The Birth of Jesus
[Luke chapter 2, verses 1-24]
For today’s study we’ll be moving on to Luke chapter 2, or the story of Jesus’ birth. No matter what time of year you read this, this classic and timeless story of everything surrounding the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a story for all seasons. The birth of Christ Jesus is the beginning of the salvation story of all humankind. Our Savior’s birth is also the starting point of all our eternities. It is and will always remain the only way we can have reconciliation with our Creator. Without Christ, we are nothing! Bearing this in mind, let’s initialize our study of the first half of Luke chapter two, beginning with verse one.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up to the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem in the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over the flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the Town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.’” (Luke chapter 1, verses 1-12)
All this took place somewhere between the years 3BC and 3AD, no one knows the exact date. But there is a discrepancy of approximately 6 years between the ancient Hebrew calendar and the modern Western calendar that we use today. Just to illustrate how much harder life was back then than it is today, Joseph and an evidently very pregnant Mary had to walk all the way back to Joseph’s home town to be registered for Caesar Augustus’ census, a distance of at least 150 miles. There were no cars, the only transportation was on horseback or by donkey. There was no electricity either, so having an Internet was inconceivable. Let this be an illustration of how fortunate we are today, having all those luxuries at our fingertips, sometimes literally.
The other thing I am compelled to point out is the circumstances and deep symbolism surrounding the birth of our Lord. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.” What kind of cloths were those which Mary used, and what exactly is a ‘manger’? A manger is a feeding trough for farm animals, such as cattle, pigs or sheep, among others. So it’s safe to say that Joseph and Mary were in a barn or maybe a hayloft of some kind “because there was no room for them at the inn”. The symbolism of the infant Jesus being laid in a feeding trough is impossible to ignore (“I am the bread of life” – Jesus Christ). So are the cloths, which were used for milking cows and goats. They symbolize the extremely humble circumstances of our Savior’s birth. The cloths were basically rags. Joseph couldn’t run down to Wal Mart and buy diapers and a few ‘onesies’, as they’re called today. Mary and Joseph had to make do with what was available to them, and they apparently didn’t mind a bit.
I find it interesting that the news of Jesus’ birth was not announced in the Temple courts in Jerusalem, or in the palaces of the rulers, or even in the town squares. It was announced to some shepherds in the fields outside of town, in the countryside, to ordinary people rather than those who held positions of power and authority. All the power and authority of the world’s governments pales in comparison to that of Jesus Christ. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shown around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the Town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger.’” The “town of David” is, of course, Bethlehem, which is located in what is currently southeastern Israel. I find it interesting that there are so many Arabs who call this area part of “Palestine”, when it is in fact the ancestral land of Christ Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph, all of whom are documented Jews in our story. OK, so now that we’ve cleared up any questions about whose land this is, let’s move on to the second part of our study, beginning at verse 13.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’. When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen them, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had just heard or seen, which were just what they has been told.” (Luke 2, verses 13-20)
“‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests’.” Peace on earth? Today things are worse than ever. The US military, to use a contemporary example, is currently involved, directly or indirectly, in approximately 75 military conflicts of various kinds globally. This insistent tinkering with the affairs of countries all over the world proves that America is deliberately disobeying the Word of God. Otherwise, the majority of these wars would either not have happened at all, or would have been long since over with. Plus, there would be a lot of people still alive today who got killed in these conflicts. We all have to face up to the fact that America has a bunch of out-of-control psychopaths running the country. It no longer matters who we vote for, because our elected Congressional and Executive branches no longer represents regular Americans. They represent the military-industrial complex and the American police state. Moreover, I strongly suspect that much the same thing is happening all over the globe. But before I get too deep into that, let me continue this Bible study instead. For additional commentary about the other, check out my blogs either here or here.
So the shepherds who had just been visited by an angel decided it was in their best interest to go and see the infant Jesus. After all, they reasoned, they would never get this chance again, to see and behold the newborn Savior and holy Redeemer who was none other than Christ the Lord! And they never questioned what they had seen, either. If some farmhands making the modern equivalent of minimum wage knew what they were seeing, how much more should we believe – we who have internet access to almost limitless knowledge, plus electronic devices and motor vehicles that were inconceivable to these people? The same thing happened when they related to others what they had seen, as it is written, “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen them, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” As you can see, those who the shepherds told about the birth of Christ had no problem believing them either. Like the shepherds, their faith was instantaneous and unquestioning, just as every true believer should be. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had just heard or seen, which were just what they had been told.” That’s how they knew. Everything the angel told them happened exactly as he said it would, right down to the smallest detail. Only God can do that, and they knew it immediately. Having determined that this was so, let’s now conclude today’s study.
“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’ [Exodus 13: 2, 12]) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’ [Leviticus 12: 8]. (Luke 2: 21-24)
As I pointed out in a previous study, male circumcision on the eighth day after his birth was required in the Old Law in Genesis chapter 17 and verse 10. Luke wrote about this and all the other things to illustrate that Mary and Joseph followed the law to the very letter, making them blameless in God’s sight. That’s why God chose them to begin with. They also presented the baby Jesus to the Lord, as the Law of Moses required, as their first-born, and offered a sacrifice of “‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’”, but Luke’s gospel doesn’t say which of the two it was. Under the Old Law, a sacrifice of a lamb, a young heifer or a goat (“without spot or blemish”) was required of those who had herds of their own. But for those who were not in agriculture, such as those too poor to own any land, a pair of doves or pigeons was allowed as a substitute. It was right about this time that the next character in the story of Jesus’ birth enters the picture, a gentleman named Simeon. To find out who he was, and the role he played during the time Jesus was being presented at the Temple, stay tuned until next week, when we’ll pick up where we left off. Everybody enjoy your week, or what’s left of it, until next week’s study of the 2nd half of Luke chapter two. Shalom!