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Bible Commentaries
Luke 2

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Luk 2:1-20

Commentary On Luke 2:1-20

Galen Doughty

Luke 2:1-3 - In those days means in the days of John’s birth, not his growing up and going into the desert. John and Jesus would have been around three months apart in age.

Caesar Augustus is the name Octavian took after he crushed Anthony and Cleopatra’s forces and won the Roman civil war following Julius Caesar’s death in 31BC. Augustus ordered a census to be taken of his empire in order to not only know how many people he had in the empire but also how much tax revenue he could expect as well. Luke adds the historical detail that this was the first census while Quirinius was governor of Syria. The implication was there were other censuses while Quirinius was governor or proconsul of Syria but this was the first one. Syria was one of the greater Roman provinces and Judea as a lesser province would have been accountable to whoever ruled over Syria. The greater provinces had regular legions to keep order. The lesser provinces had auxiliary legions. The greater provinces were ruled by men of the senatorial class, many of whom had been consuls. They were called proconsuls. The lesser provinces were ruled by men of the equestrian order and were called governors or procurators. This was the title and rank of Pontius Pilate and all the governors of Judea mentioned in the New Testament like Festus and Felix. We know that Herod the Great is still a Roman client king over Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth so the census tool place sometime late in Herod’s reign. He died in 4BC, so perhaps it was ordered in 5 or 6 BC. Everyone was required to return to their family home to register and be counted. Whether that was consistent throughout the empire or only in certain provinces I do not know. It seems likely that this was the policy throughout the empire. It also is likely that slaves were exempted from this practice since they could not freely return to their ancestral homes and often were slaves far away from their homes. It speaks to a time when people did not live far from where they were born even despite Roman roads and trade.

The whole point of the census for Augustus was to exert political and economic control over his empire. He would show the Mediterranean world that Caesar was in charge. He did not know that his plan set in motion the fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 5, 700 years before Augustus. The truth is God was in control and even the mighty Caesar was only doing his bidding in order to fulfill his plan to save the world.

Luke 2:4-7 - Did Mary and Joseph wonder how the child was to be born in Bethlehem as Micah had prophesied? Had Joseph pondered how to take Mary there and what reason he could give their families in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled? If he had God worked out the details for him.

The reality was however that the journey was not a pleasant one. Mary was almost nine months pregnant when they set out from Bethlehem to Nazareth on foot. The journey was about 70 miles in a straight line, but would have been longer via the roads of the time. Plus no matter what route they took it would have been up and down hills. Christmas cards always show Mary riding on a donkey. The facts are Joseph was a poor carpenter and could not afford a donkey. It is possible he borrowed one but unlikely. The most likely scenario is that Mary and Joseph walked the entire way. That is what poor people were forced to do. They walked. She is nine months pregnant with her first child due at any day and she must take a 70 mile journey by foot over the hills and valleys of Judea. This was a very difficult time for Mary. Joseph must have been very concerned for her. But he must go to Bethlehem because he is of the house and family of David and that was where he must by Roman law register. Mary is betrothed to him and pregnant. Tongues would have been wagging in Nazareth over her pregnancy but Joseph has cared for her and not divorced her according to God’s instructions we read about in Matthew’s account. Legally Jesus is Joseph’s son and according to the census he is too, but in reality Jesus is born out of wedlock!

Mary and Joseph reach Bethlehem and there is no place for them to stay. No inn has any room. Joseph was of the house of David but he had no family in the area who knew them and could take them in because they end up staying in a stable, probably one of the many caves in the limestone of the area where shepherds kept their sheep or farmers their animals. It is possible it was the innkeeper’s stable and he took pity on them but that is only conjecture. The point is the trip had taken its toll on Mary, there is no place to stay and she is going to have to deliver her baby in a barn! Suffering comes at the beginning of Jesus’ life just as it does at the end.

Undoubtedly the rough journey hastens Mary’s labor and she goes into labor without anyone to help except Joseph and it is almost certain that Joseph had little or no knowledge of delivering a baby. As Mary had carried Jesus throughout her pregnancy she and her mother must have laid plans for what they would do when Mary’s labor came. Nazareth or a village nearby probably had a midwife or some woman who was experienced at helping women deliver babies. She would have been expected to help along with others of Mary’s close friends and family. She would have had a support network of many women she knew to help her deliver her firstborn. Also remember she is probably no more than 15 or 16 years old at this time. But now in the stable-cave in Bethlehem none of that can happen. Joseph is there with her as she is wracked with pain lying in the straw. If there are complications in Mary’s delivery and Jesus’ birth they both may die. Death in childbirth was common in those days. The simple fact is the salvation of the world hung by a thread depending on an inexperienced carpenter who knew how to make tables and doorframes but nothing about delivering babies and a first-time teenage mother. That Jesus came into the world at all is a miracle!

