Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Coming of a Forerunner

I.   The Backdrop

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division ofAbijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced inyears. Luke 1:5-7

As we have already covered in a previous session how we get our dates as well as the back drop concerning the political leadership of Herod, we know that this is a time of unrest as Israel is under the control of the Roman Empire, there is a wicked king over the land who was not even an Israelite and there has been roughly four hundred years of silence of the word of the Lord. Now suddenly everything is about to change.

In the days of King Herod, there was one named Zacharias a priest, who was of the descendants of Aaron. He was married to Elizabeth who was also of the descendants of Aaron, the scriptures point out that they were both righteous and walked blamelessly before the Lord. They fulfilled the commandments before the Lord with an upright heart that was pleasing to Him. However, at this point they were advanced in their years and still had no child because Elizabeth was barren.

It was considered that if a man who was descended from Aaron were to marry a woman who also was descendant of Aaron, that they were considered to be blessed. However, it was also considered that if a husband and wife produced no child and the wife was barren that she (or perhaps both of them) were in sin or cursed, and thus they would be shamed. It would seem that the Lord wanted to highlight their uprightness before the barrenness so to dispel any thought of them being in sin or cursed.

It would also appear that the Lord revealing that they were both descended from Aaron, to show both their lineage, that they were truly blessed (as we will soon see just how blessed) and that if Elizabeth is a Levite then that makes it possible that Mary her relative could be part Levite, thus; making Jesus both a descendant of David and Aaron or rather both King and Priest. If this is true that Jesus has the lineage of both priest and king it would just add to the prophecy in the book of Zechariah that there would be one who would marry the two roles together in themselves.

“Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. 13Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ Zechariah 6:12-13

II.   A Forerunner Foretold

The Setting

8
Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. Luke 1:8-10

If what we have already suggested previously is true then that would place Zacharias’ time serving in the temple around the first week of October 6 B.C. Zacharias was selected to go in and offer incense to the Lord via the casting of lots, though it would seem God had already chosen who He wanted to come in that day. As Zacharias went in to offer incense with fear and trembling, the multitude of people gathered outside in prayer were prayer to the Lord, for themselves, their nation as well as for Zacharias as he entered into a place many of which could only dream about with fear and trembling.

 The Visitation

11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. Luke 1:11-12

Zacharias went in to perform the daily offering of incense. This was to be done before the altar of incense which was in the Holy Place, this was not the same as being before the Ark of the Covenant which was found in the Holy of Holies. As Zacharias entered into the Holy Place he beheld something that frightened him to the core, for behold an angel was found standing to the right of the altar. This was a sight that he would not have entered in expecting to see. This was the sort of sight he would have heard stories about and even possibly joked about with friends; but now it has happened and to him. One can only imagine what it was like for Zacharias when he saw the angel, the thoughts and the emotions he would have been experiencing in the moment. If walking into a room and not expecting someone to be there is not shocking enough, consider in the context of this being not any ordinary room but the Holy Place and an angel instead of a regular person.

13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

Here there angel speaks comfort to Zacharias in order to comfort him as he is most likely quite startled by his surprising guest. Here in his old age one can even wonder if the thought had come into his mind “Is this angel here to take me away?” The angel goes on to tell Zacharias that his prayers had been heard and that his wife would bear a son and that he was to be called John. This promised child was to bring great joy and happiness to his parents and it would cause many to rejoice. Since they were advanced in age and still barren many would have thought them to be cursed or in sin and for them to have a child would dispel that idea.

 15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 

This child would carry the gaze of the Lord and would be found great in His sight. This child was to be a nazarite from birth which simply means he was to be fully consecrated unto the Lord and would bear the sign of the nazarite calling in his hair (See Numbers 6). This child was to be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother birth. This is a very special part as it would be one of the only children to be born being filled with the Holy Spirit if not the only one.

16And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”

Here Zacharias reveals what is in his heart, that being doubt in the word of the Lord. When Zacharias questions if this word was right, he instantly reveals the doubt hidden in his heart and then shows it even more when he uses the excuse of his age. It is as if he thought that he was beyond God being able to use him. Unlike Mary’s word this was not a new thing to happen in the Jewish history as we see in the life of Abraham and Sarah.

