THE LIFE OF CHRIST

PART 6

 

Today in our series on The Life of Christ our lesson will mainly come from Luke 2. However, before we get there, we must first look at a few verses from the Book of Matthew because it describes what happens after Mary is pregnant with Jesus.

 

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

 

This happens some time after Mary gets back from visiting her cousin Elizabeth. As we learned last week, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would become pregnant with the Son of God. Matthew points this out as well, as he shows that she became pregnant before she had sexual relations with Joseph or anyone else for that matter. The Holy Spirit is the one that made this miraculous conception possible.

 

As I pointed out last week, betrothal was like they were married except they did not live with each other nor were they allowed to lie with each other. Even our text calls Joseph her husband. Joseph had the right to expose her and have her put to death as we read in:

 

Deuteronomy 22:23 " If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her,24 "then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor's wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.

 

Instead, he was going to put her away that is divorcing her secretly apparently without revealing why. He was certainly a merciful man, perhaps motivated by his deep love for Mary.

 

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

 

The angel is not identified, but it was probably Gabriel. His mission was to inform Joseph that the child she has did not come from a man but came by the Holy Spirit. He tells him is name is to be Jesus, which means salvation or Savior, which is a fitting meaning since He would save us from our sins.

 

The angel confirms that Mary was a virgin and that this miraculous conception is the fulfillment of Isa. 7:14. As Isaiah said some 700 years earlier a son would be born of a virgin, and His name would be Immanuel, which means God with us or God in the flesh, and that is exactly what Jesus was because He was not just a mere man. I cannot even begin to imagine the thoughts and the emotions that Joseph was going through at that moment, but what an amazing event it was. What we do know is that Joseph accepts what the angel says as being truth as our next verses reveal.

 

Matthew 1:24 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. And he called His name JESUS.

 

While this had never happened in the history of man, Joseph accepted it as truth and never looked back. He did not know Mary until Jesus was born. Is it strange that the Catholics will claim that she remained a virgin even though it says right here that Joseph did not know her till Jesus was born. Other things that indicate that she did not remain a virgin and had more children is that Jesus is called her firstborn, which would imply there would be more. We also learn from Matthew 13:55-56 that Jesus had 4 brothers and some sisters.

 

Now letís go to Lukeís account.

 

Luke 2:1 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.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.

 

Thanks to Luke, we can see Godís providence at work to fulfill the prophecy of:

 

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."

 

If the Romans had not made this decree, Joseph nor Mary would have been in Bethlehem at the time of Jesusí birth, which would have made God wrong. When it refers to all the world, it is referring to the known civilized world, which just happen to be under Roman rule.So, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary made their way to Bethlehem. While they were there, Micahís prophecy was fulfilled because Jesus was born.

 

There was no room for them in the inn so that had to stay in the stable and Jesus was laid in a feeding trough. Just to give you one example of how the Holy Spirit would allow the writers of the N.T. to use their own personality and vocabulary, the term swaddling clothes is a medical term, which means, ďto strap or wrap with stripsĒ (Strongs). These are the kind of medical terms we would expect Luke touse since he was a doctor. It is hard to imagine someone as important as Jesus would have such a lowly birth, but that is that is the way it was intended. No doubt, this was one of the reasons the Jews had a hard time accepting Jesus for who He was because many envisioned Him perhaps being born in royalty or some majestic place. Manís idea of the Messiah and Godís idea were completely opposite. As we make our through this series, we will more things the Jews expected about the Messiah that were simply misunderstood on their part.

 

Luke 2:8 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!"

 

This was a common job during those days. Shepherds would keep watch over the flock, and they would live out in the field with the animals. Why these particular shepherds were chosen to witness the newly born Son of God, I am not sure, but what a night that would have been for these men. Imagine being out in the field with it being dark out and all of a sudden and angel is standing before you and then a light shining around you. Like these shepherds, I would be afraid too. Once again, we see the angel having to try and calm down those he encounters.

