God’s eternal plan for
world redemption was a perfectly synchronized
program of events that centered on the Savior’s
birth in Bethlehem. When you examine the details you
are overwhelmed with the fact that it was not an
afterthought with God. It was a carefully laid
organizational plan of complexity. The apostle Paul
in Galatians 4:4-5 tells us "when the fullness of
the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem
those who were under the Law, that we might receive
the adoption as sons."
It took place just at the
right moment, precisely as God prearranged it. It
was carefully planned and communicated through His
spokesman to those who would be obedient to His
Word. The Hebrew prophet Micah declared, 700 years
before the coming of the Messiah that He would be
born in Bethlehem, Judah in the ancient city of
David. "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too
little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One
will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His
goings forth are from long ago, from the days of
Now seven hundred years
later a teenage couple, descendents of King David,
is living in Nazareth, Galilee, a few days journey
away from Bethlehem. She is dew any day now to give
birth, and going to Bethlehem near Jerusalem is far
from her mind. It has never entered her mind that
she needs to go to Bethlehem. How can God get her to
Bethlehem on time? God’s timing is always perfect,
but don’t you think He is cutting this pretty close
this time? However, if Jesus were born in Nazareth
He would be an illegitimate messiah and impostor of
the throne of the Holy One of Israel. It would have
been impossible for Him to be our Savior and
When you examine the
details there is a unique set of historical
circumstances that are significant and meaningful to
fulfillment of prophecies related to the birth of
Christ. For the observant person it is amazing how
the sovereign hand of God brings it all together in
perfect timing. He is the God of history, and He is
in control of every detail.
I cease to be amazed at
how God takes His time, yet His timing is always
perfect. Sometimes we think He is dragging His feet,
yet He knows with absolute perfection every detail
of the events along the way and the people whom He
chooses to use to accomplish His eternal purpose.
How tragic that we get so busy with our plans,
schedules, arrangements, and instant gratification
that we fail to see His perfect timing.
God’s timing is always
perfect. A sovereign God made ready a time and a
people to fulfill His eternal purpose for the
redemption of a lost mankind.
A time and place in
history (vv. 1-2)
Jesus was born at a time
and place in history. The event is simply told by
the physician turned historian. It occurred in the
days of Caesar Augustus. When Christ was born
Palestine was under the reign of a Roman ruler,
Caesar Augustus. The long hundred-year-old bloody
civil war of Rome has finally come to an end.
Dr. Luke is careful to give us historical details of
Jesus’ birth. It is no mythology or dream of
fantasy. Augustus was the first Roman emperor to
wear the imperial purple and crown as sole ruler of
the vast empire. Caesar Augustus is the Emperor of
Rome who ruled from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. He was born
Gaius Octavius in September 63 BC; we know him as
Octavian. His father was related to Pompey and
Julius Caesar is his grand uncle on his mother’s
side. Julius Caesar adopted him as his son and made
him heir to the throne. When Augustus heard that
Julius Caesar had been assassinated (44 BC), he
returned to Rome to claim his inheritance. In time
he carved out a period of political peace and
prosperity. The Roman Empire was a safe place in
which to live and travel. By the time of the birth
of Jesus about 4 BC, the Roman Empire was at peace,
efficiently administered and more prosperous than
Oddly enough, Caesar
Augustus was never aware of his greatest and most
lasting achievement which was preparing of the way
for Savior of the world.
The King James reads,
"that all the world should be taxed." A more
accurate translation is, "Now it came about in those
days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus,
that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was
governor of Syria" (2:1-2). The "census" was a
registration or enrollment of the people. The
taxation would follow based on the census or
registration. It was really a registration for
taxing purposes. The census is for the registration
of all citizens in the Roman Empire so the
government could collect taxes in the near future.
This was the first of regular censuses to follow
every fourteen years.
The date is BC 4 or 5 and
Herod the Great is king in Judaea (40-4 BC). These
events took place probably shortly before Herod's
death April 4 BC. Of Herod, the emperor Augustus
once said, "I had sooner be Herod’s swine than his
son," referring to the increasingly paranoid and
cruel execution of his wife and several sons.
Quirinius is the governor
of Syria. In fact, he was probably governor twice
and was involved in at least two censuses.
Inscriptions discovered by Sir William Ramsay show
he was "governor" in Syria both before and after the
birth of Jesus. The eminent archaeologist Jerry
Vanderman found a coin with the name of Quirinius on
it in small writing. This coin places him as
proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until the
death of Herod. The census would have taken place
under the reign of Quirinius. The details of the
census under Quirinius may have been common
knowledge in Luke’s time. It proves once again that
Luke was a painstakingly accurate historian who
carefully investigated in detail as he testified in
Luke 1:1-4. One scholar wrote of Luke, "He is
erudite, he’s eloquent, his Greek approaches
classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and
archaeological discoveries are showing over and over
again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say."
