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)



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