“So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.” Genesis 21:2

19The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Here the angel reveals his identity as Gabriel the one who stands in the presence of God. We also know that he had visited Daniel to give him a message and will later on visit Joseph and Mary. This angel is makes it clear that he is in the presence of God or rather close enough to Him to be given special messages to deliver. He has been sent to him to give him good news, that being he will have a son in his old age, no longer will he be in reproach do to his wife’s barrenness. Because he has chosen to not believe what Gabriel has spoken to him, he will now be made mute until the time of the birth of his child.

21The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.  Luke 1:8-22

As Zacharias was speaking with Gabriel in the temple the people and rest of the priests were left outside wondering as to why it was taking Zacharias so long. To their amazement when he emerged from the temple mute the people realized that he had some form of an encounter. Though unable to speak we know he made signs and even found other forms of communication to the people.”

23When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.24After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25“This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” Luke 1:23-25

When his time was finished he returned home to his wife and she became pregnant. Elizabeth with a different heart posture kept herself in seclusion and gave thanks to the Lord for he had removed her reproach among men.

III. The Birth of A Forerunner

One could only imagine what the next nine months would be like as the advanced in age couple lives life with Elizabeth miraculously pregnant, Zacharias miraculously mute and then suddenly Elizabeth’s pregnant virgin cousin Mary shows up six months in. We will save their time with Mary for a later session but consider what it must have been like during those nine months for the couple, the pressures.

56 “And Mary stayed wither about three months, and then returned to her home. 57Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.” Luke 1:56-58

After the nine months were up and Mary had already left Elizabeth gave birth to her son. At the birth of their son there went forth great rejoicing among the people as they witnessed the great mercy and compassion the Lord had towards Elizabeth and Zacharias.

 59And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” 61And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” 62And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. 64And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

At the time of the circumcision and the naming of the babe on the eighth day they went to call the child Zacharias after his father, but as the Elizabeth said his name was to be John. The people questioned her on the decision since there was no one else with that name in their family. When Zacharias wrote on a tablet the name of his son his tongue was instantly opened. Right at the opening of his tongue Zacharias began to worship the Lord and fear came upon those nearby. The people began to realize that there must be something special going on something supernatural. They began to ask themselves: “What then will this child turn out to be?” They realized there was a significant calling over his life.

The Song of Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79)

 67”And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:” At the point of declaring the name of his son Zacharias’ tongue is loosened and he becomes filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy.

68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant— 70As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— 71Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US;”

The Lord has not only visited both Zacharias and Elizabeth, but ultimately He has visited His people as well as brought forth redemption.  Here he begins to prophesy of the root of Jesse, the branch of David this being the promised messiah that was to come from the line of David and sit as king of all Israel. Through this messiah salvation was to go forth for the house of Israel and deliverance from all of her enemies. Zacharias begins to quote from Psalm 106:10 “So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.”

 72to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, 73the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, 74to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. Here he brings up two aspects about God:

The Lord is merciful to Abraham and his descendants. The Lord is faithful to his covenant which He made with Abraham and is faithful to fulfill it.

76“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;  

John was to be a prophet of God. He will go forth to prepare the way of the Lord.

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me.” Luke 3:1

77to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, 78because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 79TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John would go forth and proclaim the good news of the Lord’s salvation that would come through the forgiveness of their sins. This will all come about because of the tender mercies of the Lord. Because of the merciful heart of God the sunrise shall come to the people of Israel or rather the Christ shall come to His people. He shall release light in the midst of darkness or in other words declare the knowledge of God to the people that would bring deliverance and guidance for the people of Israel into the way of peace.

 80And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

The child, John grew up and became strong in the Lord in the place of hiddenness seeking the Lord, until it was the time for the Lord to begin to use him. It was in this secret place that a prophet was forged.  Many question why John would grow up in the desert instead of a house, the main idea is that because of the advanced age of his parents at his birth they most likely could have passed away at a young age. But we shall cover this in more depth in a later session.

