Luke 2


“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” Luke 2:1-3

The Birth Of Jesus

Caesar Augustus was a name taken by Caesar Octavianus who reigned as Caesar of Rome from 43 B.C. to A.D. 14. And as we know the Roman Caesars who followed him adopted the name ‘Caesar’ as it embodied the concept of what the Roman head of state should be to promote unity and peace throughout the Roman Empire.

Octavianus brought an era of peace to the Empire and he established an environment within the Empire that was helpful for the growth of Christianity throughout the Roman-controlled regions of the world.

And so Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman world and we know this happened because archaeologists have recovered the actual documents of censuses that were taken by the Roman government every fourteen years from A.D. 20 to A.D. 270.

Luke also tells us that a man named Quirinius was governor of Syria during this time which again has been proven by some inscriptions discovered by archaeologists.

Now censuses were taken every fourteen years and from 20 A.D. to 270 A.D., we possess actual documents from every census taken.

A series of inscriptions in Asia Minor show that Quirinius was governor of Syria in 10-7 B.C., and again in 6 A.D. This is good news for all Christians because these documents actually prove the accuracy of the Scriptures.

And notice that everyone was to register in their own town which simply means that the Jews had to register at the city where their ancestral records were kept.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:4-5

I mentioned that the Jews had to register at the city where their ancestral records were kept. And for Joseph and Mary, this meant the city of Bethlehem which is also referred to as the city of David. Both Joseph and Mary were of the lineage of David, and so both had to register in Bethlehem.

Don’t underestimate the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, this was a journey of about 80 miles. We can only imagine how treacherous this journey must have been, especially for Mary who is heavily pregnant. The journey for most people would be a 4-day journey, but for a pregnant woman, I can imagine it would have taken longer.

But I want to raise an important point that is often overlooked concerning this journey. Why did Mary go with Joseph on this journey?

It’s certainly possible that her love for Joseph was the reason for her going on the journey. It’s also possible that she wanted Joseph to be around when she was giving birth. Neither Roman nor Jewish law required Mary to accompany Joseph for this registration, it wasn’t a requirement of the decree.

So why did Mary go with Joseph? Mary was aware Micah’s prophecy and so she was being guided by the Holy Spirit to fulfil this prophecy concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, Micah 5:2. There were carpenters, stonemasons, and different kinds of farmers residing in Bethlehem.

And what’s more interesting is that the name Bethlehem actually means ‘place of bread,’ which is very appropriate when we think of Jesus as being the ‘Bread of Life’.

It was very appropriate that the Bread of Life should have been born in Bethlehem. It’s very appropriate that the Son of David should be born in the village so intimately associated with the history of David, the shepherd king of Israel.

Notice at this point and time Mary and Joseph are still engaged. Jewish law considered the engagement legally binding to the point that the woman was considered a wife.

However, their relationship was not a marriage in that it had not been fully consummated. In other words, Mary was considered to be Joseph’s wife, even though they had not been formally married according to Jewish law.

And when Luke tells us Mary was expecting a child, what he’s telling us is that Mary is about to give birth any day soon.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

If this tells us anything, it tells us that Mary was at least 8 months pregnant when she made that 80 miles, 4-day journey with Joseph to Bethlehem. And when we think of this small town of Bethlehem, this little insignificant town of Bethlehem. How blessed is this little town going to become?

Bethlehem, the first home of David, who was Israel’s greatest king and the Ephrathites, the descendants of David. How blessed was this little town but now she’s about to be blessed with the birth of the Messiah, Micah 5:2.

Jesus, God in the flesh, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Messiah who brings hope, peace and salvation to all of mankind is about to be born.

And so Jesus is born, Mary’s firstborn son, and if Mary had no other children, then Luke would have used the Greek word ‘monogene’ which means ‘only son.’

But he didn’t, he used the Greek word, ‘prototokos’ which means ‘first born’ and that tells us that Mary did indeed have other children as we looked at last time.

We can argue all day long as to the date on which Jesus was born but that’s not the issue. The question of the Bible is not, what date was Jesus Christ born? The real question the Bible asks is, will you accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour?

