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O’ Little Town of Bethlehem We Do Not Know Thee (The Great Paradox)

O’ Little Town of Bethlehem We Do Not Know Thee
The Great Paradox
While kings boasted of their greatness,
The Word of God declared of His lowliness through each whimper and cry.
As rulers jockeyed for position in Rome,
The King came in obscurity.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
 
While rulers sought their palaces,
One whose goings forth was from everlasting to everlasting dwelt in a manger.
As Caesar lay on his bed,
YHWH lay in a feeding trough.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee. 
 
While the watchmen made their rounds,
The shepherds were found ready.
As the priests sought the Word of the Lord,
The shepherds could hear it in the whimpering of a babe.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee. 
 
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
As the religious leaders looked to Jerusalem,
Heaven look to you.
 
For He who sets the seraphim ablaze,
Now shivers underneath the cool breeze of night.
He who wrapped Himself in unapproachable light,
Is now wrapped in swaddling clothes.
He who sits enthroned on high and laughs,
Has become a babe lying in a feeding trough crying.
He whom all of heaven gazes upon crying “Holy”,
Is now the object of the animal’s gaze.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
 
For on this day, the Potter has become dependent upon the clay
The One who was there at creation as a master craftsman,
Has become a child now dependent upon His own creation.
O’ little town of Bethlehem we do not know thee.
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A Shepherd’s Story

            Seeing that the sun was setting Samuel shepherded his master’s flock near the Olive Tree for the night. As he led the flock he called out to his companions, “Hey Amos and Issachar go ahead and prepare the fire before the sun is no more.”

           As the men sat down by the fire under the olive tree Issachar asked “Hey Samuel how did the meeting go with Jonathan today?”

“ Didn’t get the loan.” replied Samuel

“That sucks.” said Amos

“Did he say why?” asked Issachar

“Apparently I am not experienced enough as a craftsman to invest in. He wouldn’t even really hear me out. The guy pretty much blew me off as unimportant.” replied Samuel

“How are feeling after that?” asked Issachar

“Well honestly I feel like trash after talking with him. I feel like I am stuck in this job and I hate it. I feel like I am not going anywhere in life and when I try to rise above the ashes in this life I can’t catch a break and I end up falling flat on my face.” replied Samuel

“Well I say forget Jonathan, what does he know? He is a fool to say no to you.” interjected Amos

“Calm down Amos” responded Issachar

“What?!? Don’t tell me to calm down the guy was jerk to shut down Sam.” replied Amos

“That might be true…” replied Issachar “…but name calling is not…”

“Look!” interrupted Amos “…all I’m saying is He is a jerk. Besides as the proverb says ‘He who turns down a good thing is a fool.’ So all I am doing is quoting Solomon. He was the smartest guy ever and a king.”

“Amos, Solomon didn’t say that, but thanks for the support, it means a lot.” responded Samuel

“So what now?” asked Issachar

“I have no clue. I feel completely lost. I thought if I were to work hard at this job than I could eventually work my way to my dream job.” replied Samuel

“That being own your own business?” asked Issachar

“Ya.” replied Samuel “But it is more than just owning my own business and being successful. I want to do something that I am passionate about.”

“Makes sense, you just want to do something that you can enjoy.” responded Issachar

“I hear ya bro, I would love to be able to have a job that I could fully enjoy.” remarked Amos

With that being said the three men began prepare their meal for the night. While Issachar and Samuel were preparing the fish and lentil soup, Amos went out to check on the flock. Coming back Amos inquired, “Hey man I was just thinking that maybe the old man could help you out. What do you think? I mean you have been watching his sheep for the last five years, so he kinda does owe you.” remarked Amos

“I already tried but he said no. He told me he didn’t have the time because he had to travel to go get registered.” replied Samuel

“I suppose that makes sense, but I think you should try again when he gets back.” Responded Issachar

“Seriously that whole registration thing seems so pointless.” remarked Amos “But I do agree with Issachar you should ask again.”

“Ok.” said Samuel

Following the meal the three men began to clean up. After which Issachar pulled out his flute and proceeded to play. Amos shortly followed him on his lute. This was the usual custom for the men to play and sing hymns after their nightly meal.

“Are you not going to play?” asked Amos

“Ya, I don’t know. I just don’t feel like it.” replied Samuel

“Why don’t you feel like it? This used to be your favorite part of the night.” responded Issachar.

“I just don’t…I don’t care to.” replied Samuel

“What does that mean?” asked Amos

“I have no drive to play anymore…and I feel somewhat depressed and disconnected.” replied Samuel

“I mean I used to be excited to play and worship the Lord…” continued Samuel “…but lately I have lost all motivation. My heart just isn’t into it.”

