Memphis Belle

Untitled Document
Luke 1:1-38
Luke 1:39-80 Luke 2:1-38 Luke 2:39 - 3:17 Luke 3:19-4:23 Luke 4:14-5:11
Luke 5:12-26 Luke 5:27 6:11 Luke 6:12-49 Luke 7:1-23 Luke 7:24-50 Luke 8:1-18
Luke 8:19-40
Luke 8:40-56 Luke 9:1-27 Luke 9:26-50 Luke 9:51 to 10:24 Luke 10:25-42
Luke 11:1-13 Luke 11:14-44 Luke 12:1-21 Luke 12:22-48 Luke 12:49 - 13:17 Luke 13:18-35
Luke 14:7-35 Luke 15:1-10 Luke 15:11-32 Luke 15:24-32 Luke 16:13-31 Luke 17:1-26
Luke 17:26-37 Luke 18:9-27 Luke 18:31-43 Luke 19:1-27 Luke 19:28-48 Luke 20:1-26
Luke 20: 27-47 Luke 21: 5-36 Luke 22: 1-20 Luke 22:21-34 Luke 22: 35-53 Luke 22: 54-71
Luke 23: 13-43 Luke 23: 43-56 Luke 24: 1-35 Luke 24: 36-53    
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Luke 2:1-38

 

“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.)  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 Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house of the lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  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.  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 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, saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.  And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel:  and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple:  and when the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:  for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.  And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser [Asher]:  she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.  And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

 

The Birth of Jesus Christ

 

“We got a call too from the missions that we work with in Mexico every year, and somebody’s evidently given them a large warehouse-type building, and they are asking us if anyone in the fellowship is interested in coming down in October to help them finish that off, so they can make use of it.  So, those of you that are Mexico-ites and have been part of that, or maybe haven’t been on the trip and considered it, this might be a great opportunity.  So if you would see Steve in the bookstore, he’s the one whose going to coordinate it and everybody’s names that are interested, and figure out exactly what we might be able to do.  So put that to prayer, and they could really use the facility there.  So it’s a great thing, and we’re hoping that it shapes up as soon as possible.  [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/Short-TermMissions.htm]  We’re in Luke chapter 2 this evening, and we’ll pray as we continue.  ‘Father we thank you for your Word and this opportunity to gather.  Lord, praise you for this Wednesday evening, Lord.  We ask, Father, as we continue, that you would continue.  Lord, we are thankful that we can enjoy a time of singing your praises, Lord.  In some ways Lord, we’re thankful that we can forego some of the formalities, and that we can Lord sing simple choruses that speak of your goodness and faithfulness, your praises.  And then we can simply study your Word, Father, in fellowship.  We praise you and thank you for that, Lord.  We know that we are blessed.  Lord, we pray for those that are here this evening that don’t know you personally, Lord, that in their hearts they might perceive that there isn’t anything phony, Lord, going on, Lord, that you would give to them, Father, that which you brought them here this evening to receive.  And for all of us Lord, we seek to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of your Son. So Father we commit our lives afresh now as we Lord open your Word and fellowship at the end of the evening, be in our midst, in Jesus name, amen.’

 

A Decree Goes Out From Caesar Augustus

 

Luke chapter 2, we come to a familiar portion of Scripture.  “And it came to pass in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.”  We’ve been hearing this since we were small children in Sunday-school.  I  remember hearing it for years and years and years before I ever came to know Christ.  And there was that movie they used to show with the star over the manger, and some English guy with a great voice saying that.  And it just kind of stays in your mind.  As we look at this record of the birth of Christ, let me share a few things as we go into it, because we all have I think ideas about the birth of Christ that are not necessarily Biblical.  Some of us have I think recoiled from the whole scene, a lot of anti-shopping people have done that [i.e. he’s referring to the reaction against the crass commercialization of Christmas and the Christmas season].  Christmas certainly by and large has lost much of its meaning.  I remember shopping for patent-leather shoes for my daughter when she was three years old, coming into the Christmas holiday, they have to have those, black, patent-leather shoes.  I don’t know what it is, but they’re important.  And sitting at Wannamaker’s and trying them on her, of course, so shiny you could see your reflection in them.  [I always wished they sold our Navy shoes that would hold a shine like that, would have made life a whole lot easier J.]  And the lady who was trying on her shoes said, ‘Well honey, what’s Santa Claus bringing you for Christmas?’  And she looked up at her and said, “There is no Santa Claus.” [laughter]  And the lady looked at us like we had murdered somebody, she looked at us with the look that said, ‘You muther and you father have told your child there is no Santa Claus.’  You know, she looked at us like she was going to report us to some authority, I don’t know who, but you know.  And she turned around and said to Joanna, “Well, what do think Christmas is all about?”  And Joanna said “Christmas is Jesus birthday.” And the lady sat there for a minute with a puzzled look on her face, and she said “I, I guess it is, isn’t it.”  [laughter] We kind of list that, you know.  The Bible gives us a description of the birth of Jesus Christ here in Luke chapter 2.  December 25th?  It’s a question.  Is that when he was born, in December 25th?  And you read the commentaries, and they say ‘It could not have been December, because the Bible says that the shepherds were abiding in the fields with their flocks outside of Bethlehem, and the shepherds don’t do that in December.”  Everybody who thinks they’re a scholar who has never been to Israel writes that, and everybody whose been to Israel in December has seen the shepherds with their flocks in the fields in Bethlehem, so that’s nonsense. [Comment:  Now I’ve got to hand it to these Calvary Chapel folks for going the extra mile and not lying to their kids about Santa Claus.  Technically, though, they haven’t gone quite far enough.  Christmas was added to 300s AD ‘Christianity’ by the proto-Catholic church, and it’s observance was taken right straight from Babylonian Mystery Religious rites, December 25th date and all, the Roman Saturnalia celebration put in so-called Christian garb.  Jesus was nowhere near born on December 25th.  A Messianic Jewish source traces his birth to the fall Holy Day season.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/festiavloflights2.htm.]  That date is the [Roman Catholic] tradition.  At least with the date we have a tradition that predates the fourth century, it goes back into the 3rd century, and then Hiplaitus takes it back further than that, that it was before the 3rd century the traditional date of the birth of Christ.  Does it matter?  No it doesn’t matter.  I think it only matters that some folks will go to the other extreme and say ‘Well, that is really Saturnalia [and it is J ].  It’s really the Babylonian holiday, and Constantine took that and placed the birth of Christ on that date trying to eradicate a pagan holiday [and that is 100 percent true], and therefore you should never have a Christmas tree, you should never do this, and you should never do that, the Christmas tree is really the Yule Tree, the Yule Log, Tammuz and Semiramis and Babylon and this and that  [which is 100 percent true.  See http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/00index.htm.  You see, because the Cavalry Chapels are both Sunday/Christmas/Easter worshipping, traditional in that sense, and yet teach strictly out of God’s Word, and have not dismissed the Old Testament in favor of the New as far as inerrancy of God’s Word, they often face a dichotomy in trying to explain why they keep days of worship instituted by the proto-Roman Catholic church in the 300s AD.  So they always have this struggle they go through when giving honest connective expository sermons going through God’s Word.  In my personal estimation, they have not yet realized that God’s Sabbath and Holy Days have not been abrogated.  For more on that subject, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Has%20the%20Sabbath%20Been%20Abrogated.htm.]  Ok, we know you’re spiritual.  I remember being in the ministry years ago, and they embraced that, and I remember writing home to my parents saying, ‘Well, you know, Christmas is really Saturnalia, the Christmas tree is really a Babylonian thing,’ going through the whole thing [and he was right] and it was at that point I think my parents were sure I had lost my mind.  And I came to realize that God has called me to preach the Gospel, not Saturnalia.  I grew up in a home that was Christian by name, we had a Christmas tree, I didn’t know anything about Tammuz and Semiramis until I got saved.  You know, the whole time I grew up, I thought it was Christmas, we sung Christmas carols, I didn’t know anything about that.  So some people are so spiritual that they kind of frown on the Christians who do that.  Well that’s nonsense.  [What he is ignoring is a bigger issue, which was brought to many Cavalry Chapel pastors in a pastor’s meeting, with one of their Jewish pastors, Dr. David Hocking, saying to them something like, ‘You had better get used to the idea of observing God’s Sabbath and Holy Days, because we will be doing it in God’s Millennial Kingdom after Christ’s 2nd coming.’  For more on the prophecies he was basing his statement on, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophets/Zechariah/Zechariah4.htm and scroll to the section on Zechariah 14:16-19 and read that.  But this is an honest Scriptural issue they have been ducking for years, even though their expository preaching through God’s Word has been making the knowledge available to them.  So right here they kind of stumble over the truth they’re reading from God’s Word.  They’ll catch on as time goes by, just as Dr. Hocking has kind of done.]  In fact, I remember when I came out of that ministry that was hyper-spiritual in the phony side [now I would have to agree with him there], and the first time I walked into Calvary Chapel and saw a big Christmas tree on the floor, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m home Lord.  I’m home.’  Look.  Jesus is born in a manger, we’re going to read here, a manger is a stone feeding-trough, about this long and about that wide, and about that deep.  When you go on the trip to Israel the guide will show you there, there’s a manger right there.  A manger is not a little hut with a nice thatched roof and neon lights inside, where the camels were kneeling down with the sheep, and the shepherds and the wise men and everybody was there out in front of the place, and the star was shining.  You know, we have those ideas.  As we read through this evening we’ll see that Mary was out alone in an alley somewhere, probably 14 to 16 years old, no room for them in the most common place, the caravanserai where people would be allowed to stay with their animals, no room even there.  She brings him forth and places him in a manger, a stone feeding trough.  The only ones who came that night were the shepherds.  The wise men arrive some time in the next year and a half.  They saw the star of his birth, we’re told, and that is when they began their journey, probably at least ten months, coming from where they came.  We imagine three wise men, because we read of Frankincense, gold and myrrh, many scholars think that there may have been a whole caravan, because all of Jerusalem was stirred when they came.”  I’m going to stop right here and quote from a historic source to shed some light on this historic period of time and who the Magi and Wise Men were.  Then we’ll get back to Pastor Joe Focht’s sermon transcript.

