A Bible Lesson on Luke 10:25-37

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the parable of the good Samaritan, a parable preserved for us only in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

The NIV begins “on one occasion.” The ESV says “and behold.”  There is no context given here.

A lawyer stood up. This is an expert in the law, one learned in the Law of Moses, an official interpreter of the Law of Moses. His duties were to study, interpret, expound and teach the Law in the schools and synagogues, to decide questions of the Law, to act as a judge in matters of the Law.

The body language here tells us something about what’s going on here. This guy is an aggressor, he has also drawn attention to himself and thus stands to lose face if the exchange goes badly. We’re at a news conference, with a question asker not really asking a question to learn something so much as to trap the speaker and establish his own importance and agenda.

“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It appears that this matter was a big topic of academic debate at this time. See the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30. It is, after all is said and done, one of the few central issues of life. The man’s manner and intentions weren’t worthy, but the question is an essential one. How does one present oneself to a holy God? Note the phrasing of the question. What to “do” to “inherit”? The lawyer’s thinking is mixed, but with some understanding of the truth. There is “doing,” but probably not in the way the lawyer is thinking. It’s not cause and effect. It’s not a matter of works by which we’re made right with God. Rather, as he goes on to imply, eternal life can only be given by God as an inheritance.

26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Jesus, in good Jewish Rabbi fashion, answers a question with a question. The ball is back in the lawyer’s court. Jesus seems to be saying that the lawyer has asked a question whose answer is clear from the Law if this guy knows his stuff. Note that Jesus refers the man specifically to the Scriptures. Not to any other supposed authority. Not to his own reason. Not to the opinions of rabbi so and so. Not to latest book on Oprah’s reading list. Not to the testimony of some crazy movie star. But to the Scriptures. They are the first and last word on the matter.

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

The lawyer replies with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. This is the correct and orthodox answer. The Deuteronomy verse was recited every Sabbath in synagogue. Jesus Himself used the combination of verses in reply to the question of which of the commandments is most important when quizzed by a teacher of the Law (Mark 12:28-34). The guy has it right, in theory. One should love God with all one is, and in turn love people. The word translated “neighbor” is more than one who lives nearby. There is in it the thought of community or fellowship. Note the order. The second is a corollary of reality in the first. Love God truly and you will love people truly.

28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Jesus says that the issue is following through on what is clear from Scripture.

John 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

This is not a new form of salvation by works. This is a statement that if we truly love God in the sense of really relying upon, trusting in, cleaving to Him, then we will truly love others and there will be real eternal life. Real everlasting life, real life that God’s life. This statement is that relationship to God is life itself. The lawyer is asking for a set of rules to follow to assure heaven. Jesus is saying that there is no such set. There is real relationship to God, that necessarily brings with it love for people.

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

What is meant by “to justify himself”? There are two possibilities. 1) He’s now on the defensive, having asked a question with a simple answer or 2) he is lashing back at the implication that he has not been “doing.”

With this question he’s really saying “Listen! It’s not as elementary as you make it sound. What do the commands mean? I’m looking for a precise interpretation here!” The lawyer has in theory made the right answer to the big question, but is now attempting to limit the scope of its implications. It’s interesting that the lawyer blows past first part of the correct answer to the “How do I present myself to God?” question and wants to debate its corollary. He doesn’t argue about “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” but rather about the implications thereof. In our time and place, all kinds of people want to say that they “believe in God” without any evidence that they love Him in any way that distinguishes their lives from those who profess no love for Him. But love for God is never some abstract thing without implications in behavior. Jesus tells the parable in response to the lawyer’s attempt to limit the applicability of the “love your neighbor as yourself” and make love for God an academic matter.

30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.

Jerusalem to Jericho is about 17 miles and a drop of elevation of around 3000 feet. This was rough terrain, infested with thieves. According to some commentators, at the time there were about 750 priests per week and 420 Levites per week making their way to Jerusalem to take their turns serving at the temple. Apparently Jericho was a favorite place for such people to live.

A man was going. The presumption would be that he is a Jew. The robbers stripped him and beat him. The guy has injuries, is probably in shock and is exposed to the elements. He’s half dead, and looks the part.

31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

A priest was going. Why did Jesus use a priest as an example? Why not a civil official or a merchant? Because without question this guy knew and presumably subscribed to the Scriptures that the lawyer had just quoted.

