Luke: Chapter 2 - To Us A Child Is Born

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2015-05-26





Verses 1-20 The Lord Jesus is born

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 this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 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. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Many of these verses are familiar although they are not often read in the middle of August!! It has been great to read these without the baggage associated with Christmas getting the food in, the parties, the children performing their nativity plays, etc. As we read them we must never lose sight of the fact that God was coming to dwell with man on earth. Solomon was in the house that he had built for his God (we call it the temple) when he said these words, But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have built? II Chronicles 6.18. How wonderful to think that God did indeed dwell with men on earth in the person of the Lord Jesus. We must never lose the sense of wonder at the events that happened at Bethlehem.


And yet there are so many additions that are attached to the story. We read between the lines and maybe the thoughts that we have are true but the text only tells us so much of the story and really the bits that we need to know. For example we are not told about a donkey yet there would certain songs that rely upon the presence of a donkey and a little one at that!! There is no stable mentioned though the feeding trough for the animals (the manger) is mentioned twice in these verses. We receive Christmas cards and the wise men, the shepherds and Mary and Joseph are all present at the stable on them. Matthew 2 makes it clear that the wise men (they brought three gifts so there may have been three of them but we are not told and certainly not told their names) came to the house. We must not rely upon Christmas cards for our theology.


The first two verses show Gods perfect timing in that He arranged for Joseph and Mary to be in Bethlehem at the very time that they were needed to be there. God was able to move politicians and rulers to bring His Son into the world at the right time and in the right place.


Caesar Augustus, named Gaius Octavius (also known as Octavian) was the Roman Emperor from BC 27 to AD 14. The decree really related to a census being established (taxing itself being left to the publicans or tax collectors).


Dr Luke is a very detailed and careful writer and so he gives the very time. He referred to Gentile rulers whereas Matthew concentrated upon Herod the king who was nominally the king of the Jews but was nothing more than a puppet king who responded to his Roman overlords. The style of Lukes gospel is to bring out the manhood or humanity of Gods beloved Son.


The places were more like villages than cities. The journey was somewhere between 70 and 95 miles.


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Dr Luke confirms that Mary and Joseph were not yet married, and noticed, and wrote, of Marys advanced pregnancy


Gods perfect timing was also seen in that two OT prophecies are fulfilled. Two OT prophets, Isaiah and Micah, spoke independently of each other about the same special one. Micah said this:


Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Micah chapter 5 verses 1 & 2 (around 750 to 700 BC)


And Isaiah said this:


13.   And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14.   Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.


Isaiah chapter 7 verses 13 & 14 (around 750 to 700 BC)


Mary was unique. There is a beauty and simplicity about these verses. We know nothing about the exact location, all we know is that the Lord of Glory from heaven, was laid in a manager on earth, because there was no room for Him. Mary saw the fulfilment of the promise given in Luke 1


31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

32. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:


The Saviour was provided and verses 8-11 give the setting and context for the angelic message. The fields were dark and the sky lit up. The men were afraid but there is no mention of animals being afraid. The message that the angel brought was for the shepherds but also for all people whoever we are or think we are.


A Saviour provided the Saviour and a sign given. The angel described Him as a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. There is no ambiguity here. This was Emmanuel God with us. What was He? Six, seven, eight pounds of human flesh but in that babe was the very God of eternity.


The babe was to be found wrapped in strips of cloth. Were not all babies of that time wrapped in such things? That maybe so but not all babes were laid in a manger and content to be there!! We often think of the angels singing but there is no specific mention of singing but praising and saying.


A Saviour had been provided and news had reached these humble shepherds but now it was decision time. Do we go? What do we do with the sheep? Do we believe what we have just been told? They went for they believed. We have heard this story, not by the mouth of an angel admittedly, but we have heard it hundreds of times. The question is - do we believe it? They came by faith and found the place and found the Saviour by sight. Have we come by faith and found the Saviour, too? The shepherds couldnt contain themselves but let everyone know what had happened that night. They had met the Saviour and they wanted all to know. How is it with us those of us who know the Saviour as our own?


A Saviour has been provided what was the reaction of Mary and the shepherds? The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.