 

Who Were the Magi and Wise Men?

 

Who were the “wise men, or Magi?”  I’m going to stop right here to shed some historic “political background” on the situation in the Middle East and Judean region.  I am quoting selected portions from Steven Collins’ book Parthia, The Forgotten Ancient Superpower And Its Role In Biblical History, pp. 127-135 “To help modern readers gain a frame of reference from these ancient events, these Roman-Parthian wars were more recent events for the people at the time that Jesus was born than World War II and the Korean War are to modern readers.  Parthian rule over Palestine was, therefore vividly remembered by many in Jewish society as being preferable to Roman rule.  Parthia’s victory over Mark Antony led to a long period of peace between Rome and Parthia, with the Euphrates River serving as the border between their two vast empires.  This prolonged period of peaceful relations lasted from 36 B.C. until 58 A.D., including not only all of Jesus Christ’s life, but also the early period of the Apostolic Church as well.  Rawlinson records that it was an established Roman policy not to provoke a Parthian war during that period of time so long as both empires agreed to coexist on separate banks of the Euphrates River. 

 

“It is a well-known fact that Augustus left it as a principle of policy to his successors that the Roman Empire had reached its proper limits, and could not with advantage be extended further.  This principle, followed with the utmost strictness by Tiberias, was accepted as a rule by all the earlier Caesars.”

 

     As long as the Caesars wanted peace with Parthia, Roman officials along Parthia’s border, such as King Herod and Pontius Pilate, knew they risked their positions and lives if they entangled Rome in an unwanted war with Parthia.  Without this period of Parthian-Roman détente, it would have been impossible for some of the events of Jesus Christ’s life to have occurred, as we shall see.  The first such event was the coming of the Magi, or “Wise Men” to pay homage to Jesus.  We read of this event in Matthew 2:1-12, which becomes more important when considered in the overall context of Roman-Parthian relations.

 

Parthia’s Magi Visit Jesus (and Frighten Jerusalem)

 

     As discussed in the previous chapter, the Magi were powerful members of the Parthian bicameral body that elected Parthian monarchs and wielded great influence within the empire.  One assembly was composed of members of the royal family (the Arsacids), and the other consisted of the priests (the “Magi”) and influential Parthians of non-royal blood (the “Wise Men”).  The Magi and Wise Men were jointly known as the Magistanes. 

     Matthew 2:1 states that “wise men from the east” came to worship Jesus.  The term “Wise Men,” which appears in Matthew 2:1, is not a generic description of these visitors, but was the proper title of Parthian Magistanes.  The Greek word translated “wise men” is “magian,” literally meaning “Persian astronomer or priest,” from which we derive the word “Magi.”  Parthia governed Persia at the time of Christ, so the “Wise Men” cited in the Bible were Parthian nobles and/or priests.  While traditional Christian accounts of this episode celebrate the coming of “the three wise men,” the Bible does not limit the number of visiting Magi-Wise Men to three men.  Indeed, biblical events and the realities of that time argue for a much greater contingent of Parthian Magi…Consider also that Matthew 2:1-3 states: 

 

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews?  for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship him.  When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  (KJV)

 