Mankind’s greatest need wasn’t food, drink and clothing. Mankind’s greatest need wasn’t socks, deodorant, a key ring, or a huge mug for your tea. Mankind’s greatest need was and still is forgiveness and salvation from our sins.

Do you remember the first recorded words of Jesus? What did Jesus say just before He came? Jesus was born to do God’s will and God’s will was for Him to die for you and me and take the punishment our sins deserved, Hebrews 10:5-10.

Mankind’s greatest need needed God’s greatest gift and that was Jesus. And while the world celebrates the birth of Jesus and gives each other all kinds of wonderful gifts. The church needs to share with people the real reason for Jesus coming into the world.

The most important gift we can give to the world is The gift that is going to last for eternity. The gift that is going to help them get through life, the gift that is going to tell them that there is hope in this life.

The gift that talks about a Messiah, the gift that talks about a Saviour, the eternal gift. The world will give its own interpretation of Christmas, but we need to give the world the greatest gift it will ever receive, the gift of Jesus.

And so Mary took that little baby Jesus and she wrapped Him in clothes. Now those clothes were square and long, almost like a bandage. And the child was first wrapped in the square of the cloth, and then the long strip was wound round and round about him.

Notice Jesus has just been born and there are already little signs of Christ’s final sufferings. When Jesus was born He was wrapped in linen cloth and at His death, they wrapped Him in linen cloth, John 19:38-40. He was laid in a wooden manger and He died on a wooden tree.

And isn’t it interesting that Jesus was laid on the straw of a manger from which the animals fed but in thirty years’ time the world would be feeding on His teaching, even up to this very day. But why was He born in a place where the animals were kept, why was He born in a manger?

Surely, God’s Son deserved a high-profile birth in the most elegant of surroundings. We could say, ‘well, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and so He was born in a place for shepherds, in a manger.’ We could say, ‘well, Jesus was born in the manger because there was no room in the inn! It wasn’t something that was planned, it was just an accident.’

But with God there are no accidents, God planned every little detail of this. When we think of a manger we have to remember it was cold. It’s that damp kind of cold that chills us to the bones and the only heat available was the body heat from Mary and Joseph and the animals in there.

But it’s not only cold in a manger, but it’s also dark. A manger was usually located underground, beneath the barn. So even when the sun is shining, it’s dark in a manger.

But it’s not only cold and dark in a manger, but it’s also smelly and dirty. It’s full of mud, manure, dust and cobwebs and it smells of must and mould.

It’s the place where the sheep and cows eat, it’s the place where they slobber and drool. In the summer there are flies and spiders and insects and swallows nesting in the rafters.

There’s no such thing as a clean or hygienic manger, a manger is cold, dark, smelly and dirty. The truth is that Jesus was born in a place that was cold, dark and dirty.

But why was Jesus born in a place like that? Well, Jesus is always born in the manger, let me explain. Every time Jesus comes into our lives, He is born in a manger.

The human heart is like a manger, it’s cold, dark, smelly and dirty. The human heart is cold because we don’t know the love of God. The human heart is dark because we don’t have the light of Christ or the hope of salvation. The human heart is smelly and dirty because we are sinners and our hearts stink and are stained and soiled by sin.

But the miracle of Christmas, the real miracle, is that Jesus is willing to be born into hearts like that. No matter how cold your heart is, Jesus is willing to be born there. No matter how dark your heart is, Jesus is willing to be born there. No matter smelly or dirty your heart is, or how sinful your life has been, Jesus is willing to come in, enter and clean your heart.

Jesus is always willing to meet us at the manger. He encounters us in that place where we feel utterly lost, hopeless and helpless. Jesus meets us in the darkness of our grief and sorrow and Jesus meets us in the blackness of our despair. He comes into our lives when we feel unloved, unlovable and alone, when inside we feel cold and half-frozen to death.

Jesus meets us in all the mess and the filth of our sin and when we’ve done unforgivable things. Jesus comes to people like that the unloved, unlovable and alone, He comes to people like you and me.

Jesus was born in a cold, dark, smelly, dirty place because He knew He was going to offer salvation to all those who were hopelessly enslaved in the cold, dark, stench and dirtiness of sin.

Luke records that Mary placed Jesus in a manger ‘because there was no guest room available for them.’ Remember why Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in the first place. There was a Roman Empire-wide census going on and everyone had to register.