He did come into the world and he and Mary both survived the ordeal because God was with them. His only Son had become the most helpless thing in the world, a human baby. The Messiah was born; he was born to poor parents; he was born not in a palace but a stable. His mother was alone except for her husband to be who probably felt as helpless as he had ever felt in his life throughout the whole ordeal. Perhaps someone from the inn brought some water and clean swaddling cloths for the baby, Luke does not tell us. Somewhere Mary and Joseph had managed to procure some to wrap their newborn son. It is interesting to note that the Jews wrapped their babies in swaddling cloths to keep them secure and diapered. They wrapped their dead in something similar and so quite by accident Jesus, at the beginning and at the ending of his life is wrapped in swaddling cloths. Mary places him in a manger, a cattle’s feeding trough stuffed with straw or hay because there is no other place to put him. So the Messiah, the Word made flesh, the only Begotten Son of God comes into the world and is placed in a feeding trough for farm animals. The first smells he smells as a human being are barn smells including manure. Hardly what one would expect. It is just as Isaiah had prophesied in Isaiah 52-53. Who would have believed what happened?

Once the ordeal of labor is over one wonders whether Joseph was pondering what he should do next. My guess is Mary is focused on caring for her baby, getting him to nurse and keeping him dry. Her motherly instincts probably took over. Joseph’s fatherly instincts probably did to, planning for what to do next, finding better lodging, which he eventually did because Matthew reports that they were in a house in Bethlehem when the Magi came some time later. Perhaps he found local work in order to provide for his new family. Mary was caring for her infant son but was most likely exhausted from her labor. Joseph probably could not have moved her and the child for some days after the birth.

One other thing to note: Luke’s account is very understated here just like it is at Jesus’ crucifixion. People knew the circumstances of birth in the ancient world and all the risks and pain involved. There are no anesthetics and sterile delivery rooms. Any woman reading the account could have put herself in Mary’s place and any man in Joseph’s. Luke did not need to give all the gory details. People, including Theophilus could fill in the details for themselves. It is part of the genius of his story telling that he does not give us more details than necessary. His narrative is simple and understated and brilliant!

Luke 2:8-12 - Luke now shifts the scene to outside Bethlehem to the fields and hills around the town. He focuses on some shepherds tending their flocks in the night. Shepherds in Jesus’ day were despised and had a low reputation. They were thought to be thieves and were included on the Pharisees’ list of despised trades; people whom they had concluded could not enter the Kingdom of God because they could not repent in the Pharisees’ required manner. They were outcasts. Most of the time they were hired laborers whom wealthy landowners would hire out to tend the sheep. The shepherds outside Bethlehem were probably of this class. Some have suggested that they were tending the huge temple herds for the daily sacrifices in the temple. That is possible though Luke gives us no clues as to whether this is true or not.

The remarkable irony is that shepherds are despised yet the Scriptures refer to the Lord as Israel’s shepherd. The prophets call the Messiah the shepherd of his people. Shepherd images are found throughout the Old Testament and they are almost always positive. The prominent negative image is found in Ezekiel 34 where Ezekiel complains against Israel’s shepherds, the leaders, priests and kings who have not cared for God’s people. Then he says that God will shepherd them and save them. There is this contrasting image of shepherds by Jesus’ birth that is both positive and negative. At any rate the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem the night of Jesus’ birth did not have a good reputation and many would have believed that they would have been the last people God would want to communicate with about his Son being born.

The reality is they are the first to hear that the Messiah is born. They are tending their flocks in the hills around Bethlehem when an angel of the Lord appears to them. The glory of God shines around them, that is, the light of his presence and holiness. When this happens they are filled with fear and are terrified. Think of it from their perspective. The angel appears suddenly with a great light around him and them and the overwhelming sense of God’s presence and holiness. If the religious leaders of your day and the local rabbis had told you all your life that you could not enter the Kingdom of God because God despised shepherds what would you be thinking at the moment the angel appears? I am convinced they thought God was going to judge them and everything the Pharisees’ said was true. God despised them. How could they have thought anything else? They were shepherds! Like so many others to whom angels appear in the Bible their first response is fear and panic!

