But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Gal. 4:4-5)
The time had fully come. The stage was set. The conditions were optimal for God’s plan of salvation to come to fruition.
It just didn’t look that way to the people on the scene.
The expanding military might of Rome had captured Jerusalem back in 63 BC. By 27 BC, Rome had become an empire which for its first two centuries would bring unprecedented peace and prosperity (known as the Pax Romana) within its vast borders. This stability, coupled with a well-engineered system of roads, would form the perfect backdrop for missionaries to carry the gospel. Latin was the official language throughout the empire, and Greek was also widely spoken, making communication in a common language possible. Under the common governance of Rome, the apostles and other missionaries would have recourse to Roman laws allowing religious freedom for Jews.
Like all occupied peoples, Judeans for the most part despised their conquerors. But the only way for the religious leadership to retain their influence was to cooperate with their political masters. Rome detested civil disorder and uprisings of any sort, and were quick to retaliate. Any revolt sparked by religion would result in the existing leaders getting burned.
And there had been such insurrections. Various self-proclaimed “messiahs” had appeared, sure they had been anointed by God to deliver their people from their political servitude to Rome. Each of them, along with their followers, expected God would intervene to defeat Roman rule and establish them on a new throne to usher in the kingdom of God. Instead, every one of them was wiped out.
As a result, “messiahs” were deeply suspect in the eyes of the religious rulers. Such men were a direct threat to their position. The more attention and followers they attracted, the more dangerous they were. Rome was not about to countenance a widespread revolt without taking away their power.
As for the ordinary people, their expectation was that the Messiah foretold by Scripture would be a political figure. He would rescue his people by establishing and securing God’s kingdom on earth. They couldn’t conceive of any other kind of deliverer, or any other method than popular revolt empowered by God.
(Whatever reasons Judas Iscariot had for what he would do, he may have agreed that only raising a revolt and overthrowing the Romans would bring Jesus to the throne, as the crowds wanted. When he saw Jesus refusing the opportunity while Jerusalem was crowded with worshippers, perhaps Judas thought he would force Jesus’ hand by bringing about His arrest. This would explain his later remorse and suicide.)
The set time had fully come. Jesus was about to intervene on behalf of people who couldn’t imagine the form that intervention would take. It would defy every sense of logic, run contrary to every expectation. Even His own followers, those closest to Him, could not understand, even though he told them plainly.
The set time had fully come.
All that remained depended fully on Jesus.