For the full text of Luke 2, click here.
As mentioned in the first chapter of Luke, his telling of the story of Jesus starts earlier than the first two gospels. The second chapter continues with information that we didn’t have. First there was the story of John the Baptist’s foretelling and birth, then the visit to Mary by Gabriel vice the visit to John in Matthew, now the census. This is the first mention of the census that brought Joseph to Bethlehem in the first place. It had seemed odd for years to hear the Christmas story and that Mary was so far along while they were looking for a place to stay. Why weren’t they home?
The census counted everyone according to their lineage and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be counted as one of the descendants of David. It’s this lineage that is a part of the prophecy, so the census happening puts him in the exact place that was previously prophesied in Matthew to be where the Messiah or Great Shepherd is to be born of the house of David. The mention of the inn is kinda glossed over, but there:
As a city kid, I had no idea what a manger was. I heard it over and over again at Christmas but did not realize that a manger was basically a water trough. I don’t know how it is that I knew what a trough was but not that manger was it’s synonym. It had also boggled my mind for years why there would be no place for them. What kind of tourist crap were they up to? That’s what happens when you grow up in a tourist town and don’t go to church but hear the Christmas story on television every year. Anyway, it wasn’t until later in life when I did start going to church and studying some of this that I even heard about the whole census thing. Everyone was cramming into different towns to be counted where they were supposed to be. Mary and Joseph probably showed up super late because they would be moving much slower every day with a woman so far into pregnancy, eventually settling for where the horses all slept rather than sleeping outside.
From there, we get to angels visiting the shepherds in adjacent fields and such. They told the shepherds about what had happened and they all went to find the baby and see Him. They also went around talking about it afterward. Then it goes on to see that Jesus was circumcised on the eigth day and given His name. There are so many details not mentioned. Did they stay in the manger eight days? Probably not, but who knows.
Once the unclean period after birth is over, and the circumcision, it’s time for the sacrifices. Those were back in Leviticus 12. Because the family was hard up, the sacrifice would be two pigeons instead of a lamb and a pigeon. One for the atonement of the mother to make her clean again and one for a sin offering. I remember a sermon once talking about Joseph here and what his thoughts may have been. This is God’s child, not his. What do you suppose the chances are that he isn’t looking up, wondering if God could help him out just a little bit on these requirements for His son? There’s no mention of the pigeon’s coming to him miraculously though, so they were probably purchased in the normal way.
Joseph goes to do this at the temple itself in Jerusalem where there’s another prophecy, this one not mentioned elsewhere. There’s a man there, Simeon, who has been promised by the Holy Spirit somehow that he will see the Messiah before he dies but there isn’t any mention of how old he is or how long he had been waiting. He blesses God and then has a message to Mary before the scene switches over to the prophetess Anna.
Anna is an older woman, it even mentions her age, 84, which is unusual. She is in the temple, as it says she always is, “fasting and praying night and day” and recognizes Jesus as God right away and tells everyone. Well not everyone, “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem”. It’s an interesting distinction. She doesn’t tell everyone, just the people who expected this, who thought it would happen, maybe who would take in the information best…. it’s not further expounded upon, but an interesting distinction nonetheless.
They went back to Galilee after that but still came to Jerusalem every year, for “the Feast of the Passover”. The last story in this chapter is one I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. They come to visit Jerusalem when Jesus is a little older, in what seems a whole group of family in a manner much like Americans on Thanksgiving, and then they leave, assuming He’s with them. It’s a whole day before they realize He isn’t, and when they find Him, twelve year old Jesus is in the temple talking to people and asking them questions and learning. They’re surprised to find Him there, and He’s surprised they didn’t know where He was, even saying:
But He goes with them and it mentions that He is “submissive to them” after that. It’s like He knows who He is but also that it isn’t time yet, which makes sense but is also kind of funny here. It’s such a kid thing to do and say, I think. But there is more mention of growth in wisdom and favor with God as well as His mother treasuring Him twice in this chapter. That’s one of my favorite things that is so overlooked in the other two books, how much His mother loved Him and treasured Him. She’s practically a footnote in the other books, barely mentioned. Luke takes into account that Mary knew who He was, how special He was going to be but also loved Him as her son, in a normally maternal way too. I don’t know, I could be reading into it, but that’s how I feel about it.
I also noticed that this gospel doesn’t mention the wise men, nor that they freaked out Herod, nor the murder of all the children two and under. So far it feels like Matthew is the story of Jesus within the story of Israel, Mark is the story of Jesus among the story Israel, and Luke is the historical account of Jesus. We’ll see how it progresses.
For downloadable study guides on the Book of Matthew, click here.
Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App. ESV.org also has some great material for a small subscription.