Lesson One of the Book of Daniel,
Introduction to the Book of Daniel
The Book of Luke, The Birth of the
Messiah, Part I
And it came to pass
in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the
world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when
Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one
into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the
city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called
Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be
taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it
was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be
delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him
in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for
them in the inn.
there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch
over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon
them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore
afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I
bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For
unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the
Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the
babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly
there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and
saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will
toward men. 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from
them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto
Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made
known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and
Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen
it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this
child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things
which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these
things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds
returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and
seen, as it was told unto them.
Luke’s account of our Lord’s birth is the only inspired account recorded in the
Neither Mark nor John deal with the birth or the childhood days of either John
the Baptist or Jesus, but begin with the commencement of John’s public ministry.
Matthew tells us about the visitation of the angel to Joseph, prior to the birth
of Jesus, which caused him to marry Mary, rather than to put her away privately,
as he had originally intended.
Matthew also informs us about the visit of the magi, of Herod’s attempt to kill
the baby, and of the flight of the family to Egypt until after Herod’s death.
Matthew does not, however, tell us anything about the events surrounding the
actual birth of the Lord Jesus.
Only Luke describes the events of our Lord’s birth.
So we see that the only account of Christ’s birth is also a very brief account.
Of all of the
things which Luke could have told us about the birth of the Lord Jesus, he chose
to give a very brief account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (the decree of Caesar,
the census, the fact that the place of Joseph’s birth was Bethlehem), and how
nearby shepherds came to witness the Messiah’s first coming.
God has chosen to
give us these few events to the exclusion of a multitude of others and therefore
we may conclude that they are the most important events for us to know.
But one thing we
need to remember is that the birth of Christ is not a part of the Gospel.
The gospel is
concerned with the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course his
birth was a necessary ingredient to his death but it is not part of the gospel
While only one
gospel records the details of our Lord’s birth all four carefully depict His
death, burial and resurrection.
Only a very few verses describe the events
surrounding the birth of Christ while several chapters of each gospel are
devoted to a description of His arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection
When viewed in the light of the Gospels, the
birth of Christ must be seen as important, but it also must be seen as
overshadowed by other important truths.
If we are to understand and celebrate
Christmas in a way that is consistent with Scripture, we must celebrate it from
a biblical perspective.
So when God gives
more notice to certain things we ought to see those things as more important
than things given less notice.
On that basis we
should conclude that the death of Christ is more important to the gospel writers
than His birth.
Why is this so?
Because it is the
death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that provides for our salvation, and
not the baby Christ.
had to take on human flesh before He could reveal God to men and save them, but
it is His atoning work on the cross of Calvary that saves us.
Why, then, is the
Christmas story so important to many today, even those who do not believe in
Christ for salvation?
Most likely it is
because the babe in the manger is far less threatening than the Christ of the
later gospels, who interprets and applies the Law, who condemns sin and who
speaks of faith in His blood.
The baby in the
manger is sweet and lovable, and also “controllable.”
The baby in the
manger is a God whom we are comfortable to approach, to think about, even to
But the Christ
hanging on the cross is not a pretty picture.
The Babe in the
manger is one to whom we are drawn naturally, but we are not naturally drawn to
the Christ who hangs bleeding on the cross.
Many have made
much, too much, of the babe in the manger because this is the kind of “god” they
wish to serve, a “god” who is weak, who is helpless, who needs us, rather than a
God who is sovereign, and who demands our obedience, our worship, our all.
“babe in the manger” is not enough, for this is only the way He came into the
world and not the way he exited.
The way He will be
for all eternity is the way He is described by John in the book of Revelation.
But as usual the world turns things upside
down and gets things wrong but Christians ought to have discernment about the
matter and put Christmas in the proper perspective.
The world and the world’s merchants give all
importance to Christmas but little notice is made of the memorial of Christ’s
resurrection at Easter other than to disguise that with the Easter bunny.
Christmas today is
designed to present a Christ not of the Bible but of the human heart’s own
One writer has expressed
this thought in this way.
Oh! the million Christmas
When you’d lie, a babe
Beneath a million million
And hear the countless
tongues chanting your name.