“Do you think it has to do with this whole loan thing?” asked Amos

“Ugh…I guess so, I don’t know.” replied Samuel

“Well when did it begin?” inquired Issachar

“About two weeks ago.” answered Samuel

“When did all this stuff about the loan begin? Or rather when did you start stressing out over it?” inquired Issachar

“About two weeks aaa…hmm…but…I mean this was my big chance to get out of this. So of course I had to give everything I had to try and get this loan. It was my last hope” responded Samuel

“Samuel that loan should not be your hope, but I know how you feel though. I have been doing this job for much longer than you and you don’t think I don’t want better? But getting a better job, even a dream job cannot be my hope, nor should it be that which brings me true happiness.” replied Issachar

“Well what makes your ‘heart happy’” remarked Samuel sarcastically

“My heart is made most glad when I worship the Lord. When I worship Him I find joy and that joy makes me want to give myself to a greater sense of worship. Remember the words of Moses in the Torah that we are to ‘Love the Lord with all our hearts, with all our soul and all our strength” replied Issachar

“Ya man, remember King David he was once a shepherd in these very hills a long time ago and he didn’t worry about what job he had as long as he could worship the Lord.” remarked Amos

“You guys are right, you know it is funny though we live in the City of David I find myself always forgetting that he once was a shepherd in these very hills.” replied Samuel

“So how about it wanna play now?” asked Issachar

“Ya, I am ready to worship the Lord. Hey can you pass me my lyre? And can I pick the hymn?” asked Samuel

“Go for it” replied Amos

Samuel took up his lyre and as he played he began to sing and the others joined in:

“I will trust in the Lord and do good,

I will dwell in the land and cultivate it in faithfulness.

For I shall delight myself in the Lord;

For He will meet the desires of my heart,

As I commit my way to Him.

For if I trust in the Lord, He will do it.

So I shall rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him,

I will not worry as others succeed over me,

For the Lord rewards the lowly,

So I shall worship Him with all of my heart.”

As soon as they had finished an angel appeared before them saying: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

As the angels sang the men stood amazed as soon as they had finished the men quickly gathered up their things led the flock to the manger that they may find the newborn messiah. Coming in they saw the babe lying in a manger just as the angel had said. Upon seeing the babe the three men were moved with love and affection. These three men who thought no one cared about them, found that though man had rejected them they had found favor with the Lord. For the Lord had considered their lowly state in society and that of their hearts and deemed them worthy to be the first to see His Son.

Upon leaving the manger the three men left worshiping and glorifying the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and continued to love so the rest of their days…no matter where they were or what they did.

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

O little town of Bethlehem

 I.      The Journey
1Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. Luke 2:1-5

The Summon to Bethlehem
There is much speculation and dispute concerning the decree from Caesar and its timing. For the sake of staying on topic it is enough to say that aside from Luke’s testimony we have no other evidence of their being a census in the latter years of Herod’s reign, but at the same time we have no justifiable reason to question Luke’s reliability on the subject. The journey from Nazareth would have been at least a three day journey. The journey would have been difficult with Mary being nine months pregnant. Consider though that this journey would bring some relief for Mary and Joseph from the scandal of life in Nazareth.

Likely Mary and Joseph would have taken the route passing along the Jordan River on the Eastern border of the land, crossing over the fords of Jericho into Judea.[1]
Bethlehem

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from  you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,  from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2

Five miles south of Jerusalem was the little town of Bethlehem. This little town was one of rich history as it was there that the story of Ruth took place. In this little town David was both born and anointed King of Israel (I Samuel 16:1), its hills were probably where David as a boy wrote some of his psalms while watching sheep and it was here that David longed to drink from its well (II Samuel 23:15-16).
While Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem one can only imagine how God must have been remembering His conversations from centuries ago with His friend David in the hills of Bethlehem.

Alfred Edersheim offers a rich and poetic illustration of the final stage of their journey to Bethlehem:
“A sense of rest and peace must, almost unconsciously, have crept over the travelers when at last they reached the rich fields that surrounded the ancient ‘House of Bread,’ and , passing through the valley which, like an amphitheatre, sweeps up to the twain heights along which Bethlehem stretches (2,704 feet above the sea), ascend through the terraced vineyards and gardens. Winter though it was, the green and silvery foliage of the olive might, even at that season, mingle with the pale pink of the almond – natures ‘early waker’ – and with the darker coloring of the opening peach-buds. The chaste beauty and sweet quiet of the place would recall memories of Boaz, of Jesse, and of David.” [2]

“Francis [of Assisi]could not even utter the name, Bethlehem, without stammering with emotion, ‘like the bleating of a sheep'” -John Saward

