The Birth of the Savior
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19, ESV)
What moments and memories do you treasure?
Perhaps you treasure memories of your wedding, the birth of your first child or your first day of school. We keep pictures of some events to help us remember.
We treasure some events recorded in the Bible. Many of us have favorite Bible stories and/or characters that we go back to frequently. We keep holidays to commemorate or remind us of certain of these events – kind of like keeping pictures on the wall. Christmas and Easter are examples of what I am talking about.
Christmas and Easter remind us we have much to celebrate.
However, in addition to celebrating, we learn and remember much truth in the celebration of these holidays. In fact, the Scriptures encourage us to fix our minds on things above. (Colossians 3:2) Philippians 4:8 tells us:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.[i]
I want to look with you at four pictures taken from Luke 2:1-20. Jesus’s birth brings joy, comfort and salvation to all humanity. These four pictures taken from this event help us to keep these things fixed in our hearts.
First, we have a picture of a decree from Caesar.
Luke 2:1 says:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (ESV)[ii]
Let’s look at this picture.
Luke begins with the words, “In those days.” With this phrase, he refers back to his first chapter, the birth of John the Baptist and the announcement Gabriel made to Mary. “In those days” Caesar Augustus issued a decree.
Caesar Augustus stands in the forefront of our picture for a brief moment, only important in setting the stage for the entry of the main character. Caesar provides contrast in our picture, and points to a significant truth.
Caesar ruled the world. According to Wikipedia.org:
Augustus was the founder of the Roman Principate and considered the first Roman emperor, controlling the Roman Empire from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.
“Principate” refers to the rule of the Roman Empire by one man. Luke describes Caesar’s decree as requiring all the world to be registered. The government of the world fell upon the shoulders of this one man.
Interestingly enough, the chief priests of the Jewish nation spoke of Augustus’s successor, Tiberius, when they said, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Remember with me Luke 1:32-33 where the angel told Mary:
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (ESV)
Jesus was born to rule as king.
Isaiah 9:6 says of him:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (ESV)
Our first picture of a decree from Caesar reminds us that Jesus is King. One day He will reign over all the earth. However, His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is far greater. His kingdom is eternal. He rules over heaven and earth, over great and small, and Caesar Augustus will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Jesus has a place in world politics. He is the King.
The second picture we have is of a trip to Bethlehem.
Luke 2:4-5 says:
And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
Bethlehem was approximately one hundred miles from Nazareth. In those days, people traveled by foot, rode a donkey or a cart pulled by a donkey. The wealthy might have ridden a horse. The Scriptures do not tell us how Mary and Joseph traveled. However, we can assume that being “great with child,” the trip would have been more than a little uncomfortable for Mary.
Nothing but the most unusual circumstances would ever have caused Mary to make that trip. However, Jesus had a divine appointment to keep. He was the “Anointed One” – the Messiah, and it was necessary that He be born in Bethlehem.
In Micah 5:2, God had said:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
The timing of the decree of Caesar and the trip to Bethlehem remind us that Jesus is the Messiah and He had a divine appointment to keep.
The third picture we see is the birth in a manger.
Luke 2:7 says:
She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Contrast the birth of Jesus in a manger with the palace that Caesar lived in. Consider the difference in prestige and importance the world placed on every move of Caesar with the lack of recognition or importance the world put on the arrival of Jesus.
This humble beginning reminds us of Philippians 2:6-8.
…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)
He emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant.
Isaiah 52:12 through 53 tells us about God’s servant. This “Servant Song” is the most complete, accurate picture of Jesus we have in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities…” (ESV)
Luke’s account of Jesus being laid in a manger reminds us that Jesus is God’s servant. He has a mission to fulfill. He came with a purpose…to seek and save the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV)
The third picture, the birth in the manger, reminds us that Jesus is God’s servant with a mission to fulfill.
The fourth picture we see is the announcement to the shepherds.
Luke 2:8-20 tells the story of the shepherds and ends with this statement:
The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:20)
The shepherds glorified and praised God for the privilege of hearing the good news of a Savior born that very night.
Mary received an announcement from heaven. Joseph received an announcement from heaven. And, on the night of His birth, some shepherds, who happened to be awake, received an announcement from heaven.
To be sure, the palace received notification. The announcement to Herod came somewhat later. The announcement came by way of some Magi from the east that came seeking the one who was born king of the Jews.
However, the announcement came first to common people whose job required them to be awake at night. This reminds us that the good news is for everyone, especially the common person.
Jesus gave many invitations calling whoever would to come. On one occasion, in the middle of a crowd during a festival he stood and cried out in a loud voice:
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (John 7:37-38)
This message is so important that Jesus told us to “Go into all the world and make disciples.”
This message is so important that the Scriptures say:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14, ESV)
The fourth picture, the announcement to the shepherds, reminds us that we have a message to proclaim.
The events that happened in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago are a family event that we treasure. The memory of these events has been passed down from generation to generation as good news of great joy for all mankind.
We should be like Mary and “treasure up all these things, pondering them in our hearts.”
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved