Luke 2

1 Luke gives details about the time of Jesus' birth. The purpose was to give historical context to the life and times of Jesus. This is not a make believe, "once upon a time" story. It is a biography and historical account of actual events.

Kings would take a census to help them determine how much they should tax their subjects.

2 Historical records place Quirinius as governor of Pamphylia-Galatia in 6 B.C., advisor to Caesar Augustus' sons in 2 A.D., and governor of Syria in 6 A.D. Herod's death is placed at 4 B.C., and using his pronouncement in Mat 2:16, Jesus' birth is reckoned to have occurred at around 7-6 B.C. This leaves us with a puzzle about this verse, since it does not seem to match up with what we know of history. However, we must remember that Luke wrote this for his contemporaries, who, while they knew the history of their day, did not see any contradiction in what Luke had written. Thus, this is only a puzzle in the modern day because either we have inaccurate historical facts, or we have misunderstood what Luke was trying to convey. For instance, there are admitted gaps in the historical records about Quirinius and the governorship of Syria at the time of Jesus' birth. It is possible that Quirinius had a brief governorship of Syria during the time of Jesus' birth. Another possibility is that Luke was trying to indicate that the first census was taken "around" the time Quirinius was governor of Syria, but in modern times we have taken this verse in an absolute sense. Some have used this verse to try to discredit the Gospel of Luke and God's inspiration of the Bible, but such attacks are unwarranted. We do not have all the facts of history at our disposal. Luke researched his work (Luke 1:1-4), and it is reasonable to assume that he had first-hand access to facts, witnesses, and historical records that have since been lost.
3 See commentary on Luke 2:8.
4 Mat 1 contains Joseph's lineage.
5 Mat 1:24 indicates that Joseph took Mary as his wife, and thus ended their official engagement before the census was taken. However, since Mary remained a virgin until after Jesus was born (Mat 1:25), others would have seen this as an extension of their engagement because the marriage had not been fully consummated.
7 A manger can refer to either a stable or the feeding trough for animals. In some cases, animals were sheltered in caves, but many physical structures existed as well. There is a cave reputed to be the birthplace of Jesus, but many have doubts about the authenticity of this claim.

The "inn" was likely a resting-place for travelers. Several of these "hotels" existed during those days. It is not surprising that there were no vacancies since people were compelled to travel to their ancestral cities for the census. Perhaps as an act of compassion, the innkeeper allowed the couple to stay in the manger since it was obvious that Mary needed a shelter.

The Messiah was born in a small shelter in a small town during a confusing time. His birth would have been completely unnoticed if it were not for what would happen next.

8 The Bible does not give us the exact date of Jesus' birth. December 25 was chosen by Pope Julius I in 350 A.D. to compete with the Roman sun worship celebration of the winter solstice.

Some have used this verse to argue that it could not have been in the winter because shepherds do not keep sheep out in the cold. Others have noted that the winters near Bethlehem are relatively mild. Sheep there are generally kept outside all year long.

A stronger argument against a winter birth would concern the timing of the census. It seems unlikely that a census would be taken in winter because it would be uncomfortable (and dangerous) for both the traveling subjects and the Roman census takers.

9 God did not make the Messiah's birth announcement to the rulers, but to shepherds. He also chose not to announce it to large crowds, but just to a few men.

As with most other angelic appearances in the Bible, the people involved were dazzled and afraid.