It’s worth contemplating what good and what not so good reasons the priest might have for not stopping. It’s worth doing because those are probably like our reasons for not helping those in need. He’s busy. The guy may look dead, and if he is dead, touching him would make the priest unclean. And if he’s headed for Jerusalem that would be awkward for his temple service. Stopping might make the priest late. And perhaps in stopping, he might expose himself to attack by the thieves. In our lives it is mostly a matter of inconvenience and being afraid that helping will use up resources that we think we need for our own families and selves. I’ve only got this little amount of resources, and if I use it on you, there will be nothing for me and mine. We think as if they we ours to begin with and as if the God we serve has only so much Himself.

32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

A Levite came. These were assistants to the priests, doing things ranging from singing to acting as janitors in the temple. This fellow also passed by on the other side, apparently after looking him over more closely than did the priest.

33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

But a Samaritan came. This is on ne of the half-breeds that had been settled in the territory of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians. They mixed their own pagan religions with the worship of God in a way that the Jews despised.

2 Kings 17:41 So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.

This Samaritan “had compassion.” Why use such a person as an illustration of compassion? First, there is no family/nationality reason for him to stop. In fact, he’s the last person that might be expected to stop. If the lawyer was hoping for some limits on the meaning of “neighbor,” this choice destroys those hopes. If a Samaritan is a neighbor, there are no limits. Second, there is a good chance that the Samaritan would not have been expected to know the orthodox answer that the lawyer had given to the big question. The point is not the “knowing” of the answer in some abstract intellectual sense, but the DOING of it.

The word pity/compassion is a deep feeling of sympathy. This is a wonder. The story teaches that true brotherly love and compassion are rare things. And here they are found in one who isn’t even a countryman. Ryle said, “We have in this striking description an exact picture of what is continually going on in the world. Selfishness is the leading characteristic of the great majority of mankind. That cheap charity that costs nothing more than a trifling subscription or contribution, is common enough. But that self-sacrificing kindness of heart, that cares not what trouble is entailed, so long that good can be done, is rarely met with …” And it is this kind of self-sacrifice that is the character of our God. He, in Christ Jesus, voluntarily took on our misery and real guilt, and at infinite expense to Himself dealt with our sin.

34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Where was this guy going to get bandages? By tearing up some of his own stuff! Olive oil and wine were the common medical practice of the day. The alcohol in the wine made a disinfectant. Note that the Samaritan didn’t simply take the guy to the inn and figure that he had done his part. He stayed and nursed him.

35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

He took out two denarii. The NIV has “two silver coins.” It’s not completely clear how much this is. One source I read said 2 days’ wages, another said enough to keep him for up to 2 months, another said both. At any rate, the Samaritan took something significant out-of-pocket. BESIDES, he essentially gave the innkeeper a blank check! The Samaritan not only felt for the man, but substantially put himself out for him.

36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Consider how Jesus is now using the word “neighbor” in comparison to the way the lawyer is trying to use it. The lawyer wants it to be a static matter of limiting responsibility, a definition applied to separate up others into groups. Jesus makes it a matter of doing. AND HE APPLIES IT TO THE DOER, NOT THE DOEE!

37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The lawyer couldn’t bring himself to even say “Samaritan.”

Again Jesus brings it back to a matter of action. The real question is not “Who is (passive) my neighbor” but rather “Am I acting as a neighbor?”

Jesus is not teaching in this parable that all that is required for right standing with God is self-sacrifice. That would make salvation a matter of works rather than grace, and potentially qualify rebels who really at the core hate God. He’s rather insisting that genuine love for God will be seen attitudes and actions. Attempts to make limits on how far the implications of love for God extend have to be seen for what they are, denials of His character, things that make a mockery of His great mercy toward us.

It’s one thing for us to hear this parable. It’s another to act on it. How do we avoid finding ourselves to be in the place of the Priest or Levite, concerned about only ourselves and perhaps our families? It is a matter of premeditated cold-blooded decision to depend upon Christ and not look the other way. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Our LORD spoke this parable and meant it to be taken seriously, not simply to be agreed to in some abstract sense. The work the good Samaritan did, is the work of all those truly rightly related to God in Christ.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Luke 11:1-13

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This passage includes the shorter version of the model prayer, a parable about persistence in prayer, and two short sayings concerning God’s side of prayer. We begin with the model prayer. Note at the outset, that while it has relevance as a private prayer, the pronouns are all plural. It is fundamentally a corporate prayer.

Luke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

“Father” is the Aramaic word “Abba.” This is the address of a child to his or her dad.

“Hallowed be your name.” May God’s name, which represents His person, be honored and accepted in the world of men. May He be given the reverence that is due Him. Ryle said, “We declare our hearty desire that God’s character, and attributes, and perfections may be known, and honored, and glorified by all His intelligent creatures.”