But the angel has a different message. He tells them not to be afraid. He tells them he has a message of good news to them and to all the people. This message is one of great joy because today in Bethlehem, David’s town, the Messiah, the Savior is born! He is God himself come among you which was the meaning of Christ the Lord. The angel tells the shepherds before anyone else knows that Messiah is born. God comes to the outcasts before he comes to the priests or the nobility or the rich or the rabbis or the Pharisees or Sadducees or anyone else. He gives the first birth announcement to his people to humble outcast shepherds! As if to answer their questions of how can we know this to be true, he gives them a sign to check out. The sign the angel gives the shepherds is a strange one that can’t be missed. A baby wrapped in cloths was normal and would have described almost every baby in Bethlehem. A baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger was unique. No one would put a baby in a feeding trough. It couldn’t be missed! They would know they had found the newborn Messiah when they found the baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. If God had come to the shepherds first with the good news of his Son’s birth the shepherds must have wondered about the sign concerning the child. Messiah born in a stable, lying in a manger? God sure is strange! Is this how the king of Israel, David’s Son and God’s Son, the Savior of the world is to be born? Yes it is! God humbled himself and took on the form of a servant; he stooped down underneath the whole human race in order to raise us up with him and bring us back to God!

Luke 2:13-14 - As if the rest of heaven cannot contain its enthusiasm any longer the angel is joined by his colleagues, a whole host of them singing God’s praises. The heavenly host is a military term in the Old Testament. One of God’s names, especially in Isaiah is the Lord of Hosts. The NLT translates that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Christmas cards paint this like some massive angelic choir in robes singing of the Messiah’s birth. Luke’s language suggests these angels are heaven’s army that will accompany God’s Son and Messiah at his coming. They are arrayed for battle in the heavenly places but instead of attacking they sing! Their song is one of praise and one of comfort and blessing to people. Peace they sing to shepherds who probably did not think they would ever be at peace with God. The angels sing God’s favor rests on them and on all those whom God will call. Grace and peace is a favorite greeting throughout the New Testament used frequently by the apostles. Here the angels give grace and peace to the shepherds.

What must that music have sounded like? It must have been eerie, beautiful and most of all unforgettable.

Luke 2:15-20 - Once the angels’ singing stopped and the angels return to heaven the shepherds waste no time. It must have seemed starkly quiet and dark once the angelic concert had stopped. They determine they are going to search for the child and find him because they understand the Lord has communicated to them about the birth of the Messiah. They leave the sheep and head off to Bethlehem. How long they searched Luke does not tell us but it must have taken them some time. There are many caves around the hills of Bethlehem where animals could be kept. Plus, they are still shepherds, it is night and they have a dubious reputation among the townspeople. They probably had to be careful how they searched. At some point they find the right cave, perhaps the innkeeper’s stable-cave, and they go in. There they find the newborn baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. What did Joseph and Mary think when the shepherds walked into the stable? Did they think the shepherds were going to rob them? Somehow the shepherds are able to communicate what the angels told them concerning Jesus. Luke says Mary treasured these things in her heart. She stored them up to think upon as she pondered her son and what God had done. It was confirmation that what Gabriel had told her had been the truth; Jesus was the Messiah!

The shepherds leave the stable and go tell anyone who will listen the news about Messiah being born and how the angels came to them in the fields. Did a steady stream of visitors result from their testimony, people coming to see the child? It is possible. What must Joseph and Mary have thought? Jesus being a newborn wasn’t thinking at all. He was sleeping, nursing, crying and cooing; doing what newborn babies do. He was the Messiah, yet who would have believed it? Yet the shepherds’ story was there for those who would believe, just as the women’s story was there on Easter for those who had the faith to understand the truth. Messiah was born. The savior of the world had come. No wonder the shepherds left praising God. God has sought them out with the good news of greatest joy. A savior had been born to them, to the poor, the outcasts, the shepherds! Glory to God in the highest!

God’s plan had been set in motion. Now it would play out over the next thirty or so years as Jesus the baby grew up and became Jesus the man.

Verses 21-40

Luk 2:21-40

Commentary On Luke 2:21-40

Galen Doughty

Luke 2:21 - Jesus is circumcised on the eighth day as the Law stipulated and was given the name Jesus which Gabriel had told Mary to name him and the angel had told Joseph to name him in Matthew. Luke implies that the circumcision happened in Bethlehem and not Jerusalem because Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem for the first born sacrifice but that is later than his circumcision and naming.

