Jesus travelled even earlier in life than my daughter did. The emperor Augustus had ordered a worldwide census. Joseph was required to enroll at Bethlehem late in Mary’s pregnancy. It was a risky time to travel and much less comfortable than our jet ride to Bangkok. This “forced” journey provides a subtle yet powerful verification that Jesus is the Son of God.
Old Testament Prophecy and Jesus
Christians say that fulfilled Old Testament prophecy substantiates Jesus’ divinity. The mathematical probability of one person fulfilling multiple old prophecies is very slight. It is remarkable that one person’s life events aligned with so many centuries-old prognostications. Consider just this one regarding Jesus birthplace.
The Gospel writer Matthew states, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel.”  King Herod was hunting for the newborn boy who might one day threaten his reign. Where was the Messiah to be born? The experts in the Jewish law summoned to Herod quoted an Old Testament passage to answer his question. The Jews believed that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (left) near Jerusalem. It had been spoken by the prophet Micah more than 700 years earlier. The Jews believed that Micah 5:2 was a Messianic reference. It is interesting that Herod didn’t know about Micah’s forecast. It was well-known by those who were informed about the Scriptures. After seven centuries, it is astounding that Micah’s words still bore authority.
Bethlehem was not Jesus’ hometown. We know he grew up in Nazareth to the far north. Many assumed He was a native-born Nazarene, like his disciple Nathanael who said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” There is no record of Jesus telling his critics he was born in Bethlehem.
Critics discount Jesus’ fulfilling of prophecies by saying that he maneuvered his life to fulfill the predictions. He and his disciples found Old Testament verses that fit His life and applied them. In other words, the cart came before the horse. Two facts make this theory implausible. First, the Messianic passages were identified long before Jesus lifetime. That is why Herod’s counselors knew Bethlehem was his predicted birthplace. Second Jesus had no control over his birthplace. Mary and Joseph were already engaged when Gabriel, the angel, spoke to her about Jesus so Bethlehem was fixed as Joseph’s ancestral home.
The Providence of God
Perhaps God providentially guides our lives much more than we give Him credit for?
What are the odds that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? Miniscule. Of all the places in Israel, His parents went to Bethlehem just before he was born. Later the Jews who believed in the Messiah, such as the Gospel writer Matthew, made the connection. This was not a flashy proof of His identity like raising the dead. Yet it demonstrates the power of a sovereign God working over the centuries.
In the concluding article I’ll look at criticism that has arisen concerning Christ’s birthplace and time.