     The arrival of the Magi’s caravan in Jerusalem was a very public affair because “all Jerusalem” was “troubled” by their arrival.  What was it about the Magi’s caravan that scared the Roman leaders and the whole city of Jerusalem?  The Magi, a delegation of high Parthian officials, came to Jerusalem in a caravan loaded with costly treasures and escorted by a strong force of armed Parthian soldiers!  Since the Magi were high officials of the Parthian government, they would routinely travel with a substantial escort of Parthian soldiers to guarantee their protection.  Since they were traveling with many costly treasures to present to the newborn Messiah, their escort may have been unusually large.  [To find out why these Magi were interested in honoring the Messiah, a son of David, you’ll have to order Steven Collin’s book and read the previous chapters.]…Josephus records that treasure caravans bringing expensive offerings to Jerusalem from Jews living in the Parthian territory did so with “many ten thousand men” as escorts.  In ancient times, traveling with expensive items was dangerous.  There was danger not only from brigands, but also from local satraps who might use their armies to conquer a treasure train passing through their territories.  If Jewish commoners from Parthia were allowed to travel to Jerusalem with the equivalent of several infantry divisions as escorts, would an important delegation of Parthia’s ruling class and a treasure train of gifts have been accompanied by any fewer armed escorts?  If the Parthian column had included “many ten thousands” of soldiers, it would have justified the widespread fear in Jerusalem caused by their arrival.  In the previous chapter, we learned that ancient Chinese historical accounts recorded that the Parthians sent 20,000 cavalry just to escort a Chinese ambassador into Parthian territory…Their caravan was so huge that it was a “cause celebre” in Jerusalem.  The whole city was in an uproar over their arrival, and that argues for a very visible and impressive Parthian caravan arriving in Jerusalem.  The sheer size of the caravan, its treasures and its escorts awed King Herod and the whole city to the point where they were all “troubled.”  This indicates that the Parthian caravan had so many armed escorts that many feared it was an invasion force coming to besiege Jerusalem and start a new Roman-Parthian war.  However, their announced reason---coming to visit a royal-born Messiah---could have electrified a city of Jews who intensely wanted the Messiah to come and free them from Roman rule!  The Jewish hierarchy understood the Parthians were looking for the Messiah as they quickly looked for Messianic prophecies to locate the city of His birth.  After their consultations with Herod and high Jewish officials, the Parthian delegation traveled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus and present their gifts to him.  By this time, Matthew 2:11 states Jesus and Mary were living in “a house,” so they were no longer staying at the manger.  The Magi’s journey to Bethlehem would have been closely followed by Herod’s spies.  Joseph was then warned by an angel to flee quickly into Egypt (Matthew 2:13) to avoid Herod’s impending slaughter of Bethlehem’s young male children.  Since Herod’s edict applied only to Bethlehem, there would have been no need for Joseph, Mary and Jesus to flee unless they were still in Bethlehem.  Since Joseph, Mary and Jesus actually lived in Galilee (Luke 2:4), the fact that they were in a house in Bethlehem indicates that this must have been weeks after Jesus’ birth while Mary was regaining the strength to make an overland trip back to Nazareth.  Their flight to Egypt took them completely out of Herod’s area of jurisdiction.  Herod made the mistake of assuming the Messiah would be born to a family native to the Bethlehem area.  Since Luke 2:39 states that Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Galilee not long after Jesus was born, it seems apparent that the stay of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in Egypt was very brief (PARTHIA, The Forgotten Ancient Superpower And Its Role In Biblical History, by Steven Collins, excerpts taken from pp. 127-135).  Now back to Pastor Joe (so this sermon transcript will be a little bit longer than most).  I thought this fit right into Pastor Joe’s sermon so I added it (being the history nut that I am).

 

How the Magi know when to come

 

“And they said, ‘We’ve seen his star in the east.’  And when it got to Jerusalem it made a left and went to Bethlehem.  It wasn’t the star the astronomers can figure out.  And somehow they knew, his star.  They had been told, ahead of time that this would take place.  [Which makes sense, since the Parthians had some Levitical priests who knew the prophecies of God, especially in Daniel 9.  They had both Jews and Levites living in Parthia at this time, and for centuries before.]  Now our only link to that, they are called Magi, which were the Chaldeans from the area of Babylon.  [Now Pastor Joe’s sources are far less accurate than what I just quoted from, new information now available historically, based on research into Roman records about Parthia.]  Our only link to that is we know that when Daniel was there, that Gabriel had come to Daniel and began to give him some of the details of the coming of the Messiah.  [Correct, but then Babylon was defeated by Persia, and Persia by Alexander the Great, which was then defeated by Rome.  But both Jews and Levites had escaped northward and eastward and taken refuge in the Parthian Empire, Rome’s only rival Empire never to be defeated by Rome.  These Jews and Levites brought with them this knowledge from Daniel, which the Parthian priesthood and royalty retained in Babylon which was at this point in Parthian territory.  Pastor Joe is on the right trail, but is unaware of some of the historic missing links which have been filled in.]  Particularly in chapter 9, the very day of Palm Sunday [except it wasn’t a Sunday] is prophecied, and there are those, and quite possibly it’s true, who believe, scholars that Daniel started his own sect of Chaldeans there, he started his own priesthood.  [This could be true, but if so, this sect was located in Parthian territory and resided safely there out of the reach of the Roman Empire.  Also this priesthood would be from the proper tribe of Levi, of the house of Aaron.]  And certainly he was blessed, and he himself passed from the Babylonian Empire to Darius the Mede, the Medes and the Persian Empire, and stayed on top of the kingdoms.  There are those who believe that Daniel recorded other things that we don’t necessarily have in prophecy.  And part of that was that one day this star would come, and it would signify the birth of the Messiah.  All the way back in Numbers when Balaam prophecied, he spoke of a star arising out of Judah.  So, there are those who seriously believe that these Magi, when they saw the star at [or just before his birth] began their journey.  They come to Jerusalem, and all of Jerusalem is in a stir [we saw why], they say to Herod ‘Where is this King that is born, King of the Jews.’  He calls the scribes and the Pharisees, they say, ‘Well, the Scripture says he’s to be born in Bethlehem.  So Herod says, ‘Go to Bethlehem and search for him. If you find him, come and tell me, that I may also come and worship him.’  And it says that Herod is lying, hoping then to kill the child.  Well, the “wise men” are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod.  But it says when they come to Bethlehem, they find the young child in the house.  It doesn’t say “babe in a manger.”  It says they find the young child “in the house”, with the holy family.  They pay their tribute of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then they head off in another direction.  And it is at that moment that Herod kills all the male children in Bethlehem from two years old and younger.  So that was much later that the wise men came.  [As seen in our historic reference, it could not have been too much later.  Have to wait and ask Jesus at his return for the fine details, as with most old historic records.]  It did not happen at the scene that we will look at this evening. 

 

How we’re going to get a pregnant Mary relocated from Galilee to Bethlehem

 

