Introduction to Christianity with Luke
- Jesus’ birth
- The patriarchs of Israel - Jesus’ ancestors
- Christianity as the fulfilment of prophecy
Luke 2:1-7: Jesus’ birth
Jesus’ birth date isn’t stated in the gospels. The year is even uncertain. The 25th of December probably isn’t it, but Christians had been celebrating then at least decades before the Romans moved Solar Invictus to that date to distract from the growth of this new religion.
Sometimes, the 25th of December coincides with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which remembers the Maccabees overthrowing the Greek occupation around 200BC and cleansing the temple from defilement. This is recorded in the Book of Maccabees, which has been included as extra reading (Apocrypha) in various Bibles.
Luke 2:8-20: The news is announced to shepherds
King David, Jesus’ ancestor, was a shepherd. The Bible often presents God as a shepherd. The word pastor, which we use for church leaders comes from the French and Latin word for shepherd – one who cares for the flock.
Note that the classic nativity scene is just all the actors from the play bowing at the end of the Christmas production. The angels and Magi (kings) weren’t at Jesus’ birthplace, and no stable is mentioned, nor a donkey, nor a T-rex, but that kid sure looked cute 😊.
I picture an insignificant village, that was overrun with King David’s descendants who had to be there for the census. There really wasn’t any room anywhere, so many camped out in the village square like refugees. In this crowded scene, the new parents did their best to make a cradle out of an animal feed trough.
Luke 2:21-24: Religious laws fulfilled
When Jesus was 40 days old, Mary’s ritual uncleanness from Leviticus 12:2-8 was over, and they popped over the hill to Jerusalem to present him at the temple.
The ritual required a lamb to be sacrificed and a pigeon or dove. But poor people would offer two pigeons or doves.
Luke 2:25-35: Simeon’s prophecy
Simeon was an old guy who had a personal relationship with God. He was delighted to meet the baby Jesus. He’d studied the prophecies all his life and was told by God that he’d see the one who would fulfill his ancient promises.
Luke 2:36-40: Anna’s prophecy
These guys lived around 2000-1500BC. You can read about them in Genesis 12-50.
Jesus was a descendant of Judah’s son Perez, from whom the Kings descended.
Luke 2:41-52: Jesus is 12, hangs out in the temple
Even as a boy, Jesus understood his mission and relationship to God. It seems strange that his parents didn’t notice he wasn’t with them, but they would have been travelling with a crowd of relatives, feeling secure that he’s hanging out with his cousins and being looked after by other aunts and uncles.
Matthew writes a very different, complementary story about Jesus’ birth, while John provides a more mystical introduction of Jesus’ eternal origins.
|John 1:1-5, 14||Jesus created all things and came to live among us|
|Luke 1:5-25||Gabriel announces John’s birth to Zechariah|
|Luke 1:26-38||Gabriel announces Jesus’ birth to Mary|
|Matthew 1:18-24||An angel reassures Joseph in a dream|
|Luke 1:39-56||Mary visits Elizabeth|
|Luke 1:57-67||John is born and circumcised|
|Luke 2:1-7||Jesus is born|
|Luke 2:8-20||An angel announces Jesus’ birth to shepherds|
|Luke 2:21-24||Jesus is circumcised then presented at the temple|
|Matthew 2:1-12||Wise men (Magi) visit and worship Jesus|
|Matthew 2:13-18||They escape to Egypt before Herod kills all the little boys|
|Matthew 2:19-23||Jesus returns to settle in Nazareth|
|Luke 2:41-52||Jesus stays behind at the temple, aged 12|
Christianity is all about the fulfillment of ancient prophecies.
Way back in the garden of Eden, God promised in Genesis 3:15 that the woman’s child would crush the serpent’s head as the serpent bruises his heal. God’s saying, “the woman’s child”, infers the virgin’s birth. When Jesus was executed on the cross, the wickedness of this world pierced his heal as its power was being crushed by Jesus’ sacrifice.
God’s promise of this savior, which we transliterate from Hebrew’s מָשִׁיחַ (Mashiach) as Messiah, or Greek’s Χριστός (Christós) as Christ, weaves a thread through the Jewish scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. He was to be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and King David.
|Abraham||Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. Through you every family on earth will be blessed|
|Isaac||Genesis 17:19 God replied, “No! Your wife Sarah will give you a son, and you will name him Isaac [He Laughs]. I will make an everlasting promise to him and his descendants.|
|Jacob||Genesis 28:14 Your descendants will be like the dust on the earth. You will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. Through you and through your descendant every family on earth will be blessed.|
|Judah||Genesis 49:10 A scepter will never depart from Judah nor a ruler’s staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes and the people obey him.|
|David||2 Samuel 7:12 When the time comes for you to lie down in death with your ancestors, I will send one of your descendants, [one] who will come from you. I will establish his kingdom. 13He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.|
|Born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14 So the Lord himself will give you this sign: A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [God Is With Us].|
|Born in Bethlehem||Micah 5:2 You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, are too small to be included among Judah’s cities. Yet, from you Israel’s future ruler will come for me. His origins go back to the distant past, to days long ago.|
|Come out of Egypt||Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt.|
|Grow up in Nazareth||
Isaiah 11:1 Then a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from its roots will bear fruit.
(branch = נזר = nzr)
I pray that God would richly bless you as you continue to learn to understand what Christianity is all about.
I pray that you’ll be blessed this week
Shalom. We’ll see ya later.