A Look at Luke and the Nativity

Luke was a gentile and his audince would have been mostly gentile readers.Luke also wrote the book of Acts, Lukes gospel and Acts are actually one work in two volumes. They are addressed to a “most excellent Theophlius” which would indicate that Theophlius was a high ranking Roman government offficial.Luke most likely wrote his gospel about 60 AD. Luke traveled with Paul extensively. Luke probably got his information from Mary and the Apsotles, which would make Lukes gospel an eyewitness account to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Though Luke himself was not an eyewtiness, his information comes from those that were. Last week we covered the account up to the birth of John the Baptist. John’s father was a preist named Zacharias and his mohter’s name was Elizabeth. Elizabeth was barren, God opened her womb in her old age and blessed them with a baby, the angel Gabriel announced to Zacahria that his wife, Elizabeth would have a baby and they would name him John. This child grew up to be John the Baptist. Zacharias did not believe the angel’s message and was stuck mute and deaf until the baby was born. Gabriel also appeared to Mary and informed that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. We also looked at the genealogy of Jesus found in Luke chapter 3. Again, Matthew also contains the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew is through Joseph, Luke is through Mary. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Now that we have reveiwd briefly lets get to the birth of Jesus!

In Luke Chapter 2, verses 1- 5 we have the census of Quirinus.

In verses 6-7 we see Jesus born in a stable

In verse 8-20 we see the sheperds in the field

In verses 21-38 we have the infant Jesus being presented at the temple and being circumsized.

Then the nativty account ends in v 39 with the family returning to Nazareth.

Before we get into the scripture we need to look at the location and historical context of the verses. We need to look at the two towns that are mentioned here, Bethelhem and Nazareth.

 

Bethlehem is six miles south of Jerusalem and was at one time called Ephrath. Bethlehem is also called the City of David because this is where Samuel anointed David as king. Rachel is buried in Bethlehem. Ruth’s father in law, Elimech was from Bethelhem. As was Ruth’s husbad, Boaz. If we look back at the genealogies we will see that Ruth and Boaz were King Davids, Great Grandparents. The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. ( Mica 5:2). and that is Bethlehem’s claim to fame. Herod ordered the killing of all male infants 2 years and under in Bethlehem in a futile attempt to kill the king of the Jews. Bethlehem is where the Church of the Nativty is located.

Nazareth- a small village and is where Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph. Nazareth is where the angel gabriel made the announcement to Mary. It is also where the Church of the Annunciation is located. Nazaruth is located in a basin on hillside and is 1,150 feet above sea level. Gath Heper is three miles away and was the home of the prophet Jonah. To the south of Nazareth is the Jezreel Valley. West of Nazareth is Mt Carmel where Elijah callled down fire from hevean in his contest with Baal. Now we need to look at some of the historical context and thus come to the scripture at hand.

 

 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.

Here in the first few verses we already uncover a difficulty- and that is exactly what it is- a difficulty- not an error. The Bible is the inerrant word of God. This was a census of the Roman Empire and was taken for taxation purposes. The difficulty is that the historical records of the Roman Empire place the census of Quirinius in AD 7, which is a decade or later after Jesus was born. This was problematic for a long time, but recently records have been found that show that Quirinuis was governor of Syria twice. If you notice Luke expressly states that this was the first census. This how the NLT renders Luke 2:1

 

 1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

It has also been discovered that people were required to go to their ancestral homes for this census. Once again, the Bible is a very accurate historical record that is constanlty being confirmed by archealogy. Nazareth is about 90 miles away from Bethlehem and that would have been at least three days travel for Mary and Joseph.

 

 4Joseph 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,[a] who was with child. 

 

Joseph and Mary made this trip together, this suggests that they were already married but had not yet consumated the marriage as stated in Matt 1:24,2. Also we need to remember the Mary was also descended from David. King David is the common ancestor of both Joseph and Mary.

24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[e] And he called His name JESUS.

 

We now come to verses 6 and 7:

 

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.

