As we begin into this project this year, Luke 2 might be the most familiar chapter already, because it formed the basis for our Gospel readings on Christmas Eve and for the two Sundays following Christmas. This week, though, read through the chapter in its entirety to get more of the flow and context. You may notice a couple of ways that this chapter reflects the main themes and style of Luke's Gospel account overall.
Firstly, notice the specifics: places, names, etc. As we said in the introduction, Luke has carefully researched this account, gathered eyewitness records, and created an orderly account. So he is sure to tell us that this isn't just some sort of philosophical idea, but that it's history; it happened at actual places with actual people involved.
Secondly, notice that there is movement towards (and away from) Jerusalem. Jesus is not born in Jerusalem, where we would expect a new king to be born, but in Bethlehem, just as the prophet Micah wrote (Micah 5:2). But a few weeks after He's born, his family goes up to Jerusalem, just a few kilometres away, for the Jewish rites of purification according to the Jewish ceremonial laws. They return to Nazareth, in the northern part of the country, where their home is. They return to Jerusalem annually, again in accordance with the Torah (the Jewish Law that we find in the first five books of the Old Testament), for the Passover Feast.
Though Luke wasn't necessarily written primarily with a Jewish audience, like Matthew was, there is no doubt of the heritage of Jesus in Luke's account. Luke—like all the Gospel writers—is intentional about showing that Jesus is in fact Jewish, which is a critical piece of the overall message that Jesus is in fact the Messiah: the Anointed One of God that was promised in the Old Testament. But, also like in the other Gospel accounts, Luke stresses that Jesus brings salvation to everyone, not just the people of Israel.
We again see action at the temple in Jerusalem, just like we did in Luke 1 with Zechariah the priest. This time, it's the boy Jesus conversing with the religious scholars in the temple. Though we don't see the whole picture now, this is also a piece of the fulfillment that the Lord will come to His temple.
A few things to note about some specific words and phrases:
- 1:7 There was no room at the "inn" (ESV). This was not a hotel, like we would immediately picture today. Another way to translate it would be "guest room". It's actually the same Greek word used as in Luke 22:11 when Jesus' disciples look for the "guest room" for the Passover meal at that point. (An interesting connection there too!)
- 1:24 The fact that their offering was two turtledoves or pigeons leads us to know that Mary and Joseph were not wealthy. Leviticus 12:8 says that these are what are offered if someone cannot afford a lamb.
- 1:32 The word Gentiles is a very general word, sometimes also translated "nations" or "peoples". Gentile doesn't describe a specific ethnicity like Jewish does. It's a word used to describe everyone who isn't Jewish. The same word is used in other places such as Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commissions the church to make disciples of all "nations" (ESV).
- 1:49 Jesus says, "I must be in my Father's house", another example of the theme of necessity in Luke's Gospel account. Jesus, the Son of God, can't help but be about His Father's business, and part of that is in His Father's house.