The Early Years of the Christ

I. The First Witnesses
8In the same region there were
 some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them,  “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14

The Shepherds
There in the middle that winter night were some shepherds tending to their sheep unaware that Great Shepherd of Israel had just been born. It would seem to be quite fitting that the first to be invited to see the Holy Child would be shepherds. “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” Ezekiel 34:23. 

Shepherds in first-century Israel were of such low regard that they would be the furthest from nobility. These shepherds were left to watch another’s sheep in the middle of the winter night were of the lowest in rank in first-century Israel. The Father sends His messengers to decree of the beauty of this unimaginable event, that His Son the Second Person of the Holy Trinity has plunged Himself into the story of humanity in the form of a child lying in a manger. Off all of people in Israel and on the earth, the Father sent His messengers to invite the outcasts who were left to watch another’s sheep in fields under the winter starlit sky. This reality that the Word now incarnate in the form of a child’s first invited visitors are of the lowest of class should leave us reeling in awe.

Now if it truly is winter, as we have previously suggested, then the shepherds were most likely watching the sheep for the Temple sacrifices. The sheep for the Temple sacrifices were the only ones to be kept in the open fields throughout the entire year, and given just how close Bethlehem is to Jerusalem only strengthens probability of this idea. However, the more profound importance of this suggestion hardly needs to be mentioned in order to be felt. Also let us not forget that it was thousands of years ago in these hills that a man named Samuel found a boy named David watching some sheep.

The First Invitation
While the shepherds were out watching their flock in the middle of the night suddenly there came an in breaking of light. As the shepherds gazed at the light the angelic messenger standing and bringing good news of great joy which will be for all the people.
The angel declares to the shepherds:

  • “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” First the angel declares to the shepherds words of comfort to not be afraid but that he had come to them to give them good and joyful news that was meant for “all people.”
  • “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”In the city of David which is called Bethlehem a savior was born for “you.” The angel makes this personal by directing the proclamation that salvation was for them and His name is Christ the Lord. Joel 2:32 says that salvation would come to those who called upon the name of the Lord.

    He is the “Christ” also known as the “Messiah” or the “anointed one” this one was to be anointed for a function. The anointed one was to be anointed to be king over Israel. On top of this it was also known that David was promised by the Lord that there would be one who would sit on his throne forever. This messiah was to sit on the throne of David forever and lead Israel into a time greater than that of David. The messiah was anointed to lead Israel on the throne of David into freedom from her enemies and into a time of prosperity and this time would be forever.He is the “Lord” this Lord is YHWH this is the One who brings deliverance and salvation from Joel 2. This is the Lord that David prophesied of in Psalm 110 “My Lord said to my Lord” which Jesus would later go on to identify Himself as.

  • “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The angel says the sign is a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, this truly is a sign because in that time it was not a common thing to see.

13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Right after the angel gives his message “suddenly” a multitude of angels appear on the earth worshipping the Lord. This moment is very significant for multiple reasons.

  • First heaven is invading earth, YHWH has entered into the story of humanity and dwells on the earth and now the angels are following Him to earth to continue worshipping Him. Both John the Baptist and Jesus both testified to the in breaking of the Kingdom of God in their preaching. When Jesus would later goes on to pray “Let Your Kingdom come,” He calling the church to pray for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. He knows that at the point of His birth it had already begun and the angels on the earth worshipping God testify to that reality.
  • Second unless mistaken this is the first time recorded in the Scriptures that a multitude of angels are “on the earth” worshiping. In other passages where we see a multitude of angels they are either there for battle or in heaven. Worship is now on earth as it is in heaven, in a whole new way.
  • Thirdly when the angelic choir begins to sing it is not “Holy, Holy, Holy” but it is a new song and in fact is the first time recorded in the bible for the angelic choir to sing something other than “Holy.” At the point of the birth of Jesus a new song goes forth from the angels that in my personal opinion is a foreshadow of the new song that would go forth at the end of the age “Worthy are You to take the scroll and loose the seals.” “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals…’” Revelation 5:9
  • Finally in this moment God has pierced through that wall of separation like a needle through a curtain. Though it might be small God has invaded and the beginning stages of the tearing down of the wall had begun. As a man on the earth had created that wall through sin even so one would pierce through the wall and destroy it from the earth. Just like when a needle goes through a curtain and then light shines through that hole so it was with the birth of Christ and soon that curtain would fall 33 years later.

