Congratulations, we have made it to the second chapter of Luke! We finally get there. We’re going to be looking at the first twenty-one verses of Luke chapter 2; so, Luke chapter 2 verses 1 through 21. You can turn there in your Bibles or on your phones, or if you’re using the YouVersion app, it should already be there, but Luke 2 verses 1 through 21.
Now, I said a while back that we were going to be looking at what are typically Christmas passages in the summertime. Well, Christmas in July is over because it’s now August, but we’re still going to look at this passage. And if any of you have ever seen the Peanuts Christmas special, well, some of this may seem very familiar to you. But when we look at this we’re going to see some things that are revealing about who it is Jesus is, about the Messiah, about the beauty of the Messiah, and how we should actually respond to this. Now, before we read the Word, let’s have a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, as we read your Word, as we read your Scripture—what you have given to us, your message to us about yourself—I pray that you are glorified and honored by the reading of your Word. Open up our hearts and our minds to your Word so that we can be transformed, challenged, whatever we need. Do what you need to do through your Word, and I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Beginning in verse 1, Luke writes:
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
In these twenty-one verses, we have God letting us know something about his own Word. In the first seven verses, we’re gonna see that God’s word is fulfilled. Messiah is born. The first seven verses reveal God’s Word revealed in that Messiah is born.
God’s word fulfilled: Messiah is born (vv. 1-7)
Check this out. Here we have Caesar Augustus calling for basically a census for tax purposes, and people had to go back to their hometowns to register and essentially be taxed. Gee, I’m glad we don’t have to go to our hometowns to be taxed. Thank you for the internet and mail that we can file our taxes remotely. But, who likes filing taxes? Oh good, no one [laughter]. It’s so fun! Well, I’m sure that they had not so much fun traveling it, but the thing to see here is this: it was Caesar Augustus who called for it.
Now, this has implications because this is actually similar to an event in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, Cyrus (a foreign non-believer, a ruler) was used by God to get the people of God back to Canaan. Here, God uses Caesar (a non-believing outsider, a ruler) to get the people that he needed to the place where he needed them. God is working through the government to accomplish his purposes. God is working through outsiders to accomplish his purposes, and in doing so we have fulfillment of prophecy and the revealing of something that was foreshadowed.
Take a look at this in verse 4: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.” Now, Luke didn’t have to mention Bethlehem; he could have just said, “went to Judea,” left it there. No, he mentioned Bethlehem for a purpose because if you look at Micah chapter 5 verse 2, there is a prophecy about Messiah, and this prophecy says that there will be a great ruler who will come from humble means; this great ruler—who is Messiah—will be born in a little village called Bethlehem.
Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, quite a distance away. They needed to be in Bethlehem. What was their motive for going there on their own? Nothing. They had no reason to be in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. They had to get there, so God used the government to get them there so that Messiah—in fulfillment of what God said would happen, would come true—Messiah was born in Bethlehem just as God said in Micah.
But also, there’s also a reference here to another gentleman from the Old Testament. In verse 7—check this out: “she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.” Now, that’s significant from a prophetic and a—what in Hebrews we learn is called types and shadows—it’s significant. Here we have the Messiah placed in a makeshift bed. Well, if you go back to Exodus chapter 2 verse 3, there was another gentleman who, as a young baby, was placed in a makeshift bed; his name was Moses.
Moses (a type and shadow of Christ) was placed in a makeshift bed, and Moses brought the law of God to God’s people; Jesus as a baby was placed in a makeshift bed, and Jesus brought the grace of God to God’s people. Moses was a type and shadow of Jesus, and I don’t know whether Luke knew this when he wrote it or not, but he was referencing—God used what Luke wrote to reference back to Moses to show us Moses was pointing forward to Messiah even in the insignificance of being placed in his makeshift bed.
So we have prophecy being fulfilled, God’s word being fulfilled in that. Oh, by the way, a bit of a side note, check this out: “she gave birth to her firstborn son.” The word “firstborn” in Greek means “elder” or “eldest.” In other words, what it means is this: the oldest sibling. Jesus had siblings. There are those who say that Jesus had no siblings, they were all cousins. No, they were siblings. He was the oldest of them. They were half-siblings because for the rest of them Joseph was their father, but for Jesus, God [is] his father. And by the way, we know one of those siblings, his name is James. He wrote the book of James, and we actually went through the book of James, and you can actually find that series online if you want to go to YouTube or to the podcast, and you can check those out. But yeah, James was Jesus’ half-brother, and we see that in the fact that he mentions that Jesus was the firstborn son—the eldest son—of Mary. That was just a bit of a side note there.
