Friday, December 24, 2010

Luke 2 –The Birth of Jesus

[Of the 4 gospels Matthew and Luke tell us the most about Jesus Birth. Mark opens with the ministry of John the Baptist, and John gives us the metaphysics of the creator God becoming flesh in order to redeem mankind. Where we pick up the story in Luke follows 3 angelic visitations. The first is to Zacharias the priest and father of John the Baptist, he is visited by Gabriel to foretell the conception of his son by his elderly post menopausal, and barren wife Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary.

Next Gabriel appears to Mary to announce her even more miraculous conception of Jesus without the seed of a man. Then as Elizabeth is pregnant, she is visited by Mary and the unborn John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps in his mother's womb when Mary enters the house carrying the unborn baby Jesus inside of her. Elizabeth is 6 months ahead of Mary in her pregnancy, so Mary returns to Nazareth, from her visit to Elizabeth in Jerusalem when Elizabeth is full term and Mary is 3 months pregnant. All this is in Luke 1.

Mary comes home an unwed mother 3 months pregnant and scandal erupts. She is engaged, to Joseph, and when he finds out about her shame, he is heartbroken. No doubt following wise counsel he makes arrangements to nullify the marriage contract, when he is also visited by an Angel. Matthew 1 records this visitation but does not give the angel's name but it was probably again Gabriel. The angel tells Joseph that the child is not of a man but of the Holy Spirit, that this is the redemptive work of God. Joseph decides to trust God, take Mary to be his wife, and remain celibate until after she gives birth and is purified according to the Law. So Mary and Joseph follow God's plan, despite the public embarrassment they experienced.]

Luke 2

Christ Born of Mary

 1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

[This is one of the more problematic Bible passages for skeptics. The Bible does not say what year Jesus was born and the clues we are given make a confusing time line. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus ruled Rome from 27 BC to 14 AD, records show Quirinius was governor of Syria from 6-9 A.D., but Herod the Great King of Judea died in 4 B.C., and most scholars put the birth of Jesus from 5-4 B.C. So how do we make this fit when Herod who talks to the Wise men in Matthew 2, was dead before Quirinius was Governor? I see two possibilities. 1) The word "first" in verse 2 is the Greek word "protos" which also means "before". So verse 2 could mean the census has held "before Quirinius was Governor of Syria. 2) The secular records do not record who was governor of Syria 4-1 B.C., so it's possible that Quirinius either served two terms as governor, or was directed by Caesar to supervise the census in place of, or to assist some other governor possibly Varus who was governor until 4 B.C. Either is possible, I think the second is more likely.]

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

[A lot has been made of the "no room" theme but Bethlehem at this time was a small town of maybe 100 people. So imagine all your relatives show up at once, where will you put everyone in your house? Nazareth to Bethlehem is 90 miles; imagine ladies traveling 90 miles probably on a donkey while 9 months pregnant, then taking that last shelter available, an animal crib, maybe an open sided shed or even a partial cave; just in time to give birth. These are humble folks.]

Glory in the Highest

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
       14 " Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
[So while the savior of the world is born in a barn, the messengers of God announce it to homeless people. Could anything better demonstrate that God is "no respecter of persons". God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).]

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him,
they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

[I love that the shepherds witnessed, and worshiped. What better response to the revelation that messiah is come into the world?]

Circumcision of Jesus

21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

[If you look at Matthew 2, the wealthy wise men were a little late to the party. While the shepherds find the babe in a manger, the wise men find him in a house (verse 11) probably back in Nazareth. Though the wise men came bearing gifts, you can see from the instructions in Leviticus 12 that Mary and Joseph were still poor. ]

Leviticus 12

The Ritual After Childbirth

 1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
5 'But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
6 'When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Then he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female.
8 'And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.'"

[So 40 days after the birth of Jesus, they had no gold to exchange for a lamb, so they brought the offering allowed by law for those who were poor. So if you have a Nativity Scene at home with the wise men looking down on the manger, take them out, put them off to the side, they'll catch up later.

The other thing I see from Leviticus 12 is that a woman who had a son was purified in 40 days, but a woman who had a daughter was purified in 80 days. While I was thinking on this I remembered when Bro. Al teachers about Passover he finds all these symbols of Christ in the old Law and rituals. And I wondered if maybe God put this in the Law to teach all Jewish moms that they would be redeemed, by a male child of Israel?

God reaching down to us to redeem us is the real story of Christmas. In the garden of Eden, Satan proved he could corrupt what God had made. But when Jesus came in the flesh he proved that he could redeem what sin had corrupted. From the manger to the empty tomb, God did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jesus is Coming – Old Testament Prophecies

[Jesus is coming. Every Christian had heard this message before. Every generation since Jesus ascended including the Apostles has thought and lived as though Jesus could return at any time; in fact the Bible very much encourages even commands this philosophy. But sometimes people get discouraged thinking that it's been almost two thousand years since the resurrected Christ returned to heaven. Sometimes we look up and say "How long Lord?" this question is even prophesied in Revelation 6. This week we will look at the promise of Christ from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about our wait for Christ's return, we will look at the promise of his first coming, the Old Testament Prophecies where God promised or foretold that Messiah would come.