10 The angel announces that this event would bring joy to all people, not just Judah.
11 "Christ" and "Messiah" both mean "Anointed One." The first is from the Greek language, and the second is from the Hebrew. The Jews were eagerly awaiting their Messiah -- a King that would save them from their enemies. Most Jews would end up disappointed in Jesus because He would not overthrow the Roman authorities during His first appearance. Instead, He would save people from their sins, and their spiritual enemy, Satan. We need to understand that our spiritual salvation is much more important than salvation from the bad things that happen in the physical world.
12 Bethlehem was small, but there were several babies there. The Messiah, though, would be found in a manger. Swaddling cloths were common in those times. Babies were wrapped in cloths to keep them from moving around.
14 God's desire for people is that they have "peace" with Him. With sin present, it is impossible to have peace with God because sin opposes Him by definition. People are unable to get rid of their own sins, so in a gesture of goodwill He gave His Son to pay the penalty of sin for them. This would be accomplished about 33 years later on the cross.
15 God had gone to great lengths to announce Jesus' birth to the few shepherd men. It is proper to proceed when one has been greatly honored by God and invited to participate in the work He is doing.
16 The shepherds were obedient to the angel's voice and were rewarded with the first glimpse of the Messiah.
17 The shepherds were the first "evangelists." They were so encouraged by what they had seen and heard that they wanted to share it with everyone. Christians should have a similar response.
18 The people were amazed, but it is not said that they believed the shepherds or went to see Jesus for themselves.
19 Jesus' birth and purpose had been foretold to her by an angel. Now angels made an open proclamation through the shepherds. Mary was not one to make such open proclamations. She would raise Jesus as a normal child, but she would always have the angelic messages in the back of her mind.
20 In the end, the shepherds became more focused on God.
21 All Israelite males were to be circumcised on the eighth day after they were born (Gen 17:12, Lev 12:3). Joseph and Mary were obedient to both the Law and the angel's commands.
22 Thirty-three days after the circumcision, the woman was considered ceremonially clean again (Lev 12:2-4).
23 When God killed the firstborn males among the Egyptians, He spared the firstborn of the Israelites. Thus, the firstborn males have a special debt of ownership to God. God commanded that all the firstborn males be set aside for His use (Exo 13:2). Later, God chose the tribe of Levi to substitute for the firstborn males of all the other tribes to be dedicated specifically to the priestly duties (Num 3:41). Still, it was necessary to "redeem" or "buy back" the firstborn males of the other tribes (Num 18:15), which was most likely what this ceremony was about.
24 A sacrifice was given to complete the purification process. The sacrifice was to be a lamb, but the Law allowed poor parents to offer two doves or pigeons instead (Lev 12:6-8). The King of kings was born in a manger to poor parents. God seems to take special pleasure in doing great works through people who are considered "lowly" in the world's eyes.
25 Many in Israel were waiting for the Messiah, but Simeon was also known as a man who was in touch with God.
26 We are not told if this was common knowledge. Simeon may have told this to many people or he may have told it to Mary and Joseph when he prophesied about Jesus.
30 Simeon would not see Jesus' death and resurrection, but he already saw by faith what God would do through Him.
31 Jesus' ministry would be confined to the vicinity if Israel, but His witness was a public appeal to people all over the world to be reconciled with God.
32 Jesus' ministry would glorify Israel by fulfilling many of the prophecies given to them (the rest will be fulfilled at Jesus' Second Coming). Up to this point, God had revealed Himself almost exclusively to Israel. Through Jesus' ministry, God would reveal Himself to all people so that it was clear that all people have a chance to accept salvation through Him by faith.
33 Joseph and Mary both had angelic visitations about their son, and Simeon was another independent source who got his information from God. The parents were continually amazed when they thought about what was happening and wondered at how Jesus might change everything in Israel and the world.
34 Simeon then prepares Mary for what will lie ahead. Apparently, Simeon knew that Joseph would die before Jesus' ministry began so he only addresses Mary.

The Messiah would cause great upheaval in Israel. Those who believed Him would find forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. Those who would not believe would fall into greater sin when they deny their Messiah, persecute and kill Him, and then do the same with His followers.

35 Mary would be a witness to all of this and her spirit would be in agony when she saw the death of her son. She would also have to deal with the struggles of her own faith as she watched this helpless baby grow up and reveal Himself as God incarnate Messiah.