As we look at this scene, we are about 4 BC, when a decree goes out from Caesar Augustus that all of the world should be taxed.  And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.  And archaeological finds have identified this Cyrenius, the governor of Syria [see http://www.comereason.org/bibl_cntr/con100.asp].  Augustus being the first Roman Emperor, finally the government handed over from the generals, the military leaders, to one man, Augustus.  He took that name Augustus becomes it means “like the god” [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus], Caesar Augustus.  He liked that name, it was better than a king.  He gives a decree that all the world should be taxed.  Now in this day, Camel Morgan tells us that the gates of the temple of Janus had been closed for sixteen years.  That was the Roman god of war.  When there was peace, the doors of that temple were closed because they didn’t have to go there and worship.  We hear Tyrarum Orbis Imperium, “the empire of the whole earth” and the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, the only reason that existed is because Rome, as described by Daniel in his vision, as an iron beast that had bludgeoned the entire world into submission [except for their arch rival empire, the Parthian Empire, east of the Euphrates].  The only reason there was peace is because Rome has stamped on the entire known world [west of the Euphrates], and crushed the heart out of it.  So yes there was peace, for sixteen years the doors of this temple had not been opened.  When there was war within the Roman Empire, the doors of Janus would be opened, their god of war.  So there’s been a peace, but it’s a peace that’s forced on the Roman world whether they like it or not.  [He’s got it partly right and partly wrong.  Janus was the god of beginnings and endings.  But the doors of the temple of Janus were closed or shut in peacetime and open during time of war.  Look up Janus on Wikipedia.]  And Augustus now gives a decree that all the world should be taxed, and it says this taxing, literally this enrollment was first done when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.  So it seems then that before the actual taxation, that all people were called for a census, and they had to go to their hometown, where their lineage would be.  And at this time, the Jews still kept a fairly strict lineage [record], because it was related to your inheritance, when your father died you would be the one to inherit the father’s possession, his inheritance in the land [this goes back to the time of Moses and Joshua].  Now what will happen about this time is that Herod the Great will go into the Temple in Jerusalem and destroy all of the records of lineage that the Jews had kept.  Because he didn’t want anyone to be able to claim to be the Messiah.  That’s why it’s difficult today for any Jew to know exactly what tribe he was from.  [For one thing, the Jews were from one tribe, the tribe of Judah.  After the 10 northern tribes broke off from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, three tribes, Levi, the half the tribe of Benjamin, and Levi became what is today known as the Jews.  The other ten tribes were deported to or fled the Assyrian Empire in the 720s BC, never really permanently to return to the Promised Land.  They’re out there in the world somewhere as nations (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/1.html).  We’ll learn more about who they are at Jesus Christ’s return.  But it is firmly believed amongst some historic circles that the ancient Parthian Empire, rival of Rome, was made up of some of these northern tribes of Israel.  Josephus records that the ten tribes at his time lived both north and east of Jerusalem.  Both north and east of Jerusalem is the Euphrates River border.  Interesting “smoking gun” historic speculation here, but that’s all it is at this point in time.] Unless perhaps his name is Levi, or perhaps if he’s a Cohen, relating back to the Kohathites, but he would destroy all of their records.  Jesus of course, being born in Bethlehem, proving he was of the tribe of Judah, and of the house of David, no problem here, because the record clearly says that he was born there in Bethlehem.  So, Rome is ruling the world [at least the western world, Parthia was ruling the northeastern part of it, and China had her own domain to the Far East.]  Augustus Caesar is upon the throne, he makes a decree that all of the world should be taxed, “And all went,” verse 3, “to be taxed, everyone to his own city, Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, 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” (verses 3-5).  Now she’s in the 3rd trimester.  Imagine this, gals, and it’s bad enough with all of the insults that she is dealing with.  It says that she is his “espoused wife.”  Because in the Jewish culture, the marriage was consummated when the husband and wife were intimate.  Joseph and Mary had not yet consummated the marriage because she is pregnant from the Holy Spirit, she is still called his “espoused wife” in her 3rd trimester.  Yes, the house and lineage of David are there, but we find that none of the relatives seem to want to take Joseph and his engaged honey whose already pregnant before the wedding day in.  So not only are they facing probably the constant ridicule of that, because the Pharisees again would say to Jesus ‘At least we’re not born of fornication.’  They knew.  Not only are they facing that, ‘But now all of a sudden Caesar decides in my 3rd trimester, that everybody’s got to go, you know, here I go 80 miles either walking or on a donkey, in my third trimester.’  Now could you imagine getting your wife, guys, to take an 80 mile journey on a donkey or walking in her 3rd trimester?  It would take Caesar to do that.  And the whole world is up and moving, and it seems so unjust, as we look at the picture.  But the thing that we know is this.  You know, God had said over and over again in Isaiah ‘Where are your gods?  Are they really gods?  Can they do what I can do?---telling the former things and telling the future, what will come?’  I just talked to somebody about this last week, between chapters 40 and 45 of Isaiah God about five or six times says ‘Test your god, because I can do this.  I can tell you things before they come to pass.  I can tell you about the future before it happens.’  God says, ‘Tell me about your gods, what are their writings, what other gods can do that?---who can tell you things to come, that will come to pass before they happen?’  And he describes these things, and said ‘Know that I’m God.’  So, the scene here, it seems like Caesar Augustus makes this decree, the world is bludgeoned into submission, and everybody has to listen, and here’s poor Mary and Joseph, and it seems like there’s Caesar on the throne saying ‘Let all the world be taxed!’ and everything is centering around him.  But the truth is, Micah had said 700 years before this, “And 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 old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).  You know, the reason the whole world was moving was because Micah said that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem.  And the truth was, the entire Roman world was moving around this unknown woman in her 3rd trimester, the whole Roman Empire, from God’s perspective and ours if we’re spiritual, was revolving around this unborn babe in her womb, because the prophets of old had said that he had to be born in Bethlehem.  And God said the reason you know that I am who I say I am is because I can tell you things before they come to pass.  [Need more proof of that?  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm.]  So God pulls the strings on the puppet, Caesar in Rome, he says ‘Let all the world be taxed,’ and everybody’s moving, and it’s God that’s pulling the strings, and here they go on their way to Bethlehem.  She’s his “espoused wife,” 3rd trimester, great with child.

 

The Birth of Jesus Christ

 

“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 not room for them in the inn” (verses 6-7).  Now imagine this, girls, there’s no room in the inn.  That’s not the Holiday Inn, that is not Night’s Inn, it’s not the Red Lion Inn, there’s no room for them in the caravanserai or the catalooma.  Those of you who have been to Israel with us have been to Aquo, they have found one that, a catalooma that dates to around that time.  What it is, is a large open courtyard.  In the center they have a fountain.  All around the bottom there are wooden doors into small stone stalls, and then there’s a second and a third floor.  And the guests would come, it was hospitality, you didn’t have to pay anything, it was for travelers.  You could stay there, you could let your animals wander around on the first floor down by the fountain, or put them in one of those stone stalls.  And then you could stay on the second floor or third floor wherever you could find an open room.  So it was a large stone enclosure, basically filled with animals on the first floor.  That was the caravanserai.  It says that when they came there, there was no room in the caravanserai, no room in the cattle-yard.  It’s not a nice little thatched roof, it’s not a hotel.  So she ends up, it says “she brought forth” 14 to 16 years old, she is the OBGYN doctor at her own delivery.  She’s doing this herself, brings forth her own son, laying out in an alley somewhere, no streetlights.  However cool the weather was then, wraps him in swaddling clothes by herself, she wraps him, and she lays him in a manger.  Now imagine this.  Because the angel had come, now you’d think if an angel came to you and said, ‘You are going to have a child.’  Now we know none of us are having a Messiah.  But just think, if the angel came and said to you, ‘Your child is going to be special, like John the Baptist, you’re gonna have a little prophet or prophetess.’  You would kind of expect you know to go to the OBGYN department at University of Pennsylvania or something.  You know, God’s going to take me to a good hospital, because I am having a very special baby, and heaven’s watching out for me.’  You wouldn’t expect to be out in the alleyway, people passing by, laying there going ‘Aaaaah!’ ‘Push honey, push!’, and have people walking by, you know, you can just imagine.  Cathy and I when Joanna was born, we were living in Portland, she was born at the High Risk Center at the University of Oregon Hospital there, and there were so many ladies having babies, that they were lined up in the hallway on litters yelling and screaming and cursing, and we were in a room where another lady was having a baby, and she was yelling, and once in a while somebody who was looking for somebody he knew was there would just come walking in a room, and here’s your wife loosing all of her dignity going ‘Aaaaah!’, and people are walking in and saying ‘Oh hi.’  ‘You know, would you mind [getting out of here].’  Well imagine Mary out in an alley, in the dark.  It’s at night, we know, because that’s when the angels come to the shepherds, cold, alone, teenager, wondering, ‘Did I really hear from an angel, or did I eat too much pizza before I went to bed that night?  Lord, you know I said here I am, the handmaid of the Lord, let it be unto me as you said, but Lord I didn’t imagine that this would be the scene.  No room, the problem was Bethlehem was crowded.  And the reason that there was no room, is because it was crowded.  And the reason that there is no room for him in our hearts and lives sometimes, is because it’s too crowded in there, with all kinds of other things.  It isn’t the condition of our heart that prevents him from coming, he was born in an alleyway, with cow manure and filth, just like our heart, dirty, filthy, cold.  It isn’t the condition of our heart that prevents him from coming in, it’s how crowded it is sometimes, that there’s no room.  I think even as Christians sometimes, we get so caught up with things, it says that the Word of God is choked in our heart, it’s the same word for the throngs when they were pressing against Jesus.  Sometimes even God’s work in our heart as a believer just gets thronged by so many things in life, you know what I mean, that sometimes it just seems to lose it’s vibrancy, and we even find ourselves as Christians saying, ‘Lord, I need to get back to you, Lord, I just feel cold, Lord, I don’t sense your presence,’ just because of the crowds, too crowded. 

