In this Bible-study, we will examine the events surrounding the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-21) PMO-ENG
The Birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:1-7)
Luke includes information that would have helped his audience determine an approximate time when Jesus was born.
- Augustus was Caesar
- Augustus issued a decree for everyone to be registered
- This was the first registration
- Quirinius was governor of Syria
Today, scholars use the same information, together with the information that Jesus was born in the days of Herod (Matthew 2:1) and that there was a second census(Acts 5:37) to give an approximate date of when Jesus was born: sometime between 6 BC and 4 BC.
Notice also that the decree of Caesar August was for “all the world” (Luke 2:1). This small phrase teaches us that, when reading the books of the Bible, we must consider the authors’ perspective. Logically, the phrase “all the world” cannot refer to what we today consider to be all the world, instead it is a reference to everywhere Caesar August’s decree would have been law: that is, all the territory under the rule of Rome.
Surely, many people would have found Caesar’s decree troublesome, including Joseph and Mary, who had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when Mary’s pregnancy was advanced, to comply with the decree. Nevertheless, God used Caesar’s decree to fulfill the prophecy given in Micah 5:2, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
God was in control of everything, so even when they laid Mary’s firstborn son in a manger, it was not by chance, but it was to become a sign to the shepherds (Luke 1:12).
The Shepherds and The Angels (Luke 2:8-21)
Luke writes that, in the same region, there were shepherds caring for the sheep at night. Luke does not mention how many shepherd there were, but this omission of a number may indicate that, although the group was small, it was also significant—maybe a little more than a handful.
Not only did an angel appear to them, but God’s glory also manifested to them. Let us remember that God’s glory wasn’t only light, but also manifested itself as a cloud and fire (Exodus 40:34-38, Ezekiel 1:4, 28). Clearly, what the shepherds experienced was no small matter, but something spectacular that would have caused them to fear.
Moreover, just as angels were present in the giving of the Law (Deuteronomy 33:2, Hebrews 2:2), a multitude of angels are present here when good news are proclaimed to the shepherds (Luke 2:13).
Comparison between of Matthew and Luke
To tell us about the birth of the Messiah, Matthew focused on the revelations given to Joseph through dreams (Matthew 1:20, 2:13, 2:19) and on the visit of the wisemen (Matthew 2:1-12). Luke, on the other hand, focused on the experiences of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary, and of the shepherds (also, the experiences of Simeon and Anna).
It would seem that Luke had access to Mary, or to someone who knew Mary very well (Luke 2:19), whereas Matthew had access to Joseph, or someone who knew about Joseph.
In the end, the Messiah’s birth would have probably been an unnoticed event in history were it not because God made it know to some of His servants so they would in turn tell others (Amos 3:7).
Questions for Reflection
- As we read our Bibles, why is it importat to consider the authors’ ponints of view?
- How does today’s Bible study show that God is in control of history? Why is this important?
- Why does God reveal His works to humanity at all?
- When the Bible speaks of God’s glory and us giving God glory, it is not speaking of the same thing. How are God’s glory and us giving God glory different? What is God’s glory?
- Why were the angels praising God? Can we still praise God for the same thing?
- Thank God for making sure that the gospel of Jesus Christ was made available to you.
- Praise God for His miraculous works and His control (porovidence) over history.
- Thank God for sending Jesus, the Messiah, to save His people (and us!)
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