Verses 21-40 Simeons testimony

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

In verse 21 we are introduced to the Lord, aged 8 days old, because circumcision was to be carried out at 8 days (Genesis 17 verses 10, 12). Medically in the male child there is minimal bleeding on the 8th day. Paul claims such observance in Philippians 3 v 1 10


1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;


In contrast to all the things that had happened to Paul, he deemed them (including circumcision) worthless compared with knowing the Lord.


Jesus means Saviour it was the name given before He was born.


In verses 22 and 23we are told that Mary & Joseph were a righteous couple. What was done was in conformity with the law. A sacrifice of two turtle doves or young pigeons indicates that the couple were very poor.


Leviticus 5:7 And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.


Lev. 5:11 But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.


Lev. 12:8 And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.


Lev. 14:22 And two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, such as he is able to get; and the one shall be a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering.


Lev. 15:14 And on the eighth day he shall take to him two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and come before the LORD unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and give them unto the priest:


Also the sacrifice was for a sin offering, and Mary by bringing one testifies that she was not sinless as some suppose or teach.


In verse 25 we are introduced to Simeon. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Note that he was (i) just because God declared it so, he was right before God; (ii) he was devout, careful with regard to realising what the claims of God were. Do we take care and diligence over such things? (iii) waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Jews were under the yoke of Roman occupation and an Emperor.


Was he waiting for the event, or waiting patiently for the person? He was waiting, with patience for the release of Israel. The Christian should be waiting patiently for the return of the Lord Jesus.


26.And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that.... We have Gods revealed word on our hands the Bible. before he had seen the Lords Christ.. The Lord Jesus Christ was and is the true Messiah.


28. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God,.... Simeon held the Lord in his hands. Here was one who was more than a child; he was holding the Christ of God.


Verses 28 to 32 is often referred to as the nunc dimittis which is Latin for the first words of Simeons speech. He could now depart in peace having seen the Saviour. It is an awful thing to depart this life not knowing the Lord Jesus as Saviour.


30.For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,... Simeon was a believer. There is coming a day when every eye will see the Saviour. Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. The Bible also tells us we shall be like him if we are His 1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. Simeon saw the Lord as Gods salvation.


There is a saying in the world that seeing is believing. When we come to spiritual matters it is the case of believing is seeing.


35. (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed....We find similar reactions in Acts 2 37- 38 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

and in Acts 5:33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.. and in Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.


In verse 37 we read of Anna. Her name is really a corruption of Hannah and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. She was consistent in prayer. We will not try and unravel her age. There are several thoughts about this, but there is no need to go in to them this evening. She was a very old lady and not many of that day would have reached such an age.


Verse 38 tells us that, like Simeon, she saw the Lord; she looked on his face. She was like minded with Simeon. Do we have an instinct to know when things are right about the Lord? The presence of the Lord Jesus causes her to speak about the Lord.


In verse 39 we read And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. Mary & Joseph were faithful and obedient and then returned to Galilee. They returned to their own home; we now return to our homes is the Lord Jesus there?


Verses 41-52 Twelve years old


41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

By now we understand that Joseph and Mary did all that God wanted them to do. They were by no means wealthy the offering of the birds indicates that this was the case. We have also seen that they were, though few in number, some who were waiting for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Simeon waited for the comfort of Israel and in this regard we were reminded of Isaiah 40. Simeon was waiting for the Comforter, the Messiah, even the Lord Jesus. The Spirit was upon him as He is in those who genuinely seek God. Again and by way of connection with the previous section, we were reminded of a verse in John 8 and the 47th verse, He that is God heareth Gods words. Simeon was such a man. Simeon not only heard Gods words but he spoke them too insomuch that Joseph and Mary marvelled at the things that he had to say the Lord Jesus even though He was but a babe. The babe who he held in his arms was set for greatness and for doing those things that none other could do.


Not only was there Simeon but Anna (she was very old but that was all that was said about her age apart from the question was she 84 or much older than that?). She played an important role as she talked about the Lord Jesus in the court of the women in Herods temple. God had worked in both these lives before the Lord Jesus appeared. The Lord Jesus grew and became strong. He was not brought in as a full grown man. He developed physically as all who are born into the world do but he did so sin apart. Gods favour was upon this one from His earliest days. Some of these things are hard to understand and there is more to come in the last section of chapter 2. There is no parallel scripture to help us. He was born and grew to be a man but remained throughout all these years of growth as God manifest in the flesh. Marrying man and God is hard to do.