 

The phrase her “first born son” implies that Mary did later have other children. Swadling cloths were strips of cloth wrapped aropund a baby to keep the arms and legs straight. The word that has been tranlated as inn may mean either a public lodging place like our present day hotels and motels or it could mean a guest room built onto a private residence. This may have even been the home of relatives also of the Davidic line and the earlier arrival of other relatives crowded them out of the house into the barn or possibly even a cave. A manager is a feeding trough for animals this may indicate that Jesus was born in a stable in a barn. Many times the manger or feeding trough was carved into the walls of the cave. The Creator of the universe comes to earth in the most humble of circumstances And certainly not the best of conditions for Mary to deliver a baby in. In biblical times babies were not born in the sterile conditions of modern hopsitals, they were born in the home, where the floors were most likely dirt floors and farm animals often shared the same living quarters. The water during that time was usually impure and polluted which is why drinking water was often mixed with wine.This same water was used to cleanse the baby and the cloths used to wrap the babies in was washed in the same polluted water. The infant mortality rate in ancient cultures was often as high as 90%. The redemption ceremony of the firstborn male was not done until the baby was 30 days of age. If an infant survived the first 30 days of life the chances of growing to adulthood were good.

. This is certainly not the atomsphere that the Jews expected as the birth place ot the Messiah. They thought the Messianic king would have been born in royal surrondings as they were expecting a political kingdom not a spiritual one. This picutre of the baby Jesus born in the manger is beautiful to be sure but we cannot leave Him in the cradle, this baby grew and lived an amazing life, died for us, ascended into heaven and will come back to this earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

.

 

Now we come to verse and the shepherds in the field and angels announcing to them the birth of the Savior. With songs of praise and glory

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,[b] 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 bethe 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!”[c]

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[d] 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.

 

What a birth announcement! The shepherds were on the night watch to keep the robbers and predator animals away, in a field just a few miles east of the ancient town of Bethlehem. The glory here is the presence of light in the darkness. God dwells in unappraochable light and this light was evidence of His majestic presence. God reveals His Son to those we would least expect Him too. He did not reveal to the Jewish relgious leaders, but to poor shephers working the grave yard shift!The shepherd were greatly afraid. The people in the Bible that were confronted by God or His angels all had one consistent response- that of fear! And to each of them God had the same and consistent response- Do not be afraid. As soon as the realized that God had accepted them just as they were the and wanted to communicate with them , the fear subsided. He had given them the freedom to be His friends! Some of the people in the Bible that were confronted by God and were afraid are:

Abraham found in Gen 15:1

Moses found in Numbers 21:34 and Duet 3:2

Joshua found in Joshua 8:1

Jeremiah found Lamentations 3:57

Daniel found in Dan 10: 12,19

Zacharias found in Luke 1:13

Mary found in Luke 1:30

shepherds found in Luke 2:10

Peter found in Luke 5:10

Paul- found in Acts 27:23,24

John found  Revelation 1:17,18

 

Savior, Christ and Lord- These three title all perfectly decribe who Jesus is and his soverieng position. Savior -Thsi is what God is called in Luke 1:47 and is what Jesus is called here, the word Christ means the anointed, and here is referring to his royal messianic position. The word lord, was the title of a ruler. The heavenly hosts was an angelic choir, Glory is the praise that is given to God, goodwill toward men-people are the objects of God’s good will. This is a promise of goodwill and peace to those who welcome God’s God’s only Son into their hearts.

 

Circumcision of Jesus

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

According to Jewish law a boy was to be circumsized on the eighth day( Gen 17:12 and Lev 22:3)

Jerusalem was only 5 miles from Bethlehem

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”),[f] 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.”[g]

Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 

The purification ceremony refers to a ceremony which was performed 40 days after the birth of a son, where she was declared to be ceremonially clean again. That ceremony is found in Lev 12.

We can see by the offering that was brought that Joseph and Mary were by no means wealthy. We come now to two people that were in the Temple actually awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. Their names are Anna and Simeon. These two represent the best of OT Judaism. Each received a revelation from God concerning Jesus and his identity as Messiah. Luke goes to Mary and Joseph returning to Nazareth after the presentation in the Temple. Luke omits the events that are found in Mattew 2: 1-21, which are the visit of the Magi, the flight to Egypt and what is known as the slaugher of the Innocents.  

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