Who is my Neighbor?

by Mike Stine

This is a story you’ve all heard before.  It is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is the Golden Rule put into action- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  However, I believe that this can be applied to more than simply doing good towards others as I will illustrate later on.  But first allow me to give you the story and the details most of you have probably heard before.

Luke 10:25 begins saying that “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.  ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”  This man wasn’t genuinely searching for a way to heaven, he was simply trying to trap Jesus like so many of the experts in the law tried to do throughout Jesus’ ministry.  This expert in the law thought that he understood the law so well that he was certain to trick Jesus into saying something that obviously went against what all good Jews would believe.  We also run into people like this in our own lives.  There will be people that will ask questions that they don’t really want an answer for but simply wish to trip us up.  Jesus was ready however.

“What is written in the Law?” he replied.  “How do you read it?”  Jesus answered the expert in the law’s question with another question.  Certainly Jesus could have told the man exactly what he must do to inherit eternal life.  However, in asking another question, he made the man come to the right answer on his own.  This way the expert could not say that Jesus had told him something foolish but in fact, the man had reached the conclusion on his own with Jesus to help him.

“He answered: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as your self.”’  ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied.  ‘Do this and you will live.’”

The expert in the law understood exactly what the law said and what God expected of him.  Jesus said that he answered correctly and by doing what the man had just stated he would live.

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”  The conclusion the expert in the law should have reached was that in fact he couldn’t uphold the very things he had just stated would allow him to inherit eternal life.  Instead he looked for a loophole in the system the way the Pharisees found loopholes in their own laws.

One such law involves travel on the Sabbath.  According to the laws that Jewish leaders had set up and not God, Jews could only walk a certain distance on the Sabbath before it was considered work.  But it wasn’t considered work if they walked a certain distance and then ate a “meal” after that distance.  So some smart Jewish leaders figured out that if they had to walk a distance on the Sabbath, they would go ahead the day before and hide food along the pathway they intended to take.  They next day when they were walking, when they had reached the distance they were allowed to travel in one day, they also reached the food that they had hidden the day before.  There they stopped for a “meal” and then continued walking to the next place where he had hidden food the day before.

This was just one of the many ways that the Jewish leaders had devised to get around their own laws.  The expert in the law was probably looking for the same type of loophole in what Jesus said was the way to inherit eternal life.  He thought he’d find such a loophole but asking who was his neighbor.

“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.’”  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was treacherous.  It was also a difficult road to travel because it dropped 3000 feet in 17 miles.  Robbers were known for being on this road and this scene of being robber and beaten up is something that the expert in the law was probably familiar with.

“’A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.’”  We probably immediately think that this is a horrible thing to do.  But I believe that we can actually relate pretty well.  How many times have we been walking in the mall when we see someone handing out flyers for some new product or someone who is doing demonstrations of a new product.  We find ourselves moving towards the outside wall, hoping to get out of distance of the person handing out flyers because we don’t want to be caught by a salesman.

The priest and the Levite would have found this man to be a considerable inconvenience.  There’s the obvious fact that the man needed help which would have taken at least their time from them.  But there is also the fact that this man was most likely bleeding and for all they knew, could have been dead.  To help this man out would have meant touching blood or possibly a dead body.  If the priest or Levite did that, then they would have been considered unclean.

“’But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them the innkeeper.  “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”’”

The first thing we see about the Samaritan is that he did exactly the opposite of what the priest and the Levite did.  Instead he went to the wounded man.  Then he proceeded to bandage the man’s wounds, pour oil and wine on them, and take the man into town on his donkey.  He took him to an inn and took care of him.  When he left the next day he paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man and if the innkeeper needed more money, he’d pay him the next time he came back.  The two silver coins the man paid was about two days’ wages, so it wasn’t just couple of coins.  It would have been enough keep the wounded man in the inn for up to two months.

“’Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’  The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’  Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”

The basic meaning of this story isn’t difficult to discern.  We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Everyone is our neighbor and therefore we are to love one another, even sacrificially in the way that the Good Samaritan did, giving up his time, money, and energy.

We encounter people who have been beaten up, robbed, and left by the roadside for dead practically every day of our lives.  These are people who the devil has grabbed a hold of and robbed the joy of life and sometimes even the will to live from them.  He has beaten them up with abuse, uncaring families, and unfaithful friends.  And he has stripped them of their dignity, leaving them naked in their sins.