And so the limited capacity of ancient inns, the influx of others for the enrolment, and the normal fluctuations in every business were probably among the conditions that made it impossible for them to have found better accommodations.

But, over and beyond all this, it was the will of God that the Saviour of all people should have been born in such humble circumstances. I wonder if the landlords would have made room for Jesus if they knew Who was about to be born? Imagine the King of Kings has arrived to visit His children in Person and they have no room for Him!

We don’t know if they would have taken Mary and Joseph into their home if they knew Who was about to be born. But we know this much, people today still have no room for Him in their lives, Matthew 11:28-30.

The Shepherds

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9

The names of these shepherds are unknown, but how blessed they are about to be. And those shepherds were the perfect representatives of mankind because they didn’t live in big houses or strong palaces. They lived in a field that reminds us that life on earth has its limitations and that we only stay on Earth for a short time.

Notice they were watching their flock at night, which tells us that Jesus was born at night. But it also reminds us that the earth at this time was a place of darkness, it was dark because of man’s sin.

But once again we see that when the angel of the Lord appeared they were terrified. But wouldn’t you be terrified if you saw one of God’s mighty messengers appearing above you?

What does the Lord’s glory look like? Moses says the Lord’s glory was in the form of a cloud and when the Israelites saw the Lord’s glory, they said, it looked like a consuming fire, Exodus 24:15-17.

Whatever the Lord’s glory looks like, it was enough to make people tremble to their knees, Matthew 17:5-7. And so these poor shepherds are understandably afraid and so the angel has to reassure them.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

The angel is about to make one of the greatest announcements ever made in the history of mankind. The angel is proclaiming to these shepherds the very message which is later going to be proclaimed to the world.

The coming of the Saviour of the world would be good news of great joy to all those who realise that they are captives of sin. In other words, the world has been waiting for this day ever since the fall of man in that garden back in Genesis 3:15.

Notice something important here, the good news announced by the angels was first announced to these shepherds who were Jewish. Luke who was a Gentile records the first announcement of Jesus’ birth, not to Gentiles, but Jewish shepherds.

Matthew who was a Jew introduced Jesus’ birth to the Jews through the message conveyed by a star. Who can understand God’s ways? Isaiah 55:8-9.

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

The angel continues with his announcement and in one verse this angel has just described Jesus, the Son of God in three very different ways.

They first describe Him as a Saviour.

Jesus the sin-bearer, Jesus the Man who brings and offers salvation to all of mankind, Jesus who came to restore that fellowship with God and mankind which was lost in Eden.

Secondly, they describe Him as the Messiah, the Christ.

Jesus the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, the Shiloh, the Anointed One, the suffering Servant, and the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus the lawful ruler of Israel, the promised Son of David who would usher in the great kingdom.

Thirdly they describe Him as The Lord, not just any lord but The Lord.

The Lord who is the head of His church and ruler of the universe, the Lord who has all authority, power and rule. The Lord to whom every knee will bow and confess His Name, the Lord of Lords who will reign and rule people’s lives.

Jesus is the Saviour, the Messiah and the Lord and how blessed these shepherds were to be the first to hear this good news which would bring great joy to all people.

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2:12-14

Just like Mary before them, they didn’t ask for a sign but the angel is going to give them one. And please don’t make the mistake of thinking they were to look for a child who was wrapped in cloth because this was the way most newborn children were clothed.

The sign was this baby would be ‘lying in a manger’. And if the sight of one angel was terrifying enough, Luke tells us that out of nowhere, a whole host of heavenly hosts appeared above them. A host of angels is represented in the Old Testament as forming the bodyguard of Deity Psalms 103:21 / Daniel 7:10.

What an amazing sight this must have been as these angels are singing praises to God. The birth of the Son was God’s goodwill to man, for Jesus was the manifestation of the grace of God to all men, Titus 2:11.

No wonder they say, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven.’ No wonder they say, ‘peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests’.

The birth of Jesus certainly was and still is worth rejoicing about today. I can imagine those shepherds being in absolute awe of what they are witnessing. And although we don’t know how long the celebrations went on, Luke continues with his account.

