The birth of
Jesus (Luke 2:1-7)
Caesar Augustus (v. 1)
- Luke is the only Gospel writer who relates his narrative to dates of
world history. Caesar Augustus was the first emperor of Roman who lives
from 31 B. to AD 14. He expanded the empire to include all the
countries around the Mediterranean Sea including Israel.
The birthplace of Jesus Christ. Bethlehem was situated about
eight kilometres (five miles) south of Jerusalem in the district known
as Ephrathah in Judah. The prophet Micah in
Micah 5:2, predicted that
Bethlehem in Ephrathah would be the birthplace of the Messiah and not
the town of the same name in Zebulun in Galilee near Nazareth (Josh.
19:15). This prophecy of Micah is
quoted in Matthew 2:6. It is significant that the King of kings, who
was of the house of David, was born in David's ancestral home town (1 Samuel
did Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (vv.1-4) Where was the baby born?
Answer: Was a human
perspective, Mary and Joseph was required by ordered of the Roman
Emperor Augustus to return to their ancestral home for the purpose of
an empire wide census that was used for military and tax recording.
Because both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David, they would
have to return to the birth place of David which was Bethlehem (see 1 Samuel
16:1, 16). As a result Jesus was born when they had arrived at
Bethlehem. Behind the order of the Emperor was God's guiding hand and
timing that made possible the fullfilment of the prophecy in
Micah 5:2 that it would be in Bethlehem that the
promised eternal ruler would be born. Note that the prediction of Micah
5:2 indicates that the origins of this ruler would be "from of old,
from ancient times". This indicates that although Jesus was born into
history in Bethlehem ~ 700 after Micah wrote this verse, Jesus the son
of God already exist years before the time Micah. Here is a reference
to the existence of the son of God from eternity past.
Note: In John 8:57-58
Jesus said "before Abraham was born, I am" (NIV). In this Jesus claimed
to exist before the time of Abraham who live 2,000 years before His
birth. Jesus also claims to be the "I am" the name God gave to Moses
when he asked Him what God's name was (Exodus 3:13-14).
worshippers (Luke 2:8-20)
Shepherds - Men who took care of flocks of sheep. In this case they
lived near Bethlehem with was close to Jerusalem where the temple was
located. These sheep that they were taking care of may have been used
as part of the animal sacrifices for man's sins that were continually
being offered in the temple.
Why were the shepherds frightened (vv.
they saw the glory, holiness associated with the angels sent by God
from heaven they were overwhelmed with fear. Angel a spirit beings who
live in God's presence and reflect some of God's great purity and thus
reflect the authority of God Himself as ambassadors for Him. This again
demonstrates how far short of God's standards of justice, holiness and
moral purity mankind is by comparison even with lesser beings as
angels. We saw the same thing with a angel appeared to Mary in Chapter
What was the angel's good news (vv.10,11) ?
of the angels told the shepherds the good news (gospel) that all people
will know great joy because the long awaited promised Saviour was born.
The Saviour who would save mankind from death and judgement for their
rebellion against God. This Saviour is Christ the promised anointed
Messiah who would rule in justice and in truth. He is the Lord the
master who is King over all kings the final authority, God. This is the
greatest good news possible for this sick, suffering and evil world of
sinful mankind. He is the promised one of Genesis 3:15 who would by His
crucifixion would crush Satan's power in this world (see study on
What did the shepherds do after the
angels left (vv. 13-16)?
shepherds believed the angels message and wasted no time but hurried to
see this child, their Saviour the lamb (a young sheep) of God that
would take away the sins of the world (John
1:29; Isaiah 53:6-10). How appropriate it was that the first people
to hear the good news was those who took care of sheep.
How did everyone react to the news,
including Mary (vv.17-20)?
shepherds after seeing Jesus could not stop telling everyone about what
they had seen. Having seen the child themselves, they now had evidence
that would satisfy others and accordingly they became the first
preachers of the “gospel,” "the good news" and went and told others
that the Messiah had come. One of the first duties of those who are new
believers and a duty in which they delight, is to proclaim to others
what they have seen, felt and learned. It should be done in a proper
way and at the proper time but nothing can or should prevent a new
Christian from telling his feelings and views to others: his friends,
to his parents, to his brothers, and to his old friends.
laws obeyed (Luke 2:21-38)
Circumcision: Circumcision was
peculiarly, though not exclusively, a Jewish rite. It was enjoined upon
Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, by God, at the institution
and as the token of the covenant, which assured to him and his
descendants, the promise of the Messiah (Genesis 17:10-14).