These people left by the roadside robbed and beaten are the non-Christians.  People who may have heard the gospel before, maybe not.  We too often see these people- robbed, beaten, bleeding, and dying lying by the roadside in our lives.  And we do the same as the priest and the Levite do, we walk to the other side of the road to avoid them.

These people are not necessarily strangers that we avoid and walk away from.  These are people who we work with, friends, and even family members.  We hear stories about broken families, rebellious children, and miserable jobs.  We hear how miserable people are or sometimes we hear stories covering up the emptiness of people’s lives.

And still we walk by, letting these beaten up people lie along the road when we are in fact the only ones who can help them.  Others may have tried to help them, giving them drugs, sex, or money but it doesn’t heal their wounds.  We hold the only bandage that will keep them from bleeding to death but we keep it to ourselves and walk to the other side of the road for whatever reason.

There are three parts to witnessing as I see it- your life, your prayers, and your actions.  While each of these are important in witnessing and any can be effective in bringing a person to Christ, they also build on one another.

The first step in witnessing and possibly the easiest to do living your life.  That is, living your life as a Christian.  Christian literally means little Christ.  When you take the name of Christian upon yourself and others know that you are a Christian, you not only represent yourself before others, but you represent Christ.  Much can be said about living a Christ like life but there is little time to discuss it.

When others look at your life, they should see that there is something different about you than there is in the rest of the world that is not Christian.  There should be something to distinguish between the wounded man lying by the road and the man who is trying to help man.  This all comes down to how you live your life.

Ask yourself, do people know I’m a Christian without me needing to tell them?  Do they see it in how I act?  More importantly, do non-Christians see that there is something in your life that they want or even need?

Living a Christian life in public isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Some people are rude and will walk over anyone who nice.  Others mock Christianity as a crutch for those who are weak.  Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura said this about Christians publicly.

Nevertheless, living a Christ like life will show others that Christianity is not the same as other religions.  Not that we may feel that we have our life altogether, quite possibly we really don’t, but others will see the difference in our lives.

As the family continues to deteriorate, people are just now turning to Christians for help with their children or spouse.  If you live your life as Christ would have you, people will come to you and want to know where your joy comes from.  Then you tell them it comes from knowing Christ.

The second part of witnessing many wouldn’t include but I feel it is a very necessary part.  That is the power of prayer.  This isn’t simply offering up a short one time prayer, not that there isn’t power behind that as well, but it is the persistence of prayer.  That’s why I said that living your life as Christ would might be the easiest step.

Many people have difficulty in continued prayer for someone or something.  They often give up after a few weeks or maybe months when they see that God has not answered their prayer yet.  It is the persistent prayer that is sometimes needed to reach lost ones.  I heard of a story of a woman who prayed for her son’s salvation for over 60 years and her prayer was finally answered shortly before her death.

It is through prayer that we may reach the seemingly most unreachable people.  Only when we ask God to step in and melt hard hearts will witnessing be effective in many cases.  Even when a person may already be receptive to the gospel, prayer will never hurt in witnessing.  There is power behind prayer and more power than we can possibly imagine when we pray, believing that God will answer.

A group of ten men had a regular Bible study in which they met.  One night they were told to each come up with five people they knew that they wished but would never expect to become a Christian.  The next week they came back, each with their five names.  They compiled the names into a list of 50 and gave the list to each member.  They were asked to pray for each person on the list by name, every day for a month.  At the end of the month 30 of those 50 people these men wanted to see saved but thought would never happen had been!  God answers prayer, don’t forget it!

The third part of witnessing is definitely the most difficult.  It requires putting your neck out and possibly facing rejection.  It requires your action.  As effective as prayer is, sometimes we have to be the ones to reach out to other people and not just pray that someone else will.  How foolish would it have been if the Good Samaritan had walked past the man who was robbed and said, I’ll pray for you that someone will come along and help!

Action needs to back up the way we live and the way we pray.  This leaves us very vulnerable to people.  It may mean that we should ask a friend, a neighbor, or coworker to come to church with us.  This obviously means that they could say no and say that they do not want to have anything to do with Christianity.

Our action could place tension in a relationship.  It could even mean the loss of a friend.  Action can mean that we spend time and energy talking with a person about Christ and nothing ever happens because the person still doesn’t see their need for Christ as their savior.

