SS Lesson for 12/25/2016
Devotional Scripture: Isa 9:6-7
The lesson teaches that God can do miracles to bring about salvation through The Savior’s Birth. The study's aim is to realize that God can do anything that is needed to bring about both His great eternal plans and our favorable eternal destinies. The study's application is to live every day in the light of God’s intervention in human history and in our personal destinies.
(Adapted from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator Commentary)
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
2:1-2. Jesus’ birth was dated by Luke as falling in the reign of Caesar Augustus, who was officially made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 b.c. and ruled to a.d. 14. Because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 b.c., Jesus was born before that time. The mention of Quirinius as governor of Syria poses a problem. He was governor in a.d. 6-7, much too late for Jesus’ birth. Therefore does the word first (prōtē) refer, as in the niv, to a first, that is, an earlier, census by Quirinius? If so, one would have to posit a previous governorship for Quirinius at about 4 b.c. Perhaps a better solution is to take “first” to mean “before,” as it does, for example, in John 15:18. Luke 2:2 would then read, “this was the census that took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria” (i.e., before a.d. 6).
2:3-5. For the census Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home. Joseph was a descendant of David (cf. 1:27), who was born in Bethlehem. Some have argued that it seems strange that people were not registered in the places where they currently lived. However, other instances of the same practice are known (see I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, pp. 101-2). Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have the Baby during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated at that event. Also both of them knew that the Child was the Messiah. They also would have known that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
2:6-7. The Child was born during their time in Bethlehem. The fact that Jesus was called Mary’s firstborn implies that later she had other children. The couple was housed in quarters which were not private. According to tradition, they were in a cave near the inn. The Child was placed... in a manger, from which livestock fed. Being wrapped in strips of cloth was important, for this was the way the shepherds would recognize the infant (v. 12). Some infants were bound up in that way to keep their limbs straight and unharmed.
2:8-14. An announcing angel and other angels appeared at night to a group of shepherds and heralded the birth of the Savior in the town of David, that is, Bethlehem (v. 4). The shepherds may have been caring for lambs which were destined for sacrifice during the time of Passover. The appearance of the angel and of the radiant glory of the Lord... terrified them. The Greek for “terrified” (lit., “they feared a great fear”) stresses the intensity of this fear. The angels’ message was comforting. The shepherds were told not to be afraid (cf. 1:13, 30). The message was that “a Savior,” Christ the Lord, was born. This was good news of great joy. Throughout Luke “joy” (chara) is often associated with salvation. This news was to be proclaimed to all the people. These were specifically the people of Israel, but perhaps Luke also hinted that the Savior would be for all mankind. The angel was then joined by a great company of other angels engaged in praising God in the highest. The niv’s on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests is preferred to the kjv’s “good will toward men.” God’s peace is not given to those who have good will, but to those who are recipients of God’s good will or favor.
2:15-20. The shepherds went to see the Baby, and they told what the angels had related to them. The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message and went to confirm it for themselves. This was much like the action of Mary after she had heard the message of Elizabeth. Such an attitude contrasts sharply with that of the religious leaders who knew where the Baby was to be born but did not take the time or the effort to confirm it for themselves (Matt. 2:5). After seeing the Baby, the shepherds were the first messengers to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah: they spread the word. Those who heard... were amazed (ethaumasan). The theme of amazement at the proclamation of the Messiah runs throughout the Book of Luke. (The Gr. verb thaumazō, “to be amazed, to wonder, to be astonished,” occurs in Luke 1:21, 63; 2:18, 33; 4:22; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14, 38; 20:26; 24:12, 41. Two other words for amazement were also used by Luke; see 2:48.) Mary reflected on this momentous event in history. Of all the women of Israel she was the mother of the Messiah! The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God, much as the angels had done (vv. 13-14).
The words from Luke 2:11 were spoken by an angel to a group of lowly shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary had already made their famous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the Lord Jesus had been born. The shepherds saw the glory of God in the night sky and received this angelic message explaining the extraordinary events that had occurred. What can turn a group of common shepherds into a mighty band of evangelists (cf. Luke 2:17)? The same thing that can transform you and me: a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The shepherds heard from an angel of God that the Savior was born, and then they met Him. The consequence was a life-changing witness to the Lord Jesus' coming into the world. The shepherds doubtless understood the message of Luke 2:11. They were in the city of David; it is likely that they knew the history of King David and God's dealings with His chosen people. The angel used the language of the prophets and the Old Testament, invoking the memories of the messianic promises. The newborn Child was the Christ, the long-expected Messiah. It was a glorious moment. The language used invoked the coming gospel age. The Savior was born—a Savior who would be preached in the centuries to come in every corner of the earth, changing countless lives and delivering all who believe from the darkness of sin into the light of redemption. Jesus came to earth to be proclaimed, as the early reaction of the shepherds teaches us. We also see the Savior referred to in this text as the Lord. How could we forget that word? Lord, Master, Deity, King—all these names and titles belong to Him. He is Lord of creation. He is Lord of the church. He is Lord of every man, woman, and child. He is God's own incarnation. No wonder an encounter with Him is so life-changing! Even when the shepherds met Jesus in His infancy, the experience was overwhelming. Their lives undoubtedly were changed forever; meanwhile, His mother "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). The shepherds became the first evangelists, and Mary became the Lord's first devoted follower. Have we pondered lately the greatness of the Lord's coming into the world? Have we sought to encounter Him afresh? The Christmas season affords us the opportunity to meditate on the coming of the long-expected Messiah, who brings light into this dark world. Do we need light in our lives? Do we need purpose and direction? Do we need hope? Do we need peace and joy? Look to the Lord Jesus as the humble shepherds did. Meet with Him. Thank Him for His coming, for His gospel, for His salvation, for His love, and for His soon return, when we shall meet Him face-to-face. Our culture bombards us with many truth claims, many of them quite frivolous and even harmful. Well, the events of Christmas point to the most important of all truths. This is a life-changing reality. It brings salvation to all who believe. It brings purpose to all who desire to serve the Lord. The merciful God came into a harsh and difficult world. This changes everything.