But God is accomplishing his word, and so what we have here ultimately is this: God working through situations, working through people, to accomplish that which God wanted to accomplish, that which God said he would accomplish, and God will keep his promises and do what he said. God keeps his word. So, when God tells us “repent and believe and be saved,” we can trust in that if we repent and believe we’ll be saved. Jesus says, “I will return.” We can trust him; he will return. And, by the way, some people say, “Well, he hasn’t returned yet, so therefore he’s not coming.” Well, even if you wanted to go—let’s take the non-believing, let’s take an evolutionary viewpoint—from the first humans to the birth of Jesus how many thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of years was that? And here, the Hebrews were going, “Where’s Messiah? Where is Messiah? Where’s Messiah?” Waiting and waiting and waiting—and we haven’t waited that long yet—and here, after all that time, Messiah was born. God’s word fulfilled. So, when God says something, we can trust it. But furthermore, when God says to do something, we should do it, which brings us actually to verses 8 through 14. Here we have God’s word delivered; Messiah has come.
God’s word delivered: Messiah is here (vv. 8-14)
God’s word delivered. Check this out. The first people that hear about this good news besides Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth (I’m talking about, you know, outside of the immediate family) are shepherds. “in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock . . . an angel of the Lord,” verse 9, “an angel . . . appeared to them, . . . the glory of the Lord shone around them, . . . they were filled with great fear,” verse 10, “the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you, ’” check this out, “’good news. ’”
Well, the first thing to notice here is the shepherds. They were the original audience of this message that was direct from heaven. God sent a direct message from heaven to shepherds. Why shepherds? Well, we can have some speculation about what it means about humility and so forth, but what we do know is this: the fact that he chose shepherds indicates, first, how Messiah is going to come and, second, the role of Messiah.
How he’s going to come: he’s not going to come with fanfare. The Jews expected Messiah to be this powerful political leader who will show up in power and glory and liberate them from Rome and everybody else. That’s not how Messiah came this first time. No, the angels went to shepherds. They were humble servants. Jesus comes as a humble servant.
But also, Jesus’ role: Jesus’ role is that of a shepherd. Remember this gentleman—you may have heard about him in Sunday school or seen some VeggieTales stories about him (great series)—this guy named David? Sound familiar? Yeah. He was a shepherd. Now, we know about King David, the famous story about king David and his, um, failings. But before that, he was a shepherd. When God chose him, he was the youngest, the nobody. His dad, Jesse, said, “Check out all my sons.” “Eh, no. No. No. No. You. The little shepherd boy.”
That little shepherd boy was used by God in a powerful way. That little shepherd boy was used by God to save God’s people from God’s enemy named Goliath, which is a type and shadow looking forward to Jesus who is the Great Shepherd who saves the people of God from their great enemy: sin. And by going to shepherds, God is saying, “Look back to David and, remember what I showed you in David? Jesus is the Great Shepherd that I was talking about, that I was pointing you to.” Jesus is Messiah. So, we have Jesus’ coming, Jesus’ role, but also, as I said (I love that phrase here), the message is “good news.”
In verses 9 and 10, the angel showed up, the glory showed around, they were feared—fearful—the shepherds were fearful, the angel said, “Don’t fear, I bring you good news.” In other words, the angel’s saying this: “I bring you the gospel.” The good news is the gospel, and furthermore—check this out—“good news,” verse 10, “that will be of great joy.” The gospel isn’t just good news because it’s nice to hear. No, the gospel is good news because it is a message of hope. It is a message of eternal blessing for those who are saved. It gives a bright future to those who have none, to say that, “You know what? In Jesus Christ, you, when you leave this physical world, you’re going to be in a place where the sorrows are gone, the pain is gone, the heartache is gone, the troubles are gone. Instead, you’re going to have the glory of God brighter, I believe, than what the shepherds saw. You’re going to have the goodness of God without limit. You’re going to have the graciousness of God. You’re going to have the love of God in super abundance.” This is good news of great joy!