“Your kingdom come.” This is a prayer for God to act, to hasten the coming of the Day of the Lord, to swiftly bring about His rule of peace and righteousness. Ryle again said, “In so saying, we declare our desire that the usurped power of Satan may speedily be cast down,–that all mankind may acknowledge God as their lawful King, and that the kingdoms of this world may become in fact, as they are in promise, the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.”

3 Give us each day our daily bread,

It is in the context of God’s name being honored and His purposes being accomplished that we are instructed to present our needs. The “give us” is “keep giving us.” The petition is “daily.” The implication is that this petition is to be made again and again. We are to look to God constantly. This serves to remind us of our complete dependence upon God for everything, our dependence upon Him for life, breath, all.

We are to ask for “our daily bread,” the provision of our daily needs, that which is needed to sustain life.

4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

There are those who don’t like this one, that think that somehow we get beyond sin in this mortal life. But that view doesn’t square either with experience or with this Scripture. We are instructed to confess our sins. Ryle said, “In so saying, we confess that we are fallen, guilty, and corrupt creatures, and in many things offend daily. We make no excuse for ourselves. We plead nothing in our own behalf. We simply ask for the free, full, and gracious mercy of our Father in Jesus Christ.”

We are to be forgiving because we have been forgiven by a Holy God, and our expectation of forgiveness is contingent upon our forgiving others.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Daily forgiveness is necessary for open communication with God.

“lead us not into temptation”  God tempts no one. This is a petition for deliverance/strength in the face of temptation. Again, Ryle wrote, “… we entreat Him who orders all things in heaven and earth, and without whom nothing can happen so to order the course of our lives, that we may not be tempted above what we can bear. We confess our weakness and readiness to fall. We entreat our Father to preserve us from trials, or else make a way for us to escape. We ask that our feet may be kept, and that we may not bring discredit on our profession and misery on our souls.”

Jesus now, having provided a model, gives instruction on persistence in prayer. Leon Morris calls the parable “humorous”/a bit of irony to get us to see how praying just a little bit and quitting is silly.

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,

Which of you? We are drawn into this parable and made participants. A “friend” is meant to be a genuine friend. But even if it wasn’t, the notion of hospitality of the day made the entire community responsible for the well-being of a visitor/traveler.

The time is midnight. Presumably we are to understand that the visitor has just arrived, traveling by evening/night to avoid the noonday sun. This is not a capricious thing that the guy has partied until midnight and is now avoiding a trip to QT.

6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

The situation of the man with the guest is that he stands to be embarrassed by failing to be a proper host. He turns to this friend for help, for the saving of his reputation. He asks for 3 small loaves/rolls, enough for one person.

7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?

This is not a completely bogus reply. The listener should be picturing a one-room house with kids scattered around on the floor to be stepped on, no convenient lighting, with a door bolted shut with a heavy timber. It will involve considerable inconvenience to help the friend. The man in the house is not being especially selfish, and, to his credit will eventually come through. But notice the Scriptural contrast between the friend and God, in basic ability and readiness to help. There is no wrong or inconvenient time with God.

Psalm 121:3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

An alternate translation of “impudence” is “persistence.” The idea is one of unblushing persistence, literally barefaced shamelessness. The man is coming confident of his relationship to his friend, knowing his friend, and sure that eventually he will help even if it is a pain in the neck. It is the kind of reverent boldness that brought Abraham to intercede for Sodom. It is the kind of persistence in Psalm 55:16-17

Psalm 55:16 But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.

17 Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.

Wilcock said, (this story) ” … teaches us to pray persistently, not because God will not answer otherwise, but as if he would not. In other words, it is about the practice of prayer, or our part in it. It does not illustrate God’s side of the matter. The basis of prayer, or God’s part in it, is the subject of the sayings about a father who naturally will not give his son a serpent or a scorpion if the boy has asked for a fish or an egg. At the receiving end of our importunate prayer is a Father who does not need to be importuned, but is only too eager to give the best of answers.”

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

“ask, seek, knock” The tense is apparently one that means to keep on continually asking, seeking and knocking. Again, this is a teaching about persistence in prayer. What is to be learned through such persistence?? What is the virtue in it? It draws us to our Father. It is a purifying thing. We often become aware of selfish/wrong aspects of our praying that ought to be eliminated. It prompts us to work out matters of obedience that stand in the way of quick answers. James says that perseverance produces maturity and completeness in the faith.