II.   Unto You A Child  Has Been Given
 
Introduction
“Gregory [of Nazianzen]…insists that we cannot be mere spectators of the starlit stable: ‘Run with the star and offer your gifts with the Magi, gold and frankincense and myrrh, as to a king and to God and One who died for you. With shepherds glorify Him, with angels sing hymns, with archangels join in chorus…travel faultlessly through every stage and faculty of the life of Christ. Be purified, be circumcised; strip off the veil that has covered you from your birth.’”[3]

“Imagine being in Jerusalem with Jesus in the age to come, the great King over the earth who is arrayed in glory. He takes you by the hand and you begin to walk down the slopes away from the city. After walking for several miles you come to a small town set on a hill, unaware of what was happening. Suddenly you stop at the crest, along a ridge, and Jesus says, ‘Over there…that is where I was born’, with a smile on His face. ‘I just thought I would show it to you since you spent so many hour meditating on it.’ And you’re undone and ruined anew with love for the next two or three hundred years.”[4]


As we already know the fullness of God is found within this child. With each cry of Holy Child He tells us of His aching heart of love for depraved and fallen humanity. “The birth of Christ is a deep well of the knowledge of God from which we must learn to drink. In the obscurity of Bethlehem is hidden a repository of humble love and ardent desire.”[5] Though the details given of the event are few one must not just read through them but rather take their time to meditate on the riches of this precious memory of heaven.

The Setting of this Precious Moment
6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

There Was No Room in the Inn 
After their arduous journey the need for housing was needed.  The word for “inn” in Luke 2:6 is “katalyma” which normally means either a guest room in a private residence or a caravansary, an informal public shelter where travelers would gather for the night. Luke uses another word in Greek for “inn” in Luke 10:34 for a roadside inn (pandocheion). With this being said it is very possible that Joseph and Mary were planning on staying with a friend or a relative in Bethlehem but due to the crowds during the census and most likely arriving late that they lost the room. Thus a manger would be their shelter and place of rest. The language of the narrative gives us the hint that Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for some mysterious amount of time before she would go into labor.

Their Fight to Trust
One can only imagine how in those last moments when Joseph was frantically trying to find a room in the inn God was smiling upon their desperate trust in Him. One can only imagine that with every hardship previously the couple endured and especially now in these final moments of trying to find place to stay Mary and Joseph were beginning to struggle to believe. One can only imagine how in these moments Mary and Joseph would begin to ask God the questions “Did You not send me an angel?” or “Did You not say I was to give birth to Your Son, the promised King?” Now in these final moments the couple in the midst of the wrestle is choosing to trust in the Lord and His perfect leadership.

The Mystery that is Immanuel
“ And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

As mentioned in a previous session we must come back to who this child is before we go any further. This is YHWH. The One enthroned on high whom all of heaven gazes upon crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” is now a newborn babe in a feeding troth with animals gazing upon Him. He who clothed Himself in unapproachable light is now a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. The One who was there at creation as a master craftsman has become a child now dependent upon His own creation.

YHWH’s Humble Love
“So many features of this event ought to shock us. As Caesar Augustus sat upon his throne in Rome and boasted in the size of his empire, as Herod agonized about his successor from his palace in Jerusalem, there was a young maiden in a cave having contractions.”[6]

The Manger scene is one of the most offensive moments in all of history, yet in the eyes of Trinity it is one of their MOST precious memories. God had the right to be offended at the manger but He was so in love that He didn’t even care about the manger, for He humbled Himself willingly out of love. The One who sits enthroned on high and laughs became a baby lying in a feeding trough crying. The King of Glory’s first house was a manger, His first bed a feeding trough. With each cry and babble God is declaring of His meek and lowly heart and of His great love. Truly this great show of humility shows much of the heart of God and one ought to linger on this scene letting His humble and meek love enrapture their hearts. The reality that King Jesus came into the world wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in manger truly is a “sign” as this was far from common way for a child to be born. In humble obscurity He came, in glory and triumph He left and in majesty He shall return. This is the Christ.

“Looking upon our desperate plight He plunged into our story in the fullness of time. That fact alone should tear our hearts asunder, but love carried Him even to the lowest place.”[7]
“My Jesus, supreme and true God! What has drawn Thee from heaven to be born in a cold stable, if not the love which Thou bearest us men? What has allured Thee from the bosom of Thy Father, to place Thee in a hard manger? What has brought Thee from Thy throne above the stars to lay Thee down on a little straw? What has led Thee from the midst of the nine choirs of angels, to set Thee between two animals? Thou, who inflamest the seraphim with holy fire, art now shivering with cold in this stable! Though, who settest the stars in the sky in motion, canst not now move unless others carry Thee in their arms! Thou, who givest men and beasts their food, hast need now of a little milk to sustain Thy life! Thou, who art the joy of heaven, dost now whimper and cry in suffering! Tell me who has reduced Thee to such misery? ‘Love has done it,’ says Saint Bernard. The love which Thou bearest us men has brought this on Thee.”[8]

