If you would like to follow along, I'm simple reading a chapter of Luke a day. See my other posts about Luke here. Read Luke 2 here.
God's sovereignty in the detailsI stole this from John Piper's A Big God for Little People. He explains it better than I do. But it's amazing that God's hand was at work in a census. To me, a census is something boring and bureaucratic. However, God used it to fulfil the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. It makes me wonder what boring, bureaucratic or insignificant parts of my life actually have God's hand in them. I doubt they'll seem so boring or insignificant if I only knew. It just gave me a sense of awe at God's sovereignty and how marvellous his ways actually are.
I love the shepherds in this story. People often make a point of how low the shepherd's social status was, so how amazing it was that they were the first ones to know. This is definitely something to remember. But what struck me the most was their reaction. In nativity plays, they often slowly plod to Bethlehem (they're often made to look old as well), and they silently bow before Jesus. They're very quiet and seem a bit unfazed by the whole thing. It's almost as if they're only going because there's nothing good on the telly. However, the Bible paints a picture of excitement and activity. The shepherds all say, "Let's go!" and the Bible (at least the version I'm reading it in) says, "they hurried off". They really want to see what's going on.
It's what happened next that really amused me. They all go to Bethlehem. They find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. So what do they do now? They leave. Verses 17 and 18 tell us "they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed by what the shepherds said to them." They were so excited and amazed by everything they couldn't keep it to themselves. What an amazing reaction! You may be thinking that they may have just been telling all the folk that happened to be passing by or hanging around. But verse 20 says, "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God..." So, they see some angels. Run to Bethlehem. Find a baby. Run around telling every about this baby ("There were angels! There's a baby!") and then run back, praising God. I got exhausted just typing it. They definitely weren't the slow, bored, zombie-like shepherds we often think about.
I'm not sure I've ever seemed this excited about anything, let alone Jesus. This is a real shame on my part.
Mary and Joseph's obedience
They simply did everything that had to do. They went to the temple at the right times, they gave the right offering and they did the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I think that's pretty cool.
The Holy Spirit
I was amazed about how often he was mentioned in Luke 1. But he's still hanging around. This time it's connected to Simeon, an old guy who lived in Jerusalem. It was said that he was filled by the Spirit, he'd previously had a revelation from the Spirit and, when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple, Simeon was moved by the Spirit to go to the temple also. Although it's not explicit, it was probably the Spirit that allowed Simeon to recognise Jesus and also to prophecy to Mary. I love that Simeon's prophecy includes the fact that Jesus was to be salvation for all nations and be the light for the Gentiles.
I'm also struck by what Simeon says to Mary. He tells her about the strife Jesus would encounter and that a sword will pierce her heart. Mary must have been so confused and heart-broken. One moment, Simeon was declaring how wonderful this child will be but then talking about the pain that will come.
How awesome was Anna. She was a really old widow, who dedicated her life to worshipping, fasting and praying. I love that she was called a prophet as well, again, hinting at the role of the Holy Spirit at the time and also showing how God uses women of all ages and stages. She is a part of the cast that includes a young virginal Mary, a barren but married Elizabeth. I think Anna is pretty awesome.
Mary's reflective responses
We're told about Mary's reaction to the events in Luke 2. She "treasured these all these things in her heart", she "pondered these things in her heart" and she "marvelled". First, it shows that Mary had thoughts and feelings. She wasn't brain dead, and not the two-dimensional character she's sometimes portrayed as. She realised that things had significance and she thought about things. She didn't always understand what was happening, as in verse 50, but she wasn't completely passive either. She also considered things deeply; I don't thing the double mention of "in her heart" was an accident. Also, the idea that she was treasuring things that happened is lovely. I often forget to treasure memories and encounters with God. I don't think it is a passive thing, otherwise my memory would be a lot better than it is now. I think she actively thought and remembered these things.
- What strikes you about Luke 2?
- Who is your favourite in the cast of characters in Luke 1 and 2 and why?
- What have you seen with fresh eyes from reading Luke 2?