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Luke Chapter 2:1-24

Memory verses for this week:  Psa 121:1  A Song of degrees. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Psa 121:2  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.


Introduction: We continue our study of the book of Luke as we cover the first half of Chapter 2.  In last weeks lesson, we studied about the birth of John the Baptist, and how that after Zacharias wrote down that the baby’s name was to be John, that his voice came back.   He then began to magnify the Lord and prophesied about what was to happen to the nation of Israel in regards to John and the birth of Jesus Christ.  The people feared due to the miracle surrounding these births and how that Zacharias had recovered his voice.  This week we begin with the record of Christ’s birth.   The detail that Luke gives makes it one of the better records of Jesus’ birth.


I.   The Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Luke 2:2  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Luke 2:3  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 

We are told in Galatians chapter 4 that ‘when the fullness of time was come that God sent forth His son.’ 

Gal 4:4  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

Gal 4:5  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 

The miraculous birth of our Saviour by this virgin is one of the foundation stones of our Christian faith.  We can never over emphasize the historic fact that Jesus was born of a virgin woman and came according to the scriptures.   The “Child born” was the “Son given” as recorded over in Isaiah Chapter 9. 

Isa 9:6  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isa 9:7  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.


Micah 5:2  But 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 of old, from everlasting. 

Even the very city where Christ was to be born was written down in scripture years before Mary was ever born.   One of the aspects that proves God’s Word is truly His Word is how all the things written over hundreds and hundreds of years by more than 40 authors by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is all in harmony.   If 3 men were told to write about what happened today, most likely the three reports would contradict one another.  But there are no errors in prophecy, and all things came to pass just as God had them to pen it down.   Just as there was a day for Christ to be born, believe me, there is a day coming when Jesus is coming again to take that throne of David mentioned there in Isaiah. 

God sometimes uses the kings of this world to accomplish His will, and this was the case in Augustus making this decree that all the world should be taxed.  He was a ruler of the ancient world and his throne was in Rome.  God put it in this emperor’s heart to tell everyone to go to his own city, the city where he was born in order to be taxed.  For Joseph, this was the city of David, Bethlehem.    This was God’s way of bringing them to Bethlehem on time for Christ to be born.  Verse 2 points out that the taxing was first made when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria.   The people were obedient to the decree and came to their home towns. 

Luke 2:4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Luke 2:5  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

Joseph and Mary made the long trek from Nazareth back to Bethlehem.   All travel back in those days was either by foot or by donkey or camel.  So you could not go long distances quickly as we can today.   It mentions that Joseph was from the lineage of David as his genealogy bears out.  Up until the time for Christ to be born, Mary had dwelled in the northern part of the land in the city of Nazareth.    It took several days for them to make this journey.   It is an interesting thought to whether Joseph or Mary either knew that the Lord was to be born in Bethlehem.   If they did, they did not seem to have made any preparation for it. 

Luke 2:6  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Luke 2:7  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. 

Here we have the record of Christ’s birth.  It was sad that there was no room for them in the inn.   But even sadder that after all these years and hundreds of fulfilled prophecies proving Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, many still have no room for Him in their heart.   There is one certainty in this life.  If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will not enter into heaven. 

Acts 4:10  Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Acts 4:11  This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Acts 4:12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.


John 10:7  Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

John 10:8  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

John 10:9  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

John 10:10  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.


II.  The Announcement to the Shepherds 

Luke 2:8  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:9  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.

Luke 2:10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 

We find that the angel came to the shepherds while the wise men were led by the star in the heavens.   This was no doubt a great privilege to be one of those that God allowed to hear about the Savior being born.  Most likely these men were religious men who knew the Word of God and knew that God had promised a Messiah. 

John 10:14  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 

While these were shepherds tending their flocks, Jesus came as the Good Shepherd and knows all of us who are his sheep.    It is not clear if the angel was Gabriel or not, but he was the angel chosen to make many of the announcements as he did when telling Mary that she was to be with child.  The announcement brought fear to these men because it had been 400 years since the last prophets had spoken from the Lord.   Until Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias, they had been in the period called the ‘silent years’.  The messenger tells them to ‘fear not’ in verse 11 as he had earlier in Chapter 1 verse 13 and 30.


J. Vernon McGee points out that most likely the date we use to remember the birth of Jesus is wrong.


Many people ask the question, “When was Jesus Christ born?” It could not have been in the dead of winter or the shepherds would not have been out at night with their sheep. But the date of His birth is irrelevant, just as the day upon which He was crucified is irrelevant. The Scripture does not say when He was born; the important thing is that He was born. The Scripture does not say when He was crucified; the important thing is that He died for our sins. 

It is wonderful to see a little baby come into the world, and your heart goes out to him; there is a sympathy that goes from you to him. That is the way God entered the world. He could have entered—as He will when He comes to earth the second time—in power and great glory. Instead, He came in the weakest way possible, as a baby.  