Verse 41 shows us that they continued to do the things that pleased God. They went up year by year to the Passover. Twelve years had passed by since the lord Jesus was born. There may well have been other children in the family by now these having been conceived naturally. Deuteronomy 16 makes it abundantly clear that the godly male Jew would appear at the place which the Lord his God was to choose to place His name there on three separate occasions in the year of which the Passover was one. It was made into a family occasion. This was a holiday, yes, but with a spiritual emphasis. Do we put the same emphasis upon spiritual things as we do upon matters of business?


This one incident from the Saviours youth takes us back to the same temple at which He appeared as a babe of eight days old. There was company that travelled from Nazareth to Jerusalem and this company (caravan) returned home after the feast was complete. It seems hard for us to understand in our day and age why it was that His parents were not watching and checking on His whereabouts every five minutes. This is what we do as parents in our time. They had gone a days journey which was about 20 miles or from Hurst to Maidenhead and back again. Then they noticed that He was not there. Some of us have experienced this as parents and it is not pleasant. It is such a shock and fear and worry take over. For them it was particularly bad as there had to be another day to get back to Jerusalem and then the search began. We were shown a diagram of the temple showing the court of the women and the huge pillars and the lampstands. They found Him in the temple sitting in the midst of learned doctors both hearing them and asking them questions. Note the order hearing is given first and then the asking of questions with answers mentioned in the following verse. Where did He get His understanding? Was His understanding because He was God and therefore the author of the Bible or was it because He had studied the scriptures? Heard, asked and answered. Do we do that? Do we encourage others? Do we give answers that provoke growth? Think of the way that the Lord asked questions who do ye say that I am? Matthew 16; Which of you convinceth me of sin? John 8.


In verse 48 we read that after three days (46) sorrowing they found Him. It must have been nerve wracking. Were they angry? Nothing is said to that effect. The word used to describe their feelings is astonished, amazed. They were in great distress. The Lord Jesus answered their enquiry with a question of His own, Why were you looking for me? It was not that He was asking why they had got bothered. It was as if He was asking, Why didnt you know where I was going to be? It was as if he was saying that as soon as they discovered Him missing they should have said to themselves, hell be at the temple and then never fretted. To Him everything was straightforward. If He was not with them He was with the father and about His business. He had to be in the Fathers house if He was not in His home at Nazareth. His life had a purpose and plan. At 12 years of age He knew that He was the Son of God. He never grew into the knowledge of being special. He was ever in communion with His God. His first priority was god.


Verse 51 shows that this one was not disobedient to earthly parents. What took place at Jerusalem was not orchestrated as some act of defiance and disobedience. Mary treasured the sayings of the Lord Jesus in her heart and, no doubt, treasured the memory of the experience, hard though it must have been to pass through it at the time. In verse 18 she pondered on the things that had happened. There it was the events here it is the words. How much do we treasure the things of God be they His actions or His words?


Verse 52 speaks of the Lord Jesus advancing in wisdom. As a five year old He behaved as perfect five year old. As an eight year old He was a perfect eight year old and so on. Matthew Henry was quoted at this point, In the perfections of his divine nature there could be no increase; but this is meant of his human nature, his body increased in stature and bulk, he grew in the growing age; and his soul increased in wisdom, and in all the endowments of a human soul. Though the Eternal Word was united to the human soul from his conception, yet the divinity that dwelt in him manifested itself to his humanity by degrees, ad modum recipientisin proportion to his capacity; as the faculties of his human soul grew more and more capable, the gifts it received from the divine nature were more and more communicated.This was translated into more simple language in that as the Lord Jesus grew so we got to see more and more of His deity.


It is amazing to see that those who saw the Lord Jesus knew that he was the Son of God. It is also amazing to see that from the age of eight days old until the Lord Jesus was twelve years old the scripture says very little and then after this one incident the scripture is silent for another seventeen or eighteen years.