Jesus becomes the ultimate indicator of one's spiritual state. Those who love God and seek to follow Him will recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Those who do not love God, despite whatever claims they may make, will deny Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.

36 God does not speak exclusively to men. God had revealed His plan of salvation to this old prophetess. He now gave her the pleasure of seeing this portion of it with her own eyes, just as He had done with Simeon.
38 This news may have caused quite a stir when Anna told the people about Jesus. However, by the time Jesus' ministry began thirty years later, no one remembered Anna's prophecy, and most were unprepared to accept Him as their King.
40 Jesus grew physically and mentally. It would appear that even though Jesus is part of the triune God, He was limited in His omniscience (ability to know all things) and omnipresence (ability to be everywhere) while He was in His earthly body. I don't believe that this compromises His authority or divinity, but rather demonstrates that He was willing to suffer many of our limitations in order to sympathize with our condition.

The verse does not indicate that Jesus needed to grow spiritually. To the outside world it appeared that God had simply bestowed Jesus with a high level of spiritual aptitude. We know, of course, that Jesus was not only very spiritual, but lived a perfect physical, mental, and spiritual life.

41 Jesus' parents very faithful to their Jewish faith and desired to obey God. Even though the trip from their hometown of Nazareth to Jerusalem was long, difficult, and sometimes dangerous, they made the trip every year because it was important to obey God's Law.
42 Jesus most likely had gone to Jerusalem with His parents every year, but His age is mentioned here to emphasize His amazing spiritual discernment.
46 Jesus was keeping very esteemed company. Jerusalem was the spiritual center of Israel and during the feast the best spiritual scholars would have been present. Jesus was right there with them and actively participating in deep theological discussions.

A very typical way to discuss spiritual issues was by asking questions. We will see that during Jesus' ministry He will often answer questions by asking another question. The purpose is not to divert attention from the original question or to obtain additional information, but rather to get the first person to think about the original question and come up with the answer himself (by answering the second question he answers the first).

We also see that Jesus listened. This is an example for us. We should listen to learn, understand situations, and be courteous. We can not effectively answer questions we have not listened to.

47 To have a twelve-year-old with understanding that surpassed those who had studied the Law for more than 40 years would have indeed been a spectacle. Of course, they would have seen Jesus as a child prodigy but we know that He was really the Child Divinity.
48 Even Jesus' parents were amazed. Perhaps they had only seen glimpses of His spirituality during His childhood.

But Jesus' parents don't focus on this amazing discovery -- they focus on the anxiety that they have been through over the last five days or so. Perhaps we could make an argument that Jesus' actions were thoughtless, but I would find that hard to believe. Instead, I suspect He did this knowing full well what would happen. But His motivation was not mean-spirited.

49 Jesus wanted His parents to know that He was no ordinary child. This would only be a small picture of what He was to become. Mary would later see her son as the Messiah described in the Scriptures.
50 Mary would also later recognize Jesus as the Son of God. At the moment, though, Jesus' answer was confusing because He had not yet revealed that God was His true Father. Perhaps this answer would have stung Joseph who already knew that Jesus was not his biological son.
51 Jesus was not going to rebel against His parents. Instead He subjected Himself to their authority in order to live perfectly. This is certainly a lesson for all children. If Jesus voluntarily submitted to His God-given parents, we should do the same.

Mary often thought about this event and apparently recalled it later for Luke or she had told someone else who Luke had interviewed during his research.

52 Jesus continued to grow physically and mentally. Note that wisdom is not just knowledge. Jesus was able to handle knowledge well.

Jesus lived a perfect life, and during his formative years was well liked by everyone. It is not surprising that Jesus would find favor with God. Jesus' Divine nature would make it impossible for Him to sin against God, and God was pleased that Jesus would resist every temptation to sin. Remember that mankind was God's most prized creation, but up to this point not a single human had lived their life perfectly the way God wanted them to. According to the Bible Jesus' life is the only perfect one there will be, but it is through His perfection that we can be acceptable to God.