Week 9 | Sections 10,11

Bringing Good NewsJesus’ birth and the praise of the angels is the core content for every Christmas pageant. Children don their woolly ears or carry a staff and a baby is shown as candles glow and cherubs with cardboard wings sing silent night.

Our story today is similar but so much more glorious than we can imagine and more dirty than we care to think. Ah the humility of Christ, God incarnate, born from Mary’s womb to be held in the arms of shepherds and wise men – and to take residence in the soul of every believer.

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Scripture:
Luke 2:1-7 | Section 10

1 Now in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius1 was governor of Syria. All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to David’s city, which is called Bethlehem,2¯3¯4 because he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant. While they were there, the day had come for her to give birth. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.5

Luke 2:8-20 | Section 11

There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.6 Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11 For there is born to you today, in David’s city, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude7 of the heavenly army praising God, and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.” 15 When the angels went away from them into the sky, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby was lying in the feeding trough. 17 When they saw it, they publicized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18 All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.8


Group Dialog:

  1. Why would people not make room for a pregnant woman? Could it have something to do with the prophesies? What do you make of that?
  2. Why do you think God would have the angels appear to the shepherds? It would have been just as effective to appear to the towns people?  What message might be in this decision and how is the same seen in the life and ministry of Jesus?
  3. Talk about how these shepherds received news that this baby is the Messiah and then went out and told people and how you and your friends first responded to the idea of a Savior, the Messiah, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the divinity of Jesus?
  4. Talk about the feeling of adoration when you see a new born and the feeling of adoration in worship.

Learning Objectives:

Shepherd king, worship, salvation for all, value everyone, patience, prayerful pondering.


Study Notes:

  1. Luke’s Gospel is a text that is masterfully written to Theopholus who is as well read in Jewish text as is Luke. Yet the historical context at the time of Jesus Birth is in the era of the Graeco-Roman world when: Augustus is Caesar (2:1) and Herod is King of Judea (1:5). Extant records indicate that Quinctilius Varus was governor in Syria and that Quirinius served in several official capacities throughout his career and appears to have held some office at the time of Jesus’ birth. Luke did not use the term for governor but rather the term procurator(hegmoneuontos/hegemōv). Since historical sources indicate that Quirinius was favored by Augustus, serving him in the vicinity of Syria prior to and during the time period that Jesus was born, it is reasonable to conclude that Quirinius could have been appointed by Augustus Caesar to instigate a census-enrollment during that time frame, and his competent execution of such could have earned for him a repeat appointment for the A.D. 6/7 census (see Archer, 1982, p. 366).  It wasn’t until A.D. 6 that Quirinius began to serve as governor of Syria (Josephus – Antiquities 17.355; 18.1–2). This is entirely understandable as can refer to offices other than governor. It may be possible that an earlier census did not interest Josephus as it was the census of AD 6 was the impetus of the great Jewish War, which was the focus of his histories. Furthermore, the word protē in Luke 2:2:30 (normally a superlative) could be a comparative and thus render a translation: (1) This census was before the census which Quirinius, governor of Syria. Or (2) if adverbial it would render a translation: This census took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria.
  2. It may be of some interest that Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3.20) records that Jesus’s family at the time of Domitian (81-96 A.D.) possessed land in Bethlehem. According to tradition, St. Anne (Mary’s mother) was born in Bethlehem, and married St. Joachim (mary’s father) who was from Nazareth. They were both descendants of David (1,2).
  3.  Bethlehem was a simple town where the sheep were raised and kept to be sent off to slaughter six miles up the road in Jerusalem. The journey would take 2-3 days. Luke presents this Davidic Shepherd King, expressed also in Luke 10:3; 12:32; 15:1-7; 19:10; Acts 20:28 with a clear indication here to Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized, and our duty to do the same. As expressed by Sarah Harris “Jesus’ ministry [of] universal salvation is for the clean and the unclean, for women and men, for the poor and the rich and ultimately for Jew and Gentile. For the Lukan Jesus no-one should be lost, as the faithful shepherd is the one who seeks the lost sheep until he finds it.” (cf Isaiah 40:1-11, 52:13-53:12; Micah 2:12-13; Jeremiah 3:15-18; 23:1-6; Ezek 34. Jesus is named as shepherd of Israel (Matt 2:6). Read also: Mic 5:2,4.
  4. Download: 351 Prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Notice that 15 prophetic themes are satisfied in the events surrounding Jesus’ birth from 29 Old Testament passages dating back as far as Genesis 3 and each affirmed in the new testament.
  5. Linguistic studies would render the Greek word kataluma translated here “inn” to mean guest room (cf. Lk 22:11) or at best a guest chamber provided by the community. This is most evident by Luke’s use of a different word pandokheion (Lk 10:34) which was an actual “inn”, though most inns of that time existed in towns near major roman roads, and did not often have individual rooms but a common room where people might make a cot and stay as long as needed.  Read more in this article and learn more about their culture of hospitality.
  6. Sheep were important sources of milk, meat and wool, and were also an essential part of Jewish worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, shepherding itself was a dirty and at times lonely job. Shepherds were peasants who could not support themselves from the land and had to work as hired hands. If they were involved not only in wool gathering, but in slaughtering animals and tanning hides they would have been regarded shepherds as ritually unclean.
  7. This is only the second time in the whole Bible that more than one angel appeared to people. This indicates the importance of the annunciation but also that God is no respecter of persons, in that they appeared to lowly shepherds. We don’t know the names of these angels.
  8. The shepherds lack of money and prestige did not prevent them from such spiritual blessing. Its the same with us today, in fact the wisdom of God is often considered foolishness to the learned and well-to-do. All people are created equal and loved by God. Reject the lie of the devil that you are unworthy. Read: James 2:5