Monthly Archives: December 2011
This is what we are so familiar with when we hear of the Christmas Story. Caesar Augustus issued a decree that everyone was to be registered. The decree called for you to be registered in the town of your fathers, which led to Joseph and Mary going to Bethlehem at this time when she was due for the birth of her son.
When we read there was no room at the inn and that Jesus was placed in a manger. We get an image of a very pregnant Mary being turned away from a nice hotel and sent to spend the night in a barn on a cold snowy night. The Sheppard tending their flocks make it more likely it is fall and while the nights would be cool, they probably weren’t cold and snowy.
Second our image of the manger and stable are probably a little skewed by what we picture for a place to keep animals. Albert Barnes in
his notes on the New Testament gives us a better picture of where Mary and Joseph more than likely settled down for the night. He quotes a description of an inn given by Dr. Kitto. I’m going to paraphrase that description; an inn at that time would have had a grand archway that led to a large open area with a well in the middle. In the walls around this open space would be doorways leading to oblong shaped rooms. The rooms would be unfurnished and the only light would come from the doorway which opened to the center opening. In most inns the animals would be kept in the open area. If the inn was one of the fancier establishments it would have an empty hallway that led to the back wall. The hallway would serve as the stables. There would be a bench built into the wall. So a traveler would have a place to set or place food for their animals.It was more than likely on one of these benches that Jesus was laid. So while this would not be the best accommodations for a king, it wasn’t exactly what we picture when we thing of a stable.
The thing that is significant isn’t how bad it was. We don’t have to try and make the birth of Jesus sound horrible, as if he was in a feeding trough freezing to death while animals ate food from under him. The point is that Jesus is the eternal king. He is God with us. The birth of Jesus was God’s plan of restoring fallen sinners to Himself and it was part of his plan for Jesus to coma as a humble servant that was willing to die for us. If Jesus the King can humble himself to be born in this way then shouldn’t we definitely humble ourselves in His service.
-  Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John, ed. Robert Frew (London: Blackie & Son, 1884-1885), 18. ↩
To me Joseph is one of the most amazing characters in the Christmas story. He also seems to be one of the most overlooked. We have heard sermons about what a good guy Joseph was. How he was going to divorce her quietly until an angel showed up and told him not to. There is so much more going on here.
Joseph had some hard decisions to make. First keep in mind he truly loved Mary or he wouldn’t have been willing to divorce her quietly. The Jewish law said he could accuse her of misconduct, which carried the sentence of her being stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 22:21) Jewish law was so strict on this that a betrothed virgin that was raped in the city could be stoned for not crying out.(Deuteronomy 22:24)
So Joseph is waiting to marry the woman he loves when he finds out she is pregnant and he knows beyond a doubt he is not the daddy. This isn’t as simple as trying to decide if you want to raise a child that is not yours. If Joseph decides he is going to go on and marry Mary and raise this child that isn’t his, then he has to pay the bride price and cannot ever divorce her. (Deuteronomy 22:28) He is basically admitting to everyone that he sinned and seduced her, which brings shame upon both of their families. Plus in this shame he has the shame of knowing he did not actually commit this sin. Joseph is in a no win situation. The bible said he considered these things I imagine Joseph agonized over these things.
So an angel show s up and tells him not to worry, Mary did not cheat on him. The Angel reminds him of Isaiah’s prophecy that the virgin shall conceive and bear a son called Immanuel or God with us.
Clears everything up for Joseph right!
While with all the miraculous things going on, Mary and Joseph swearing that Mary was pregnant, and the baby belonged to the Holy Spirit, and this is really God’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy seemed logical; most people did not go for it. Joseph was quite the man. He did what God told him even though it meant tremendous shame on him for the rest of his life.
We all are probably familiar with Mary’s story. She was a teenage girl pledged to be married to Joseph. One day the Angel Gabriel shows up and greets her by calling her the favored one and telling her that the Lord is with her. Mary was afraid cause she couldn’t understand this strange greeting. Gabriel explains to her that she is going to have a baby that will be the Son of God. That He will take the throne of David.
Mary is now really confused since she is a virgin and therefore it would be impossible for her to have a child. The Angel explains that the child will be from the Holy Spirit and to give her a sign tells her that her aunt Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age.
We then see Mary quickly heading into Judah to see her aunt. So let’s try ro picture what Mary is going through. Mary is an unmarried young lady. For her to become pregnant is a big thing. It will bring shame on the family. I think it is interesting how Mary handled everything. She leaves Nazareth to go and see her aunt to confirm the sign the angel gave her. Imagine her surprise upon seeing her pregnant aunt and hearing her declare to Mary, who would not be showing yet, “Blessed are you and the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth even calls the baby in Mary’s womb the Son of her Lord, and blesses her for believing the Lord. Mary at hearing this breaks out in praise of God.