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:15-16

Notice how the word ‘Lord’ here is used as the title of the Father in heaven but it’s the same use of the word to describe Jesus which again confirms the Deity of Jesus.

So leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurriedly made their way to Bethlehem to see the newly born infant. Remember that during this time, the Jews had been following the prophecies of the prophets who prophesied events that would transpire during the inter-biblical period. They knew what was prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah was soon to happen.

Their acceptance of the signs surrounding the birth of Jesus was based on their expectation that God was bringing to pass the fulfilment of prophecy.

The shepherds couldn’t wait to see this newborn King and they found Him lying in a manger exactly how the angel said they would.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:17-18

Having seen the child for themselves, they now had the evidence they needed that would satisfy others. I’m sure they would have been somewhat puzzled that the Saviour of the world was born in such a humble environment.

But they believed and they became the first preachers of the Gospel and went out and proclaimed to others that the Messiah had come. And it’s not surprising that everyone they spoke to was amazed at their message, but what isn’t so amazing is that no one was amazed enough to go and check it out for themselves.

The greatest news of all ages had broken out in their community, and the people just ‘wondered’ about it as the King James Version renders it.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. Luke 2:19

Mary is treasuring and thinking about not only the things the shepherds had just said to her but also the things Gabriel said to her before and the things the angel said to Joseph.

 When children are born today the parents usually go nuts and take lots of pictures and they begin to keep a photo album of every little moment of change in their child’s lives.

Well in a way that’s what Mary is doing, she’s thinking, meditating, and thinking about what the outcome of these things will mean for her Son.

Mary, as well as others who had experienced all the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus, didn’t understand that the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, were actual events that pointed to Him as the Messiah, 1 Peter 1:10-12.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20

I’m sure Mary and Joseph would have shared their story with the shepherds and when the shepherds returned to their sheep, they just glorified and praised God for what they had seen and heard.

What a great privilege this was for them, you can almost imagine them singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests’.

And if this tells us anything it should tell us when we leave our place of worship after glorifying and praising God we too can go back to our normal daily duties but still be praising God as we go.

Although Luke doesn’t mention the magi’s visit, I think it would be useful to mention a few things from Matthew’s account. There are a lot of theories concerning the date of Jesus’ birth.

And it’s in Matthew 2:1-2 where we find the closest reference we can actually find. Matthew says that Jesus was born ‘during the time of King Herod’.

Now Herod the Great was the son of Antipater, an Idumean and descendant of Esau. He was proud, cruel, bloodthirsty and unmerciful as a ruler of the Jews.

Herod the Great as he was called, cruelly reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. according to our calendar today. And so this establishes the date of the birth of Jesus about two years earlier than 4 B.C., for Herod had sent out a decree before his death to kill all children under two years of age.

But like we said last time, knowing the exact date of Jesus’ birth isn’t important, but what is important is that He was born. These magi were possibly Gentile astronomers from Arabia, Persia, Parthia, or even India.

And unlike most of the nativity plays we see today where they always have three wise men, we actually don’t know how many there were. I guess most people presume three because there were three gifts, but we simply don’t know.

Some translations use the words ‘wise men’ which is good because we can imagine the truly wise of all ages are indeed those who bow down and worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

But the fact that these wise men came from a great distance to see Jesus indicates that they had possibly received a revelation of some kind concerning the birth of Jesus.

Isn’t it interesting that the Old Testament opens with a question, when God is seeking man, He asks in Genesis 3:9, ‘Adam, where are you?’

The New Testament opens with a question when man is seeking God, and man asks, ‘Where is the one?’ Where is which one? The magi say, ‘the one born to be king of the Jews.’

The Jews hoped that the Messiah would come into the world. It was believed by many that the Messiah would supposedly reign as king on earth and restore national Israel to her former glory.

But as the Jews were soon going to discover, not this King, His reign and rule and His kingdom were going to be spiritual, not physical.

And so the magi say, ‘We saw his star’.

This star the magi saw was not a natural phenomenon, this star was a miraculous signal sent by God to the Magi to alert them of the birth of the Messiah for whom they hoped.

And there is a possibility that this was a fulfilment of prophecy but we can’t be certain, Numbers 24:17. We don’t have to be dogmatic about what this star was or what it looked like. But we mustn’t lose sight of Who this star is hovering over, Jesus, the King of the Jews.