“He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death. He was in a manger, so that you may be in the altar. He was on earth that you may be in the stars. He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens. ‘He being rich became poor for your sakes, that through His poverty you might be rich’ therefore His poverty is our inheritance, and the Lord’s weakness is our virtue. He chose to lack for Himself, that He may abound for all. The sobs of that appalling infancy cleanse me, those tears wash away my sins.”[9]


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, p 129
[2] Ibid.
[3] Saward, p 118.
[4] Stephen Venable, Life of Christ in the Gospels: Session3- The Treasury of the Gospels & the Birth of Christ, p27
[5] Ibid, p 28.
[6] Ibid, p 29.
[7] Ibid, p 30.
[8] Calvin Miller, the Book of Jesus, p 226 (quoting St. Alphonsus Ligouri)
[9] Ancient Christian Commentary: Luke, p 38

The Next Nine Months

I.     The Sign of Confirmation

39Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45

The aftermath of Gabriel’s message. At this point Mary had just finished receiving the word from the angel Gabriel concerning her virgin pregnancy and at once left to go see for herself the sign she had been given. We do not how long exactly it took for Mary to leave and get to Elizabeth but we do know she did so in a hurry. The “hill country, to a city of Judah” though the Bible is silent to the exact city in which Elizabeth lived we can safely assume that it was close to or even was Jerusalem. This would be so to make it easier for Zacharias to travel to and from Jerusalem when it was time for his priestly duties. It is also possible that they lived in one of the Levitical Cities in the area. The Scriptures are also unclear as to when exactly Mary miraculously conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost but we know it would have to have been before she met Elizabeth in order for their encounter to go the way it did.

When Mary arrives and greets Elizabeth the Holy Spirit begins to move among these two blessed women. The greeting of Mary moved John to jump with joy in Elizabeth’s womb and at this point Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. “Even in the womb, the joy of John the Baptist was to be in the presence of the Bridegroom.” –Stephen Venable

Mary visits ElizabethAt the filling of the Holy Spirit Elizabeth opens her mouth and begins to prophesy over Mary. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Here Elizabeth greets Mary in a similar manner as the angel Gabriel did by calling her blessed and goes one step further to declare that the One inside of her womb was blessed as well. 43“And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” Here Mary receives her first of many confirmations through the mouth of another, as Elizabeth testifies to her of who her son was. He is the Lord. He is the Messiah. He is YHWH.  44“For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” For at point of entering into the presence of the Bridegroom John was filled with joy that he had heard the voice of the one carrying her and rejoiced in his mother’s womb. 45“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Here Elizabeth is prophesying of Mary’s sincere faith in what the Lord had promised her. That when the angel sold her of the sign of her relatives old aged pregnancy she left in a hurry to see the sign as opposed to taking her time.

II.     The Magnificat
46And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. 51He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. 54He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” 56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. Luke 1:46-56
After Mary she receives the prophecy concerning her Son from Elizabeth she begins what the church has dubbed the Magnificat or the Song of Mary. She has now experienced the prophecy from the angel, her eyes have beheld the sign promised by the angel and Elizabeth is prophesying some of what the angel already told her and now she begins to be overcome with worship. She knows what these words mean and what the child in her womb is to be and now her heart is undone. In this song Mary through the unction of the Holy Spirit Mary worships and gives thanks to the Lord as her Savior, as the God of justice and the God who is faithful to His promises.

“soul exalts(some translations say magnifies) the Lord, 47and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” At this point Mary’s heart is exploding with emotion as she had just see the sign the Lord had promised here and is not overcome with emotion. Here in this first part Mary begins to worship the Lord her Savior. Her declaration of worship is one of thanksgiving and joy and it will set the over arching theme of the song.  48“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me…” In this part Mary is giving thanks to the Lord for what He has done to her, is doing and will continue to do. Here Mary is ultimately prophesy over herself when she says “all generations will count me blessed” in reality this song is one of the most remembered and celebrated songs in church history. “And holy is His name. 50AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.” Here Mary is declaring the Lord as the Holy and Merciful God. That He is merciful to those who choose to recognize His holiness with fear and trembling, and this mercy is from generation to generation or rather it never stops.

51“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed.” The Lord in His unending mercy is also full of unending justice. He is both merciful and just and will not let the unjust go unpunished. He will not abandon the oppressed. Here Mary is probably remembering the oppression the people are experiencing through the hands of the Roman soldiers and remembering of His faithfulness that the seed had finally come. She knows what is going on in the land and she knows what the angel told her about the baby being the promised king.