LLuke 2:21-24 The Law in LeLeviticus 12 nd ExExodus 13 tipulated a lamb for the sacrifice of presentation for a firstborn son and purification for Mary’s bleeding after birth. If one was too poor to afford a lamb then a pair of doves was acceptable. This is a key piece of evidence to help us know that Mary and Joseph were poor. He was not a middle class tradesman. Joseph was a poor carpenter -laborer because he and Mary offered the two turtle doves for the sacrifice. If they had the means they would have sacrificed a lamb. Jesus therefore grew up in a loving but poor family.

LuLuke 2:25-32 Simeon is the first of two people who give prophecies about Jesus when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for the dedication sacrifice. Luke says Simeon was waiting for the Messiah and the Holy Spirit was with him or upon him. God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The Spirit prompts him to go to the temple courts that day and he sees Mary and Joseph with the baby. He takes the child in his arms, blesses him and prophesies about him. He declares that God has fulfilled his promise to him and he is now free to die in peace because he has seen God’s Messiah, the one who brings salvation to Israel and a light of revelation for the Gentiles. Luke reinforces the idea that Jesus will bring the Gentiles to God. Matthew gives the same message but tells the story of the Magi to communicate it. Both gospel writers include this theme in their birth narratives showing that Jesus is not only the savior of Israel but of the whole world.

Luke is telling us that at the time of Jesus’ birth godly Jews were looking for the Messiah and the Holy Spirit was working in them prompting them to be looking. There were some who knew the true identity of the poor child even if the rich and powerful did not. God was telling his faithful remnant and the poor that good news was coming! Messiah was born!

Luke 2:33-35 ary and Joseph marvel at Simeon’s blessing. He is telling them the truth and yet Jesus’ parents marvel. Perhaps they still are having trouble believing everything the Lord keeps confirming about Jesus.

Simeon blesses them and tells Mary that Jesus will be controversial and will bring people to God but also divide the people. In other words some will reject him and some will accept him. That will be the nature of his mission and his Messiahship. Then he adds a sword will pierce your own soul too. That can be taken two ways. One, Mary will suffer when Jesus suffers because she is his mother and it will break her heart to see the suffering that he must go through for the salvation of the world. Two, Mary must make a decision about Jesus as well. The figure of the sword Jesus uses later in MattMatthew 10 at he came not to bring peace but a sword. The word he uses in Luke is division. It is also the case that Mary and Jesus’ brothers think he is insane at one point and come to take him away. It is possible that during his ministry Mary was uncertain about Jesus but by the time of his crucifixion and resurrection she trusts her son. Both meanings are possible.

Luke 2:36-38 ke then tells us about Anna and her prophecy, although he does not give us any of the details of what she said only that she praised God for the child and told everyone that the Messiah had been born.

Anna was an elderly widow who lived at the temple and worshipped there every day. Luke says she was from Asher. Her tribe had been carried off to exile and destroyed by Tiglath-Pileser III around 745BC. Her ancestors must have fled south to Judah and preserved their tribal identity. Otherwise it would have been lost. Why does Luke include her here? She is a woman and the Holy Spirit is working in her as well as men like Simeon. She is from Asher, one of the so-called lost tribes of Israel and God has sent Jesus to save Israel, all his ancient people, not just Judah. Finally, Anna, like the shepherds shares about the child with everyone she meets. Luke shows us that telling others about Jesus is the proper response when you know who he is!

Luke 2:39-40 eph and Mary finish meeting the Law’s requirements with the sacrifices so they leave Jerusalem and return to Galilee, to Nazareth. Luke does not include the visit of the Magi nor the flight to Egypt. Presumably these incidents happen before they return to Nazareth and Luke chooses to leave them out because they do not fit into his plan and story for his gospel.

Luke gives us a simple summary of the early years of Jesus in his parent’s home in Nazareth. He grew in wisdom and the grace of God was upon him. That’s all we need to know. The apocryphal gospels try and tell us what Jesus did growing up and all of those accounts are legendary. God was with Jesus and he did not sin, yet he was not anointed with the Spirit for his ministry and mission. It was not yet time.

Verses 41-52

Luk 2:41-52

Commentary On Luke 2:41-52

Galen Doughty

Luke 2:41-52 - Luke is the only gospel writer that gives us any detail of Jesus as a child. Here he shares a story from Jesus’ bar-mitzphah year at the temple in Jerusalem. Mary or one of Jesus’ brothers or sisters is almost certainly the source.

