Everything is in place
Luke 2 SCC 2/21/16
All types of people will testify to Jesus. But that usually begins by wrestling with an understanding of who he is and why he has come. The reality of Christ forces everyone to make a choice. He really came and lived and taught and discipled and served and died and rose again. The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony is verified. Luke indicates that everything was in place when Jesus began his mission. Though his mission began at birth in obscurity, eventually Jesus would grow into the ministry that marked him as Savior. Luke wants to assure us of Jesus, his mission, and salvation.
GOD USES OBSCURITY AS A COVER FOR HIS OFFER OF SALVATION
Often it is what seems accidental ambiguous historical events that becomes acts of destiny. Here is an obscure birth that will demand a response from every person.
A census forces Joseph to Bethlehem 1-5
Here is a policy requirement issued by a Roman leader. A tax decree of all things that required registering travel to Bethlehem putting the parents in the right place to fulfill prophecy. God uses the mundane to fulfill his purpose and plan. The ‘census’ is mentioned three times as the purpose for registering in v 5.
Mary’s child is born in obscurity 6-7
Attention narrows to the family with Joseph coming to Bethlehem with a pregnant Mary. First the birth is told with simplicity. Second the birth is told briefly without any details. Third, the entire setting is very humble for such a king. Fourth he is the first born with all rights including any regal ones.
NB: God moves events along according to the circumstances of the time. His plans are fulfilled through the random circumstances of life through which God’s plans are executed. Often those plans are accomplished through obscure means that cannot be imagined but best express God’s hand at work.
THERE IS TESTIMONY THAT THIS SALVATION IS WORTH REJOICING OVER
This salvation may have begun in obscurity but God ensures that it is publically testified about so people can rejoice over the prospects of this deliverance. Luke turns from the birth to its proclamation.
The testimony of simple folk of the field
An angelic announcement 8-14
In v 8-9 shepherds who represent the lowly and humble respond to Gods message are initially startled with the angels’ arrival in bright light. In v 10-12 they announce good news that this birth causes great joy for Israel because a Savior who is Christ the Lord is born. The combination of this designation is that Jesus functions as a deliverer, the Messiah. But the full comprehension of such will grow through exposure to Jesus ministry to come. In v 13-14 we have a rare glimpse into heavenly praise which the shepherds witness. The praise (1) contains the heavens joy and praise of God for salvations workmanship and (2) people to whom God draws near through Jesus will experience harmony and benefits that God confers upon his own.
Shepherds praise 15-20
In v 15-16 after the angels leave the shepherds respond in faith and go to find the child. First they heard God’s word, then applied faith to it—that is to the evidence it conveyed—and then testified to the veracity of the angelic proclamation. In v 17 they gave first hand eyewitness testimony to the family which is what Luke wishes to use to encourage Theophilus. In v 18-20 the response to this testimony (1) caused a stir among many; (2) caused Mary to mull things over; and (3) caused the shepherds to honor God with glory and praise based on the evidence they had seen.
The testimony of a devout man of the city
Circumcision and dedication 21-24
In 21-22 Luke portrays a devout family following lawful religious protocol bringing the child in for circumcision identifying with the nation. They also come for ritual cleansing to dedicate Jesus to the Lord. In v 23-24 Jesus’ dedication is tied to the law’s instruction about presenting the firstborn according to Exodus 13:2. How much Jesus belongs to the Lord is something the parents will only slowly come to understand as their confusion reveals in the end of this chapter.
Witness by the HS 25-27
First, Simeon is introduced as a devout believer in God v 25. He lives in the hope of God’s promise to come to pass. Second, he received a special work of the HS. The one through whom God speaks is a righteous man of rare spiritual quality for sure. In v 26-27 Simeon received a revelation that God would not let him die without seeing Messiah. In the Temple to dedicate their child, Simeon stops them. God is responsible for this meeting.
