(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)Review:
Two weeks ago, you gave me a couple of homework assignments. Let’s cover those first.
Sonny wanted to know if there is any biblical support for the notion of Satan having forked feet or a forked tail. The short answer is no. The Bible tells us a lot about where he came from, what his motives were, what his goals are (challenge God and harm mankind), but the Bible is silent about any physical description of him. Since we know that he is a fallen angel, I assume he has angelic powers, which include taking whatever form he decides, a human form, a spiritual form, or whatever. I was not able to find any reference to forked feet or forked tail. This is just more manmade imagery, not biblical.
Then the question was raised about the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible is completely silent about when or where she was born and when and where she died. As I pointed out last week, she is never mentioned after Acts 1. She is not a player in the early church. I found that there is a church in Jerusalem which claims to be the location of the tomb of Mary. As we learned two weeks ago, there is a location near Ephesus which also claims to be the tomb of Mary. As you may recall, after Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion, his mother traveled all around the Holy Land designating various sites as the site of various major events. To this day, many of her selections are still celebrated as the designated site, whether they are actually where those events happened or not. I suspect the church in Jerusalem is one of them. I was not able to find a reference to the site near Ephesus.
There were some spurious writings that were circulated in the early church which were determined to be frauds. One of these so called apocalyptical gospels is called The Assumption of Mary. It was composed in Egypt about 400 AD. It tells the following fable. Two years after Jesus ascended into heaven, he appeared to his mother and tells her that she is going to die. After she dies, she comes back to life and is then transported into heaven. The interesting thing about this fable is that Pope Pius XII adopted this in 1950 as the dogma of the assumption of the virgin. There is no Biblical basis for this.
This morning - we will pick up where Terry left off last week after covering the first part of Luke 2.
If you were here, you remember that Terry discussed what we all know: -- our society is doing its best to take Jesus out of Christmas. Luke Chapter 2 is the Christmas story, the way God did Christmas. I think you also looked at a chart which shows that it takes some verses from Matthew Chapters 1 and 2 and some verses in John Chapter 1 to round out the information in Luke 1 and 2 to really understand the full story of the birth of Jesus. As I scanned Terry’s notes, I was fascinated by the fact that Caesar and Herod thought they were in control, but in fact God was pulling their strings. The birth of Jesus happened exactly like God planned it and how he prophesied it in the Old Testament. Amazing.
Terry took you through the angel’s appearance to the shepherds and their trip into Bethlehem where they found Joseph and Mary -- and the baby, who was lying in a manger.
Let’s start this morning by looking at what we can learn by what the angel told the shepherds, in Luke 2:11-12. To set the stage, here are the preceding verses, which tell us what happened after Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem. .
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people...” --Luke 2:6-10Now to the verses we start with today:
“...for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” --Luke 2:11-12
Look at what we learn here:
The new born baby is a Savior:
The Greek word is σωτερ [so·ter] which means a savior, deliverer, preserver. It is a name given to deities. This emphasizes the purpose for which Jesus came to earth.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. --Luke 19:10Jesus is called “Savior” 24 times in the New Testament:
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. --1 John 4:14The baby is called Christ:
That Greek word is χριστος [khris·tos] which means the anointed. This is used to indicate that he is the one God promised, the Messiah. Messiah comes from the corresponding Hebrew term מָשִיחַ [mashiach], the anointed one. Jesus makes it very clear that He understood He was the Messiah:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. --Matthew 15:13-17Then Jesus is called the Lord. Notice, not a Lord, but the Lord, the definitive article, meaning the one and only Lord. That Greek word is κυριος [koo·ree·os] which means the one to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master.
This emphasizes Jesus’ authority over us
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. --Philippians 2:9-11Verse 12 also acknowledges that Jesus arrived as a baby. This emphasizes His humanity and His humility. Jesus did not arrive in a chariot or as an angel. He arrives as a baby and a servant leader.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. --Philippians 2:5-8So as you studied last week, the shepherds went into Bethlehem, understanding a lot about this baby they would find.