One can only wonder what the angels were thinking as they were watching the birth of Jesus. The anticipation in the angels as they watched from heaven as they only took their eyes off of that manger to look at the Father on the throne as He smiled with tears in His eyes. One can only imagine the angels looking at the Father saying “Can we go now?” and the Father responding “Not yet, just wait a few more minutes.” Then suddenly as Jesus was born heaven went from silence and anticipation to suddenly an uproar of worship as they watched the beauty of God’s humble love as He was born from heaven. At the same time one can imagine the Father saying “Go now and worship!” Then suddenly in a violent rushing and yet poetically beautiful rush the angels pierced through the wall of separation to invade earth and worship.

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Luke 2:15-20

As soon as the angels had departed the shepherds went in a hurry to Bethlehem to see that which the angels had told them. When they beheld the babe lying in the manger they told all who were there what the angels told them. The language in the passage hints that there could be more than just Joseph, Mary and Jesus there. Those that heard the shepherd’s testimony in that manger wondered and Mary treasured all these precious moments in her heart. As the shepherds departed they left worshiping and giving glory to God for all they had heard and seen.

II. Jerusalem
“And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” Luke 2:17. Though this one verse may seem unimportant it is actually quite important for multiple reasons.

  • First point of importance is that this helps us with dating the events of Jesus’ life. Though Jesus did not have to go to the Temple to be circumcised but just a priest the proximity of their location and the need for Mary’s time of purification would point that they would go to Jerusalem. Plus the following events of the Holy Babe take place in Jerusalem leads us to say eight days after His birth he was circumcised in Jerusalem.
  • Secondly the verse is also truly profound, as God in His faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, Himself bore the sign of the covenant. God remembers the promise of His covenant with His friend Abraham two thousand years ago and takes on the sign of circumcision as a testimony that He had not forgotten. He is bound to His covenant. In addition this is a sign that His circumcision of the flesh points to His circumcision of the heart. “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Genesis17:11

22And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.” Luke 2:22-24. The time of Mary’s purification was forty days that were to be spent in Jerusalem; this would leave Jesus about a month and a half old. Though she could have done the circumcision and purification separately it would be highly unlikely to do all the extra traveling. If this be the case then that would mean they went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem within the first eight days of Jesus’ life. We will mention this view later on.

The other fact this passage reveals to us is that Joseph and Mary offer the sacrifice of a poor family and if this is the case that would mean they would not have been visited by the magi and thus not yet receiving the gifts that would have increased their current wealth. This means they were in Bethlehem twice. We also will come back to this point later on in the notes. “But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” Leviticus 12:8

Oh Jerusalem little did you know that the babe who would grow up to be your Savior and King had just passed through your gates. As the priests beheld the babe to be circumcised little did they know that it was YHWH the one who dwells between the cherubim.

III. Jesus Presented in the Temple
Truly one of the saddest points of this part of the story is that the religious leadership as they held the babe and presented Him to the Lord did not know who He was. The ones who were to know God the most and teach the rest of who He is could not recognize Him even when in His presence and holding him and yet there were two who would recognize Him. The Holy Spirit would reveal the identity to two different people at the Temple in Jerusalem and the fact that it is two is very significant for the law states that it takes two witnesses to validate something and here we have two. One could even add to this that they were standing as foreshadows of the two witnesses at the end of the age. “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” Deuteronomy 19:15

Simeon “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 30For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:25-35

While in the temple in Jerusalem the family met a man name Simeon whom the Lord had promised to him that he would not die until he had seen the promised one, the Christ. The scriptures recognize this man as being “righteous and devout” which is similar to the description of Joseph whom the word calls “righteous.” In the midst of the multitudes of people in Jerusalem, Simeon was of the remnant of those who still served the Lord with their whole heart. Simeon being devout means that he would have been faithful to the law and a true Israelite who knew the Lord, as he clearly recognizes Him as a babe while he is under the Holy Spirit. Led by the Spirit the man entered into the temple and there met Joseph and Mary as they were bringing in Jesus to have Him presented unto the Lord.