It was, thus, made a necessary condition of Jewish nationality. Every
male child was to be circumcised when eight days old (Leviticus 12:3).
The cutting off all round of the foreskin (the projecting skin in the
male member) was a symbol of the removal of the corruption of a sinful
10:16; Jeremiah 4:4. The biblical notice of the rite describes it
as distinctively Jewish; so that, in the New Testament, "the
circumcision," and "the uncircumcision," (not circumcised) are
frequently used as synonyms for the Jews and the Gentiles. As a
rite of the church it ceased when the New Testament times began (Galatians
6:15; Colossians 3:11).
did Mary and Joseph do after His birth (v. 21-24)?
Answer: His parents followed
the religious practice of having the male child circumcised (see above)
on the eight day after His birth. Then later they offered the required
12:2-8) and dedicated Jesus to the Lord which was required for the
first born male (Exodus
13:12-13). In doing this we see that from birth Jesus obey all the
laws of God as indicated in the Old Testament.
men from the east worship Jesus
King Herod (the great) - is the
King mentioned at the birth of Jesus. He reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. He
is to be distinguished from the other Herods in the Bible. Herod was a
non-Jew who was appointed King of Judea by the Romans and reign during
the time of Jesus' birth. He was ruthless, murdering his wife, his
three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others. He
was also responsible for the deaths of the babies in Bethlehem
mentioned in Matthew 2.
Magi (Wise Men) - the
men from the East who were led by a star to come to Israel to worship
the infant Christ (Matt. 2:1, 7, 16). The role of the star in Matthew 2
suggests a connection with astrology. These astrologers, pursuing their
observations of the stars in the heavens, encountered a sign of God.
This does not mean that the Bible says that it is OK to be involved in
astrology but that God broke through their misguided system to make the
great event known. Note that we are not told the number of Magi who
came. Traditionally we consider that there was three because of the
three gifts that they brought (Matt. 2:11). The joy, rejoicing, worship, and gifts that
mark the response of these wise men to the birth of Jesus is quite a
contrast to the troubled state and murderous intent of Herod and his
advisers in Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1–12).
Gold - is associated with human wealth, power and authority.
from the Latin "to burn," "a mixture of gums or spices and the like,
used for the purpose of producing a perfume when burned"; or the
perfume itself of the spices, etc., burned in worship. Incense is
a type of perfume that is associated with the worship and prayer to
God. It was burned as an offering to God on the altar in the
tabernacle and the temple. The purpose of this incense offering was to
honour God. Incense symbolized and expressed the prayers of the Hebrew
people, which were considered a pleasant aroma offered to God.
a substance that is mentioned in Exodus
30:23 as one of the ingredients of
the "oil of holy ointment"; in Matt. 2:11 it was among the gifts
brought by the wise men to the infant Jesus; and in Mark
15:23 it is said that "wine
mingled with myrrh" was offered to, but refused by, our Lord on the
cross. Myrrh was also used for embalming of the dead. See John
Archelaus - (v. 22) Roman history
tell us that Archelaus, was one of the sons of Herod the Great and with
his brother, Antipas, was brought up at Rome. At the death of his
father King Herod, (B.C. 4), his kingdom was divided between his three
sons, Herod Antipas, Archelaus and Philip. Archelaus' portion of the
kingdom included the province Judea which included Bethlehem. Archelaus
possessed a cruel and tyrannical disposition similar to his father. At
one of the Passovers he caused 3,000 of the people to be put to death
in the temple and city. For his crimes, after he had reigned 9 years,
he was banished by Augustus, the Roman emperor, to Gaul, where he died.
Why was it
that the Magi came to Jerusalem to find Jesus (Matthew
Answer: Some how God had
communicated to these non-Jewish scholars from the east of Israel that
a special baby had just been born in Israel who would be a King in
Israel and whom all people should worship. The uniqueness of this child
was demonstrated by the appearance of a special star. Again the Old
Testament prophecies given to Abraham that one of his descendants would
bless the world or all mankind was starting to come true. Even at
Jesus' birth he was drawing the worship of scholars from non Jewish
Herod know how to answer the wise men's question (Matthew
2:4-6 and footnote and
Answer: Herod was not aware
of the teaching in the Old Testament to the promise of a Christ
(Messiah or special king in Israel) but he knew who to ask. He turned
to the experts in the law (the law of God which is another name for the
Old Testament). These exports were aware of the prophecy of Micah 5:2
which was written ~ 700 years before the time of King Herod. Micah
specifically mentioned the birth place as being in Bethlehem near
Jerusalem and not another Bethlehem in the area of the Sea of Galilee
in the North near the town of Nazareth.