The Baby Jesus is dedicated in the Temple:
And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” --Luke 2:21-24
Luke's account of Jesus' circumcision is the only record of this event in the Gospels. Here again Luke's account seems to indicate that he had the opportunity to talk with Mary. These verses reveal the devotion of four people: Joseph & Mary, Simeon, Anna.
In verse 21 we see that at eight days, it was time for his circumcision. We can trace circumcision all the way back to Genesis 17, where God first established circumcision as the symbol of His covenant with Abraham and his descendants:
This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations… --Genesis 17:10-12This was codified in Leviticus
On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. --Leviticus 12:3This leads to the question about whether or not circumcision is required for believers today. The answer is no, for a couple of reasons. First, it was Jewish Law and at least most of us are not Jewish. Secondly, the New Testament addresses the question directly, saying:
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. --Galatians 5:6
For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. … For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. --Galatians 6:13,15
The Baby was to be named Jesus:
Back to the text in Luke, in verse 21 the baby was named Jesus, like the angel directed them.
And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. --Luke 2:22This was the time required after childbirth for the mother to be purified and to be allowed into the Temple. Old Testament Law required Mary to wait 33 days for her purification to be completed.
On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days. --Leviticus 12:3-5
Consecrating the first-born:
In Luke 2:23 they take Jesus to the Temple to be consecrated. Luke reminds us that God had said that the first-born male child of every family was to be dedicated to God. This command is related back to the last plague of Egypt, when God took the life of the firstborn of every family and every animal in Egypt.
Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. --Exodus 12:29-30Then God gave the following instruction:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.” --Exodus 13:1-2When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple to be consecrated, they brought a required offering.
And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord ... and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” --Luke 2:22,24Actually, the sacrifice God asked for was a lamb. If the family could not afford a lamb, then they could offer two doves or two pigeons. The fact that Joseph and Mary offered the birds is an indication of their poverty.
When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. Then he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female. But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean. --Leviticus 13:6-8These verses point out the heart for God that Joseph and Mary had. In spite of their poverty, in spite of all the difficulties related to traveling to Bethlehem and having no place to stay, still Joseph and Mary fulfill all the commands that God gave related to the birth of their Son.
How about us? How committed are we to doing what the Lord has said? Do we obey only when it is convenient, only when we feel like it? Or are we like Joseph and Mary, doing what God commands no matter what the circumstances?
Simeon's Blessing and Prophecy:
And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,We don't know a lot about Simeon. He apparently lived in Jerusalem. He was “righteous and devout” and was waiting for the “consolation of Israel” (that is, the coming of the Messiah). God had promised him that he wouldn't die until he saw the coming of the Messiah. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Simeon made two prophecies:
“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed -- (and a sword will pierce even your own soul) -- to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” --Luke 2:25-35
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. --Luke 2:36-38Anna was 84 years old and had been a widow for a number of years. Ever since the death of her husband, she never left the temple -- she worshiped day and night, fasting and praying.
God doesn't measure greatness the way we do, does He? We measure greatness in terms of wealth and power and success. God measures greatness in terms of devotion and obedience. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God says,
Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” --1 Samuel 16:7When we measure greatness the way God does, we realize that everyone has the same opportunity to achieve it. It doesn't depend on circumstances or abilities or opportunities but on the heart. How successful are you in the things that really count? The shepherds outside of Bethlehem, the poor couple Joseph and Mary, the old man Simeon and the old widow Anna -- nobody in the world thought of them as great. But long after Augustus and Herod and Quirinius are forgotten, people are still reading about these “nobodies”. Let's make sure we're pursuing true greatness.
As we think about the birth of Jesus, think about what Benjamin Franklin said: “How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, his precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.”
... we will pick up with verse 40 of Luke chapter 2 and the growth and maturing of the boy Jesus. Read the rest of Chapter 2 to prepare.