 

In this announcement the angel makes, we have a clue that Jesusí life would be for Jews and Gentiles because the angel said that good news would bring great joy to all people. He announces the birth of Jesus and where He was born, which was the city of David. He calls Jesus a Savior, which means deliverer. He calls Him Christ, which means anointed one. He calls Him Lord, which means Ruler.

 

The angel wants the men to go see the Son of God. The sign they are to look for is Him being wrapped in swaddling cloths, which was a common practice for any baby, but they would also find Him lying in a feed trough. If all this was not overwhelming enough, without warning a multitude of heavenly host appear with the angel and start praising God for the birth of Jesus because they know that He would bring salvation to man. The angels shouted for joy at creation (Job 38:7) now they are shouting for joy because the Savior has come to the earth.

 

I want to make two quick points about when all this happened or perhaps when it did not happen. Earlier, we see Joseph and Mary having to go to Bethlehem for the census. People did not travel very much during the winter months because it would be hard and dangerous, so it makes sense that the Romans would not have made people travel to their home towns during the winter months, which would rule out December being the month Jesus was born. Also, Shepherds would not be staying out in the field with the animals during the winter months either, so evidence is stacked against Jesus being born during the winter months. Based on other evidence I presented last week puts Jesusí birth sometime around September or March. The date of His birth is not that important nor are we taught to celebrate His birthday as religious Holiday. Instead, we are taught to remember His death every Lordís day as we partake of the Lordís Supper.

 

Luke 2:15 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.

 

After seeing the angel and the glory of God followed by these heavenly host praising God, they all leave and go back to heaven. The shining light would be gone and the shepherds would be left standing there in awe. These men were excited and eager to go see the visible evidence of this newborn child. As fast as they could, they went and found the Son of God lying in a manger. Once they saw Him, they spread the wonderful news that their Messiah had arrived. Should we not have the same desire and zeal they had about telling others about Jesus?

 

When people heard what the shepherds said it caused them marvel or be amazed. What an amazing proclamation this was because the prophecy was being fulfilled about the Messiah that would come and bring salvation to all.

 

Mary was taking all this in, which I believe included everything she had experienced. She continued to think on these things. Who wouldnít! The shepherds return back to their duty glorifying and praising God for everything they had seen and heard. That would be an event that would never be forgotten by them.

 

Luke 2:21 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.

 

As you would expect, Jesus was circumcised on the 8thday as the Law of Moses commanded, and His parents called Him Jesus as Gabriel instructed them.

 

Luke 2:22 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 Lord23 (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."

 

The days of purification were 40 days for a son and 80 days for a daughter as can be seen in:

 

Leviticus 12:1 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.

 

She was considered unclean until this purification process was complete. This purification process would give her time to recover from giving birth before she entered the temple. Once she was considered clean, a sacrifice was required according to:

 

Leviticus 12:6 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.' "

 

If they were not poor, they were to offer up a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering and a pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering. Those who were poor, like Jesusí parents, were allowed to offer up to two young pigeons or two turtle doves. Our Savior was born in poverty, which brings some extra meaning to:

 

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

 

Luke 2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law,28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."

 

Simeon was a just man who lived carefully by the Law of Moses. He looked forward to the day that the Messiah would come, and received a great blessing in that Holy Spirit let him know that he would not die before he saw Jesus. The Holy Sprit was active during this time and He led Simeon into the temple so that he could finally see with his eyes what he had longed for. When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in the temple, Simeon was right there and knew exactly who this child was.

 

I can image the joyful look in Simeonís face as he held the Son of God in hands and peered into His eyes as He blessed God. He had seen what he wanted to see and now he could die in peace because he knew that our Saviour was here. He knew something that would take a long time for people during that time to accept, which was that Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles because He did not just come to save the Jews, He came to save all those who would accept the salvation He has to offer. When it says that He is the glory of His people, He was because He came through His people. What a shame it was later on that many of His own people rejected Him and continued to reject Him even though He came through them. If they had only understood as Simeon did, things would have been much different for the Jews.

