The world that Jesus entered was cruel and inhumane. Slaves composed one half of the Roman empire’s population. Thousands of gladiators were murdered every year in the Roman Colosseum simply as a spectator sport. Infanticide was a commonly accepted practice throughout the ancient world. Children were the property of the fathers, and they could be killed with impunity. Hospitals were unknown. The Romans considered helping a sick person as a sign of human weakness. The Irish sacrificed prisoners of war to the war gods and sacrificed newborns to the harvest gods. The Aztecs and Mayans practiced daily human sacrifices on a massive scale. They frequently tortured their victims before sacrificing them on altars to their sun and war gods. The Prussians, Lithuanians, Chinese, Mongolians, and others also practiced human sacrifice. Cannibalism was rampant throughout Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Life was cheap. The world was dark.
But a light pierced the darkness at the birth of the babe in Bethlehem. He illuminated the night. He said: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” His life and teachings transformed whole societies. The individual’s worth was elevated. Life was no longer cheap.
Instead of killing and sacrificing one’s enemies, Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
Instead of disposing of unwanted babies and children, Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Instead of ignoring the sick and wounded, Jesus said, “Heal the sick” and “Blessed are the merciful.”
However, He came not just to transform societies but to transform individual hearts. He wanted to reconcile man to God, but He requires a life yielded to Him so that man might gain eternal life. As He said in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
A light led wise men to Jesus, and Jesus led wise men to the light. He still does.