It’s very obvious that Herod didn’t want a rival king in his kingdom and so his pride and arrogance moved him to scheme against any possible contender for the crown, Matthew 2:3-8.

Herod may have been ignorant of the prophecy of Micah 5:1-2 which spoke of Bethlehem as the place of the birth of the Messiah. But he went ahead and called a meeting with the chief priests and the teachers of the law.

The Chief priests were the principal leaders of the Jewish religious system who were in charge of the temple. The teachers of the law were the educated men of the Jewish law and it was their responsibility to preserve and interpret the Old Testament law for the people.

Herod has probably heard over and over again talk about a coming Messiah and so he wanted to know where this Messiah was to be born.

The magi more or less say to the Herod, ‘O King, we don’t really know anything about it, but there is, it so happens, a verse in one of the prophecies that speak of the birth of the Messiah, and that says it is to take place in Bethlehem.’

But as we know it was not Herod’s plan to worship, but to destroy the newly born child whom he saw as a possible competitor for his throne.

He knew the birthplace, he thought he knew the child’s age and he only needed to find out the exact location of the Christ in order to kill him.

It’s obvious that the star in question was miraculous in nature because it appears again, Matthew 2:9-10. And it appears here for the second time to make it possible for the Magi to find the baby without drawing attention to the birthplace by making inquiries.

And notice this time, the star came and stopped over the place where Jesus was. And what was the outcome of them seeing the star again and it stops? It was pure joy.

There is always joy when we come to meet Jesus. And we can only imagine the magi’s joy got greater and greater the closer they get to their destination.

By the time the magi had arrived Jesus had been moved from a manger into a house, Matthew 2:11. We don’t know how old Jesus would be at this point in time but He would only be a few weeks old at the most.

But notice ‘they bowed down and worshipped him,’ they didn’t bow down and worship Mary or Joseph but Jesus. Jesus is always the main focus of our worship and it’s to Him that every knee in heaven and earth and every demon in hell will have to bow down to one day.

Now it was a custom of the orient to bring gifts to the newly born and such gifts were commonly given to those who were considered noble.

Some commentators believe that the three gifts symbolised the three works of Jesus, that is, His kingship, His divinity, and His sufferings.

The gift of gold would certainly provide money for the fleeing to Egypt which is going to happen soon. The buildings and treasures of kings and pharaohs from the ancient past have left reminders that gold was the prize of rulers and kings.

Men such as King Solomon and King Nebuchadnezzar treasured gold. Yes, we know that while gold can be a gift for anyone, gold was a gift, especially for kings.

Frankincense was incense that was made from the sap of a tree that grew both in Arabia and India. Frankincense was once greatly valued throughout the Middle East, from Rome to India.

It was very expensive and a gift having a wonderful fragrance, it was used for a variety of purposes such as incense, medical treatment, and perfume. It was used in worship and so frankincense speaks of the worship of God.

The myrrh was also a perfume that was made from the sap of a tree and although it was less expensive than frankincense, it was still highly valued.

Myrrh was used for a variety of purposes, such as perfume, an anaesthetic, and burial embalming, and it was used as an ingredient in anointing oil and to deodorise clothes.

We also know that John 19:39 records that myrrh was used in Jesus’ burial. In the New Testament, myrrh is primarily associated with death.

But the point is this, we cannot come to worship Jesus without giving. Those who worship Christ give and those who don’t or won’t give do not worship either. In other words, true worship simply can’t exist if there is no sacrifice.

In everything surrounding the birth of Jesus, God was directing the movements of the Magi in order that they not be discovered by Herod, Matthew 2:12. God warned them in a dream and they listened which means the wise men refused to cooperate with Herod.

Dreams were often a vehicle of revelation among the Hebrews and they were considered inferior to visions but often played a vital role in protecting the chosen people.

But as we know God doesn’t operate through dreams and visions today. God used to speak through the prophets, He used to speak through visions and dreams but now He speaks through Jesus, Hebrews 1:1-2.

And notice that the magi returned another route which is what God offers all to come to Him in worship. The new and better route is that route through Jesus, a route where sinners don’t have to live in sin anymore without any hope for eternal life in heaven.