His parents go up to Jerusalem for Passover and Jesus goes with them. Whether their other children went Luke does not say. Jesus is the oldest and firstborn and this is a watershed year in his life because he is twelve, his bar-mitzphah year, when he comes of age in Jewish custom and can worship with the other men in the synagogue and comment on the Scriptures. All the people from Nazareth who were going to the feast would have traveled together both for safety and because of the feast. It was a time of celebration and communal joy.

Questions by E.M. Zerr For Luke Chapter Two

1. Who was Caesar Augustus?

2. What decree did he send out?

3. At what period was this?

4. To what city would each one go?

5. From what place did Joseph come ?

6. Who came with him ?

7. To what place did he come?

8. Why to this place?

9. What made this place the "city of David” ?

10. While here what occurred?

11. How was it clothed?

12. And where did she lay it?

13. What reason is given for this ?

14. Was Jesus born in a manger?

15. What were some shepherds doing at this time ?

16. Where were they doing this?

17. Would this be in the winter season?

18. Was Jesus born on Christmas day?

19. What shone about the shepherds?

20. State what the angel said he was bringing.

21. For what people was it to be?

22. Who was the subject of this good news?

23. Where was he born?

24. Give his titles.

25. What sign was given them?

23. Who suddenly appeared?

27. Tell what they were doing.

28. What were they saying?

29. After this where did the angels go?

30. What did the shepherds propose to do?

31. Tell what they found.

32. What did they then make known?

33. How were the hearers impressed ?

34. What did Mary have to say about it ?

35. What did she do?

36. Describe the further movements of the shepherds.

37. What was done when Jesus was 8 days old ?

38. And what was done about a month later?

39. What were Mary’s financial circumstances?

40. What kind of man was Simeon?

41. Tell what revelation he received ?

42. What led him into the temple?

43. State what he did.

44. What was he willing to do?

45. Tell what his eyes had seen.

46. How was it to affect the Gentiles ?

47. And how the people of Israel?

48. Who is "his” in 33d verse?

40. At what did Joseph and Mary marvel?

50. Whom did Simeon next bless?

51. For what was the child set?

52. State his unfavorable prediction for Mary.

53. What was to be revealed through Jesus?

54. What was Anna?

55. Slate her domestic record.

56. And her devotional practice.

57. What part did she have on the present occasion?

58. To what place did Joseph and Mary go ?

59. How did the child progress?

60. What took him to Jerusalem ?

61. On the return what did the parents discover?

62. How long had they been on the way?

63. Where did they look for him?

64. And where did they find him?

65. Whom was he among?

66. Tell what he was doing.

67. What caused all the people to be astonished?

68. State his mother’s words to him.

69. And his answer.

70. Did they understand his statement?

71. To what place did they then go?

72. State Jesus’ conduct toward his parents.

73. What secrets did Mary keep ?

74. In what did Jesus increase?

Luke Chapter Two

By Ralph L. Starling

King Caesar had decreed a new act

That all the world should be taxed.

Each in his city to be collected for him

So Joseph and Mary leave for Bethlehem.

When they arrived, there was no place to stay.

Jesus was born and laid in a manger of hay.

When this was done celebration broke out.

Angels were singing praises and they were loud.

Shepherds were in the fields with sheep abiding.

The angels appeared with the “good tidings.”

The shepherds left quickly for Bethlehem,

And in that manger they found Him.

On the eighth day He was named, Jesus.

They were told it meant “Savior of His people.”

Later in Jerusalem to obey the Law’s word

They offered sacrifices and offered Him to the Lord.

There they met a man whose name was Simeon,

Who had been waiting for just such a happening,

Who took the child and reverently blessed Him.

And there was Anna saying, “He is Jerusalem’s redemption.”

Yearly Joseph and Mary observed the Passover in Jerusalem.

Jesus, now 12, was always with them.

On their say home they could not find Him.

They rushed back to Jerusalem to find Him.

After 3 days they found Him in the Temple,

With the doctors hearing and questioning them.

The doctors were astonished and amazed,

At the knowledge of one at twelve years of age.

His parents saw Him and they too were amazed.

They asked Him, “Why have you done us this way?”

He said, “I meant to bring you no sorrow,

But I must tend to the business of my Father.”

Although not understanding, they returned to Nazareth.

Jesus increased in wisdom, favor and stature.

He was subject to His parents, doing His part,

While Mary kept all these things deep in her heart.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 2". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/luke-2.html.
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