 

Those crazy shepherds must be drinking again!

 

Now out in the shepherd’s field, no crowds there.  “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” (verses 8-9).  I guess they were.  Would you be?  If all of a sudden an angel appeared in your bedroom at night over your bed, would you say ‘Hey, what’s up?’  [laughter]  Your heart would be going ‘Boom-ba-boom-ba-boom!’  You know, it’s interesting, with shepherds, because we’re raise around Christianity, in a Christian home, we kind of almost, David was a shepherd, and Moses was a shepherd, we have this kind of almost romantic idea of shepherds in our minds.  Shepherds in New Testament times were not allowed to give testimony in a court room, in a Roman court, because they were known for being liars.  They had to cleanse themselves, I think, for a week before they were allowed in the Temple precincts.  When shepherds were around, people locked their doors, because things tended to disappear when shepherds were around.  They were pick-pockets.  So I imagine these shepherds, pretty much like most shepherds, out in the field, all of a sudden an angel appears, and they must have went ‘Ahh, we didn’t mean to do it!  We didn’t mean it!’  “…keeping watch over their flock by night.”  Now the Talmud says that there were shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem that specifically kept the sheep that would be slaughtered in the Temple precincts.  Remember they had a racket going in the that day, that’s why Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers.  Because people would come from all over the Roman world on the mandatory Feasts [cf. Leviticus 23:1-44].  If you brought your own animal with you, they would find some blemish and problem, and say to you, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t sacrifice this animal, because there’s a blemish.’  And then you would have to say, ‘I’ll buy one of yours.’  And they would say ‘Well, you’ve got a ten dollar lamb, here our lambs are $110.’  And they would rake you over the coals for the price.  And if you said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have shekels, I have money from Puteoli or somewhere else in the Roman Empire, they would say, ‘Well no, you have to exchange your money for shekels, because we can only sell the lamb to somebody using shekels.  And then they’d charge you an exchange rate to exchange the money, so they really had a racket going.  And some scholars feel because the Talmud says in the fields of Bethlehem there were shepherds who kept the flocks for sacrifice for the priests in the Temple precincts, and how fitting, because Jesus was the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, that these shepherds who kept the sacrifices would be the first to see him.  The angel appears, and they were sore afraid.  The angel says to them what angels always say, “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” (verses 10-11).  Actually the language almost insinuates “a Saviour, Christ, Lord.”  “And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  The King James says “a sign” there’s the definite article, “this shall be the sign unto you…”  Now that’s the sign.  Because if the angels just appeared and said to them ‘A Saviour has been born, a redeemer, who is Christ, Messiah, the Lord, Divine Lord, what’s this angel’s saying is ‘unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Redeemer, Messiah, Yahweh, Divine LORD---Messiah, Saviour, born unto you this day.’  ‘Go find him.’  Ok, they’d have headed for the palace, they’d have headed for Bethlehem General Hospital, or they’d have headed…no, they said “this is the sign, you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in stone feeding trough.”  Incredible.  I mean, again, if you were in charge of this birth, if God said to you without any other details, ‘You are in charge of the birth of my Son.’  Little bit of pressure there, what arrangements would you have made?  How would you have gotten Mary to Bethlehem?  You would probably have had one of those guys carrying one of those seats on their shoulders, and getting her there, you probably would have taken her to the cleanest hospital, midwife house, you’d have people boiling water.  You know, this is God’s Son, ‘If I mess this up, my name is mud.’  You would not have invited shepherds as the first guests to the maternity room.  Isn’t it interesting the way the Lord does this?  He lays them out in the alley where the crowds are, where the people are.  The first one he invites to come are the lowest in the ranking of culture in social life there.  Because the reason he came is to be with us.  His name shall be called Immanuel, God with us.  He came the way he came so that no one in this room would be embarrassed to come to him.  God brought him into the world the way he brought him into the world so he would be approachable to all of us.  You see the thing I found, the problem I found is I grew up in the church, is they kind of took him away from us and put him back up somewhere again, where it was either ‘Omnii, Domnii,’ or candles, oooh, some kind of spooky thing, and he really wasn’t there.  The Bible describes very clearly the Work of God, the angels bearing testimony, that he brought him to the lowest place, that he brought him to the most approachable place, that he brought him to the place where the commonest of human beings could come and approach him, and be with him.  There was no orchestra, music playing in the background, there wasn’t light shining out of the manger, he wasn’t glowing, Mary and Joseph weren’t floating, Jesus didn’t have his little swaddling clothes pulled open with a heart with thorns around it with light shining out of it.  What have we done?  What have we done?  You know it took me years and sin to discover who I was, and who he was, so that I could come the way I was, that he would receive me and change me, forgive me, make me his own.  And I look at this and I think, ‘Lord, how you stooped down, laying in a manger, holding the universe together.’  David would say in the Psalms, ‘Lord, it’s your gentleness that hath made me great.’  You know we can see the majesty of a thunderstorm or the Grand Teton Mountains, or the Himalayas, or be out and see a typhoon on the sea [not the kind of thing a sailor wants to see out at sea], the things in nature that might speak to us of his power and his majesty, and it tells us in Romans 1 that nature does speak to the heart of man of his power and his Godhead, that there’s a Supreme Being, that he’s powerful.  But David said, ‘No, in all of that, the issue that goes on in my heart would not ultimately have been touched, but Lord it’s your gentleness that hath made me great’, his approachability.  “And this shall be the sign unto you; you 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.”  In the Greek it’s myriads, which is ten-thousands, plural, “ten-thousands of heavenly hosts, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  So imagine these shepherds are freaked out enough talking to one angel, and he says ‘This is going to be the way it is, you’re going to find the babe lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes…’ and it says ‘all of a sudden, bam! the rest of the lights went on, and here’s ten-thousands plural of angels filling the sky, the orchestra breaks in now, singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will toward men.’  I’d have dropped dead of a coronary.  Just imagine, imagine.  Now, we understand, Glory to God in the highest.  Seems like we’re still waiting for ‘peace on earth, good will towards men.’  But there’s peace in the hearts of those who have received Christ, undoubtedly, and good will.  How many of us that are saved [to some, in the spiritual process of being saved] tonight realize the peace of God and his good will toward us in Christ.  “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”  Literally as they receded upward into heaven, so imagine these ten-thousands, a hundred thousand angels, singing, the shepherds are there, and their mouths are like this, and now they’re receding upward as they’re singing.  Just imagine this picture, you can hardly imagine, just now kind of floating up, receding upward into the heavens.  And I’m sure it just fades out of sight.  “And the shepherds said one to another, Well, Let us now go to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste,---I bet they did---“and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”  And imagine what they were talking about on the way.  ‘Did you see that first one?  Did you see what I saw?  Did you see that?’  “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (verses 12-17).  Now, when we take the opportunity to share Christ, ‘Sometimes my relatives think I’m nuts.’  Well imagine these shepherds, ‘We found the King of the universe, Yahweh God the Redeemer!’  ‘Where is he?’  ‘He’s in that stone feeding trough over there, laying there in the alley, you know, out there where the dirt is.’  ‘Are you guys all right?’  ‘Yeah, 100,000 angels just told us out in the field!’  [laughter]  ‘You don’t believe us, go on out there, all the sheep are dead, they’re laying there, hard as stones, died of heart-attacks.’  There was no hesitation on their part to make the saying spread abroad.  It behooves us, amongst our unsaved friends and relatives to do the same thing.  ‘And a prophet is not without honor, except in his own village and amongst his own people,’ I know how difficult it is at home.  But how it should be overflowing from our hearts, “they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (verses 17-18).  Now, it’s the middle of the night, Gail Erwin always takes the point, makes the point, his name was Joshua, which today is like John, you know.  I mean, Frank.  Imagine the shepherds skipping through town, saying, ‘Frank is born!  Frank is born!’  It was a common name, Joshua was one of the, and in America today is one of the most common names there is.  And the whole town is saying, ‘Awh, the shepherds are drunk again!  Look at those guys.’ “All they that heard it wondered…”  I bet they did, “at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all of these things, and she pondered them in her heart”  (verses 18-19).  Now, no doubt, she sat with Luke and gave him this information.  Only in Luke’s Gospel do we have it, and Luke says in the beginning that he wrote those things that were told him by eye-witnesses.  Imagine what it was like for Mary telling Luke ‘We were in the alley, you know, we were just glad the pushing was over, and the birth.  You know, I kind of had the shakes, Jesus was wrapped up in swaddling clothes.  We were just glad it was over, and we were kind of thanking the Lord.  And nobody understood.  And all of a sudden here comes these shepherds, we didn’t know if they were going to rob us, they’re saying ‘There it is!  There it is!’ and they started telling us about all of these angels, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of thousands that came to them and told them that the Messiah, Yahweh God, the Redeemer is born, and come to Israel.’  And at some point, Mary is relating this to Luke.  And she must have said to him, ‘You know, when the night was over, I just sat, and just pondered all those things, I mean, I didn’t know that he wasn’t risen yet, I knew parts of it, but I couldn’t imagine, I couldn’t imagine.’  She’s been visited by angels, now more than once she’s heard from Zachariah and Elisabeth, now the shepherds.  Imagine this young girl, 15, 16-years old, sitting and wondering about the things that she’s heard about this child.  How remarkable.  “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (verse 20).  I’m sure they celebrated Christmas all year.  [Except the early Christian Church never celebrated Christmas or Easter, ever, until around 325AD when Constantine forced the changes as Roman Emperor.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm and read through that whole study to see what the early Church was really like.] 