Additional thoughts: It is
interesting to note that although the priests knew the promise of God,
they made not attempt to go and worship the Christ themselves. This is
consistent with the general disbelief of the religious leaders to the
claims of Jesus as we will see throughout the Gospels.
We read in
Luke 2:1-7 that
Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth in Northern Israel in the province of
Galilee. Why then was Jesus born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem in
the Southern province of Judah? How does the birth place of Jesus
relate to the promise of God to King David (2 Samuel 7:11-13, 16)?
When you consider the prophecy in Micah 5:2 and the actions of Caesar
Augustus the Roman Emperor, what does this tell us about the authority
and power of God?
Answer: From the genealogies
of Jesus in the books of Matthew and Luke we learn that both Jesus'
mother Mary and his adopted father Joseph were descendants of King
David. The promises in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah
indicates that the Messiah (Christ) would be born in the village were
King David was born. It is interesting that Mary and Joseph were not in
Bethlehem because they were trying to fulfill the prophecies but it was
because of the order of the Emperor in Rome. They were force to travel
south to Bethlehem because of the census that Caesar Augustus had
commanded. They were returning there because Bethlehem was Mary and
Joseph's ancestral home.
Additional thoughts: We see here the power of God to
direct history to fulfill His purposes and plans for mankind. This is
also one of many examples of promises in the Bible that have been
fulfill through Christ Jesus. It shows that the Bible, written over
~1500 years by many different human authors, is a unique book. Here is
another example of the Bible's consistency, unity and accuracy that can
only speak to one divine author, the eternal God Himself.
(See also How
can we know the Bible is the Word of God ?)
How sincere was
King Herod's desire to go and worship Jesus (Matthew 2: 3,
that King Herod was a deceiver and only wanted information so that he
could destroy this threat to his power.
Although Satan (the devil) is not mentioned here he is behind the
scenes trying to influence events. Here we see the struggle between
Satan's offspring and the offspring of
the women mention in Genesis
3:15. This conflict will continue
throughout the life of Jesus until the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It still continues today between those who reject Jesus and those who
believe in Jesus (Ephesians 6:10-18).
In the end because of the death
of Jesus, God has destroyed Satan's power in the life of God's children
and has guaranteed the final victory over evil spirits. The battle is
still present today but the final victory is guaranteed (Revelation
7 and 16, what does this tell us
about how long it took the wise men to travel from their home country
questioning of the Magi and his later killing of all males in Bethlehem
years old and younger it is clear that the Magi had told them that they
had been travelling for ~ 2 years from their home country east of
Israel. They could have come from Iraq, Iran or even farther East as
far as from China. The Bible does not give specific information on the
country or countries of their starting place.
What do we
learn from the response of the wise men when they found Jesus (vv.9-11)?
gifts and worshipped the baby Jesus. Here were wise men, scholars,
experts in their field of study who humbly travel for 2 year to come
an give gifts and worship a foreigner a child.
Who or what do you worship? Is it yourself, money, success, another
person? Jesus is worthy of your worship. He is worthy of the worship of
all mankind and it is the wise who are willing to humble themselves
before the God of the universe and recognize their need of forgiveness
for their failure to honour and obey Him. (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 5:6-13; 15:3-4)
How did God
protect His son from the attempts of man to destroy Jesus (vv.
9-23)? Consider God's
communication to man and the gifts the wise men gave to Jesus.
His son from the attempts to destroy Jesus by supernaturally
communicating to both the Magi and the parents of Jesus. God provided
for the parents of Jesus through the gifts of the Magi as they lived in
Egypt until God again told them it was safe to return to Israel.
Conclusions and Application
How would you summarize this
study as it relates to the following?
Who Jesus is
The significance of the location of
The significance of the first
worshipers of Jesus
significance of the response of the Wise men to that of the Jewish
significance of the Old Testament prophecies
of God's plan to save man from the sin introduced in Genesis 3
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