We know that verse 10 is not a blank check. Where are the qualifiers? The model prayer is just before this, giving the proper context, but the qualifiers largely aren’t here in this passage. They are not the point of this parable. The point is to encourage us to come and come persistently to our Father.

Now follow two short sayings about the One to whom we speak.

11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;

Some translations include a phrase about a loaf of bread and a stone. Apparently the oldest manuscripts don’t have this, although it does appear in Matthew 7:9. A stone may look like a small loaf of bread, but it is of no value.

What is the fish and snake? A snake might look like a Galilean-style skinny fish to an unsuspecting small child. But instead of being helpful it could be extremely harmful.

12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

What is the egg and scorpion? This is the same message as in verse 11. A scorpion resembles a small egg when it rolls up into its shell. Its appearance might fool a naive child.

So what do these verses have to do with the boldness/persistence? We can be confident in our praying that even if we are stupid and wrong in our asking, our heavenly Father will give us only that which is for our good. He is not in the business of passing out snakes even if we want them!

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The best gift is the promise of His own presence in and with us, His Holy Spirit.

Hendriksen said, “The point is this: if even an earthly friend would certainly extend help, whatever his motive, then will not the heavenly Father, about whose motivation there can be no question, generously answer our petition?”

Morris commented, “People ought not to think of God as unwilling to give. He is always ready to give good gifts to His people. But it is important that they do their part by asking. Jesus does not say, and does not mean, that if we pray we will always get exactly what we ask for. After all, ‘No’ is just as definite an answer as ‘Yes’. He is saying that true prayer is never unheeded. It is always answered in the way God sees best.”

In sum, we have the invitation to be persistent in prayer, knowing that we are heard and that our Father will act on our behalf in accord with His purposes and for His glory.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Bible Lesson on Luke 2:1-20

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

We’ve all heard the Christmas story hundreds of times. But it is never old or tired. Instead it is always one of great joy and wonder. Let us again reflect with gratitude and thanksgiving on these verses.

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

Caesar Augustus was the first and greatest of the Caesars. His reign saw the Roman Empire expand to the entire Mediterranean world. It brought with it the famous Pax Romana (Roman Peace) and the flowering of the Roman arts and literature. By standards of the ancient world, Augustus was a benevolent and good ruler and these were decent times.

The censuses were made for both taxation and military conscription purposes. However, the Jews were exempt from Roman military service, so the purpose in Judea was only to gather taxes.

2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Quirinius seems to have been in charge in Syria (of which Judea was a province) twice, once about 10-7 BC and later after 6 AD, at which time he was officially governor. This is a reference to the earlier period, when he seems to have not had the title officially.

Note that Luke is naming times, places and people. This is eyes-open history, not some fairy story he’s telling. He intends for people to check his real facts about real events.

3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.

This detail of Scripture apparently was at one time challenged as implausible by critics (in spite of the incomparable reliability of the Scriptures). But it was corroborated in the 20th century by the recovery of papyri in Egypt from this period indicating that things were done this way in Egypt as well under Roman rule.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,

Nazareth is 80 miles, at least a 3 day journey, away from Bethlehem. Joseph, as a descendant of King David, went to be enrolled to the town of David. Joseph was no rebel. He was a descendant of the king, but went obediently to pay tax to the ruling authority. (Remember the question that Jesus got 30 years later about the morality of paying tax to Caesar.) And in Joseph’s submission to the God-ordained authority, God used the decree of the pagan emperor to bring about His purposes and the fulfillment of the prophecy through Micah that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

In Syria women of age 12 or more were also subject to a poll tax and required to register. It is likely that Mary needed to go to Bethlehem as well. Even if she hadn’t been absolutely required to go with Joseph, her condition is such that he wouldn’t leave her to fend for herself while he was gone.

Mary travels with Joseph, and the indication is that they were living as if married except for sexual relations. Luke says “betrothed” and we recall that the Jewish betrothal of the day was a serious, binding, matter. And Mary is with child by the direct intervention of God.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.

How long were they there? Had they just arrived? We’re not told and don’t know. We have our mental images of Mary just making it to town on the back of a donkey before going into labor. Maybe it was that way, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe they had been there for a week visiting relatives, but being the least prestigious ones, there was no room to stay in the crowded homes of the relatives. We don’t know.

What we do know is that at an inconvenient time, in inconvenient circumstances, the baby Jesus was born. The KJV says “the days were accomplished.” The fullness of time had come, not only for her pregnancy to be over, but for the Old Testament promise of Messiah to come to pass.