Every time we reach out to another person, we place ourselves at risk for rejection.  Like the Good Samaritan, helping this robbed, dying person will likely cost us something.  But this is better than the alternative.  What happens if we don’t reach out to that person and instead act as the priest and the Levite did?  Will someone else come along?  Maybe, maybe not?  I have a powerful poem that I found on the internet that illustrates what happens when we fear the consequences of witnessing more than we fear that person going to hell.

My friend, I stand in judgment now,
And feel that you’re to blame somehow.
On Earth I walked with you day by day,
And never did you point the way.

You knew the Lord in truth and glory,
But never did you tell the story.
My knowledge then was very dim;
You could have led me safe to Him.

Though we lived together here on Earth
You never told me of the second birth
And now I stand this day condemned,
Because you failed to mention Him.

You taught me many things that’s true;
I called you “friend” and trusted you.
But I learn now that it’s too late,
And you could have kept me from this fate.

We walked by day and talked by night,
And yet you showed me not the light.
You let me live, and love, and die,
You knew I’d never live on high.

Yes, I called you “friend” in life,
And trusted you through joy and strife,
And, yet, on coming to this dreadful end
I cannot, now, call you “my friend.”

Witnessing is not a call for those who are gifted evangelists.  Witnessing is something that we are all called to do.  It is not something that only people who are good at it are to do.  I am not good at speaking out to other people and inviting people to church.  But I know that there are times when just living a Christian life and praying for someone doesn’t bring results.  Sometimes God calls for our action.  We must not sit idly by while our friends, coworkers, and family members go to hell.

Now discernment must be used in this matter.  I understand this.  Sometimes, we may speak to a person and they want to hear nothing about Jesus.  In some cases, we can do nothing more for their heart has been hardened; we are not responsible for their choices.  Other times we must continue to pray that God will soften that person’s heart so that an opportunity will arise for us to speak to them.

I have friends that mock Christianity and do not understand it.  They do not want to understand it either.  While I still pray that God will soften their hearts that I or another person will be able to lead them to Christ, I know the decision is not mine to make.  I have spoken to them about Christianity and if they do not go to heaven, it will not be because they didn’t know about it.

The church needs to rise up as witnesses to a lost and dying world.  We as a congregation need to reach out to those around us who do not know Christ.  It is time to stop acting like priests and Levites and walking away from those who have been left by the roadside robbed, bleeding, naked, and half dead.

We have no right to not tell others about Christ, to not invite others to church, and to succumb to fear of what may inconvenience us.  There is a world out there that is going to hell and we want to sit around unable to live godly lives, unable to pray, and unable to tell others about Christ because we worry about what others may think or say.

Have we not been given a higher calling than to simply keep the joy Christ has given us to ourselves?  It is time for us to start leading godly lives that show to others that the Christian life is something that they themselves want.  It is time for us to get down on our knees and be praying for our family and friends who do not know the Lord.  Not just praying, but praying with the conviction that God will answer our prayers, and beyond our greatest expectations.  Finally we need to get out of the comfortable bubble that we so often live in and realize that we are called to action.  Sometimes we are the best ones for the job and simply praying for someone doesn’t meet the need when they are lying, bleeding in front of us.  As Jesus told the expert in the law, “Go and do likewise.”

The Gospel According to Luke – Part 3

The Life and Infancy of Jesus
Luke 2:1-7

by Paul George

Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus of Nazareth is the most misunderstood, misquoted man in history. He was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He did not go to college. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He turned the religious world upside down. He is the full disclosure, without blemish or distortions, of God Himself. He is the focal point of all history, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and the source of New Testament revelation. He is the greatest personality of all history. He is the Christ of the Gospels.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. One of them betrayed Him. His own people handed Him over to their enemy who nailed Him to a cross. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property he had on earth, taken down from the cross and put in a borrowed tomb.

If we want to know more about God, we need to learn more about the Christ of the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth.  We need to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, remove the half-truths introduced and accepted in the Christian community about Jesus of Nazareth.

In twenty-first century Christian community, we have every type of Jesus imaginable. We have Jesus the pacifist, the humanitarian, the revolutionary, the broad-minded. It is true Jesus told the disciples to turn the other cheek. He also told the disciples under what situations they were to turn the other cheek. Jesus did relieve the pain and suffering of many during His ministry, His mission was to seek and save that which was lost. It is true Jesus spoke out against the evils in the government and religion. Did He use force and the demonstrations used by the anti-establishment movement of the twenty-first century? Was Jesus broad minded?  Would He permit, or at least tolerate the sins and perverted life-styles of men and women who occupy positions of church leadership in the twenty-first century Christian community? Would He speak out and denounce the false prophets and teachers of the twenty-first century. Would He take a more tolerant view of divorce, sexual immorality and the abusive behavior in our nation and the religious community? The authors of the New Testament answer these and more questions about the existing activity and conditions in the twenty-first century Christian community.