New parents are eager to announce the arrival of their precious newborn. They want to shout from the housetops “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Whether by telephone, e-mail, social media, written letters, or word of mouth, the news travels. The news of Jesus’ birth also spread rapidly, but with a difference: it did not travel at the initiative of parents Mary and Joseph. Rather, the news traveled first at God’s initiative, then at the initiative of shepherds. The news of Christ’s birth is indeed news to be celebrated in our hearts today! But doing so is only half the task. The other half is to spread this news to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19) from generation to generation. This is news that never grows old. This Christmas season we can choose to respond in awe and wonder yet again to the fact that God’s Son took on flesh to live among us, beginning his earthly life as an ordinary baby. He did so that he might offer the extraordinary gift of salvation to all who are willing to receive it. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15), the gift of “surpassing grace” (9:14b) that is made available by the arrival of Jesus! Today’s text paints the scene in which the news of Christ’s birth first begins to spread. As we consider reactions and responses on that long-ago night, we are reminded that we have the privilege of evaluating our own at this time each year.
God brought about the birth of Christ by perfect and completed timing (Galatians 4:4, 5). The timing related closely with God’s decision regarding the ideal place. Perfect time and perfect place intersected in the context of the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1), originally known as Gaius Octavius, who was emperor from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. The reign of Augustus saw the beginning of the so-called Pax Romana, or Roman Peace. Since the empire was largely free of military conflict during this time, the good news of Jesus the Christ could spread more rapidly. Little did anyone at the time know, however, that in Jesus’ birth God was inaugurating a kingdom not only of peace but a kingdom never to be destroyed; this was to fulfill Daniel 2:44 (compare Daniel 7:27; Luke 1:33). God even used Roman taxation policy to fulfill prophecy regarding the perfect place for Jesus’ birth: Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; compare Matthew 2:3-6; Luke 2:1-5). The fact that the Hebrew word Bethlehem means “house of bread” adds power to the imagery of the one sent to be “the bread of life” (John 6:35). The life he brought was deliverance from sin (Matthew 1:21). The Son arrived in one of the most humble ways possible: by being born to a young peasant woman who had to give birth in less than ideal surroundings. Most of us cannot imagine any newborn child—let alone the Son of God—being placed “in a manger” (Luke 2:7a), which is a feeding trough for animals! Since “there was no guest room available for them” (2:7b), the Plan B of Joseph and Mary has resulted in the popular depictions of Jesus’ birth in a stable. It was in such a context that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). What a lowly beginning for the Son of God’s ministry!
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 clothes, 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!"
9 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"
7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
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.
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.
51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.
27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
There are four lessons which I wish to underscore here, which I believe are taught in our text. Let us prayerfully consider what God has to say to us from this passage.
(1) The sovereignty of God in history. Luke is a historian, and his historical account of the birth of Christ surely seeks to demonstrate the sovereignty of God in history. In the first 7 verses of the text, everything is viewed solely through a “secular” grid. A pagan potentate makes a decree, and the Israelites comply with it by registering in the town of their birth. In the process, a pregnant woman is forced to make a long journey with her husband, and to bear the child far from home and without the conveniences of a home.
Luke then lifts the veil, showing us that all of these seemingly sad events occur in order that God’s Messiah might be born in the vicinity of some shepherds, and in conditions which set Him apart from all other babies in Bethlehem. These shepherds are guided to the Messiah by a divinely appointed angel and an angel choir, so that they serve to edify and encourage Mary and Joseph and to announce Messiah’s birth to all who live in that area.
You will note that no mention is made of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2 is specifically mentioned by Luke because the recipient of the account, Theophilus, is a Gentile, who probably holds a high-level political position. While Theophilus would not be particularly in the prophetic fulfillment aspect of the birth account of Luke, he would be greatly impressed to learn that God is sovereign, and thus able to achieve His purposes and fulfill His promises by means of pagan powers, even the highest political power of that day—Caesar. Theophilus would be very impressed by this fact, which Luke is careful to reveal.