Ah . . . will they remember
Dripping from the iron nails
And will they pray, and will
A whiter white than snow?
So any celebration of Christmas ought to always
point to the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross and not simply the
birth of a baby in bethlehem
Our text, Luke 2,
verses 1-20, has three divisions.
Verses 1-7 explain
the occasion for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and especially for the circumstances
accompanying His birth, namely His being wrapped in strips of cloth and being
placed in a cattle feeding trough.
describe the angelic visitation of the shepherds as the occasion for the visit
of the shepherds at the birth sight.
report the shepherd’s visitation and their testimony after having seen the
There are some
intervening events reported by Matthew which also help us to understand what is
taking place in our text.
of Joseph’s angelic visitation seems to occur shortly after Mary has returned to
her home in Nazareth from the home of Elizabeth and Zacharias (cf. Luke
On returning home
Mary was at least three months pregnant.
Seeing her three
months into her pregnancy must have been a great shock and disappointment to
natural inclination was that Mary had been unfaithful to him while she was away
from Nazareth visiting Elisabeth.
unavoidable, Joseph knew, but he determined at least to do this privately,
rather than to make a public spectacle of Mary.
It was at this
point in time that the angel visited Joseph in a dream, Matthew tells us (Matt.
1:18-25), informing him that Mary had not had an illicit union, but that the
child she was to bear was God incarnate, Immanuel.
As a result of
this revelation, Joseph took Mary as his wife, providing for her and protecting
her, and later serving as the father of the miracle child she bore.
Joseph’s wife in a very different way, due to the nature of her pregnancy.
Normally, a Jewish
man and woman became husband and wife by their physical union and were not
considered husband and wife until the union was consummated.
Mary could not
have had such a marriage ceremony, for Matthew has told us that they did not
come together until after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:25).
refers to Mary and Joseph as being married, he speaks practically, for from this
time on they lived together as husband and wife.
But when Luke
speaks of this couple, on their way to Bethlehem, he speaks of them as though
they were still engaged, and yet to be married.
Note the fact that
he uses the term “espoused”.
technically correct for it was only after the birth of Jesus that Mary and
Joseph consummated their marital union and became husband and wife in the
precise Jewish sense.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a
decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And
this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And
all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also
went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of
David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of
David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with
child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were
accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her
firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke takes up the
account of the birth of Jesus with a report of the conditions into which God’s
Messiah was born, and the human reasons for them.
Luke is careful to
give us an historical setting for the birth of Christ.
was the emperor who ordered the tax.
original name was Gaius Octavius, known in English as Octavian.
He was a
contemporary of Herod the Great and had been born in 63 B.C.
He was Roman
emperor from 27 B.C. until his death in 14 A.D.
He was not around
during the adult ministry of Jesus Christ but he was emperor at the time of the
birth of Christ.
He was grandnephew
of Julius Caesar from whom the title Caesar came.
Caesar was a
family name and those emperors who came from Julius’s line were also called
Caesar and after the last Caesar Nero, the name Caesar was kept to designate the
In the year 27
B.C. the Roman senate conferred on the former Octavian, the title Augustus,
which means majestic, sublime, highly revered.
From then on he
was known as Caesar Augustus
had proclaimed a decree, which required a census, undoubtedly in preparation for
a later taxation.
this census must have been a very painful act, not only because doing so was
inconvenient, but because it was a reminder that while God’s people, Israel,
were in the land of promise, they were not free; they were under the rule of a
They had forsaken
God as their ruler and all must have a ruler so God had given them the Romans.
A Roman law, made
by a pagan emperor, compelled the Israelites to comply.
This puts to a lie
the insistence of the Jews that they were subject to no one when they said to
Jesus in John 8:33 We be Abraham’s seed,
and were never in bondage to any man:
They must have soon forgot the bondage they were under when Rome ruled.
But God was not under the Roman rule and we can easily see that the decree
of Caesar was divinely intended to cause one couple to make a long difficult
journey from their home town of Nazareth in Galilee to the place of their birth,
Bethlehem in Judea.