54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, 55as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” Here Mary is declaring of the faithfulness of the Lord to all of His promises concerning her people. This is primarily in retrospect to the fact that she remembers what the angel just told her of the promised seed was to come through her womb, that she would birth the promised king. She clearly had to have believed in the words the angel Gabriel gave to her because she had left in a hurry to see the sign for herself and now she is fully aware that the Lord is their Savior (Jesus’ name), He is merciful, Just and faithful to Israel.

III.    Mary’s Return to Nazareth
After Mary’s song the scriptures tell us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned to Nazareth to continue with her marriage rituals. Luke records immediately following Mary’s departure in the next verse that John is born though we are not sure the distance of time in between or if it even happened after Mary’s departure. We do know that it had to be right around the time of Mary’s departure because the scripture makes it clear when Mary left Elizabeth would had been nine months along at least.
By this time however Mary would be about three months pregnant and beginning to show. That which she had treasured in her heart was beginning to be revealed to those around her as her stomach is growing. As she would enter back into Nazareth after being gone for three months the looks she would have received would had been enough for anyone to feel shame. This girl who left not being pregnant and betrothed to Joseph has now returned three months pregnant. One can only wonder how the looks and the things said to her and about her must have left a wound in her heart. Truly she must have been fighting to remind herself of all that the Lord had said to her through the angel, the sign and Elizabeth. One can only imagine what it was like to see her friends, family and Joseph again after three months.

IV.     Joseph’s Visitation

The angel visits Joseph

 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has beenconceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, forHe will save His people from their sins.’ 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

Here we switch to Matthew to pick up the story, Mary has now returned from visiting Elizabeth and is now about three months pregnant when Joseph sees her for the first time since her sudden departure three months prior. The Bible recognizes Joseph to be a “righteous” or “just” man depending on translations. This is a very important piece we are given about Joseph, though this is all we really know about him and he barely is even mentioned in the Gospels we must not take this description lightly. The Lord saw fit that this “righteous” man would be the male figure who would father him and take care of His Son on this earth. There is much that can be said about these two realities, that he was chosen by God and called a “righteous” man.  discovered Mary’s pregnancy thought of Mary’s honor and sought to send her away secretly that others would not know and she would be free from ridicule. However, the Lord saw this desire to protect Mary’s honor and sent an angel to declare to him of what was going on in Mary’s womb, to comfort his heart, guide him and ultimately tell him who the child was.

“Scripture describes him as a just man, and indeed he must have been remarkably upright to bear the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy and obey the command of the Lord.” –Stephen Venable When Joseph the “righteous man”

“Joseph, son of David,” It is here Matthew introduces Joseph as a descendant of David, this is key for the Messiah had to be of the line of David. Though the child would not share in Joseph’s DNA and not be born of Joseph he would still be grafted into that line through Mary being his wife thus in reality being adopted into the line. “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Here Joseph is comforted by the angel and is told what had happened. By now Mary would have already explained or at least tried to explain things to Joseph of how the child was of the Holy Spirit and now the angel is testifying of it. This would be key for Joseph as it brings him to a place where he can fully know what had been going on with Mary. This will help to also not waver in his heart when the storm comes of many trying to tell him how Mary must have been unfaithful to him.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus,” Here Joseph is told the name of the child which had already been given to Mary. This would be both a sign of confirmation of the child to both Mary and Joseph as both were given the same name by an angel. “forHe will save His people from their sins.” The child will save His people, this ties into His name which literally means “The Lord saves.” This piece of information was not given to Mary which one can wonder why just Joseph got this as well as why this is the only thing told to him. This by no means can be overlooked nor taken lightly.

 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23‘BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’ Here we have a piece of information that Luke did not include in his narrative of the story. One can speculate why Luke in all of his researching never included this part as well and yet Matthew found this prophecy to be important. Whatever the case may have been the virgin did give birth and though His name was not Immanuel He still was God and He was with us. It is speculated that there was virgin who gave birth in the time of Isaiah after he gave this prophecy and that it was in that way meant to point to Christ. Though without documented proof we cannot prove this theory. No matter the case this verse which was inspired by the Holy Spirit was canonized through His perfect leadership. This shows us that it must not be written off just because Luke or anyone else did not ascribe this prophecy to Jesus as well as the fact He was not named Immanuel.

