Veritas Christi Classical School Bible Class - Luke 2:1-20
VCCA bible class
Luke 2:1-2 says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
When I was younger I lived for a short time in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Almost every day at around 3:00 pm the clouds would hit the mountains and it would cause brief thunderstorms and rain. All of this happened like clockwork every day. So much so that I did not have to wear a watch at work. When it would begin to rain it was time to begin putting up the tools because the workday was over at 3:30.
I mention this because we come to a text today in which we hear a very loud decree go fourth. A very loud command is given which thundered fourth throughout all of the Roman Empire. When this decree came fourth everyone responded. We are told in verse 3 that ‘all went to be registered’. When this thunderous decree went fourth everyone left work, packed their things for a long trip, and went to be registered.
The Roman Empire was a huge empire. So imagine the powerful voice that was behind this decree. Caesar Agustus was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Let me tell you a little bit about Julius. He reigned as a ‘dictator and a high priest’ according to Josephus 50 years before this time in history. Julius had a pretty simple philosophy, ‘Everyone was to submit to Rome or be brought into submission by force.’
Julius ruled over Israel and he picked the high priest, this high priest was to rule over the Jews, and the Jews were to pay a yearly tribute to Rome. In 44 B.C. Julius was assassinated by two men named Cassius and Brutus and this made the Jews more discontented with Rome than they had been before.
After his death the kingdom was led by three men: Agustus, Mark Antony, and Lopidus. However, Agustus solidified his reign with his victory over Mark Antony in 31 B.C. Once he became ruler over Rome the senate gave him the title Caesar Agustus. It was at this time that his voice became clearer and more powerful throughout the land.
It was in these days that Caesar Agustus decreed that a census should be taken. At this point Caesar Agustus’ voice was so loud and powerful that everyone obeyed this command. And it was at this time, as we remember from last week in Luke 1:69-70, that God began to raise up His horn of salvation in the house of David, as He had spoken by the prophets.
I mention all of this to show that this world is a world of change. Kingdoms come and go. Rulers come and go. But God is always at work fulfilling His promises and purposes. I also mention this because we see that this world is filled with great and powerful kingdoms. And yet, none are to be compared with the Kingdom of God. As we will see in this story the Kingdom of God is working through and among all these other things as God fulfills His plans.
We will see that Joseph and Mary submit to the decree of Rome and in doing so they unknowingly are being carried along to the exact place that they need to be to fulfill Scripture. When this decree comes they pack up their things and begin the 80 mile trip from Galilee to a small town called Bethlehem.
We are told in verse 3 that everyone went ‘up’ to be registered. In verses 4&5, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”
I am originally from Oklahoma and geographically almost everything is ‘up’ from that spot. Because of this I would often say we are going ‘up’ to Arkansas, or Kansas, or Colorado, or up to Illinois. Twenty-five years ago I moved up here to Wisconsin and there is not many things in the US that are higher than we are. We are on the Northern boarder of the US. And yet, I still often say things like, “We are going up to Oklahoma”. Usually someone always corrects me when I say this by saying, “Don’t you mean that you are going down to Oklahoma to see your family?”
In this case, Joseph and Mary are really going to have to travel ‘up’ in elevation to Bethlehem. Mary is close to giving birth to a baby boy and I don’t imagine that this was going to be an easy trip for them. They did not have airplanes to fly. They did not have cars to drive. No, they would have to travel on foot or by riding on an animal. They would be exposed to great crowds, the threat of robbery, and the elements while on this journey. They will also have to travel uphill to get there before she gives birth.
This must have seemed like such an inconvenience for them to do and obey. They may have had moments where they grumbled and complained about these things. There may have been moments when they wondered where God was at in all of this. He had not spoken to them in quite a while. Yet, they obeyed in faith and we will see that when they arrive the LORD will bless them and encourage them while they are there. This may be something we should remember in our life. We take a step of faith and then the joy comes. Then the power arrives. Then the blessing is seen. Then the resources show up. Yet, all too often we complain that God is not doing anything when we have not stepped out in faith to trust Him. To the degree that Joseph and Mary believed the Scriptures, trusted in the nature of God and walked by faith they would be at peace, not complained and been joyful in all these circumstances.
In verse 6 we read, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” In our church we have a young couple who is about to have their first baby. They could not be more excited. I saw the mother last week and asked her how she was feeling. She said that she was easily tired but her husband was doing more to make her life easier. They have been scrambling to finish the babies room. This included making the crib and the dresser on their own. This stressed the mother out because she did not always believe that they could get the room ready in time.