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus are fascinating, to say the least, but they all point to one thing. Jesus the Christ was born and He came to save sinners and offer salvation to all those who would come to Him. Jesus is no longer this cute little baby lying in a manger, He’s reigning with the Most High in heaven.

Jesus Presented In The Temple

‘When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24

The time had come for Mary to go through the purification requirements because she had given birth to Jesus and was now classed an unclean, Exodus 13:2 / Leviticus 12:2-8 / Numbers 8:16 / Numbers 18:15. This tells us that Mary and Joseph observed all the legal requirements according to the law of Moses.

Every firstborn male was to be consecrated to the Lord, Exodus 13:2 / Exodus 13:13 / Exodus 13:15, and a sacrifice was to be offered, in this case, because Mary and Joseph were poor, either offered a pair of doves or two young pigeons, Leviticus 12:2 / Leviticus 12:8.

Childers, in his commentary, says the following.

‘His whole life shows that he identified himself with this sinful race, though he was sinless. Jesus always submitted to religious rites which were necessary for sinful men, even though they were not really necessary for him.’

‘Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.’ Luke 2:25-26

Simeon, who some believe was the son of Hillel, father of Gamaliel, and president of the Sanhedrin, was a righteous and devout man, who was patiently waiting for the consolation of Israel, that is, he was waiting on the arrival of the Messiah, Mark 15:43 / Acts 13:32-34 / Acts 26:6-8 / Acts 28:20.

The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would still be alive when the Lord’s Messiah comes, which is an obvious reference to the coming of Jesus.

‘Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:27-32

Simeon was moved by the Spirit to enter the temple courts. Joseph and Mary then took Jesus to Simeon, who as was the custom of the Law, Luke 2:21, took Jesus in his arms and praised God.

He praises God and is happy that he has indeed held in his arms the Messiah. He praises God because he has now seen the Lord’s salvation, that is, Jesus with his own eyes.

He praises God because Jesus would not only bring salvation to all people, Mark 16:15-16, Jesus would bring salvation to the Gentiles as they would see the light of salvation in Jesus, Isaiah 9:2 / Isaiah 42:6 / John 8:12.

‘The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33-35

Joseph and Mary didn’t really understand the significance of who Jesus would become and so Simeon blesses them both.

He proclaims that Jesus would be the reason for many who would fall because of His teaching, Isaiah 8:14 / Matthew 21:42-43 / Acts 4:11 / Romans 9:33 / 1 Corinthians 1:23 / 1 Peter 2:7-8, and many who would rise because of His teaching, Romans 6:4 / Romans 6:9 / Ephesians 2:6.

Jesus was to be a sign to the people, that is, His and His teaching would reveal what was inside people’s hearts. People would have a choice either to listen and obey what He said or ignore Him and disobey what He said, Mark 7:1-9 / John 12:48.

Mary’s soul would be pierced when she witnessed what happened to Jesus at His crucifixion, Psalm 42:10.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This prophecy is a marvel. It foretold that Mary would live to see Jesus crucified, and of the bitter sorrow in her own heart at the things which would befall the Son. Joseph was not included in this. The specific purpose of Calvary is also seen in the revelation of men’s thoughts, which would flow out of it. Calvary is God’s divider and separator of the good from the bad. The life of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the New Testament, polarizes the hearts of men, turning the wicked away, and drawing the redeemed upward to eternal life. Along with Mary and Joseph, we marvel at such a prophecy.’

‘There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.’ Luke 2:36-38

The prophet Anna was the daughter of Penuel and was a part of the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the tribes of the northern ten tribes of Israel that were taken into Assyrian captivity in 722/721 B.C. Judges 19:24.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Why Anna was called a prophetess is not known. It might be because she had been the wife of a prophet, or because she was employed in celebrating the praises of God, 1 Chronicles 25:1-13 / 1 Chronicles 25:4 / 1 Samuel 10:5, or because she had foretold future events, being inspired.’

She lived with her husband for seven years and then became a widow until she was eighty-four. She was a widow but it’s difficult to tell from the text how long she has been a widow.

Some believe that Eighty-four could be her current age, but it’s more likely to refer to the length of time she has been widowed, which would mean at this time she would be ninety-one years old.

