It is almost certain that Caesar Augustus never heard of Jesus of Nazareth during his entire life. Yet the ripple effect of Augustus’s actions would affect Jesus, who would forever change the world—including the Roman Empire over which Augustus once ruled.
Augustus was the distant nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, the first emperor of Rome. After Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Augustus defeated his rivals in a series of battles to secure his own rule as emperor.
Augustus’s reach as emperor extended all the way from Spain to the distant little territory of Palestine, the land of Israel. During his reign as emperor (27 BC to AD 14), Augustus unquestionably achieved many great things and changed the world by his accomplishments, yet it was something so simple as a census that forever linked him with the very birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Around 5 BC a census ordered by Augustus led Joseph and his wife, Mary, to return to Bethlehem, his ancestral home (Luke 2:1–7). While they were there, Jesus was born, which fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah’s birthplace (Micah 5:2).
Augustus never had any idea what effect his census would have on the future of the world, but that just further demonstrates how amazing our God is—that He can orchestrate such complex and minute details as the ordering of a census at just the right time to fulfill His perfect will for His people.