The enemies of Jesus claim the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus are stories, accounts, or explanations invented by the human mind. The Jesus, who is the product of human imagination, is not a very commanding figure. He does not demand commitment. The Jesus of the Gospels demands commitment. In a society, that has swept commitment and truth out the back door commitment is a dirty word. Just as there was no room in the inn for baby Jesus, there is no room in the heart of the self-centered society of the twenty-first century.

The Jesus of the Gospels is God’s provision for man’s sin. He died in the sinner’s place. He who was sinless took man’s sin upon Himself, and suffered the penalty of God’s wrath for all who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21). He provides every believer with His righteousness so that we may spend eternity in fellowship with God (Romans 3:21-26). He is the example, the standard of righteousness for all who believe. His life is the pattern for Christian conduct (1 Peter 2:21). He is not only the standard of righteousness; He is also the source of it. He is both the pattern and the provision for the Christian walk.

Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5, “Much more, then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9-10). In Romans chapter 6 we are told, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5). The Christian life is one in which Jesus Christ lives His life out in us.

The enemies of Jesus tell us there are many ways to enter into the presence of God and achieve everlasting life. The Gospels tell us there is only one-way to God and it is through Jesus. There are many people, some in the Christian community, who sincerely believe that God has provided many ways for men and women to come to Him. Some believe they can come to God through good works. If a man were responsible for such matters, this might be true. However, Jesus Christ is unique in that He makes an exclusive claim to be God’s one and only provision for eternal life. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Peter the apostle said, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). John the apostle said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

What is happening today in the Christian community is beyond comprehension, theologians, ministers, and teachers, professing Christians are attacking the nature and character of Jesus. They are attacking the characters of the authors of the New Testament, in short calling them liars. Where would we be today if the human authors of the New Testament did not record the facts regarding the nature and character of Jesus? Christianity would have gone the way all the religions of the world have gone. If we continue to remain silent for fear of offending and permit the weakening of the claims regarding the nature and character of Jesus, Christianity will fade away and completely lose its influence on a world that is falling farther and farther away from the truth and into judgment.

One of the major problems in the Christian community today, is inconsistency. Today we have an increasing number of theologians, pastors, and teachers who remain silent when men and women attempt to play God in the matter of human life. These same people claim God has no right to intervene in human affairs. We are living in an age where God is the created and humans the creator. We are living in an age that wants to replace the God of the Bible with one that enables them to achieve their selfish and demonic influenced goals without paying the consequences. The goals the enemies of Jesus have achieved are due to the fact professing Christians supported them in their effort to undermine the truth. It is time we wake up and speak out against those who are perverting the life and ministry of Jesus.

For the past forty plus years, and it is increasing in this twenty-first century, we have witnessed an increase in the attack upon the doctrine of the incarnation, the miraculous conception of Mary, and the resurrection of Jesus by theologians, ministers, and teachers.

We know Jesus’ birth was not a miracle; He came into this world as every other child has come into the world. The miracle is the conception of Mary. When the enemies of Jesus attack the miraculous conception, they are attacking two of the core doctrines of the Christian faith. Take away the doctrines of the incarnation what do you have. You have another man ordained religion. You have the birth of another child among the many that were born on the night Jesus was born, a child who cannot “save His people from their sins,” a child who needs a Redeemer.

It is possible that a man or woman could come to saving faith in Christ, many have, and not know what happened in Nazareth and Bethlehem two thousand years ago. However, it is very difficult to understand why anyone who has spent years studying the Bible and under Bible preaching and teaching ministers reject the doctrine of the incarnation and miraculous conception of Mary. The denial of the doctrines of the miraculous conception of Mary and incarnation jeopardizes the creditability of the Old Testament prophets, the apostles, and the authors of the New Testament as well as God Himself.

If we cannot trust the Old Testament prophets, the apostles, the authors of the New Testament, and above all, God in these matters, who can we trust. If any portion of the Bible contains information that is not the truth the reliability of the Bible is destroyed and Jesus is who His enemies say He is. This is what Satan wants to do and he will use any source available to achieve his goal including theologians, pastors, and teachers.

