galatians 4 we have from Paul: 
4 But when the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. His Son obeyed the Law, 5 so he could set us free from the Law, and we could become God’s children.

Timing not great, or exactly the right (God's) time? You decide.

Socially and culturally even we can isolate components which supported spread of the Good News of Jesus.

Language: In the Mediterranean Roman world, and more widely in the east, Greek had been a common language subsequent to the days of Alexander's conquests. The early messengers and writers had a ready and convenient way to communicate with people of many 'nations' and 'tribes'.

Access: The Roman world was marked by good roads and relative stability. Trade was a driving force in movement through the Empire, and more widely. The message could travel those routes. Later (with soldiers who had become followers) military movements would also carry the news.

God-fearers: Judaism was widely represented in the Mediterranean world and further east, and thus the OT could be known by outsiders. Not everyone was ready to become a Jew who was nevertheless drawn to the message of the monotheistic and moral LORD of Israel (the God of Heaven). We have reports of 'God-fearers' in the NT.

"Religianity": I have invented this word (as far as I know). There were multitudes of gods and the like. Plenty of opportunity to be 'religious' (as today with different words). The old gods are portrayed as struggling between themselves and generally acting like ill-suited and amoral tyrants. In fact they reputedly acted like human beings, though larger than life. Plenty of gods, and multiplying, with each successive Emperor joining the ranks. Not everyone was able to just go along with what was accepted by the vast majority. A person might long for significance and meaning; for incorporation in a company of like-minded others on a path of exploration. Individuals had questions; so for example in the writings of the philosophers. (Not that only the clever and educated could think!) So various 'superstitions' could take root amongst those not cemented to the 'natural' gods.

Inner concern: This connects to the above 'religianity' comment. In that age (or any age, even this) people might seek some inner certainty with congruence with their rational nature. So we find an interesting account from Athens, where speculation was an industry (and from their philosophies much modern knowledge actually takes its root). One answer to insecurity was to 'hedge the bet' and keep up with all the gods, even unknown ones. In Acts 17, Luke gives us an interesting moment, a particular episode in the largely unknown dissemination of the 'foolish' news of Jesus with the open invitation to become followers:

21 More than anything else the people of Athens and the foreigners living there loved to hear and to talk about anything new. 22 So Paul stood up in front of the council and said:
People of Athens, I see that you are very religious. 23 As I was going through your city and looking at the things you worship, I found an altar with the words, “To an Unknown God.” You worship this God, but you don’t really know him. So I want to tell you about him. 24 This God made the world and everything in it. He is Lord of heaven and earth, and he doesn’t live in temples built by human hands. 25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people.

Perhaps even more to the point, consider what Jesus himself said in Mark 10:

32 The disciples were confused as Jesus led them toward Jerusalem, and his other followers were afraid. Once again, Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them what was going to happen to him. He said: 
33 We are now on our way to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses. They will sentence him to death and hand him over to foreigners,[d] 34 who will make fun of him and spit on him. They will beat him and kill him. But three days later he will rise to life. ........

You know that those foreigners who call themselves kings like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over the people they rule. 43 But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. 44 And if you want to be first, you must be everyone’s slave. 45 The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue[h] many people.

And, to round this off, a question:

1 Corinthians 1
20 What happened to those wise people? What happened to those experts in the Scriptures? What happened to the ones who think they have all the answers? Didn’t God show that the wisdom of this world is foolish? 21 God was wise and decided not to let the people of this world use their wisdom to learn about him.
Instead, God chose to save only those who believe the foolish message we preach.

Note: My original title was 'Full Time!', but of course it is not - yet (!).

And that mention of the right time reminds us of another part of the message (suggesting no one ever ha or had warrant to think there is plenty of time):
11 You know what sort of times we live in, and so you should live properly. It is time to wake up. You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord. 12 Night is almost over, and day will soon appear. We must stop behaving as people do in the dark and be ready to live in the light. (Romans 13)

Scripture quotations are from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.
* Dr Michael Scott, Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick, historian/presenter for Jesus: Rise to Power, (National Geographic Channel), in episode 'Messiahs'.