But also check this out: “that will be for all the people.” This message is to be told to everybody. Everyone needs to hear this message, and if anyone ever tells you we should not share the good news with somebody, don’t listen to them because they’re failing to read the Word of God for what it says. We share the good news with everybody. God’s the one that saves them, we’re the messengers. We’re the messengers.
A few years ago, I wrote an article and later on put out a video about it talking about God’s postal workers, and I said that as Christians we are God’s postal workers. What does a postal worker do? Anybody remember that—well some say formal, the post office officially says it’s unofficial—that little slogan of come rain, snow, sleet, hail, thunderstorms, hurricanes, lightning storms, you know, whatever, you know, ex machina deus appearances of God, oh just despite everything they’re going to deliver the message, they’re going to deliver the mail, they’re going to get your package to you, it will be delivered? We should be delivering the message of God, which is this message of good news of great joy to everybody no matter what. We are God’s postal workers. Are we delivering the message, or are we just staying home and letting the packages pile up? We should be delivering this message to everybody.
Now we don’t have to make them do anything with it. No, we deliver the message. When the mailman puts the mail in the box, does he make you do something with it? No. He just delivers the mail; it’s up to you to do something with it. You respond, but he doesn’t make you or she doesn’t make you. No, when we deliver the good news, we don’t make them respond, but we give them a chance to respond by delivering that mail. And the angels said this good news is for everybody, and they’re delivering it here to shepherds. God’s word is being delivered.
But furthermore, this message is about Jesus. Check out verses 11 through 14: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ.” Now, in Hebrew they would have said “Messiah” (Christ is Greek for Messiah), so what the angel said is “Messiah is born; a savior is born.” Who is Christ? And I love this—not just Messiah, he is “Christ the Lord.” In other words, he is God the Son. If anybody says, “there’s no place that says that Jesus is God,” right there, “Christ the Lord,” equating its Messiah equals God. Messiah is God. Jesus is fully God. And by the way, we’re going to see that in a couple weeks or so when we get to his lineage. But Jesus is God the Son.
But the message here as we continue (verse 12): “this will be a sign to you.” And the angel’s basically saying here, “Here’s how you’ll find him and here’s how you’ll know that you’ve gone to the right place”: “You’ll find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes . . . he’ll be lying in that makeshift bed (the manger) . . . and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of other angels singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” What we see here is that the message is Jesus. When we share the good news, we don’t just share optimistic hope; we don’t just share inspiration. You want inspiration? Turn on the radio. You want to feel happy? Maybe drink a coffee. You want hope? Turn to Jesus. You want good news? Turn to Jesus. You want to give people the message they need to hear? Give them Jesus.
There are plenty of churches out there who will fill people’s heads and ears with all kinds of things that make them feel good, make them happy, but don’t give them Jesus. We will give them Jesus! That is what the angels proclaimed: Jesus is born.
How many of us have sung that song “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.” That’s a Christmas song, right? No, it’s not just a Christmas song; that is what we’re to be doing in April, in August, in November, and yes, we’ll be doing it in October right out here with the Pumpkin Patch. Telling people not just, “Hey, God loves you, go have a good life.” No—“God loves you enough to send Jesus to die on a cross and shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins because we’re all under his wrath, and the only way to have hope is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus. Will you give your life to Jesus today? Will you repent? Will you believe?” That is our message: Jesus is here. So, the message is Christ.
And also (verses 13 to 14), they’re praising Jesus, they’re praising God. Why? Because Jesus and the message of God is worthy of praising God about. They praise God, and we should join in with them in praising God.
But then (verses 15 through 21), so we have God’s word fulfilled, God’s word delivered, but now we’re going to see God’s word believed.
God’s word believed: Jesus is Messiah (vv. 15-21)
God’s word believed (verses 15 through 21), check this out: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’” They had to check it out. The shepherds had to go see for themselves what’s going on. They heard this message, they received this message, but they had to go see it. They responded to this message. But they didn’t just respond in just saying, “Hey, we just need to know more.” They responded in faith. And how do we know that? Check this out (verse 20): “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” This indicates that they had faith. They had faith.
They had faith, and they praised God for two things, check this out (verse 20): “for all they had heard,” they praised God for the message of Messiah, “and had seen,” they praised God for Messiah himself (or he could put it this way: for what they’d heard and what they’d experienced—for who they heard about and who they encountered—Christ Jesus. They praised God for Jesus. We should do the same thing. But this tells us that they responded in faith.
