Luke 2:1-2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
This chapter begins with a time marker; Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Research reveals that Cyrenius served two terms as governor, thereby dispelling any accusations of inaccuracy in the scriptural record.
Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, is ruling the empire at the time; and from the perspective of those living in Bible lands, this would seem to be the whole world.
Luke 2:3-5 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
The call for taxation necessitated a census and called for everyone to report to “his own city.” Jewish laws determined property ownership as inherited and according to the tribal allocations. Joseph was of the royal line of David and was required to go to Bethlehem, approximately 80 miles from Nazareth.
The fact that Mary was great with child indicates that she was probably in her last couple of months. Research reveals differing opinions regarding whether Mary had to go with Joseph. The fact remains that she did go and that her going was in fulfillment of prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
Micah 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
As prophesied, Mary gave birth to Jesus while they were in Bethlehem. They had not been able to find temporary lodging, so had taken shelter in a cave or some other structure in which the animals were kept. Luke provides details of the baby being swaddled and laid in a manger, a feeding trough.
The fact that Jesus is identified as Mary’s firstborn son implies that she subsequently gave birth to at least one more son. Matthew records that he had several brothers and sisters.
Matthew 13:53–56 “And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”
Luke 2:8-14 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke now records some other details regarding witnesses to the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. In the outlying countryside around Bethlehem there were shepherds watching over their sheep. An angel of the Lord shining with the glory of God appeared before the shepherds. This makes me think of how Moses’ face shone after a prolonged time in the presence of the Lord.
The angel told the shepherds that they had nothing to fear; he was bringing them good news that would bring joy to all people. The Savior, Christ the Lord, had been born that very day in Bethlehem, the city of David. In fact, they could go and see the baby for themselves; they would find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It was highly unlikely that there would be more than one newborn child that could be so characterized and therefore identified as a sign. The angel was suddenly joined by a multitude of angels giving praise to the glory of God and His desire for peace on earth and to show His favor toward man.
I couldn’t help but think it interesting that the coming of the Good Shepherd was first announced to shepherds. The declaration of the angels as “Christ the Lord” was again a confirmation that Jesus was the foretold Messiah and was indeed the Son of God.
John 10:11–14 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep….I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
I also think it is significant that the announcement was made at night. In the dark of this evil world there had been born a baby that was to become the light of the world who would give life to fallen man and allow for man to be at one (from the Greek for peace) in fellowship with God again.
John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
John 12:44–46 “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
(to be continued…)