24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. Here Joseph awakens from his dream and obeys the Lord and marries Mary and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit chooses to keep her a virgin until after the child is born. From this point on Mary and Joseph’s story will go silent for nearly six months, once again it would be hard to exaggerate the reality of the scrutinizing stares Mary would endure, the gossip and slander going on behind their backs. One can only imagine how many times Mary was called an adulterous and how many times people tried to get Joseph to take up his Lawful right and stone her or at least divorce her and send her away. Truly Mary would have carried the favor of the Lord or one could say His grace in bearing this as well as Joseph would really be a righteous/just man to bear the scandal as well as for them both obey the Lord.

Timelines of the Nativity Story (Event by Event)

 

For a PDF copy of these Timelines feel free to email me requesting one.

The Annunciation of the King


     Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name as Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  Luke 1:26-30

 Mary’s Visitation of Good News
     The only thing we really know about Mary is that at the time of the angelic visit is that she was a virgin and betrothed to Joseph, of the descendants of David. However, four times in Luke chapter one Mary is acknowledged as one who is blessed. This creates the question: “What is so special about her that would catch the eye of God?” It truly makes one wonder as to what God values. But whatever it was that caught His eye we do know that Christ chose a teenage girl of no reputation to entrust His humanity.

     In my opinion Mary’s favor goes beyond her being entrusted with the babe but also that she would divine favor even in the midst of the ridicule and mockery of man during her pregnancy with Jesus and after. This idea can be seen in multiple areas from Joseph staying with her instead of sending her away, the finding of the manger, the financial provision from the magi, the two angelic warnings to flee from danger and even Jesus making sure at the cross that she would be taken care of so to fulfill His duty as firstborn. The angel makes it clear that not only does she have favor but the Lord is also with her. This is seen in that the Lord is with her to watch over her much like He did with Joshua son of Nun and in the midst of everything no harm comes to her.

     A peculiar point of interest is that she is perplexed by this greeting, the ESV Bible says that she was “greatly troubled” by this introduction. One can only wonder what about the heavenly compliment troubled her. Was it because an angel sent from the Lord was before her or perhaps because she remembered all the other times someone in the O.T. had an angelic visitation and suspected a hard season a head.

     “Ever since Eve women have believed for a son, One who’d reverse the sin caused curse.” –Justin Rizzo chorus. Truly since the fall women had been looking for a seed, a child, a son that would crush the head of the serpent and bring forth redemption. For the first promise of redemption was spoken of a promised seed to come from woman. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15 This child who was promised at the fall would be great and now it was finally time for the child to come forth. The child of promise was finally drawing nigh. Redemption was finally at hand and Mary was to be the chosen womb that redemption would come through.

The Annunciation of the King
     And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:31-35 In this prophecy that Mary is receiving we see the identity of the baby she was to birth. Multiple facets are revealed of this Child, though there main facet that is revealed of Jesus not only mentioned twice but as the first and the last thing to be said of Him and that being His Divinity.

     “…and you shall name Him Jesus.” Jesus or Yeshua means “The Lord saves” which is synonymous with the Old Testament name Joshua. This name is not only significant for what it means but also because of the two Joshua’s in the Old Testament that are foreshadows of Christ.

     Joshua the son of Nun was Moses successor as well as the only one of two to make it from Egypt to the Promised Land. Joshua was both a mighty warrior and a good leader in that the people followed the Lord under his leadership as well as was able to raise up godly leaders to replace him. It was said of Joshua that even when Moses would leave the tabernacle Joshua would stay. This shows us that he was both priestly and a warrior. The messiah is also considered to be a second Moses. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Exodus 33:11…“except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.” Numbers 32:12… “Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” Deuteronomy 31:23…“Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.” Joshua 24:31…“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me(Moses) from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 18I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you(Moses), and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Deuteronomy 18:15,18

     Joshua the son of Jehozadok who was the priest of the Lord that was crowned king. Joshua being both priest and king was as a foreshadow of the two offices being united together through Christ. “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.”’ 14Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah.” Zechariah 6:12-14

     “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”(His Divinity). The first thing angel reveals about the baby after giving His name is His divine identity. This Child will be great and will be the Son of God, the greatness defines His identity as the Son of God. Finally the One whom David encountered in those hills in Bethlehem was to finally come forth, the one who was the LORD’s chosen King that the nations were to be given too. The One who is to sit at the right hand of the LORD as His enemies are made a footstool was finally to come forth. “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. 8‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’” Psalm 2:6-8…“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’ 2The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’” Psalm 110:1-2

     The Lord highlights the Divine Identity of the Child over anything. This is first and foremost who the Child is, the Son of God. This child is YHWH! First she finds out that she was to bear a Son and name Him Jesus, and now she is being told that it would be God’s Son. This in itself must have caught Mary by great surprise. Mary was to carry God, YHWH inside her womb. The magnitude of this is beyond what words can express. The humility that it would create in Mary is great, yet the humility of this act for God to become a human fetus and dwell in a sinful human for 9 months and then be raised by a human couple is unmatchable and unthinkable. We cannot just merely write this off but truly should take time and just reflect on this reality of how humble God was to come.