The denial of the doctrines of the miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation undermines the creditability of Jesus. The Samaritan woman told Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus told her; “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:6). In John 8:58 Jesus told the Jews who claimed they had never been enslaved to anyone, a denial of the truth, they were under the yoke of the Roman Empire, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh of the Old Testament and the Jews understood what He was saying to them, their reactions to what Jesus said is evidence they understood (John 8:59). He claimed the authority of God (Mark 2:5-7), and accepted worship as God (John 20:28).

Jesus came as the second Adam; the perfect, sinless Lamb of God Who alone could die as an innocent substitute for the sins of men. If His birth were anything less than what Matthew and Luke described in their Gospels, this would disqualify Jesus as the substitute for sinners. If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, what Matthew and Luke wrote about the events surrounding His birth is a lie. But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father’s agent in creation, ‘through whom also He made the worlds’ (Hebrews 1:2) those who deny the miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation are liars and agents of Satan and they need to be exposed.

We are free to accept or reject what Matthew and Luke wrote about the birth of Jesus or what the agents of Satan claim is the truth about the life and ministry of Jesus. However, we cannot escape the consequences of our decision. We can accept what the Old Testament prophets predicted or reject their predictions. Their predictions pointed to a supernatural birth or we should rather say a supernatural conception brought about through a virgin, resulting in the manifestation in human flesh of the second person of the Godhead.

In addition to ancient prophecies, prior to the supernatural conception there were other supernatural announcements and events. Gabriel announced to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, she would give birth to a son and he was to call him John. Mary and Joseph both received angelic communication (Luke 1:26ff; Matthew 1:20-21). Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary uttered inspired testimonies concerning the coming of Messiah (Luke 1:67ff; 1:41-45; 46-55). Angels announced the coming of Messiah to shepherds in nearby fields. Even the heavens gave witness to the birth of Messiah as ‘His Star’ appeared in the East and prompted the magi to journey to the land where Jesus was born to worship the newborn King. Simeon, under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Him as the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:25ff). Anna also gave witness to Messiah’s arrival (Luke 2:38).

When the agents of Satan claim the writings of Matthew and Luke are an overstepping of the boundaries of truth to add substance to their faith in Jesus. When they claim the Gospel writers were deceived and are deceivers. When they claim Jesus was a deceived man and a deceiver and we are deceived if we believe what they wrote. We deceive others when we proclaim the birth of Jesus. We need to ask for their evidence that proves the doctrines of miraculous conception of Mary and the incarnation are deceptions, science, and the laws of nature.

Where did Matthew and Luke receive the information for the accounts of the birth of Jesus? Were their source Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, and the wise men from the East, Simeon or Anna? Was their source the religious leaders?

Among these mentioned there was only one who was among the followers of Jesus during His ministry. It is possible some of the shepherds were among the followers of Jesus, but there is no reliable evidence we can use as proof any of the shepherds were among Jesus’ followers. From the Gospels there is no evidence we can use as proof Joseph was among the followers of Jesus. It is doubtful Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna, because of their age, were followers of Jesus. Who is left, Mary, Jesus’ mother?

Since Mary is the only remaining witness, the agents of Satan point to her as the deceiver. She used the story of a miraculous conception to cover up one of two reasons for her pregnancy, the breaking of the Law by Joseph and Mary, or the raping of Mary by a Roman soldier. The agents of Satan have used both of these reasons in their attempt to destroy the nature and character of Jesus. They are so confused and brain dead they are unable to agree which of the two reasons is the truth. The agents of Satan use Mary as a source of deception and not their master the father of liars, Satan.

If the account of the birth of Jesus is a lie, why did Satan’s agent Herod order the killing of all the boys from age two to birth? Why did Satan’s agents use the religious leaders of Israel to turn Jesus over to the Roman authorities who crucified Him? Why are the twenty-first century agents of Satan working overtime in their assignment to destroy the credibility of the Old Testament prophets, the Gospel writers, and above all Jesus?

The source of the twenty-first century agents of Satan in their battle against the truth is not what Matthew and Luke wrote because they hold to the idea Matthew and Luke are liars and deliberately falsified their accounts. The agents of Satan base their attack on the idea that miracles cannot happen. The denial of the miraculous conception of Mary is the presupposition there is no divine element in the conception since this would fall under the category of a miracle and not on the weight of science.