Upon seeing the family Simeon holding the babe and prays that he knows the Lord has now fulfilled His promise to him and that he was now released by the Lord to die in peace. Though the passage does not give his age or anything of the sort as it will with Anna it is assumed that since He had been waiting for the consolation of Israel for a while and that he prays that he can now die in peace alludes to the fact that he is an older man.

Upon holding the babe Simeon states that his eyes have now seen the salvation of the Lord which was prepared in the presence of all people. This child whom he and many in Israel had longed for was prepared in the presence of all people, which simply means that the Lord had been orchestrating everything over the centuries to bring forth the anointed one of Israel as the nations around them were raging. This anointed one was to bring forth the revelation of God to the nations(Gentiles) or rather the light was not meant just for Israel but it was to touch all the nations. He was to be the glory of Israel which like David, He was to bring forth Israel into another Golden Age and it would lead to the promises that God made with Israel to be fulfilled.

Joseph and Mary upon hearing this proclamation stood amazed at the words being spoken of their newborn son. Simeon ultimately was rephrasing that which Gabriel had told them both separately, that which Elizabeth testified to and that which the shepherds had spoken to them about concerning their own angelic encounter regarding the babe. If you had been in their shoes you too would have stood amazed at the words being proclaimed to you by a total stranger. By this point they must be saying to themselves “Something is going on here bigger than we can even grasp.”

Simeon goes on to bless the family and then single out Mary and begins to prophesy of Jesus’ ministry and ultimately that she would see the death of her first born son. The fact that Joseph is not singled out with a prophetic word only strengthens the idea that he would no longer be in the picture when Jesus steps into His ministry most likely because he had already passed away.

Anna
“ 36And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38.

The next person to meet the babe and recognize Him is an elderly woman named Anna. Anna is recognized as a prophetess who had given herself to the place of night and day prayer and fasting in the Temple. This woman was a true friend of God who had given herself to communing with the Lord after being widowed at an early time in her life. Anna was of the tribe of Asher which shows us that there was a remnant of the northern tribes that still lived as well as still loved the Lord.

This friend of God who had a life of prayer and fast for over fifty years recognized the babe as the Christ as soon as she saw Him. At this point Anna begins to worship the Lord and began to testify of the babe to all who had been longing for the anointed one to come. In other words the very first evangelist and preacher of the New Testament is a woman who is known as prophetess and one who served in the house of the Lord. There is much to be said concerning Anna in relation to the deceptive message in much of the church that women are not called to lead or preach to others. If the Scriptures highlight Anna as this prophetic messenger, than it would mean the other passages we use concerning women preaching must be reevaluated in order to find what the true context is in those letters to the church, but that is an issue for another point in time.

“ 39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” Luke 2:39

Nazareth
After their brief time in Jerusalem which would have lasted about a month and a half the family departs for Nazareth. The family has now completed all their rituals which being the purification of Mary and the circumcision of Jesus as they depart back home for Nazareth. Now this would leave one huge chunk missing, that being Matthew’s account of Jesus’ time as a baby. It is my opinion as well the opinion of many scholars that the events of Matthew’s gospel take place shortly after the family returns to Nazareth.

As we mentioned earlier that when they performed the sacrifice that they did the sacrifice of a poor family (Luke 2:17-24) and if this is the case then they could not have received the gold from the magi. Also if the magi had already come why would they then go to Jerusalem where Herod wants to kill the babies from Bethlehem? If this is the case then Jesus would have been in Bethlehem twice as a baby. However the confusing part is that Luke says they went straight to Nazareth after the events there. So the question is what happened when?

