The text for this lesson is Luke 2
- God sent His Son, Jesus, to be born on earth so He could keep the Law for me and also suffer and die in my place.
- Law: Without a deliverer, I, along with all humanity, would suffer eternally in hell.
- Gospel: To redeem His creation, God sent His Son to become a part of it by taking flesh from His mother and being born under the Law, fulfilling it, then suffering and dying to pay for the sin of the world. His resurrection guarantees that I and all who trust in Him will live in heaven forever.
- Mary has been visited by the angel Gabriel, who has announced the birth of Jesus to her. Her Son will be the “Son of the Most High” and have the “throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and then returns to Nazareth for the birth. It is at this time that Joseph is called to Bethlehem to participate in a census, and Mary goes with him and gives birth to Jesus there. Luke 2 also gives us the account of Jesus’ circumcision when He is eight days old, His presentation in the temple at forty days old, His return to Nazareth, and His trip to Jerusalem when He is twelve.
- Our Lord’s incarnation is one of the most important events in all of history, but it is, in a very real way, penultimate. It is the big thing before the really big thing. The absolute center of all history is the suffering and death upon the cross, but the cross cannot happen without the incarnation. In order for God to offer His flesh for the life of the world, He needs to take flesh into Himself.
Luke grounds his telling of our Lord’s incarnation in secular history. He gives us dates in the traditional Roman way and provides anchor points in the account that his reader, Theophilus, could have checked in recent historical records that were available to him. The emperor was Caesar Augustus, Quirinius was governor of Syria, and this was the first census during Quirinius’s term of office. The details are quite specific.
But the account is also very Jewish. Luke provides a great deal of detail that would have been fully understood only by a reader who was familiar with the Old Testament. Joseph is of the “house and lineage of David” (2:4), and so Jesus is too. Bethlehem is the “city of David” (v. 11), something that can only be known if you’ve read 1 Samuel 16–17. Further, Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day, something only done in Israel and universally maligned elsewhere in the ancient world. He is presented in the temple on the fortieth day, and we even learn on the basis of the offered sacrifice that Mary and Joseph are poor enough to offer the less expensive of the possible sacrifices.
There is absolutely no doubt that Jesus is born as a man in the most humble of circumstances. The stable in which He is born is probably a cave. Caves were commonly used by shepherds in Bethlehem as sheep pens. And so, the Good Shepherd is born in a sheep pen and is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a sheep trough so that some decades later, His sheep may feed on His body and His blood.
Our Lord’s humanity is essential because it makes Him the true fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him and also because it makes Him a fit substitute to bear all of God’s wrath against our sin on the cross.