Time does not really permit that we could look at all the prophecies of Jesus. Some have counted over 300 prophecies from the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled. So we will look at a few today, and I'll provide a link showing more in the class notes I send out.

Speaking of a long wait, you can't get much earlier than the first human family; they were the first people to whom God revealed his plan.]

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity; Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."

[Jesus was the seed of a woman, but not of a man due to his miraculous virgin conception. This one was only partially fulfilled by the birth of Christ, in my opinion the last part is reserved for the final defeat of Satan, also prophesied for the end of days. Though some would argue that deal was sealed with the resurrection of Christ.]

Micah 5:2 " But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."

[Of course this one was fulfilled in Luke 2 when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but notice that Messiah had to be God incarnate, for no one else is eternal, as all things were made by him. Revelation 13 also tells us that the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world.]

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us).

[Again the virgin birth, and the proof that Messiah had to be God incarnate, and no one else. Jesus truly is "God with us".]


Isaiah 11:1-2 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

[Through Mary, Jesus was a descendent of Jesse; this passage was also quoted by Paul in Romans 15:12]

Isaiah 49:1-6 "Listen, O coastlands, to Me,
      And take heed, you peoples from afar!
      The LORD has called Me from the womb;
      From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.
       2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;
      In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me,
      And made Me a polished shaft;
      In His quiver He has hidden Me."
       3 " And He said to me,
      ' You are My servant, O Israel,
      In whom I will be glorified.'
       4 Then I said, 'I have labored in vain,
      I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain;
      Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD,
      And my work with my God.'"
       5 " And now the LORD says,
      Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
      To bring Jacob back to Him,
      So that Israel is gathered to Him
      (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD,
      And My God shall be My strength),
       6 Indeed He says,
      ' It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
      To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
      And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
      I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
      That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'"

[Jesus is a light to the Gentiles. Anthropology tells us most families or people groups have died off or been assimilated into others. Some ask would God really preserve a remnant of one family (Abraham) as distinctive, so that he could redeem them? Yes, he would; not because they were so virtuous, but because God promised. Moreover this passage shows that just redeeming Israel was too small a task for Messiah, but that Jesus would bring salvation "to the ends of the earth". Funny how that passage sounds a lot like the Great Commission.]


Isaiah 53:1-12

1 doubted by those who saw him

3 rejected by his people

5 punished for us

7 the uncomplaining Lamb

9 buried by the rich

12 bore our sins, numbered with transgressors

Isaiah 9:1-7

1 Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
      As when at first He lightly esteemed
      The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
      And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
      By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
      In Galilee of the Gentiles.
       2 The people who walked in darkness
      Have seen a great light;
      Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
      Upon them a light has shined.

[Zebulun and Naphtali were on the northern border of Galilee and were the first to be attacked each time an army came from the north. This is where Jesus began to preach after John the Baptist was jailed. Jesus quotes this passage in Mathew 4. This was one of the darkest places for the Jews, but it was where the Light of the World began to shine.]

       3 You have multiplied the nation
      And increased its joy;
      They rejoice before You
      According to the joy of harvest,
      As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
       4 For You have broken the yoke of his burden

      And the staff of his shoulder,
      The rod of his oppressor,
      As in the day of Midian.
       5 For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle,
      And garments rolled in blood,
      Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.


[Salvation is often explained in terms of slavery and freedom. When the Assyrians took captives they were know to literally put them in a yoke of bondage like a farm animal. This would be a physical restraint, but also a sign of public shame. So it is with sin, as every sin is eventually revealed and people are ashamed of what they have done. We saw this in Genesis when Adam and Eve tried to hide their shame from God. In Like 4 Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and affirmed that he had come to release man from the captivity of sin. Just as God broke the rod of oppression in Egypt, so the oppressors of the earth will also be destroyed in the final judgment.]

       6 For unto us a Child is born,
      Unto us a Son is given;
      And the government will be upon His shoulder.
      And His name will be called
      Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
       7 Of the increase of His government and peace
      There will be no end,
      Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
      To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
      From that time forward, even forever.
      The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

[I love this passage and it is often quoted this time of year. But don't just look at the beauty of the words, and miss the details of Messiah.

  1. Born as a child a descendent of David
  2. He will govern God's people in justice and peace
  3. He will be called "Wonderful", "Counselor", "Mighty God", "Everlasting Father", "Prince of Peace". Some get a little confused by Messiah as "Everlasting Father" but this simply reveals that he also is eternal, and one with the father, in other words, fully God.
  4. He will rule on the throne of David, establishing his perfect government on earth.
  5. All this is performed by the zeal of the Lord, not by the will of man. This is a work that the Lord has planned, put in motion, and will fulfill in himself.

The church has waited two thousand years for the second coming, but humanity waited thousands more for the first. Yet everything was accomplished in the fullness of time, just as God had promised. And that is exactly how the second coming will be also; God's plan, His purpose, His power, all in His time.


This Christmas we can have full confidence in the God who knows the future, and always keeps his promises. My Favorite genealogy in the Bible is Matthew 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. The Jews of Jesus time were always proud of saying "we are Abraham's children". But it was never the virtue of Abraham that drew God's attention to his children; it was always God's grace. You see it was Abraham was who God had promised. Abraham found grace just like Noah, just like David, just like us; because redemption was always God's plan.]