Leonard: Why was Jesus born?
I watched a documentary this week where Nicky Gumbel, an English Anglican Priest at Holy Trinity Brompton church in London, told his story about how he placed his faith in Jesus in 1974. In it he talks about how he was born into a family of trial lawyers (called barristers in England).
“My father was a secular Jew who survived the holocaust, my mother was nominally a Christian and I was an argumentative atheist.” One day he was frustrated to find out that some of his friends had become Christians “because they were such great people (thinking they were about to become crazy or something). He found an old Bible and began reading the New Testament. By the end of the week, he finished it (yep, a self proclaimed argumentative atheist read the entire New Testament in one week) and has now been a priest for a few decades. What I love the most about his interview is how many times he used the words “historical evidence.”
He said that, as a trial lawyer, he always had to make a decision on the evidence presented in the trials by people who were not witnesses to whatever had happened. Towards the end of his testimony he said, “I didn’t want to become a Christian because I imagined my life would be so boring. I thought that I should put off placing my faith in Jesus until my death bed but realized that I had to be intellectually honest with myself. I didn’t even believe there was a God but through Jesus I came to believe in God.” Historical evidence and “being intellectually honest” are such great words to describe the step of faith billions of people around the world will celebrate this week and coming weekend.
Sunday is referred to as Palm Sunday by many Christians. It commemorates the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem to kick off the Holy Week that leads up to his savage beating and murder on a cross (known as Good Friday). It just so happens that as the Jews celebrated Passover and slaughtered their sacrificial lambs (on Nisan 14 in the Jewish calendar, it falls on March 27 in our calendar), Jesus, the sacrificial “Lamb of God,” was slaughtered.
Oh, the timing and significance. There was also an eclipse as Jesus expired on the cross. In Genesis 1:14, God says that the stars are for “signs.” Based on the historical evidence for when this happened we come up with a date of April 3, 33 AD. When you check NASA’s website for what the sky looked like on that day at that time in Jerusalem, it confirms there was an eclipse (say what!).
What’s even more fascinating is when you take a look at Jesus’ birth. But not just at what’s recorded in the Bible, as Jewish history in Jerusalem and Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. You see, when Jews celebrated Passover, they would pour into Jerusalem from the rest of the country and they would need an unblemished male lamb about one year old to sacrifice. Where would thousands of Jews find thousands of lambs? In Bethlehem, just five miles away. I first heard the following when a friend of mine, Chris Bonta, sent the following information about four years ago:
To facilitate the 10,000 or so spotless male lambs needed each year for the Temple services, the priests ran a “sheep ranch” near Bethlehem where priests would oversee the birth and protection of the necessary quantity and quality of sheep. This ranch was on land that belonged to Boaz. You remember Boaz, from the Old Testament book of Ruth (Matthew 1:5). This property had, at the summit of the land, a tower (called a “mig-dawl’ ay-der’” in Hebrew) allowing watchmen to see the entire ranch, and be on the look out for hazards or predators. On the bottom floor of the mig-dawl’ ay-der was a large hollowed-out limestone “bowl” if you will, called a mar-bake’.
This mar-bake’ was filled with hay and served as a birthing center for the sheep to be used in the temple sacrifices. The smooth surface combined with the hay allowed a mother sheep to give birth to her baby without risking damage to the new born. After the lamb (a young sheep) was born, the shepherds would wrap, khat-oow’law in Greek, the baby in strips of linen (spar-gano’ in Greek New Testament) to further protect him. All this was done in an effort to keep him without spot or blemish and suitable for future use in God’s service.
I might suggest that the exact events of his birth were written before the world was created and are anything but an unfortunate accident caused by a narcissistic Roman Ruler.
You see, to fulfill the exact requirements of the te-med’ per the Torah, as Jesus said he would do, he would have needed to find himself in Bethlehem at his birth. He would have needed to be “born of a virgin.“ Check, we have that. He would have needed to be the first born, check, and a male, check.
But to fulfill the Torah completely, he could only have been born, just as all of the temple sacrifices were born, in the mar-bake’, or manger in English, of the mid-dawl ay-der, or flock tower, on the land of Boaz, in Bethlehem. He would have been khat-oow’-law spar-gano’ or swaddled in strips of linen. Luke 2:7 says, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped (khat-ooh’-law) him in swaddling (spar-gano’) clothes, and laid him in a manger; (mar-bake’ in Hebrew) because there was no room for them in the inn.” Fascinating!
Lest you think I am taking this a little too far, I draw your attention to Micah 4:8:
And thou, O mig-dawl; ay-der,
the strong hold of the daughter of Zion,
unto thee shall it come,
even the first dominion;
the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
The first coming of the Savior of the world must come from the mig-dawl’ ay-der’, and I submit not any flock tower, but this one. And of course, because God is nothing if not complete, he would have had his son born on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles proclaiming that this Earth is not our home. And as an extra nice touch his birth, just like his death, would be accompanied by an eclipse.
At the inn is the Greek word kat-al’-oo-mah, and is translated in other places as “guest room,“ inn is a bit of a stretch. Mary was very pregnant and, per Leviticus 15:19, explains that a woman with an issue of blood would be unclean, as would those in the house — problematical during a feast.
Then, as now, women go to a “birthing center” to have a baby, and then return after a period of time to the home with the new child. Mary could not have had the baby in the guest room of the house, and therefore would have gone to a birthing center to have the baby.
This property happened to have its own birthing center. Can you see how God orchestrated the events of the world from before the foundations of time that his son, called “The Lord is Salvation” in Hebrew (Yeshua/ Joshua) would be born in the only place on Earth he could be born and still fulfill the word of the Torah. For Jesus to be called “the Lamb of God,” he would have had to be born exactly as he was in the mar-bake’ of the mig-dawl ay-der” of the land belonging to Boaz, in Bethlehem (which means “the House of Bread”).
Now consider the ramifications of these two verses:
John 1:29 says, “The next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John 6:35 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life: he who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’”
How did the shepherds know which mar-bake’? There was only one mar-bake’ that produced the sheep for the Temple and the shepherds, including a young David in an earlier time, would need no directions to this place.
That is alot to take in and a fascinating history lesson, eh? My hope is that you enjoy Good Friday, the day in which we celebrate “The Lamb of God” taking our sin upon himself and then Resurrection Sunday, when He rose again to new life on the Jewish Holy Day of First Fruits, pointing forward to a time when many others will begin a new life. That is why Jesus was born.
Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org