         

Jesus’ Circumcision and Dedication

 

“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (verse 21).  Now, the eighth day he’s named.  God’s wisdom, the eighth day is when the vitamin K, what you need to coagulate blood reaches its peak.  If you would circumcise a baby on the 5th or 6th day, chances are it could bleed to death or almost die.  God in the Law in the Old Testament, said [to do it] on the 8th day, first to Abraham in Genesis 17, the 8th day you circumcise the child.  That is when the coagulating agent in our blood comes and really peaks.  How wonderful God is in his wisdom, in the 8th day they bring Jesus [Yeshua, Joshua] to be circumcised.  And it says it was then they named him Jesus.  Because with the Hebrew rabbis it is believed that it was when God gave the commandment of circumcision to Abram, that he changed his name from Abram to Abraham.  So they  believed with the circumcision that the significance of the name is given.  God says “No longer is your name Abram, but Abraham, because I’ve made you a father of many nations.”  And he gave him the commandment, Genesis 17:11 then, to be circumcised.  So when they bring Jesus, now officially, his name is given to him.  But it was the same name that they had heard of the angel.  “And when the days of her purification”---Leviticus 12, forty days from the birth---“according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)---now he’s the first-born, remember in our study in Exodus, he has to be redeemed now, by a sacrifice.  “Every male that openeth the womb”, because every one was a prophecy of this one, “shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two pigeons” (verses 21-24).  The law said for those that were poor, and could not afford to offer a lamb, that they were allowed to offer turtledoves or pigeons.  So that tells us about Joseph and Mary.  Now this is before the Wise Men come [the Magi, Parthians, remember?] and give to them gold, and frankincense and myrrh.  The gold will come, but at this point, it tells us their condition.  Joseph is a young carpenter, business is just getting started.  This child is born here, and when they go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem on the 40th day to present him, instead of offering a lamb for his redemption, they offer two turtledoves because they are poor.  God, all the way along, it says in Hebrews, that he in every way is touched with our infirmities.  There isn’t a kid that’s ever lived that doesn’t get the bike he wants for Christmas that Jesus can’t relate to.  There isn’t a little girl who cries because she doesn’t get the life-size Barbie, it’s 100 bucks, that Jesus can’t relate to.  His parents offered the two turtledoves.

 

Simeon at Jesus’ Dedication

 

They offered two turtledoves.  “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon;”---which means “hearing”, that’s interesting---“and the same man was just and devout,”---now here’s the Spirit’s estimation of this man’s life.  He is just, that speaks of his relationship with his fellow man, devout speaks of his relationship with God, no doubt a man whose heart is close to the two tables of the Law, the first table dealing with our relationship with God, the second table dealing with our relationship with our fellow man, that’s how he’s described by the Holy Spirit, and I think this is the reason why---“waiting for the consolation of Israel:  and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”---So he had a witness in his heart that the Messiah was coming, the “consolation of Israel is coming.”  John tells us that any man that has this hope purifies himself, even as he is pure.  One of the great things for you and I about the teaching of the 2nd Coming of Christ, and that is an imminent return, that it could happen at any time, and that the Church has always believed that.  There is nothing right now this evening that could hold the Lord from coming for his Church, to take us out of here.  If you say you’re a post-Tribulationist, you are putting seven years, at least, between now and when the Lord can come...[Comment: Now that is a Rapturist, Dispensational belief.  The other major Pre-Millennial side of the Body of Christ, the Historic or Classic Pre-Millennial side, believe certain prophetic circumstances have to be in place and have to have been accomplished before that event will occur.  See  http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/definitions.htm for an explanation of all these interpretations. For a very recent and interesting interpretation the combines all the Scriptures emphasized by those adhering to both sides of this doctrinal fence, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/Pentecost-Revetion1.htm.]  No, John says, any man that has the hope of the blessed coming purifies himself, even as he is pure.  Paul, writing the first letter to one of the earliest churches in Thessalonica, only there for three weeks, writes to them about the antichrist and the coming of the Lord, and the catching away of the church.  And because this man, like John’s description, having the hope of the coming of the Lord, it says of his life, he was a man that was “just and devout.” His relationship with his fellow human beings was godly and god-like.  And his relationship with the Lord was a relationship of devotion.  And it says it was because the Spirit of God was ministering to his heart, and he was looking for the consolation of Israel.  “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (verses 25-26)---the Messiah, that consolation.  “And he came by the Spirit into the temple:  and when the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;”---now this is a strange day, Mary’s still thinking about the angel and the shepherds.  Now she comes on the 40th day into the temple.  Some strange old guy just runs over and grabs her baby out of her arms, and then lifts him up in the air and starts to prophesy.  What an interesting experience.  “Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:  for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (verses 28-32).  First time Mary and Joseph are hearing this.  Now no doubt Mary, again, related this to Luke.  Because only in Luke do we have this prophecy of Simeon in the temple courts.  And how interesting this is, taking now baby Jesus. 