When we stand before the judgment bar of God, God will not ask us what church we joined, how much money we gave, or whether or not we were baptized. He will ask us one question, “What have you done about My Son, Jesus?” Today we see Jesus through a darkened glass, but one day we will see Him face to face. Will we hear Him say, “Well done My good and faithful servant” or “depart from Me, I never knew you?”

How say you? Have you trusted in the Jesus of the Gospels as your Savior? Do you believe He died for your sins? Is He your Lord? If not He is waiting for you to come to Him. Will you do that today?

The Gospel According to Luke – Part 2

The Life and Infancy of Jesus
Luke 2:1-7

by Paul George

The Birth of Jesus: Jesus was born in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Cyrenius the Roman governor of Syria ruled Judea. “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth…And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone 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 it was the house of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child” (Luke 2:1, 3-5 – NASB).

Caesar Augustus is one of the characters involved in the birth of Jesus that is often overlooked. Why would anyone consider a pagan emperor being involved in the birth of Jesus? It has to do with the fulfillment of Micah 5:2. The fulfillment of the prediction of the birthplace of the Messiah, Micah 5:2 required the birth of Jesus to take place in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. To fulfill the prediction Mary and Joseph must be in Bethlehem when Jesus comes into this world. Common sense tells us Joseph would never take Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem when the time was near for her to deliver the baby she was carrying in her womb. Something must happen that would force Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem. This is where God intervenes. Watch what happens.

Caesar Augustus issues a decree at the right time requiring all the subjects of Rome to register for the purpose of taxation and a census in the place where they were born. This was the first time the subjects of the Roman Empire were required to go to the birthplace of their ancestors or their birthplace. Augustus did not know God, though the Holy Spirit motivated him to issue the decree when he did. Joseph had no choice he had to go to Bethlehem and he took Mary with him. It is God placing everyone in the place they must be to fulfill the prediction of the birth of the Messiah. Today God is putting everyone and every thing in the proper place for the return of Jesus. Just as it was, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem the world is not prepared for, watching for or praying for the return of Jesus.

Since God is to bring to fulfillment of Micah 5:2 it would seem He would have provided a proper place for the birth of the Messiah. Luke tells us there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn. The promised Messiah, the King of kings, Lord of lords, will be born in a stable. His bed will be a manger, instead of a cradle. Interesting, the Messiah, the King of kings, Lord of lords will be born in the humblest of humblest places.

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11- NASB).

The angel was not sent to the chief priests or the elders; they were not prepared to receive the “good news of great joy”, but to a company of poor shepherds. The angel did not wake up the innkeeper, anyone occupying the rooms in the inn or any of the residents of Bethlehem; they were not sleeping, they were keeping watch over their flocks. When the angel announced this good news to them from heaven above, they were wide-awake, and therefore could not be deceived in what they saw and heard. They were keeping watch over their flock, to secure them from thieves and beasts of prey. Interesting, what should pastors be doing, watching over their flocks, driving away thieves and beasts of prey.

The appearance of the angel surprised them and terrified them. When Jesus returns there will be a great multitude that will be surprised and terrified. The last thing the shepherds expected to see was an angel, they were not expecting to hear good news when the angel appeared. There are multitudes of religious people that will not hear good news when Jesus returns.

Before they can receive the message of good news, the shepherds must set aside their fear because there is nothing in the message that creates fear. The intent of the message is to fill the heart of the shepherds with joy. One of the greatest fears of men and women today is death. They fear death because they do not know there is good news in death. The good news is Jesus has removed the sting of death.

The good news is the Savior that has been so long expected, which is Christ the Lord, the Messiah, the Anointed, Lord of all, the heir to David’s throne, God incarnate, has been born in the city of David. He is a Savior, and He will be a Savior to those who accept him for their Lord. The Savior is born, he is born this day; and this is a matter of great joy to all people, do not keep it a secret, and proclaim it to the entire world. He is born in the place predicted in Micah 5; 2, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. To men, not to angels He did not take on the nature of angels. He took on the nature of man. This is a matter of joy, great joy. Let heaven and earth rejoice.