A devout mans’ praise and prophecy 28-35
In v 28-32 Simeon testifies (1) his life can end with him at peace in God’s promise v 29; (2) he can rest because in seeing Jesus he has seen God’s salvation v 30; and (3) God intends to extend salvation to all who come to Jesus v 31-32. This regal messianic Savior has come to redeem more than Israel—he has come for the world. In v 33 the parent’s response was natural since revelation about Jesus kept coming.
In v 34-35 Simeon raises ominous prospects of Jesus ministry with two images. First, is ‘rising and falling v 34 meaning humans will resist Jesus opposing him heading for a fall while accepting him will bring vindication. Second, is a sword to portray the effect upon Mary v 35. This figure points to Jesus’ bringing extreme emotional pain to his mother with choices that will be hard for her to bear.
NB: Jesus ministry will expose those who do not believe and who are hostile to God. While his ministry will bring light to the world tragically some oppose him and fall. Immediately we think of the Pharisees and Judas. Jesus comes. Humans choose.
The testimony of a pious woman of the city
Her pious nature 36-37
In v 36 we learn of her credentials as a godly woman of devotion to God. Her name is Anna, a prophetess. She is a vessel for revelation from God. In v 37 Anna was very old, married for seven years, and a widow the rest of her life. She was a woman who chose a lifetime of service to God over remarriage.
Her prophecy to all 38-40
Anna begins with praise and thanksgiving to God as she approaches the parents and child. She addressed the crowd about the redemption to come to Jerusalem because of this birth. God is on the move. In v 39-40 we transition from the infancy material to Jesus nearing adolescence. He is portrayed as one deepening his perception of God’s will as he begins to grow into his ministry.
NB: Jesus is Savior. The evidence points to this reality. The testimony is vivid, deliberate, clear, concise and dynamic. It is full or prophecy, emotion, and the work of God. We can be confident that so many witnesses and so much evidence confirms the veracity of what has been heard and learned about him.
THIS SALVATION IS EMBODIED IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST
What is interesting is the impact these revelations have on the parents, Joseph and Mary. Mary ponders the message of the shepherd’s v 19. Joseph and Mary are amazed at the things Simeon prophecies about Jesus v 32. Finally, Mary confused by her son’s statement to her, treasured those comments in her heart v 51. How can all of this be true of her son?
Jesus is missing 41-45
The parents had mistakenly assumed that Jesus was somewhere in the returning caravan after celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem. After discovering he was not they anxiously returned and hunted for their missing son. This incident prepares us for Jesus own self testimony revealing his growing awareness.
His parents must struggle to understand his mission 46-52
Jesus was found three days after the caravan started home v 46. He was in the temple sitting at the feet of the teachers listening and asking questions v 47. One day his questions will pierce the religious establishment. His wisdom astonishes the crowd v 48. After explaining their anxiety to Jesus, he reply’s of the necessity of being in His father’s house—the temple. The implication is that they should have known where to look. However, they did not understand his remarks v 50. Like the disciples, their ignorance reveals that understanding God’s calling in life is not a natural thing one falls into. It is hard to fathom the new ground God is often breaking.
NB: God is a God of newness and newness is essential to understanding, growth and maturity. Is it any wonder that those around Jesus at his birth, during his years at home, and in his ministry were slow to realize who he fully was? Imagine such a one arriving today with unique claims, authenticating signs. It would be a struggle to understand and accept him just as it was for Jesus time.
In v 51 Jesus continued in submission possibly for the next seventeen years or so. In the meantime, he grew in wisdom, stature and favor v 52 in contrast to John who grew in spirit, Luke 1:80. Luke pictures Jesus’ growth very naturally.
1. God’s often prepares great things to benefit may people in quiet ways, behind the scenes.
2. It is important that we testify of salvation available to everyone in Jesus Christ. This is one thing we will not do in heaven but must do here.
3. Salvation is only possible in Jesus Christ. It is what Jesus has done not what we can do that delivers us from sin and brings one into the family of God.