 

“Let your servant depart in peace”

 

Take note here in verses 29 and 30, “Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for my eyes have seen they salvation…”  You cannot depart in peace until you have seen the salvation of God.  He’s saying, ‘Lord, now I can leave this world in peace, because my eyes have beheld thy salvation, according to your Word.’  Good question always to ask yourself, if you knew you had to die this evening on the way home from church, could you go in peace?  Could you depart this world in peace?  If not, your eyes need to behold the salvation of God, the eyes of your heart, your understanding, according to his Word. [Only other reason to not go in peace, legitimate reason, is if you want to live to help somebody, say your kids or family, grow in the Lord.]  It is the only way any of us can depart this world in peace, is when we behold the salvation of the Lord.  And those of you who, you know I have been in this circumstance many times, attending the death of a believer, over the years [it goes with the territory of being a genuine pastor].  And how many times, you know, it comes to the point where the family finally is willing to let go.  God is so gracious.  Sometimes people even think, well, ‘They finally left because I told them they could go.’  No, they didn’t leave, you’re not in charge of that.  You’re in charge of life and death?  No, no, no, no.  They finally left because God was gracious enough to hold onto them long enough until the believing family finally says I’d rather see them go than stay here and suffer.  You know, I’d hoped that they’d stay alive, but I can’t stand to watch this anymore.  And there is a point in time when the family says, ‘I’d rather let go of them for now, and I’ll see them in the reunion,’ when all of those things have been kind of measured out in our hearts.  And the family does say, ‘You know, I had the privilege of saying ‘You can go.  Don’t worry about us, we’re coming.  We’ll be there.  Look for us, visit one of the gates.  You’ll know your way around.  You go.’  And how many times we’ve seen someone in peace, zip! go.  How many times I’ve been with someone who says, ‘I want to die the right way, I want to be a testimony the way I die.’  I remember Dot Schulz gathering a whole room full of young women in her home as she was dying, and teaching them by Bible studies on how to die the right way as a Christian woman, as she was dying, teaching them, ‘When it is your time to go, this is how you should do it’, knowing that her time had come.  Then she decided at her funeral, she arranged everything, ‘I don’t want to give out, you know, 23rd Psalm cards, I’m going to give a New Testament to everyone.  So she ordered, I forget, a hundred and fifty New Testaments that she didn’t have the money for.  And the day that she got called that the New Testaments were in, an insurance check came to her house for the same amount of money as the New Testaments.  Then she ordered little stickers to put inside of them that said “Welcome to my home-going.  I’m excited.  I hope you know Jesus Christ, I hope you have peace” in the front of every Bible.  And then instead of using the things in the funeral procession that said “Funeral”, those little flags they stick on your car, she got her own made, pulled all of his off, you know she didn’t do it, she had somebody do it, [laughter], she had somebody pull all those off and put her flags on that said “Going Home!”  And so here’s 75, 100 cars going down the street with little flags “Going Home!”  [Comment:  That is like the old New Orleans funeral processions, with jazz bands playing in the procession, playing, in a festive, happy procession.  Same attitude.  For the various beliefs about heaven and hell found within the Body of Christ, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm]  Can you go that way?  I remember being a teenager, with somebody holding a gun at me, I was not ready to go.  It felt bad.  Not that I think it would feel good now, but I know where I’m going.  I was not ready.  And because of God’s mercy I wasn’t shot then. 

 

Simeon’s Prophecy About Jesus

 

“Now lettest thy servant depart in peace…for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles,”---the nations of the world---“and the glory of thy people Israel.  And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.”---standing there just amazed---“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for sign [a testimony, witness] which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (verses 34-35).  This starts to be some of the hardness of some of the things that will happen that she hasn’t heard.  And how later she stood at the cross and heard Jesus say to John “Behold, thy mother, and woman, behold thy son.” 

 

Next, Anna the Prophetess shows up

 

Now as all this is going on, here comes another one.  “And there was one Anna, a prophetess,”---now that’s interesting, because we know from Malachi to John the Baptist God had been silent.  Now this woman is identified as a prophetess---“the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher:  she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years,”  So it seems to be indicating if she was married at the typical age between 14 to 16, then from her virginity, that was her wedding day, she lived with this man for seven years, it can take her up to 23 or so.  And then 84 years since her husband has died she’s been a widow.  So she’s around 106, 110, interesting old gal.  That’s why it says “she was of great age.”  She had lived with a husband seven years from her wedding day, and she was a widow of about 84 years, “which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (verses 36-37).  And I don’t think it would take much of a fast to send you out of here when you’re 106.  “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (verse 38).  Isn’t it funny how all this happens?---“and coming in that instant.”  She happens to walk in while Simeon’s got the baby, and he’s talking about him.  She began to give thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake, that’s in the present perfect tense, she continually spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  So now there’s a 106-year-old lady whose a prophetess, going around continually forever how many days we don’t know, telling everybody “The Messiah was here, I saw him, Simeon lifted him up and blessed him, the redemption of Israel is here…”

 

Probable Chronology of Events

 

It says “And when they performed all those things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth” (verse 39). Now as we follow the chronology, by the way, it seems that after the 40th day the holy family returns to Nazareth and gathers their things, and then goes back to Bethlehem, because they had read in God’s Word and knew by now what was going on, and this child was to be born in Bethlehem.  So it seems that they relocated to Bethlehem because it’s a year or so later when the Wise Men come and find them there in Bethlehem.  Then being warned in a dream, because Herod’s going to come and slaughter the children, then the family goes, with the timely gift of gold, to Egypt, and are there for several years until Herod dies.  And it’s then they return to come back to Bethlehem.  The angel says Herod’s son is ruling in his stead, no don’t come here, go to Nazareth.  And then finally he ends up growing up in Nazareth, being called a Nazarene [which considering Nazareth’s reputation as a loose and immoral town, couldn’t have been much of a compliment].  But it’s interesting that God would send them down to Egypt.  And it says that the angel spoke to Joseph, he was head of the house, ‘You go down to Egypt,’ and I can imagine Mary saying ‘Are you sure?  Does this look like the same angel that talked to us before?  Are you sure it wasn’t an imposter angel?  The Word says Don’t go down to Egypt, you’re forbidden, you’re a carpenter, there’s all stonemasons down there, how are we going to make a living, he’s Jewish, we can’t raise him in an Egyptian school [good point, that’s why Jesus couldn’t stay there long], we’re going to have to home-school him down there, and what are we going to do?...’  You can imagine.

 

‘We’ve Lost Jesus, the Messiah!