That is the way the Saviour came into the world. He did not lay aside His deity; He laid aside His glory. There should have been more than just a few shepherds and angels to welcome Him—all of creation should have been there. Instead of collecting taxes, that fellow Caesar should have been in Bethlehem to worship Him. Jesus Christ could have forced him to do that very thing, but He did not. He laid aside, not His deity, but His prerogatives of deity. He came a little baby thing.  [i]


Luke 2:12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Luke 2:14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

The angel tells them that there would be a sign given that they might know that it was Jesus Christ.   He would be a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes laying in a manger.  This was a great message to all people… “Good tidings of great joy.”

It says after the announcement, that a multitude of the heavenly host sang out “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  God was building a bridge between himself and fallen man.

Many today would give anything to have peace.  But they will never find it until the come to Jesus for salvation.  Jesus is the one who gives peace.


John 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 

John 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 


Luke 2:15  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.

Luke 2:16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

The shepherds waste no time.  The say “Let us now go..”  The bible speaks many times about the need for us to “go”.   While it doesn’t show up in a great way, these men had faith.   They didn’t say “Let us now go up and see IF this came to pass”… but rather they say “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing WHICH IS COME TO PASS.”  They believed God.   They were persuaded even before they saw Jesus.   This is how we can be pleasing to God.   We must believe He is who He says he is. 

Heb 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


Then what is Faith? 

Heb 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 Luke 2:17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Luke 2:18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:19  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 

It is interesting to note that the first evangelists about the birth of Jesus Christ were these shepherds.    God came down to the common man with the greatest gift of all.  It says their message caused men to wonder at the things they heard.  Verse 19 says Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  And after this, these shepherds return and they glorified the Lord and praised him for all the things they had heard and seen.


Matthew Henry made these comments about Mary and the shepherds.


The virgin Mary made them the matter of her private meditation. She said little, but kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart, v. 19. She laid the evidences together, and kept them in reserve, to be compared with the discoveries that should afterwards be made her. As she had silently left it to God to clear up her virtue, when that was suspected, so she silently leaves it to him to publish her honour, now when it was veiled; and it is satisfaction enough to find that, if no one else takes notice of the birth of her child, angels do. Note, The truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to ponder them. Meditation is the best help to memory. 2. The shepherds made them the matter of their more public praises. If others were not affected with those things, yet they themselves were (v. 20): They returned, glorifying and praising God, in concurrence with the holy angels. If others would not regard 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 babe in the manger, and just then in the swaddling, when they came in, as it had been spoken to them. They thanked God that they had seen Christ, though in the depth of his humiliation. As afterwards the cross of Christ, so now his manger, was to some foolishness and a stumbling-block, but others saw in it, and admired, and praised, the wisdom of God and the power of God.   [ii]


III.  The Circumcision of Jesus 

Luke 2:21  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. 

As we studied earlier in the study of John the Baptist, all Jewish males were to be circumcised on the eighth day according the ordinances.   It says that when they brought him to the temple, ‘his name was called Jesus.”  This was the name Mary had been instructed to name Christ at his birth by the angel.


Luke 2:22  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;

Luke 2:23  (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

Luke 2:24  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.


According to the law, after a child was born and a certain number of days had elapsed, a sacrifice was to be brought in recognition of the Lord’s goodness to the parents.   According to the law, that sacrifice could be a lamb, a kid of the goats, or if they were poor people, they could bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons.    When Mary and Joseph came, they could not bring the higher priced offerings, but brought either the two turtledoves or two young pigeons.   Jesus was born a humble man to poor humble parents.   Never doubt what God may do with those who will be used in His service.  Of this world’s goods we may not have much, but if we have Jesus, we are rich beyond belief from the spiritual standpoint.


Title:   Barnes Notes on the New Testament

Author:   Barnes, Albert


Doves distinguished for having a plaintive and tender voice. By Mary’s
making this offering she showed her poverty; and our Saviour, by coming in a
state of poverty, has shown that it is not dishonorable to be poor. No station is
dishonorable where “God” places us. He knows what is best for us, and he often
makes a state of poverty an occasion of the highest blessings. If “with” poverty
he grants us, as is often the case, peace, contentment, and religion, it is worth far
more than all the jewels of Golconda or the gold of Mexico. If it be asked why,
since the Saviour was pure from any moral defilement in his conception and
birth, it was necessary to offer such a sacrifice: why was it necessary that he
should be circumcised, since he had no sin, it may be answered:

1.   That it was proper to fulfill all righteousness, and to show obedience to the
law, Matt. 3:15.

2.   It was necessary for the future usefulness of Christ. Unless he had been
circumcised, he could not have been admitted to any synagogue or to the
temple. He would have had no access to the people, and COULD not have
been regarded as the Messiah.

Both he and Mary, therefore, yielded obedience to the laws of the land, and
thus set us an example that we should walk in their steps




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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[i]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ii]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.