Now imagine just how much more stress Joseph and Mary may have felt at this time. They are traveling. They are far from home. As we will see they do not have the best accommodations to stay in and because the town is so full they end up sleeping in the barn. In all of this Joseph was powerless to do anything about these things. And yet, all of this is God’s design and plan.
In verse 7 we read, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Joseph and Mary had no choice but to have this baby in a manger. Maybe one day they would laugh about these things but probably not at the moment. And yet, I bet within moments of seeing this child for the very first time all other concerns faded quickly away. From that moment on they cared for this child in the best way that they could.
Today I talked with someone who has been planning for their death. They have been meeting with the funeral home and deciding what things will be like when they die. She has been told in this process that she would be surprised just how much people will spend after they have died to have the best casket, the prettiest flowers, the nicest meal, etc. Some of them, she was told, will spend 60,000 to 80,000 dollars for these things.
Contrast this with the birth of Jesus. The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Word, The King, the Lord, the Savior has just been born in a barn in a small town in Judea. What seems important to us is not always what seems important to God. We are to have the mind of Christ who did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself and became a man and was willing to suffer from His birth to His death on a cross.
It is after all of this that the Father announces the birth of His Son. He does this in a most unusual way. He announces it to Shepherds working out in the fields. We read in verses 8-14, “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Shepherds were not highly respected at this time. They could not testify, they were considered unclean, and they were considered irreligious because their occupation did not allow them to keep all the Pharisees rules. And yet, these are the men that the angel of the LORD came to share the good news. These were ordinary men who would become the first evangelists concerning these things. They were those who were chosen by God whom the world considered foolish, ignoble, poor and not influential.
An angel appeared to them and they became afraid. Angels are strong, powerful, and intimidating. Often in scripture angels are sent to judge wicked peoples. But this angel comes and the glory of the LORD shines around them and he says to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
I suppose that these shepherds could accept the words, “Fear not” by faith but the angel gives them reasons to not fear. The angel gives them a surplus of good news to place their faith in God. First, this is good news that he is bringing. Secondly, this will bring great joy to all who receive it. Third, this good news will be for all people.
We began this morning by speaking about the powerful decree of Agustus Caesar. His voice, however, is dwarfed by this good news. The good news is not like Agustus’ decree that sought to count people to extract taxes and dues. No, this is the good news concerning Jesus Christ who was full of grace and truth. It is a decree about the Light of God that was dawning upon those who sat in darkness. It is the Good News concerning the defeat of our enemies and the giving of an inheritance through Christ Jesus.
Caesar threatened severe punishment if people did not comply with his decrees. These shepherds, however, are given good news, they are given a sign, and they see a multitude of angels saying, ““Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”. This good news is about what God does for sinners and unworthy people. Oh, the kingdom of God is so different than the kingdoms of this world. That kingdom has real glory - God’s glory! And God sends his Son into this world filling this doomed world with His Glory.
In verse 15 we read, “When the angels went away from them into heaven…”. There is a reality show on the history channel which is called ‘Alone’. At the beginning of the season you see these 10 individuals being dropped off alone in the middle of nowhere as the boat or helicopter leaves. From that time they are all alone. In some sense, this is the picture we have here. Jesus has come into the world and He leaves His glorious kingdom behind. Now, from the human perspective Jesus is alone. Yet, not really. A true believer may feel alone but we are not really ever alone are we?
Then we read in verses 15-16, “...the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
Notice that they do not have to go ‘up’. No, they just have to go ‘over’ to Bethlehem. Their journey is not far. The journey is not long. They go with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. All of our journeys are different. Some are slow, some long, some exciting, some mundane, some are easy, some are difficult. As we have seen in this chapter, God is directing all of our journeys. Don’t envy others. Don’t be jealous. Do not compare your journey with others or think one is more valid than the other. The most important thing is that our journey lead us to Jesus Christ.
This is what we discover next as the Shepherds tell everyone what was said about this child. We read, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” Namely, this child is the LORD, is the Christ, is the Savior.
Then we read how the people responded to these things, “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” After this we read, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
The people wondered, Mary treasured and pondered, and the shepherds glorified and praised God. What is our response to these things? What is our response after we hear the word in our devotions, in a sermon or in Sunday School? Does our wonder move us to treasure and to ponder the truth of God’s Word concerning Christ? Does our pondering and prayer produce praise and worship?
We live in a world where our government and the authorities in this world consume almost everything. Yet, our text today shows us that there is a greater kingdom and a more powerful kingdom that is at work. It is a heavenly kingdom and the King of this kingdom has come. He came as a child and when the ‘Good News’ concerning Him was discovered they wondered, they pondered and treasured, they praised and worshiped. Where is your heart in relation to this King and His Kingdom? He is the LORD, the Savior and the Chtrist.