 

Now, oh man, you know I hate not to start this and I hate to start this.  Imagine how Joseph and Mary feel.  I want you to read ahead and get ready for this section, because they lose the Messiah for three days.  [read verses 40-52.]  They’re coming back from Jerusalem, [this was 12 years later] and they would travel in companies, the women would go on first.  The husbands, talking about important things, would lag behind.  So they thought.  “And supposing him to be amongst the company, that’s the kind of kid he was, he’s around 12 years old, and because he’s sitting in one of the four rooms in the Temple courts speaking with the doctors of the Law, we know that he is already a Bar Mitzvah, a son of the Torah, of the Law, they are supposing him to be with a family of friends.  Because he was that the kind of kid.  He wasn’t out shooting people’s windows with slingshots, he was the kind of kid they expected to be where he always was, where he should be.  And the conversation is not given to us here, but I know the conversation, because I’m married and have kids.  Joseph comes up, and Mary sees him, and says, ‘Where’s Joshua?’  That’s what mothers say.  Husbands get this really dumb look on their face [laughter] and say, ‘What do you mean Where’s Joshua?  I thought you had him.’  That’s what I would say.  And the mother says, ‘What do you mean ‘I thought you had him?’  And the husband knows he’s in trouble. [laughter]  So panic ensues.  You know, here are these two people, they look through the whole company, they can’t find him.  It says they find him three days later.  Imagine this, they’re saying ‘Oye Vey, Gabriel came, told us we’re having the Messiah, born of a virgin, you know, Zachariah and Elisabeth, the shepherds and the multitude of heavenly hosts, and Simeon and Anna---and we lost God’s Son!  We lost him!’  You know, if Gabriel had appeared in their bedroom they would have dropped dead, you see the angel appear “What’d you do with him?”  [laughter]  “Where is he?”  Just imagine.  You know, I had regular kids, and when you lose one of them you’re in panic, we were at the Mall, and in one of these stores.  I was accompanying my wife, she was in one of these stores, and where they have wracks of clothes on these round things and they push them close together so they can get lots of stuff in the store, and the kids loved to run around those things and under them.  And all the time you’re going ‘Get out of there!  Don’t do that!  Get out of there!’  Well, my wife said to me, ‘Where’s Joanna?’  From the script here…And I said, ‘What do you mean where’s Joanna?  I thought you had her.’  And then it started, and then we’re running around looking under all those things.  She’s gone.  And I felt bad.  Just a normal kid I lost.  [laughter]  Just panic, you know the way the world is today, ‘Somebody stole her…’ and we’re running, and we get out in the Mall and we look both ways, and I say ‘You go that way and I’ll go this way’ and you’re running, and you’re heart’s going bum-bum-bum-bum-bum.  And then I find her, she’s three years old, she’s talking to a policeman, “My mother and father are lost.”  [loud laughter]  And I’m saying to the policeman, that’s ok, I’ll take her.  Your thinking ‘Oh when I get you home.’  Just imagine if I had lost her for three days.  I’d have aged fifty years.  Joseph and Mary have lost the Messiah.  You have to think about that.  Now, you know, it’s an encouragement to me as a Christian, because sometimes I lose track of Jesus, of his spiritual presence.  And I don’t feel so bad, because they lost track of his physical presence, which would seem to be harder.  But I know sometimes I’m so busy, even going to the feasts, even going back and forth to church, even doing spiritual things.  And in the middle of it all, how I can lose track of Jesus.  You know, he never leaves or forsakes us, he’s right there.  But I just get so used to the routine sometimes, because I’m always used to Jesus being where he should be, because that’s the kind of kid he is, just like Joseph and Mary, and you always think he’s going to be where he always is, that sometimes we take him for granted in our routine, and we turn around all of a sudden just to check, instead of being devoted and being with him all the time, we find that we’ve lost track of him.  Well, Joseph and Mary are an encouragement to me.  I only lose track of his spiritual presence once in a while.  Then I’ve got to get on my knees and say ‘O Lord, O Lord, O Lord…’  He’s there.  Never leaves us or forsakes us.  My challenge to you this evening, those of you that don’t know him, is that you can know him, you can know his spiritual presence.  The Bible tells us that henceforth we don’t know him after the flesh.  That was 2,000 years ago, he came in human flesh, the incarnation.  And he came and was born in the lowest way possible so that every human could approach him.  And when he ascended, the Bible says, he gave forth the Holy Spirit so that every human being now can have a relationship with him.  If he’d have stayed here in his physical form, we would all have to take pilgrimages to Jerusalem when we could afford it, to see him physically.  But what he’s done, the Bible tells us, is when he ascended to the throne of God, he shed forth his Holy Spirit, so that in the heart of every believer, we can have a relationship with him.  And I think we struggle, so it’s just not tangible, sometimes we just wish we could throw our arms around him and hear his voice audibly.  But you all know as believers how wonderful it is, just to have that witness of the Spirit, just to sit and read his Word and to have something jump off the page, and say ‘Lord, you’re here speaking to me.’  Or turn on the radio in the car, and the guy on the radio is saying the same thing you were just talking to your wife about when you left the house, and how he confirms his presence when he speaks to us.  For those of you here who don’t know that, look, going to church your entire life, putting offering envelopes in the offering, lighting incense or candles, none of that is a relationship.  That’s all the religious things that we can do.  With my children at home, I don’t want my wife just to give them pictures of their dad, ‘He was a  great guy, laid his life down for you, he worked like a dog, just worked, took care of you kids, loved you kids, here’s a picture of him, here’s some things he wrote, here’s some things he thought.’  That’s not what I want.  I want to get on the floor and drive them out of their minds, I want to be with them, I want to wrestle with them, I want to look in their faces.  I want to count their freckles.  I want a relationship.  And that’s why Christ came, not to leave us a religious system, but to leave us life.  If you don’t know him here this evening, and you have grown weary of the Church, I understand that.  But don’t let any of that, any offense that a Christian may have caused in your mind, don’t let any of those things put you off from the one we’re talking about.  Don’t let the fact that in your heart there’s all kinds of things wrong put you off.  Don’t think that you have sinned so greatly that he doesn’t want anything to do with you.  Saul of Tarsus was slaughtering the Church, killing Christians, breaking up Christian families, and making Christian men and women at the point of the sword blaspheme the name of Jesus.  And the Lord came to him, and saved him, and made him an apostle of grace.  There isn’t anything that you have done this evening that should keep you away from Jesus.  The way you come to him is simply this.  You realize as the Bible says, that we’re all the same, we’ve all sinned.  Everybody in this room.  And we’ve come short of the glory of God.  No matter how we measure against each other as human beings, if we put it against the backdrop of the glory of God, we’ve all come short of that.  All have sinned.  That’s what the Bible says.  And that nobody comes to Jesus by being religious, by their own works, but by faith.  That if you’ll come, the Bible says, and you’ll accept him as your Lord and Saviour, that he will forgive your sins and give you eternal life.  And the way you do that, is you have to be willing to turn away from your old life [of sin].  The Bible uses the word “repent.”  It means to make a u-turn, metanoeo, to have a change of mind, to realize ‘All my life I’ve been heading away from Christ, I’ve been getting myself in more and more trouble, I’m more aware of the emptiness in my life than I’ve ever been.  Lord, if all of this is true this evening, I’m willing to turn my life towards you.  And turn away from all of that, if you’ll forgive me and be my Saviour.’  And we want to give you an opportunity to do that…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Luke 2:1-39, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19116]   

 

Related link:

 

To learn about asking and accepting Christ into your life, see:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/baptism/What%20is%20Baptism.htm      and

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm  and scroll to the very end, to the bolded paragraph title “How to Become a Christian” and read from there to the end of the file.  This describes how most Sunday-observers ask and accept Jesus Christ into their lives and receive God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.  God has honored both methods, he will not be placed in one of our doctrinal boxes.      

 

Prophecies of Jesus 1st Coming:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm

 

Real season of Christ’s birth:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/festiavloflights2.htm

 

What was the early Church like?  See:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm 

 

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