     “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (The Promised King). The Babe’s second identity that being the descendant of David. The Lord has not forgotten His promise that He gave David that His throne will be established forever. The Lord in His great love for His friend David came in the flesh to fulfill His promise to His friend on His own. “Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me…” 2 Samuel 23:5 This Child was born to sit on the throne of David, and from there He shall rule. He was destined to be as His father David but in a far greater way. This is the child of promise that the Lord had promised to David and that the prophets spoke of.

     “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (The Eternal King). This Child will sit upon throne of His father David forever ruling and reigning in the City of David, in Jerusalem. He will never die nor be replaced as King. Israel will finally have a king again but this king will be unlike any other king that Israel or even the world has ever seen before. For upon the throne of David, God in flesh will reign forever. Israel’s long awaited King has finally come and it is God Himself.  Where men had failed in times past to lead His people rightly God Himself in His great love and humility has come to rule and reign forever. He has come to lead His people Israel Himself upon the throne of His friend David.

     “His kingdom will have no end” (The Conqueror King). His Kingdom will truly have no end. He will not be defeated and it will be expansive. It will not cease to grow. His Kingdom will grow in strength, power and economically. Though those areas may not look the way they do now we do know this Kingdom will not stop expanding. The Roman Empire was the most vast and strongest of the ancient kingdoms but even Rome was stopped from expanding. Jesus Kingdom will not be stopped but will overcome and conquer all opposition.

     “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (The Lord will bring forth redemption). This will not and could not happen on man’s own strength but God in His loving power is showing His strength and bringing forth redemption. This is not man’s doing but God’s. God in His great love is doing this. God is showing His power in bringing forth redemption. In doing this God is in essence revealing not only His great love and power but His great humility.

     “ for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Once again we are reminded of the Divine Identity of this Child. This is such an important fact that the angel mentions it at the beginning and the end. The people had been waiting for the descendant of David to rule and reign as king, but the idea of God in flesh being this king was foreign. The Lord found it important that Mary would know who this Child was that He had the angel say it twice. This is not some mere child but this is YHWH. This Child is the promised One that Isaiah had prophesied of. The One that was to come and establish an eternal Kingdom.

     “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

The Sign of Confirmation and Mary’s Yes
36
And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 
37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:36-38 After the angel Gabriel gives the prophecy, he gives Mary a sign of confirmation. The sign being that her relative Elizabeth who in her old age was no longer barren but now six months pregnant. This was word was given to confirm that which she had just been told. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” God in His matchless strength, power and wisdom can do anything. Nothing can hinder Him, for He who spoke creation into being holds all power. “…for wisdom and power belong to Him.” Daniel 2:20

Summary
     The Annunciation marks the beginning of a new season in Redemptive History. It is the announcing of the beginning of another era in Redemptive History. The Messiah’s long awaited arrival was finally drawing nigh. “As the fall of man was a free act, so too the Redemption had to be free. What is called the Annunciation was actually God asking the free consent of a creature to help Him be incorporated into humanity.”[1] “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38


[1] Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1958), p 17.

Understanding the Incarnation

Ezekiel's Vision of the High and Lofty God by Raffael

I.      The Need to know the Pre-Incarnate Jesus
     “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 4And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4 The high and lofty One of Isaiah 6 is the Lord, it is God pre-incarnate. Jesus is the express representation of the Father because He is God. He is Yahweh. He is the One whom the angels since the moment they were created have cried “Holy.” He is the One who stood beside His Father as a master craftsmen. He is the One whose robe fills the temple. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Shepherd of Israel. “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him,” Proverbs 8:30

When approaching the Gospels it is important to see Jesus in His divinity. This not some mere man, an angel or some lesser deity, but this is Yahweh. We risk grave error if not first coming to grips with the reality of the truth that, Jesus is Yahweh. He is the one who dwelt between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies, who stood beside the Father as a master craftsmen, who burned in a bush, He is the Great I AM the very Shepherd of Israel. One cannot merely seek to understand the importance of the Word becoming flesh unless they know who the Word was and is. This is why it is important that we become students of the Old Testament and not just the New Testament as it all points to who Jesus is. Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27