7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The picture is humble and most ordinary. There’s no comfortable place for the baby to be born. It’s not even obvious from this verse that they had the advantage of shelter for the birth. Many commentators see here a large circle of stalls with only 3 sides, open to a common courtyard with a central fire provided by the inn keeper for the poorer travelers. All that is absolutely certain is that the circumstances were most humble. The baby is wrapped up like any other poor child of the time and placed in the feeding trough of domestic animals.

Ryle points out that the fact that this took place at an inn guarantees that it is not something that could be dismissed in a few years’ time as a fairy story. This happens out in the open, all eyes open, with ample witnesses.

In 7 short verses, with remarkable economy, Luke has told us the story of the birth. But the birth, without what God has revealed and will reveal about the One who is born, would mean nothing to us. So Luke goes on to show us what the Father had to say about the event.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Tradition tells us that these flocks were the flocks kept for the temple sacrifices. These shepherds who watched the temple sacrifices were the ones chosen by God to be the first outside His family to see the newborn Lamb of God, the Savior of the World. They were the first to see the One who would grow up and be the final and complete sacrifice for our sins.

It is notable and fitting that these were ordinary and humble men, men that in fact, careful Jews looked down on for their rough ways and lack of careful adherence to the ceremonial law. It was to such common people that the announcement came. These were men that were busy doing what they had been given to do. They were at work.

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

An angel of the Lord appears. A messenger of God appears to them and the visible presence of God shines around them. These fellows are common folk, but they are not dull. They have sense enough to recognize their vulnerability in the presence of the messenger of God. Literally it is “they feared a great fear.” Think about this one. One second you are camped out on the hills on a dark night, and the next, it’s bright as day and there is a powerful being from God there, having business with you.

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.

The angel announces “good news of great joy.” The word translated “good news” is related to the one that gives us our word “evangelism.” The point is that indeed the proclamation that the angel brought is good news to a world under the curse of sin. It is news that will be for all the people. To the shepherds’ ears “all” probably means “the Jews.” But in fact, something much more glorious than that was meant. All is all!

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

A Savior is born. It is Jesus, literally “God saves” who has been born. He is Christ, the anointed one, Messiah. He is the Lord, God Himself in human flesh, the rightful King of the universe.

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Apparently a more literal rendering of this verse would be “And this will be ‘the’ sign for you.”  There were probably other babies in Bethlehem wrapped this way on this night. But there was only one in a manger. This might seem like a most unremarkable sign, but it marks the one of the 2 or 3 most remarkable and important events of all time. And this humble, quiet signpost is all that the shepherds were given or needed.

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

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

If Mary and Joseph had been at home, the local musicians and relatives would have gathered and greeted the announcement of the birth of a boy with music of joy and congratulation. Here near Bethlehem, there was instead the sound of angels praising God.

“and on earth peace/shalom/well-being among those with whom He is pleased.” This is not a “hold hands and sing kum-bah-ya” statement about world peace. It’s an announcement that there is eternal well-being and wholeness, peace with God now available.

Ryle said, “Now is come the time when God’s kindness and good will towards guilty man is to be fully made known. His power was seen in creation. His justice was seen in the flood. But His mercy remained to be fully revealed by the appearing and atonement of Jesus Christ.”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

The shepherds didn’t need to be coaxed into the trip into town. They recognized that there was nothing any more significant than the news that they had been given. They didn’t delay, they didn’t worry about who was going to see that the sheep didn’t wander off, or who would keep the wolf away. Instead they left those things in God’s hands, acted on the news, and found things just as God had promised. And in so doing, they were the first after Mary and Joseph to behold God’s Savior.

17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Think about this. This is a wild story that these men have to tell: Messiah, born to poor parents in humble circumstances in Bethlehem, announced first to rough shepherds. But there is no hint that these guys were either reluctant to share the story or that people were inclined to dismiss their testimony. It’s wild and wonderful indeed, but it’s just not the kind of thing one would be inclined to make up and then persist in broadcasting. The story just simply rings true, with a beauty unmatched by any other in all of history.

Indeed, all who heard it were amazed.

19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Consider the young woman Mary and all that must have raced around in her mind in these early years. What indeed was in store for her and Joseph and this baby? And there is continually in what we read about Mary this remarkable modesty. In this little phrase Luke convey to us the gentleness of a young woman to whom amazing things have been promised and who, rather than blabbing all over town, quietly ponders them privately.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Our proper response to all this is indeed to glorify and praise God. What else could they do? What else should we do?

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.