Around campfires and dinner tables, in market stalls and alley ways, a movement was forming. It was the year AD 6 in Palestine and the high priest Jozer ben Boethus had been working overtime to calm his people after the Romans issued their decree for all of Palestine to report to be taxed. To the Jewish mindset, it was a no-holds-barred move of domination and oppression. Subservience to an idolatrous regime which deified their emperors was a fundamental outrage to a people specially chosen to serve God alone. It was the antithesis of the very fabric of their spiritual and national mindset.
The high priest’s frenzied efforts to calm his people paid off. For the moment, outright revolt was avoided but around the campfires it simmered still. Eventually, it would take form in what Josephus called “The Fourth Philosophy”- the Zealots and their closely related commrades-in-arms, the Sicarii.
For the Zealots, lovers of freedom, alliance could be given to God and God alone. They were prepared to live out this conviction at any cost including, according to Josephus, the most torturous of deaths not only for themselves but for their family and friends as well. This sect, passionate in pursuit of freedom and allegiance to God, was formed in direct response to the census of AD 6.
At the heart of the Jewish national identity was the belief that they were unique among the peoples of the earth, chosen by God, for God alone. To the Jews the census was no small bookkeeping matter for the Roman government. It was outright slavery.
How poignant. At the very moment when the faithful in Israel would have most certainly begun looking for deliverance, a baby boy was born in Bethlehem, no ordinary child. He was the Son of God Himself, Messiah, born into the world just as the darkness of slavery began to descend on God’s chosen people once again.
His name was Yeshua- “God Rescues”.