It is a very strong possibility that they went back to Nazareth for a short time and then moved to Bethlehem to raise the babe. Seeing as how they had to travel there very quickly for the census, they probably did not have the time to take their stuff with them. Nazareth would be a great place for them to raise the babe as they would be free from the scandalous conception of the babe which they would have endured in Nazareth. If this is the case they would then move to Bethlehem where they would probably have friends and family there. Before their trip up to Jerusalem they probably would have also secured a place to live in Bethlehem. If what we have suggested is true then they would probably be leaving from Jerusalem to Nazareth around the end of January beginning of February. They would probably be back in Bethlehem by the end of February 4 B.C. (dates are approximate).

IV. Enter the Magi
 1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’” 7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. Matthew 2:1-9

While back in Bethlehem the family would finally starting to get situated when suddenly a drama begins. For many of us who grew up being told this story it was three wise men or three kings. However, the scriptures do not call the men kings and does not say that there were three. We guess three because there were three gifts. The truth is there were most likely more than three people showing up in Jerusalem. Though King Herod was a very paranoid man would not have paid much attention to three men coming into Jerusalem with three little boxes of gifts. The scriptures say that both Herod and the people of Jerusalem were troubled by the arrival of these Maji, this leads us to the conclusion that it must have been more than just three men on camels. These Magi who were men of authority and influence would not have left home unguarded and especially not if they were carrying the gifts they were. They definitely would not have gone in search of a king to bring him some small gifts. They would have loaded down camels of gifts and thus requiring more guards to protect the treasure from robbers. Using sheer logic one can simply guess twenty to a hundred armed guards with these maji to protect both their lives and the gifts that would have stood out.

“Here we must enter even further into speculation. All that is certain is that the Maji arrived in Jerusalem prior to Herod’s death. It would seem some time has passed, perhaps months, but there is no reason necessarily to assume an extended period. Herod’s command to kill all infants two years old was based solely on the Maji’s report of the appearance of the star prior to any knowledge on their part of the One they were seeking and how the star correlated to the birth. Thus Herod had every reason to overestimate the age because of the ambiguity of his knowledge. A date for the birth of Christ toward the end of 5 B.C. retains a high level of plausibility, but dating the event earlier would allow for greater flexibility in the arrival of the Magi.”[1]

Little is known of these Maji other than they came from the East having followed a star in search for the newborn King of the Jews. It could be said of them that they are those who knew the times and the seasons in which they lived, as they were aware of the star and its significance. The following comes from Stephen Venable’s notes on the Maji:

Scriptural Information
Acts 13:6,8- the same term is used and translated magician
Daniel 2:2- in the LXX the word is used to describe a magician
1 Kings 4:30- Solomon’s wisdom is said to exceed all the men of the East.

Historical Information
As a result of the setting of the Book of Daniel, and the identification of these men is coming from the East, it is likely that the concept of wise men developed therein provides the most accurate portrait of their identity. The Magi first appear in approximately the 7th century B.C. in the Median Empire. At the time of Jesus they were an ancient priestly caste practicing a form of astronomy that incorporated what we now know as astrology. Magi formed the upper house of the council of the Megistanes, whose duties included the election of the king of the Parthian Empire. They were adept at interpreting dreams and were thought to possess knowledge of mysteries.[2]

One must remember that these there were still a large amount of people still living in the Parthian Empire. It would not be surprising that some of them would be within the priestly aristocratic class, nonetheless they Jewish population in the Parthian Empire would have held a strong impact on the culture. Let us not forget the favor of Daniel in Babylonian and Persian Empires with the people and leaders.

Herod
As mentioned in a previous session King Herod was ruling from Jerusalem over Judea. Herod though he sat as king in Jerusalem was not the rightful heir of the throne; he was not of Jewish decent let alone in the line of David. Herod was actually an Edomite which simply means he was descended from Isaac’s eldest son Esau. Herod was also notorious for being paranoid as he had known only betrayal and assignations in his family and with those who also had once sat on the throne prior. Herod when taking the throne went as far in his paranoia had his wife, rivals and supposedly some of his own sons put to death.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Matthew 2:1-3

As the Magi enter into Jerusalem they begin to ask where the one born King of the Jews is. We’re are not sure how these event fully began whether they went straight to Herod or just entered into Jerusalem and began to ask the people, no matter how it happened the news still reached the ears of King Herod.  As Herod hears the news he is deeply troubled and enraged as well as the people. We have already mentioned why Herod would be upset but the question we are left with is: why are the people? It quite possible because the people know that Herod is a paranoid tyrant and are afraid of what he might do having now heard the news. The people might be pained at the fact that they had missed the advent of their Lord whom they had been looking for. This would be exceptionally painful for the Jewish people since it was gentiles who knew He had come. The people could honestly be afraid of another tyrant.

“Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’” Matthew 2:4-6

Whatever the case is Herod is troubled and calls for the scribes and chief priests to find out where this new born king was to be born. The chief priests and scribes know where the Messiah is to be born. Though scripture is silent of how they responded we can safely assume that not much was taken into deeper consideration by the spiritual leaders that would lead them to visit and see for themselves.

“Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.” Matthew 2:7-9

When they answer the question where the newborn king was to be born the Magi leave to go worship Him, but before they can leave Herod calls them secretly. When Herod meets with the Maji he seeks to find out how long the star had been around as well as that they would come back to him with news of the location of the child. We know from the story that Herod doesn’t truly want to come worship the new born king but rather desires to have Him destroyed. After leaving Herod and Jerusalem they begin to follow the star to Bethlehem which would be about six miles out.

 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.” Matthew 2:10-12

When the Magi came upon the house where the star rested they were filled with great joy and began to rejoice as they had finally found the one whom they had been searching for. When the Magi came to where the star rested they approached the ‘house’ and saw the Child with His mother and they began to worship Him. It says they were in a ‘house’ and not a ‘manger’ which would seem to back up the argument that they have moved to Bethlehem and were now set up in a more permanent residency.

As they entered into the house and beheld the Babe with His mother they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. One can only imagine what it was like in that moment for Mary and Joseph when the Magi entered into their house and began to worship their newborn Child. These men of great wealth and power falling on the floor in their home as they worshipped their Son. This truly must have had a might impact on their hearts. Then the Magi opened their treasures and presented to Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Falling on the ground before the babe these men adorned in wealth fall before this babe with gifts stretched out before the Babe. What a powerful scene.

The first four people to see and recognize the Babe:

  • The poor and outcast- Shepherds
  • The old who have stood as a faithful remnant- Simeon
  • The friend of God who spent their life communing with Him- Anna
  • The rich and powerful who knew the times in which they lived- The Magi

After their time with the Holy Child they chose not to return to Herod like they originally planned due to being warned by a dream.

V. There and Back Again

The Flight to Egypt
13
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” 14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” 16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” Matthew 2:13-18

After the Maji had left for some time, most likely would not have been long, Joseph has a dream in which the Lord tells him to get up and flee to Egypt with his wife and Child, because Herod was about to search for the Child in an attempt to destroy Him. Right then Joseph awakens and does as the Lord had commanded on the spot. By this point in their lives Joseph and Mary had enough faith not to question or doubt but instantly fled as the Lord had commanded. They remained there until the death of Herod. Matthew says that the flight to Egypt was so fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Hosea in Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” However, this passage would not have been normally considered a Messianic passage but as a reflection of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. According to Matthew however it would seem this passage in Hosea would have a duel fulfillment.

When Herod discovers the Magi had decided to not come back to him he went into a rage. Herod remembered that Bethlehem was the town the Messiah was to be born and that the Magi had first seen the star two years ago. Thus, he released a proclamation that all boys two and under in Bethlehem and in the vicinity were to be killed. Matthew points out again that this was all done to fulfill the word which Jeremiah had prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15 “Thus says the LORD, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.’”

The Return to Judea
“But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20“Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” Matthew 2:19-23

Herod died around the end of March and before April 12th (which was right before the Passover) of the year 4 B.C. It was after Herod’s death that the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to let him know it was time to return back to Judea for those that threatened the Child were now dead. However, Joseph became afraid when he had discovered that Herod’s son Archelaus who was a wicked man was king. As they began to return to Bethlehem that the Lord appears to Joseph in a third dream and told him to take his family to Nazareth where our story had begun so that they Child would be safe from Herod’s son. Matthew points out another prophecy that this was all to take place to fulfill yet another prophecy. There is no clear understanding as to what Matthew is referencing where as the previous prophecies were clearly referenced.