But not everyone is necessarily going to respond in faith. In fact, we don’t know that everyone here—well, everyone there at the time—responded in faith. Check this out: “they went to Bethlehem with haste,” in verse 16, “they found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told to them concerning this child” (“Hey, here’s what we heard, here’s what the angels told us, that this is Messiah”), “and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them.” This indicates that there was more than just Mary, Joseph, and Jesus there. Probably her family was there as well.
They wondered. Do we know if they all had faith? Don’t know. Don’t know. But did that stop the shepherds from telling them? No. They weren’t worried about how the people are going to respond, they were just worried about, “Hey, we gotta tell you what we heard and what we were experiencing right now. That’s Messiah! We gotta tell you this message.”
When we share the gospel with people, we will get one of three responses. Many people will ignore us, dismiss us. So be it. That’s between them and God. Some people will attack us, condemn us, mock us, berate us. Again, that’s between them and God. But sometimes there will be some who will respond like the shepherds: in faith. It’s not up to us to make them respond any particular way; we just deliver the message, they do with it as they choose. Will they respond in faith, dismissal, or antagonism? Don’t know; not worried about it; we share anyway. And if someone hates us for it, just remember this: Jesus said, “if the world hates you, it’s because they hated me first.” It’s an honor to be hated by the world because we share the gospel truth with them. Why? Because that connects us with Christ, and the honor is in being with Christ.
So, these shepherds responded in faith. They shared the good news (in verses 17 through 19) with other people, telling them what they had seen and what they had heard, and they praised God (in verse 20) for it.
Folks, we have Jesus born. We have the angels coming and telling someone else Messiah is here. That’s called evangelism. We have the shepherds going and telling others about Jesus. That is called evangelism. We should be doing evangelism as a church, and we are doing that on Tuesdays—if you’re not participating, please join us if you can—but we should be doing evangelism in our daily lives at home with our families, with our friends, with our neighbors. However they may choose to respond doesn’t matter. Our responsibility is to share the good news of great joy, for it is to be told to everybody.
But we can’t end there. Check out verse 21. Now, before I mention this one, we kind of have a benefit, in fact, that we know the name of Messiah is Jesus. Well, as we go through Luke, if you’re reading it for the first time without the subheadings in most translations (because they’ll include Jesus’ name in there), you have, “Messiah . . . Messiah . . . Messiah . . . Messiah . . . Messiah.” Who is Messiah? Verse 21: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised,” referring to Messiah, “he was called,” in English and Greek, “Jesus,” in Hebrew, “Yeshua.”
That is significant: Yeshua. Yeshua, or Jesus, was like “Joe,” a common name that—I can’t see everybody—a lot of people had, which goes back to Isaiah 53, by the way. But this also connects him with Joshua. You remember Moses’ protégé who led the people in the battle of Jericho, and led the people as they went into the land, into the promised land, conquering the enemies of God’s people? He was a type and shadow looking forward to Jesus also. We have Moses, David, Joshua, and that’s just three of many. But Joshua led the people of God into the promised land, defeating the enemies of God’s people. Jesus is the Messiah who leads the people of God into that eternal promised land, defeating the enemy of God’s people: sin. That is why God had Luke make sure to write down he was called Jesus, because he, Jesus, is the one prophesied and foretold throughout the entire—entire—Old Testament.
So, the question for us first question is this: have you repented and believed on this Jesus for your hope and salvation, or are you simply trusting in your own self and your own works and your own abilities? Maybe you’re hoping that you can strike a deal with God, you can work it out, get on good terms with him. I have good news and bad news. You never will get on good terms with God if you try to do it on your own. Every one of us remains on bad terms because every single one of us are guilty of breaking God’s law. Justice must be served.
But here’s the good news: Jesus came down, he shed his own blood on that cross, hung on a tree. Scripture says it’s one of the most condemning things there can be, to hang on a tree. Jesus did that. God the Son humbled himself to shed his blood, satisfying God’s justice, so that every single person who repents of their sins—that is, turns away from them—and believes on this Jesus who is Messiah will be forgiven and saved. That’s the good news. But if you try it on your own, I can’t even wish you good luck because there is no luck or hope apart from faith in Christ Jesus. Put your faith in Jesus today. Repent and believe today. If you’re not sure if you’ve ever done that, today’s the day to make sure.
But the second question is this: when’s the last time you shared this good news with someone else?