She is pictured as a woman who is always in the temple fasting and praying, Matthew 4:1-2 / Matthew 6:16-18 / Matthew 9:14-15 / Matthew 15:32 / Acts 13:1-3. Anna goes up to Mary and Joseph and speaks about the child, that is, Jesus, who would redeem Jerusalem, Luke 2:25 / Acts 28:20.

‘When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.’ Luke 2:39-40

After Mary and Joseph had completed all the legal customs required by the Law, concerning Jesus, they return to Galilee, their home town of Nazareth.

We must note that Luke doesn’t include the visit of the Magi, Matthew 2:1-12, the flight to Egypt, Matthew 2:13-18. We do know that they returned to Galilee when the news was brought to them that Herod The Great had died, Matthew 2:19-23.

It’s in Nazareth that Jesus grew up as the son of a carpenter, He began to grow as a child, becoming strong. He is also now filled with wisdom, Luke 1:80 / Luke 2:52, and God’s grace was on Him.

The Boy Jesus At The Temple

‘Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.’ Luke 2:41-42

It was customary that all Jewish males attend the Festival of Passover, Exodus 12:1-48 / Deuteronomy 16:1 / Deuteronomy 16:16. We read that Jesus is now twelve years old, which may imply that this was the first time that Jesus attended the festival, Exodus 23:14-15.

‘After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.’ Luke 2:43-45

Remembering the Passover festival was a one-day event, but then it was followed by the festival of Pentecost which last another seven days. And so, after both these celebrations were over, Mary and Joseph head off home but didn’t notice that Jesus was still in Jerusalem.

We may wonder how this is possible but we must remember that Passover was one of the busiest times of the year for the Jews, there would be thousands upon thousands in attendance, many coming long distances to attend.

I’m sure that Mary and Joseph thought that Jesus was with another family, as the text implies, which was also customary, even in today’s society.

After looking everywhere for Him, they decide to go back to Jerusalem to see if they can find Him there. Were Mary and Joseph bad parents? No. Was Jesus being a disobedient child? No. He was going about His Father’s business.

‘After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.’ Luke 2:46-49

After three days of searching, which must have been deeply stressful, they found Jesus sitting in the temple courts. Please note that they didn’t spend three days searching for Him in Jerusalem, they would have had one day travelling after the celebrations, another day travelling back to Jerusalem and one day searching in Jerusalem.

Notice that Jesus is sitting among the teachers, listening and asking them questions. He’s obviously listening to the Old Testament Scriptures and asking them questions concerning the Scriptures.

Everyone who heard him was amazed that someone so young had such an understanding of the Scriptures, they couldn’t believe just how knowledgeable Jesus was, Matthew 7:28 / Matthew 13:54 / Matthew 22:33. Remember he is now filled with wisdom and God’s grace was upon Him, Luke 2:40.

Mary and Joseph were astonished because what Jesus did was out of character. Mary was astonished because she couldn’t believe that Jesus would treat her and Joseph that way. This is understandable as parents, they were clearly anxious as to the whereabouts of their son.

Jesus’ response is one of amazement, He more or less tells His parents, ‘why are you stressing out trying to find Me, you should know that I would be in My Father’s house,’ John 9:4.

Jesus is concerned with the business of God the Father. Jesus was aware of who He was and He had His priorities right. He knew He had to honour his father and mother but He also had to do what His Father in heaven wanted Him to do.

Mary and Joseph may not have understood what Jesus meant, John 7:15 / John 7:46, but Jesus certainly did. Maybe Mary and Joseph forgot about who Jesus was to become, Luke 1:32 / Luke 1:35 / Matthew 1:20, but Jesus certainly didn’t forget why He had come.

‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’ Luke 2:51-52

Jesus returned with His parents to Nazareth and notice the text says He was obedient to them, Ephesians 6:1-2. Of course, the time is coming when all will be obedient to him, Philippians 2:8-11 / 1 Peter 3:22.

Mary treasured all these things in her heart, Luke 2:19. Mary is thinking, meditating, and thinking about what the outcome of these things will mean for her Son.

Earlier we read that Jesus grew, became strong and was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him, Luke 2:39-40. Here, we read that Jesus continues to grow in wisdom and stature and favour with God and man.

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