In the last post we talked about how Zachariah got a surprise visit from an angel, and because he lacked faith- became mute until his son was born to him. Mary also got a visit from an angel and received some great and terrifying news. We learned that God is in the waiting. The baby born to Mary is known as the Most High. Let's learn more about this Most High.
We will be reading from Luke 2:1-19, 39-52, 3:23-38
If you grew up in church or went to church on special holidays with your family you will probably know Luke 2 by heart.
'And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.' Luke 2:1,3-6
Bethlehem. The city named after being known for its harvests of wheat. The actual name, Bethlehem means House of Bread. How symbolic.
The first time we get to know of this city in the bible is in Genesis, when Rachel, Jacob's wife, gets buried. Several years later, we learn of a story that also happened in this city that changed and created a thread to connect the gospel.
A woman named, Naomi, marries a man that is adventurous. After getting married, they move from their small town to a bigger, crowded city - Moab. In this city, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, have 2 sons. The 2 sons get older and marry Moabite women, one of them is Ruth - you may have heard of her.
Eli, Naomi's husband dies and 10 years later, her 2 sons die as well. Naomi is left with her daughters-in-law without grandkids.
There comes a famine in the land of Moab, and Naomi hears news that her hometown is actually doing very well this harvest season. She tries to persuade her daughters-in-law to go back to their homes and find new husbands, but Ruth sticks by her side and travels to a foreign land with Naomi.
If you know the story, the pair travel around 70 miles along rocky terrain and end up arriving in Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest. Oh, how amazing God's timing is!
Ruth ends up marrying her kinsman-redeemer and they have a son that is recorded in Luke 3:32. Boaz, Ruth's kinsman-redeemer, is the son of Salmon, the husband of Rahab. If you ever want to just read a powerful romance, check out Joshua 2-6!
Ruth and Boaz have a son names, Obed, Obed has a son named Jesse, and Jesse has a son named David. You may have heard of David in the Bible before too.
God appoints this country boy to be king over Israel. He goes on to say that David is a man after His own heart and allows the Son of God to come from his lineage. David's reign begins in Bethlehem like our story begins today.
'And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. ' Luke 2:7
I'm not sure if you realize this, but the distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is around 90 miles. And if you remember from the post, The Promise Born, Joseph and Mary were not wealthy. Most likely, they traveled with the help of one animal or on foot.
Joseph, walking beside or guiding his soon-to-be wife that is pregnant with God's Son. When people traveled back then, they would travel in groups to protect themselves from thieves or wild animals.
Have you ever wondered what kind of questions or judgemental gaze they must have received after explaining their situation?
Yet, they kept going. They knew that there was something bigger about to happen- something that would change human history forever.
Once they arrive in Bethlehem, they couldn't find any room available. If I was in this scenario, I would be asking God, "why?!" Surely, there is a reason for this. After a long journey, they couldn't find any place to sleep other than a lowly manger.
Mary has her firstborn in a place that is most likely stinky, cold, wet, and filled with filthy animals that were considered "unclean" in their culture.
But this was all necessary for the gospel.
At the same time, Jesus is being born, shepherds in a nearby field get serenaded by some loud angels.
'And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” ' Luke 2:8-12
How beautiful is the handiwork of God, that he would choose shepherds to be the first to hear of this joyful news?
The sign of the message is not the swaddling cloths - every baby is wrapped in something. The sign is the manger.
In the original Bible, the word manger means to eat. The incarnation of God was born and laid in a place to eat for the world to see. Sounds crazy, hm? The gospel isn't a fairytale. It's a deep, symbolic, representation of the love God has sacrificed by giving a part of Himself. The manger doesn't point us to a baby, no it points us to a Lamb that will be sacrificed.
The Christ, born in a city called House of Bread, born in a place to eat. You cannot deny the obvious symbolism in this.
I am going to skip ahead in the Bible for a second and show you something incredible.
In Luke 4, Jesus is tempted in the desert. He stays in the wilderness for 40 days, being attacked by the Devil, himself. One of the things that the devil used to tempt Jesus was, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”' Luke 4:3-4
Jesus chose to quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, which talks about another bread that God sent from heaven to His people while they were also in the wilderness for 40 years.
In John 6, we see that the people Jesus speaking to question Jesus with a similar question the devil asked him in Luke 4.
'So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ' John 6:30-35
Jesus is that bread. He is the living, breathing, word of God that we can feast in every day!
Have you ever thought about the Bible being bread to the soul? The Bible is one of the ways our Spiritual body can grow and increase in sanctification in our walk with God.
Let's rewind back to our story now.
The shepherds from the field arrive at this manger and find just what the angels said would be there.
'And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.
And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. ' Luke 2:16-19
I love that in all of the gospels, Luke shares these thoughts from Mary. As Luke writes the gospel, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he notes the important connection to Mary and Jesus.
Why do you think Mary treasured up the things in her heart? Do you think you would do the same in her situation?
There is a song, (there's always a song), that really helps me picture the story of Mary. Check out, Just A Girl, by Brandon Heath.
We know that Joseph was warned in a dream to take his new family out of Bethlehem because the King was searching for Christ. The kings from the east were following a star because they knew of the prophecies pertaining to a mighty King that will be born. You can read the story of the Kings and Herod in Matthew 2.
There is a reason that the author of Luke decided to leave this out. Let's keep going to find out.
'And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.
His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.' Luke 2:39-45
Jesus was growing up. We get a glimpse of how he must have acted like a child. In all of the other gospels, we see Jesus born and then his ministry begins. Luke knew how important it was to see the Son of God as the Son of Man. As a child. As a human.
'After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.' Luke 2:46-52
He grew in strength, in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man. Notice that he grew. He was human, he had to learn and go through more difficulty than I believe any other child or teenager had to go through.
The interesting thing about this word used for increased is προκόπτω (prokoptō), which means to beat forward, to lengthen out by hammering, make progress.
This picture of Christ growing up gives us a powerful message: He suffered as well. He not only went through life as a man to give us salvation through His death one day, but He also went through growing up so that we can relate to Him. He knows what we go through because he has been there.
All while Jesus is on earth, He is not living life for Himself. He goes against the grain, so to speak before most of us ever really grow up.
In our next journey of Luke, we will be diving into the start of Jesus' ministry. Buckle up, because it is going to require some searching and digging in the Bible. I cannot wait! Thanks for reading!