9. Jesus is born in Bethlehem: Luke 2:1-7
Caesar Augustus was ruler of the Roman Empire between 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. God used a secular ruler to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2. In the Roman Empire the census was taken every fourteen years for military and tax purposes. Joseph ancestral home was Bethlehem. Joseph was a descendant of David (1:27) who was born in Bethlehem. So they needed to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem (means "house of bread"). Usually it was just the Jewish male, but he traveled with Mary because she was so near to delivering her baby. Tradition tells us that Jesus was born in a cave near the inn. He was wrapped in strips of cloth which was a practice at that time for keeping limbs straight and protected.
10. Shepherds visit Jesus: Luke 2:8-20
How wonderful that angels would appear to poor, outcast shepherds. Their work made them ceremonially unclean. God calls the poor and lowly to Himself (Luke 1:51-53; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). This baby was also the Good Shepherd (John 10) and Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Matthias Stom (fl. 1615–1649)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Then a multitude of angels came praising God and announcing PEACE. Even though the Roman Peace ("Pax Romana") had been in effect since 27 B.C., there was really no peace. The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, (A.D. 55 - A.D. 135) once said:
While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 1, p. 176)The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, that is translated as eirḗnē in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), "has to denote, not merely rest, but a state of well-being or wholeness [emphasis mine], so that one can even be said to die in peace (as distinct from suffering violence). Nor is this well-being restricted to material welfare" (Theological dictionary of the New Testament, p. 208).
Let this all wash over you and soak in deeply. It is so easy to just gloss over this because you hear this so many times during Christmas. Jesus is our Peace! It is amazing!
Hans Holbein the Elder [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Did you notice that the word "law" is mentioned five times in this section? Jesus did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). Mary and Joseph followed the Law by the following ceremonies:
1) Circumcision and naming on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3, see the Genesis 17 post to learn more about circumcision).
2) Redemption of the firstborn - 33 days after circumcision, they were to present their firstborn male to God (Exodus 13:2,11-16; Numbers 18:15,16). The ceremony included buying back or "redeeming" from God through an offering.
2) Purification of mother - When the baby was 40 days old (80 for daughters), Mary was to make a a burnt and sin offering to the priest of the temple since birth caused a woman to be ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 12). After sacrifice, the priest would declare her clean. Joseph and Mary's offering of a dove instead of a lamb for the sin offering indicates that they were poor (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Simeon anticipated the "consolation of Israel" which means the Messiah, who would bring consolation (comfort) to God's people. Most of what he said is straightforward. The child was to be light and glory, but what does "cause the falling and rising of many in Israel" mean? The ones who followed Him would rise, but the ones who did not follow Him would fall.
Anna, the godly, fasting, and praying prophetess continued where Simeon left off praising God and telling all who were looking for redemption that the Messiah had come to redeem them! GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN/OVER THE HILLS AND EVERYWHERE/GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN/THAT JESUS CHRIST IS BORN! (Sorry, I digress!)
This section ends with Jesus going back to Nazareth (65 miles north of Jerusalem) to grow up becoming strong and increasing in wisdom with God's grace upon Him!
15. Jesus speaks with the religious teachers: 2:41-52
Fast forward 12 years, and we see Mary and Joseph making their yearly trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. This one day celebration was followed by the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Often the combined eight day celebration is called the Passover in the gospel accounts. (See a chart of all the Jewish feasts HERE. It will be a handy reference because you will read many things about the feasts.)
The feast commemorated the Lord's passing over the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:13) when the first born of all the Egyptians were destroyed. It is a reminder of God's great deliverance from the Egyptian bondage. It is one of three Feasts (the others being the Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles, Deuteronomy 16:16) in which every male was required to go to Jerusalem.
Jesus could have been in the front of the caravan with the women or in the back with the men since he was almost an adult. Therefore, it is conceivable that one parent would have assumed he was with the other one.
Temple courts were a place of learning. During the Passover, the most infamous rabbis would have been there teaching, and the subject of the Messiah would have probably been a regular topic of discussion. Jesus astounded them all.
Jesus' answer to Mary's question (Luke 2:48-49) indicates that He is the son of His true Father. He would do His Father's will when He was called to do so. In the meantime, God had for Jesus to be obedient to His earthly parents and increase in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).
The events of Jesus' life are silent until Jesus is about 30 years old. Stay tuned!
If you are reading along according to the schedule this year, Christmas is over, but Handel's Messiah is meant for enjoyment the year round (It was originally performed at Easter).
You probably know by now that I am a "Messiah nerd." I cannot get enough of this masterpiece, and I sing it almost daily. It is ALL Scripture! So, here is the part of the oratorio that cover the verses we just read:
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8)
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (Luke 2:9)
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10, 11)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, (Luke 2:13)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)