 

Luke 2:33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.

 

I like Childersí statement about this verse:

 

Simeon was not telling Joseph and Mary anything they had not previously learned about Jesus. They marvelled, rather, that these truths should come to them from a stranger and under such circumstances. The marvel to them, and to us, is that everything that was said by all of God's messengers harmonized so perfectly.  Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 453.

 

Luke 2:34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against35 "(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

 

Simeon speaks directly to Mary. Those who would fall would be those who rejected Jesus and His message. Those who would rise would be those who accepted Jesus as being the Son of God and obeyed the gospel. Many have spoken against Jesus and all that He did. He still has His critics today despite all the evidence of His existence and Deity. Verse 35 is a prophecy to Mary about how she will suffer great pain like a sword being thrust through her soul. This prophecy came to pass as she had to watch as her Son was crucified on the cross. I find it interesting that he said this to Mary but not Joseph because this prophecy meant that Mary would be alive to see her Son die, but from the best we can tell, Joseph dies before this happens.

 

Luke 2:36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

 

Now we have a prophetess described who makes a similar statement about Jesus that Simeon did. There are several other prophetesses mentioned in Scripture such as Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Isaiahís wife, and the four daughters of Philip. God used women to proclaim His Word as well. While women are not to be elders or preach the Word of God publicly before men and women, they are can still teach women and children. They can teach their husbands by example and help teach men in a private setting without usurping authority over them as Priscilla did with her husband as they spoke with Apollos in private (Acts 18:24-26). So, there is much that women can do in the kingdom to help spread the good news of Jesus.

 

Anna was from the tribe Asher, which is one the supposed lost 10 tribes. While those 10 tribes were certainly scattered in the day, they were not completely vanished, and Anna is proof of that. Now some Jews like to claim that they are part of a certain tribe, but the truth of the matter is there is no way for a Jew to prove this because all the records of who belonged to what tribe was destroyed in A.D. 70.

 

It is possible that our verse is saying that Anna was 84 years old, but is generally believed this is speaking of how long she had been a widow. Our verse shows that she was married for 7 years. So, it's possible that she was little over 100 years old. Despite her old age, she did not cease to miss an opportunity to be at the temple to serve God with fasting and prayer. She serves as an example to all that you are never too old to serve the Lord as long as you are able. She is also given the same understanding that Simeon had about who Jesus was and what He meant to us all. She too thanked the Lord, and we today should not cease thanking the Lord for Jesus and all that He did for us.

 

Luke 2:39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

 

Luke does not mention their trip to Egypt, but it is mentioned in the Book of Matthew, which we will look at next week, but Luke does summarize the growth and development of Jesusí first 12 years of life.

 

According to Boles, there were 7 stages to the development of a Jewish child that Jesus would have gone through. He says:

 

1.      The newborn babe (Isa. 9:6)

2.      The suckling (Isa. 11:8)

3.      The suckling beginning to ask for food (Lam. 4:4)

4.      The weaned child (Isa. 28:9)

5.      The child clinging to its mother (Jer. 40:7)

6.      The child becoming firm and strong (Isa. 7:14)

7.      The child becoming free and independent (Isa. 31:8)

 

Jesus went through all of the stages as part of growing up as a human. Next week, we will continue to look at more of the early life of Jesus, what little there is. If you would like to get a jump start on it, please read Matthew 2 and then the rest of Luke 2 starting in verse 42. While we would all like to know more about Jesusí early life, I am thankful for what we do have because it is enough to show that Jesus is the Son of God and that He came to this earth by being born of a virgin for the sole purpose to seek and save the lost and to become the ultimate sacrifice for mankind. Let us never cease to remind ourselves of how much God loves us and what Jesus was willing to do for us. Let us never cease telling people about the wonderful story about Jesus.