(2) Luke provides us with a lesson in the communication of the gospel. Luke is writing an account of the gospel here, and in doing this very well he provides us with some lessons in communicating the gospel to others. Luke passed up the opportunity to highlight the fulfillment of Micah 5:2 because it would not have as much impact on his Gentile recipient as it would have had on a Jew. Luke emphasized the sovereignty of God over history and over a heathen king, which would have had a great impact on Theophilus. In what he has done and not done Luke teaches us that we dare not change the gospel, but we should carefully chose to focus on those details of the gospel which will have the greatest impact on our audience. Thus, the need for more than one gospel is once again apparent.
(3) Luke’s account of the birth of Christ reminds us of the principle of proportion. We have already pointed out that Luke alone records the details of our Lord’s birth. Only one gospel in four describes the birth of Christ, while all four carefully depict His death. To press this point further, only a very few verses describe the events surrounding the birth of Christ while several chapters of each gospel are devoted to a description of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Lord. The principle of proportion teaches us that much time and space is devoted to what is most important, while little time and space is given to that which is of lessor import. On the basis of this simple principle we would have to conclude that the death of Christ is more important to the gospel writers than His birth. Why is this so? Because it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that saves us, not the babyhood of Christ. Granted, Christ had to take on human flesh before He could reveal God to men and save them, but it is His atoning work on the cross of Calvary that saves us.
Why, then, is the Christmas story so important to many today, even those who do not believe in Christ for salvation? Because, I fear, the babe in the manger is far less threatening than the Christ of the later gospels, who interprets and applies the Law, who condemns sin and who speaks of faith in His blood. The baby in the manger is sweet and cuddley, and “controllable.” The baby in the manger is a kind of “God in the box,” a God whom we are comfortable to approach, to think about, even to worship. But the Christ hanging on the cross is not a pretty picture, He is not one to whom we are drawn, who evokes in us warm and fuzzy feelings. Many have made much, too much, of the babe in the manger because this is the kind of “god” they wish to serve, a “god” who is weak, who is helpless, who needs us, rather than a God who is sovereign, and who demands our obedience, our worship, our all.
What kind of God do you serve, my friend? What is the Christ like whom you worship? Worshipping the “babe in the manger” is not enough, for this is only the way He came. The way He will be for all eternity is the way He is described by John in the book of Revelation:
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, AND EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM, EVEN THOSE WHO PIERCED HIM; AND ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN OVER HIM. Even so. Amen (Rev. 1:4-7).
According to Revelation and the prophecies of the Bible, the Jesus who came the first time as a little baby, is coming again, as an avenger and as a righteous judge, to punish the wicked and to reward the righteous. This may not be the kind of Jesus you wish to think of or to serve, but it is the same Jesus that came to Bethlehem. His second coming will be vastly different from His first appearance. Then, He came to humble himself, to die on the cross, and to save. Next time, He comes to judge. Are you ready to face this Jesus, to fall before Him in worship? This is the Jesus of the manger. This is the coming King. I urge you to accept Christ as He came the first time, as your Savior, and then to wait for Him eagerly, to come the second time, to make things right, to establish His kingdom on earth, and to rule over all creation. Let us learn from Luke’s account that the babe in the manger is the Savior of the world, whom we must accept as our Savior.
(4) Finally, we learn that God’s purposes are often achieved through suffering, and that God’s purposes in our suffering are often not immediately apparent. All of the suffering, inconvenience, and discomfort that was occasioned by the decree of Caesar was not immediately recognized as the sovereign hand of a loving God, who was bringing about His purposes, in a way that was for the good of those who suffered. Let us learn from Mary and Joseph that those seemingly “secular” sufferings of life are most often instruments in the hand of God, which time or eternity will make clear to us.
(Adapted from URL:https://bible.org/seriespage/4-birth-messiah-luke-21-20)
We too can become messengers of the gospel without changing our earthly vocations. Although we have not had the experience of the shepherds who were privileged to talk about what they witnessed personally, we should recall Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). We do not wait for a glorious interruption on the order of the one experienced by the shepherds before getting started. God can indeed provide an interruption of such a magnitude yet today, but it’s much more likely he will try to get our attention in ways more subtle. For instance, an open door of opportunity to bring the comfort of Christ to a depressed colleague may present itself suddenly during the course of an otherwise ordinary day. God can and does interrupt ordinary days with glorious opportunities. Expect them!
1. God will use us as we remain faithful in our calling (Luke 2:8-9; cf. 19:13)
2. God's good news is for everyone (2:10-11)
3. God does not play hide-and-seek. He will lead us to our destination (Luke 2:12; cf. Prov. 3:6)
4. God's awesome power and authority command praise (Luke 2:13-14; cf. Rev. 5:13)
5. We should want to investigate the things of God with great interest (Luke 2:15-16)
6. We should be willing witnesses for God (vss. 17-19)
7. Seeing God's will fulfilled brings rejoicing (vs. 20)