  • It is possible that this prophecy he was referencing was on an oral tradition much like how Paul quotes a saying of Jesus in Acts 20:35 “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” However this saying is not found in the four Gospels thus this was quite possibly an oral tradition or the less popular idea is that it is from a lost letter.
  • Matthew uses the word “prophets” in the plural sense which leads to the idea that he is pooling an idea from multiple prophecies from multiple prophets.
  • It is also considered by multiple scholars that it is a play on words from Isaiah 11:1 as the word ‘Branch’ from Isaiah 11:1 along with the word Nazareth in Hebrew are both derived from the same root word.

It would be safe to say that the Lord foresaw their need to flee to Egypt suddenly without being able to take their things with them and thus the need for funds which the Magi’s gifts would perfectly suffice. Joseph would have had a hard time finding work in Egypt and thus the gifts would have easily funded all the sudden traveling as well as help fund their time in Egypt. This would also help strengthen a later time for Jesus birth which would lead to a short period in Egypt. If it had been a longer period then they would easily have time to work but here they have to lean on their new funds to support all their sudden traveling.

VI. In His Father’s House
“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 49And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:41-52

Twelve years later Joseph, Mary and Jesus go to the Passover feast in Jerusalem whuch they did every year. However, this time when they were on their way back home Jesus’ parents realized that He was not with them. Already being a day out they return to Jerusalem to find their lost Son. Three days later they find Him in the Temple. They found Him sitting among the teachers listening and asking them questions. These tears of Israel truly had no clue that the One whom they studied and taught on was now in the form of a twelve year old boy and was questioning them.

All of those who were in attendance and heard this mysterious Boy were amazed at both His understanding and His answers to their own questions. When His parents found Him they were astonished at the scene they beheld and Mary asked Him why He had ran away and that they were left worried about Him. Think of the emotions and the thoughts racing in Joseph and Mary in this moment. They had already had so many supernatural confirmations concerning the specialness of this Boy that easily would have enhanced there concern for Jesus. Jesus in His beauty responds “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” what a powerful statement and it is clear that at this point He knows to a degree who He is as the Son of God. But as Luke has made it clear that He still in His full humanity had to grow in knowledge.

40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:40

If this moment could not get any more beautiful Jesus chooses to continue to subject Himself to His mother and followed her and Joseph back to Nazareth. Mary sees the greatness of her time with her Son and it says that she treasured it all in her heart. Jesus who is both fully God and fully man grows up in stature and wisdom and favor among God and man. Though the fact that He is both fully God and fully man is not hard enough to grasp He who knows all as God had to grow in wisdom as a man. He who is God grew in favor with God. He who created man grew in favor with His own creation. After their return from Jerusalem the Scriptures go silent until the time of His revealing eighteen years later. One can truly wonder what it was like for Jesus growing up as well as His family. And so we will end it with Max Lucado’s “25 Questions for Mary”
What was it like watching him pray? How did he respond when he saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue? When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood? Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world? When he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently? Did you ever see him with a distant look on his face as if he were listening to someone you couldn’t hear? How did he act at funerals? Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof? Did you ever try to count the stars with him … and succeed? Did he ever come home with a black eye? How did he act when he got his first haircut? Did he have any friends by the name of Judas? Did he do well in school? Did you ever scold him? Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture? What do you think he thought when he saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body he made? Did he ever get angry when someone was dishonest with him? Did you ever catch him pensively looking at the flesh on his own arm while holding a clod of dirt? Did he ever wake up afraid? Who was his best friend? When someone referred to Satan, how did he act? Did you ever accidentally call him Father? What did he and his cousin John talk about as kids? Did his other brothers and sisters understand what was happening? Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?[3]


[1] Stephen Venable, Life of Christ in the Gospels: Session 04- Infancy & Childhood of Jesus, p16

[2] Ibid p. 16-17

[3] “25 Questions for Mary” is from Max’s book: God Came Near © 1987 by Max Lucado ISBNO8499-5255-7