The world was at peace
with Pax Romana. It is Roman peace, or better peace
with a whip. The Roman boot was on the neck of the
known world. The Roman peace brought about wide-open
travel throughout the empire and enabled missionary
expansion. Roman roads in peacetime brought social
order and protection for the apostle to the
Gentiles. The decay of the great Greek philosophy
and faith in the mystery religions left a spiritual
vacuum and hunger that Rome could not fill. But the
Greeks left a perfect language for communicating the
message of God’s redemption.
A sovereign God had
prepared a people, a nation, and specific time in
history to do the unimaginable thing.
Joseph and Mary are
of the "family of David" (vv. 3-5)
"And everyone was on his
way to register for the census, each to his own
city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the
city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David
which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the
house and family of David, in order to register
along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was
with child" (vv. 3-5). Bethlehem was real city in
history and still in existence to this day. Going
back to the ancestral city appears to be a sensitive
political decision by the Roman authorities that
allowed the Jews to follow their own social customs.
The city where the family registry for King David’s
descendents was kept was in Bethlehem.
Two humble, unknown
peasants in Palestine are marching under the order
of Caesar Augustus to fulfill God’s will. In the
greatest time in history the LORD God turned to a
peasant Jewish home in Nazareth, Galilee of the
Gentiles. You know what men thought of Nazareth.
Thirty years later Nathanael laughed, "Can any good
thing come out of Nazareth?"
Has God made a mistake?
Did He choose a carpenter’s family without name,
rank, wealth, education, political influence, etc.?
Joseph and Mary lived in
Nazareth, and they travel 63 miles to Bethlehem, a
couple of miles outside of Jerusalem. It is 90 miles
if they go round about Samaria because no pious Jew
would take a short cut through Samaria in the first
century Israel. The pious Zealots revolted because
they viewed the census as a sign of loyalty to the
emperor and a compromise of their faith in God (Acts
5:37). However, Joseph obeyed the census that God
used to bring Jesus to Bethlehem.
Jesus in Bethlehem
fulfilled the prophecy of Micah (5:2), and the
promise to King David (2 Samuel 7:14-17). Joseph had
to return to Bethlehem, his ancestral home, so Jesus
could be born in Bethlehem as David had been.
Remember, this was happening in fulfillment of
prophecy that had been made 700 years before by
Micah. The Messiah has to be born in Bethlehem of
Judea. Now the events were taking place under the
government of God. Remember those faithful
words of Paul in Romans 8:28? "We know that God
causes all things to work together for good to those
who love God, to those who are called according to
His purpose." Who is sovereign in the affairs of
mankind? Caesar or God? Augustus was sovereign ruler
over the entire Roman Empire, yet he unwittingly
served the plans of the Sovereign of the universe to
fulfill His eternal messianic purposes.
The womb of this pregnant
teen is the tabernacle of God incarnate (John 1:1-3,
14, 18). The One whom she carried was in the words
of the apostle Paul, Him who "is the image of the
invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. . .
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the
fullness to dwell in Him" (Colossians 1:15, 19).
Mary made the journey
along with Joseph to Bethlehem (v. 5). Luke is
careful to tell us she "was engaged to him, and was
with child" (v. 5; 1:27; Matt. 1:18). Engagement in
the first century Jewish society was taken quite
seriously. From the moment of engagement the woman
was treated as if actually married and the
relationship could only be dissolved by a writ of
divorce. Unfaithfulness was considered adultery. The
couple did not consummate marriage until the wedding
celebration and the man took her to his home. Both
Mary and Joseph make this very clear in their
testimonies (cf. Matt. 1:18ff; Luke 1:27-35). Don’t
doubt for one moment that Dr. Luke did not ask Mary
serious questions when he interviewed her forty
years later for the writing of this Gospel.
Christ Himself is a
miracle. He is miraculous. Therefore, any miracles
He performed are minor when set before the wonder of
who He is. His very incarnation is a miracle. "God
reigns and He is not imprisoned by His own house
rules." He is not imprisoned by the normal laws of
conception. All He needed was availability.
The divine messenger had
said to Mary nine months earlier, "Hail, favored
one! The Lord is with you. . . Do not be
afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And
behold you will conceive in your womb, and bear a
son, and you shall name Him Jesus" (Luke 1:28-31).
Mary said wait a minute! "How can this be, since I
am a virgin?" (v. 34). Literally, " a man I know
not." She was a young woman who had preserved the
purity of her body. How can this be? "The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most
High will overshadow you; and for that reason the
holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (v.
35). That is the only way you can account for Jesus
Christ. The angel uses the figure of a shadow, of a
cloud, the symbol of divine presence coming upon
Mary. It is the cloud of glory, the Shekinah in the
Old Testament that resided above the Ark of the
Covenant. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and
overshadowed her with His power, through which she
became pregnant. The overshadowing of the presence
of God caused Mary to be with child. God did it.
The miraculous element
was in the manner of the begetting or conception of
Christ in Mary. Clearly the literal message is that
Jesus was to be born of Mary without a human father
(cf. Matt. 1:18-25). If Jesus were a very special
person—Immanuel—He would have a very special entry
into the world. A natural savior provides no
supernatural help; a human savior offers no divine
hope. A sinful savior is really no savior at all.