The angel gives the shepherds a sign for confirming what they have heard, “you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 –NASB). They will not find the heir of David’s throne dressed in fancy robes, and lying in a bed in one of the best houses in the town, they will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

The message was no sooner delivered by one angel than suddenly there was with that angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God (Luke 2:13-14) for extending His good will to men manifested in sending the Messiah who will introduce His peace to the world and end the enmity that sin had raised between God and man. He will introduce His peace, a peace the world cannot give or take away. All the peace we have, or hope for, is the result of God’s good will. Peace will never be achieved in any way that is inconsistent with the glory of God. This was the peace proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds. It is on earth and extended to all who will accept it according to God’s terms and not man’s.

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as He lay in the manger” (Luke 2:15-15 – NASB). They immediately went to Bethlehem. It is possible the shepherds told Joseph and Mary of the vision of the angels they had seen, and the song of the angels they had heard, which would be a great encouragement to Mary and Joseph. It is also probable that Joseph and Mary told the shepherds what visions they had had concerning the child; and so, by exchanging information they strengthened one another’s faith.

The shepherds saw nothing in the child that should cause them to believe that He was Christ the Lord. What they saw agreed with the sign that the angel had given them. So they made known abroad the whole story of what was told them concerning this child, that he was the Savior, even Christ the Lord that in Him there is peace on earth. This they told every body, and agreed in their testimony concerning it. What impression did this have upon the people? We are told all which heard it wondered at those things that the shepherds told them.

The shepherds were plain, downright, honest men. Those who heard what they heard and saw could not suspect them of spreading a rumor. What they had said therefore was likely to be true, and, if true, they could not but wonder at it that the Messiah should be born in a stable and not in a palace, that an angel should bring news of it to poor shepherds and not to the chief priests. They wondered, but never inquired any further about the Savior, but went about doing their own things. Are we following the example of the shepherds?

Mary made them the matter of her private meditation. She said little, but kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to lay them up in the heart. The shepherds made them the matter of public praises. They returned, glorifying and praising God. If others would disregard the report they made to them, God would accept the thanksgivings they offered to him. They praised God for what they had heard from the angel, and for what they had seen, the baby in the manger. They thanked God that they had seen Christ. To some, Christ born in a stable is foolishness and an obstacle, but others see in it the wisdom of God and the power of God.

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus God used the issuing of a decree by a pagan emperor in the fulfilling of Micah 5:2. Angels announced the fulfillment of Micah 5:2 to shepherds. The first to proclaim the good news of the fulfillment of Micah were the shepherds and not the religious of the day. However, there is a third party involved in the birth of Jesus.

Matthew 2:1-2, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’” They did not ask if the King of Jews was born, they asked where he is born. When Herod heard the wise men from the east were looking for a newborn king, he was greatly troubled and so were the people. Herod was troubled because he saw in this newborn king his power slipping away. The people were troubled because they did not know how Herod would react to the announcement of a newborn king.

Just as God used a pagan emperor to prepare the way for the birth of the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, Satan will use Herod in an attempt to destroy the One who will bruise his head.

Herod holds a staff meeting; he asks them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him in Bethlehem of Judea. The proof they produced to prove Bethlehem is the place where the Messiah will be born is Micah 5:2. Herod meets with the wise men without his staff who told him when the star appeared. Herod sends the wise men to Bethlehem with instructions to find Jesus and report their finding to him. Now this might seem suspicious if Herod had not hid his true intentions from the wise men. What is hard to understand is that Herod puts his trust in the wise men and not his staff. He does not know if the reason given by the wise men for coming to Jerusalem seeking the place of the birth of this newborn king is their true reason for coming to Jerusalem. It sounds as if Herod is faced with the same situation as that of  Nebuchadnezzar’s court; he did not trust his advisors.

The wise men leave Jerusalem and the star they saw in the east went before them and “stood over the place where the Child was” and when they went into the house they saw Jesus and His mother, Mary, and fell down and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11). They did not worship Mary. Then they opened “their treasures” and “presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They did not give gifts to Mary.

When the wise men did not return to Jerusalem and reveal whereabouts of Jesus Herod was enraged and ordered the killing of all male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area that were two years old and younger. This was Satan’s first attempt on the life of Jesus through his agents. In a dream, an angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt where they remained until the death of Herod. After the death of Herod an angel, in a dream told Joseph it was safe to return to Israel.

Once again we see God working out His plan for the salvation of man. Following the death of Herod the Romans divided his kingdom among his three sons. Was it by chance Rome gave Herod’s son Archelaus authority over Judah and Samaria? “When Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:19-23 – NASB).

Jesus, “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).