II.   Understanding Who God is
When we go to understand the divinity of Christ we must ask the question of how the disciples went from following their rabbi to worshiping their Lord, creator and God. In seeking to understand the divinity of Christ we must look to see how the Bible defines divinity and God.  This comes down to the question: “How does Scripture define the uniqueness of God?” or in a simpler way “What makes Him God?”
The typical answer to this question is usually drawn upon by Greek philosophical categories, which theologians call incommunicable attributes (which are often indicated by the prefixes “omni”, “im” or “in”). The inspiration behind bringing definition to God in this way is the philosophical assumption that the divine “nature” or “essence” is entirely different to the “nature” or “essence” of all created things. This is a thoroughly Platonic idea and entirely foreign to Biblical thought. The result of defining God’s uniqueness in this manner for the last 1500 years has often brought a very abstract, distant, vague, ethereal conception in our mind when asked to imagine Him.
The Hebrew mindset from the Old Testament viewed God with reverence along with simple, tangible, concrete ways. He is holy, involved and near. He is YHWH- the One who Is, the living God: who stands as the ruler over all things, made a covenant with Abraham, delivered His people from Egypt. He alone is the One who is worthy of all worship for by His word all things exist. 15Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God17Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 19Now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O LORD, are God.” 20Then Isaiah…sent to Hezekiah saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.’ 21This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him…” 2 Kings 19:15-21

III.           Understanding the Divinity of Jesus
Now that we have defined Divinity through the Old Testament let us then look for a moment at how the New Testament relates to this. Though most of us think and read in a profoundly ‘Greek’ manner, we must consciously shift our thinking to that of a Jewish mindset. We must keep in mind that much of the New Testament was written by Jewish men thus they would have a Jewish mindset and would not be thinking in Greek philosophical ideas. It would not have been hard for the disciple to understand God having a form as on more than one occasion in the Old Testament we see God having a form. This was not something hard for a Jewish mindset to grasp however to take on flesh and die was the hard part. “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” Genesis 18:4-5 “Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent…” Numbers 12:5 Thus when Peter and John realized that Jesus is God, they would be thinking this is the God of Genesis 1 and Isaiah 6 and not some Greek philosophical idea that makes God detached from reality. John makes it quite clear as to who Jesus was in his opening chapter of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5,14

In John chapter one, we see the New Testament mindset of Jesus being God and that He was in the beginning with His Father and created all things. John not only makes the point of Jesus’ divinity but also makes the point that God became a man. This is more than God just having a form because He clearly already had one in times past, but this means that God became human. He now carried the restrictions of human flesh, meaning: He would get tired, hungry, sweaty, have to go to the bathroom, etc.
The reality that the high and lofty God would go so low and take on flesh was truly inconceivable to the Jewish mindset.

IV.           Understanding the Incarnation
     “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:5-9 Paul in his letter to the church of Philippi breaks down the incarnation in this manner: Christ existed in the form of God, did not consider being equal to God something to cling to, humbled Himself, became a servant to God, became a man, and became obedient to the point of dying on a cross. First off this does not mean at the point of emptying Himself that He ceased to be God but rather He laid aside His privileges of being God: meaning He would now experience what it meant to be human and need food, sleep, air to breathe, etc. Paul makes is clear that Jesus existed in the form of God prior to taking on flesh. This means He was not limited to the limitations of humanity. Jesus did not consider His equality with God (the Father) as something to cling to. He did not see His divine form as something to cling to or hold on to, but rather was willing to give it up. Thus Christ emptied Himself and became a man. He took on flesh and became a bond-servant to the Father, His Father. In His humility in becoming limited by flesh was not enough, Jesus became obedient in His humility to the point of death. God could not redeem humanity by just coming in His divine form, thus He had to take on flesh and this was still not enough but He had to die and shed His blood. Though in the midst of all of this He still remained fully God even after He laid aside His divine form. This is what it meant that God became a man.

Paul in his second letter the church of Corinth said that the Second Person of the Trinity was rich and became poor for our sake. Christ in divine form and nature became poor or rather took on flesh that we would become rich. “…though He was rich yet for your sake He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 The Second person of the Trinity laid it all aside and became poor that we may be made rich. The high and lofty God took on flesh became a baby to a poor family that we might gain it all. He became poor on His own volition for the sake of love. This is why Jesus had both the right and the ability to tell the Rich Young Ruler to go sell all and give to the poor because He had already done so. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:21-22

When we look upon the Gospels and see the incarnate God we see the ultimate example of humility. God who both dwelt before time began and spoke creation into being has chosen to walk among and become like His creation by binding Himself to flesh. My prayer is that the Gospels would never be a collection of stories of our Savior, but would be the story of God in love with humanity. Oh, that which amazed and astonished the disciples when they saw Jesus turn water to wine, walking on water or healing the sick and raising the dead never cease to amaze us. I pray that even more than these moments, that the love God had for humanity that drove Him to plunge Himself forever into our story by binding Himself to flesh forever never cease to amaze us. That we would never stop marveling at the fact that God, the Great I AM willingly went to the cross and died for creation.