However, God solved the problem of sin by providing
a sinless Savior. The virgin conception as well as
the virgin birth is the only answer. The virgin
birth provided a sin free nature. It provides a
divine and a human nature. In that body the God-man
came to redeem us from sin.
CHRIST IS BORN (2:6-7)
"While they were there,
the days were completed for her to give birth. And
she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped
Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because
there was no room for them in the inn" (vv. 6-7).
This "her first-born
son," will not be her only son. The natural
expression is that this is her first child and after
Mary had given birth to Jesus she continued to bear
children. The expression simply means no children
preceded Jesus. The names of Jesus’ half-brothers
are mentioned in Matthew 13:55, and reference is
made to his sisters in v. 56. It is almost like Luke
underlined the word "first-born" son for us to give
emphasis that there would be more children to
follow. Jesus was "her first-born," not Joseph’s.
Joseph was the legal Jewish father by adoption, but
not by conception (cf. Matt. 1:16). Again, the
emphasis is on the fact that Mary was a virgin.
After He was born she
wrapped Jesus in "cloths," or swaddling clothes that
consisted of square piece of cloth with a long
bandage-like strip coming diagonally off from one
corner. The Jewish mothers of the day thought the
strips of cloth would protect his fragile limbs,
strengthen his back and provide proper growth for
his bones. "The child was first wrapped in the
square of cloth and then the long strip was wound
round and round about him." The wrapping of Jesus in
such a manner has reminded many scholars of the
preparation and wrapping of Jesus for His burial
after His death on the cross.
The baby was born and
placed in "manger" which was nothing more than a
feeding trough or box for feeding animals. The baby
is born in a stable, not in a palace; placed in a
feeding trough, not a pretty bassinet in the palace
of a king.
Did God get confused? No.
Sometimes God’s work goes on quietly in hidden
places. The dignity of the event is the person who
is at center stage. This is the Messiah, the
Anointed of the LORD God who is being brought down
to Israel to deliver His people. The apostle Paul
tells us in Philippians 2:6-7, ". . . although He
existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in
the likeness of men." On another occasion he wrote,
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became
poor, that you through His poverty might become
rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).
"There was no room
in the inn."
The "inn" was not a five
star hotel. It was not the place you would want to
take your family on vacation. Even these caravan
stopovers were overcrowded that day. It was merely
an enclosure, a place for the traveler to drive his
cattle for the night. Some of these "inns" had
apartments for travelers, but there was no food and
no host. They were little more than brothels.
There was no room even in one of the places for the
poorest, the place for animals. Travelers provided
their own food. The innkeeper provided was hay for
the animals and a fire to prepare the food on and
provide warmth. The town was crowded because of the
census, and there was no room for Joseph and Mary.
Mary and Joseph camped in the courtyard. The
innkeeper was not cruel or inhospitable; he simply
didn’t have any room left. The poor couple had no
relatives in the capital city. As far as we can
determine, they were all alone and completely
dependent upon God to provide for all their needs.
At end of the day Mary and Joseph can say I saw God
provide all we needed.
"No room in the inn"
became prophetic words of the truth that "He came
unto His own and His own received Him not" (John
Is there room in my heart
for Jesus? There are hearts that never welcome
Jesus, not because of hatred toward Him, but simply
because their hearts are already overcrowded with
thoughts of riches, honor, prestige, pleasure,
business affairs, etc. No room. No time to reflect
on His will, no desire to go out of their way to do
what will please Him. They want a folk religion that
is convenient and full of superstition, but not too
serious and please no commitment. Make it convenient
and easy in my fast paced world, but please no more
obligations in my hectic schedule. Maybe some other
day, but not today.
What is my attitude
toward Jesus? How do I crowd Jesus out of life?
Do I say by my life style "no room"? Come back
another day? I really would like to have you
some other day when it is more convenient? Do
I say "no room" by my attitudes in life? Come back
another day when you do not interfere with my goals,
and plans I have for my life. I'm sorry but you
really don’t fit into my plans for the future; when
I get ready to die, maybe, but not now. I want
what I know is best for me. Sorry, but "no
room." Do I say "no room" by my behaviors?
Do my actions say "no room," you would be
embarrassed if you came with me today and followed
me around the office, or the class room, or my
business. Do I say "no room" in my thought life?
Does my thinking reflect the mind of Christ? Sorry,
but my mind is cluttered with a lot of conflicting
philosophical ideas and new age concepts. There is
no room for the ethical demands of clear thinking
and submission to God. I have my own way of looking
at life. I have my own philosophy of life. Sorry.
The apostle Paul tells us
in Ephesians 3:16-18 that Christ wants to settle
down and make Himself permanently at home in our
hearts. He doesn’t want us to wait for some more
convenient time, but right now, today right where we
Title: Luke 2:1-20
Christmas: A Time to Celebrate
Series: Life of