So many prophecies are filled in Mary right here. Isaiah 7:14 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son. That there would be a savior king come from the line of David to rule and judge an eternal kingdom.(2 Samuel 7:12, Psalm 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, 1Chronicles 22:10, Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27, Jeremiah 23:5-6)
The Jews missed all of this happening right in front of them when God prepared three signs for them to wake up and see. Zechariah’s muteness, Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy and Mary’s miraculous pregnancy
Elizabeth was the wife of the priest Zechariah and the Mary’s aunt. At this time children were considered a blessing of God. The more children you had the more God had blessed you(Psalm 127:3). To not have children was shameful and it was assumed that God was holding back his blessing from you.
Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah had both faithfully served God all their life, yet she had no children. She was at an age when it was impossible to have children. Then all of a sudden her husband comes home mute, and tells her he will be that way until she gives birth to their son; John. Can you imagine the disbelief that Elizabeth had! That would be the answers to the prayers she had prayed but it was an impossibility.
Elizabeth hid herself from everyone while she waited for God to accomplish what he had promised through the angel Gabriel. Everyone had heard what had happened to Zechariah. The test of a prophet is did the prophecy come true. Everyone would be watching to see if Zechariah was really going to have a child. I imagine that Elizabeth was also worried even when she started showing, because of her age she probably worried about complications. Until she knew that this child was going to be born she did not want to be out where everyone could see her.
Six months into her pregnancy her niece shows up with a miraculous story of her own. Can you imagine the conversations these two ladies had? Both are in the process of a miraculous pregnancy that was foretold by an angel.
Elizabeth does give birth to John, thereby giving Zechariah his voice back.
So why did God bring John into the world in this way? I remind you it has been 400 years since God has spoken to Israel. Almost 2000 years before this there was a woman named Sarah who gave birth at 90 years of age. A birth that was physical impossible and was prophesied by God. I believe Elizabeth was a reminder that God could do the impossible. Everyone should have been expectant of Christ arrival. The Old Testament is all in expectation of Christ. God had the miraculous circumstances of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a reminder and preparation of what was to come.
In Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would give birth to a son that would be God with us. A son called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. A son that would have the very government upon his shoulders. I think Elizabeth was God’s way of waking everyone up to what He was about to do.
-  This information came from John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible ↩
We seem to forget the other characters and the part they played in the Christmas story. We do need to focus on the birth of Christ since he is the reason we celebrate, but we also need to see how God used ordinary people to accomplish His will and to see the lessons that are in their lives.
So what im hoping to do over the next week is look at the individuals that played a part in the christmas story. I intend to start with Zechariah and Elizabeth, then move on to Mary, Joseph, the shepards and wise men.
Hope you have a Merry Christmas and spend this time in reflection of the saviour sent, Immanuel, God with us.
This is one of those sections that when I first look at it I have to ask myself, how am I going to teach that? It first seems like there isn’t much to say, but as I prayerfully read it themes start jumping out at me. As I study it I start to see that there is a lot more here than originally meets the eye. The bible tells us that Jesus talked in parables so that some would not understand. The bible does that also, when we look at a piece like this or a genealogy and forget that it is the inspired word of God, then we do not realize that God is talking to us through the scripture.
So the first thing happening here is Jesus’ disciples are baptizing followers and so is John. I know that it says Jesus was baptizing, but John makes sure we understand that it was not Jesus but His disciples in Chapter 4.
(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),John 4:2 (ESV)
So let’s picture what is going on. John is baptizing at Aenon near Salim. More than likely we are talking about some springs (Aenon means springs) near the city of Salim. While it is disputed exactly where this is if you look at a map you can see the the two areas Aenon and Salim listed next too each other a little east of the Jordan river a little past the halfway point between the Dead Sea and the Seas of Gaillee.
We see a disciple of John talking to some Jews who have recently been listening to Jesus preach. They brag about his preaching and talk about His baptism. They argue over the differences in John’s baptism and the Jewish purification rites. The Jews had regulations on what made a person unclean and therefore needing purification by washing.
Last time we studied a nighttime meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus, Today we will finish the dialogue that was started then. We discussed what it means to be born again and Nicky was having a hard time understanding it. Let’s move on and see what Jesus has to say.
“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
The first thing that jumps out is that Jesus is speaking in the plural. We speak, we know, we have seen, our testimony. This is because Jesus is showing the Trinity; The father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are part of the New Birth. The last example Jesus gave was how the Holy Spirit works like the wind. You can’t see it, but you see its effects. Nick does not understand this earthly example so how can he understand the things of Heaven.
The Son of Man
Now Jesus is going to try and make it even simpler for Nicodemus. No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. That clears it right up. Right?In Chapter 7 of the book of Daniel, he is having vision at night and he sees the end of times. He sees Satan cast into the lake of fire and the books opened up.
Then behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
He sees God on his throne and suddenly on the clouds appears one that appears to be an ordinary man, yet God gives him all authority and glory. No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. With this verse Jesus just said I have been sent from heaven, because I am the one that God the Father is giving all glory to. I am the Son of Man Daniel prophesied about. Nicky would have caught and understood this reference.
I seem to be having a problem with quotes and apostrophes hopefully I will get that worked out soon.