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Week 1: Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2; John 1:1-18

Sunday (Luke 1:1-25)

Explanatory Preface

1:1 Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 1:2 like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. 1:3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 1:4 so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.

Birth Announcement of John the Baptist

1:5 During the reign of Herod king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, and he had a wife named Elizabeth, who was a descendant of Aaron. 1:6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. 1:7 But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both very old.

1:8 Now while Zechariah was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 1:9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the holy place of the Lord and burn incense. 1:10 Now the whole crowd of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering. 1:11 An angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to him. 1:12 And Zechariah, visibly shaken when he saw the angel, was seized with fear. 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. 1:14 Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth, 1:15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 1:16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 1:17 And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”

1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is old as well.” 1:19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 1:20 And now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place.”

1:21 Now the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they began to wonder why he was delayed in the holy place. 1:22 When he came out, he was not able to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the holy place, because he was making signs to them and remained unable to speak. 1:23 When his time of service was over, he went to his home.

1:24 After some time his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she kept herself in seclusion. She said, 1:25 “This is what the Lord has done for me at the time when he has been gracious to me, to take away my disgrace among people.”

Prayer

Lord, as Your Word transitions from the Law-based practices and traditions of the Old Testament, may I be sensitive to Your emphasis on the way that the Gospels introduce Your new covenant built on Your sovereign gift of Grace through Jesus the Christ.

Scripture In Perspective

Luke tells the reader that he is following the pattern others used in reporting the events that were recorded “by those who were eyewitnesses” (Luke 1:2), which he was not. Luke acknowledges that he has undertaken to compile an “orderly account” (vs. 3) to edify and to reinforce for Theophilus what he has been taught absent as complete a document as Luke has now compiled for him [and us].

The priest Zechariah, serving his turn in the temple where only a few are permitted, enters fearfully to burn incense to God on behalf of the people. Luke tells of the angelic messenger Gabriel, “who stands in the presence of God,” (1:19), bringing to Zechariah news of the upcoming miracle-birth of John (the Baptist or Baptizer) by his elderly wife. Gabriel is one of the rarely-named angels in the Bible. Zechariah, as a result of doubting the angelic proclamation even while in the presence of an angel, is struck mute until the prophesy is fulfilled.

Zechariah is without excuse for his doubts, because as a high priest he knows of God’s prophesies delivered via angels in the Old Testament and of God’s expectation that His heavenly emissaries be treated with the respect due them.

Faith In Action

Consider

Zechariah, although knowing well the fulfilled past prophesies of God, doubted Him based upon the unreliable evidence of what his mind’s eye saw with his worldly [non-spiritual] eyes [experience]: he and Elizabeth were elderly, much like Abraham and his wife Sarai, and past child-bearing years.

God tells us what we need to know, when we need to know it. He gave us His Word and, as we are waiting on Him, speaks to our hearts and minds. God’s written Word, illuminated by His Holy Spirit, is His primary means of communicating to His children today.

Reflect

Do we, like Zechariah, also doubt God’s promises and then wonder why His blessings do not flow more freely in and through us into the lives of others?

When have you known clearly what God expected of you, yet doubted His provision or His wisdom? How has that made you temporarily “mute” in your witness for Him?

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the perfection of God.

Act

I will prayerfully discern where my doubts about God have resulted in harm to my witness for Him, so that like Zechariah I am “mute.” Partnering with the Holy Spirit, I will repent (turn away) from my doubts and make an intentional effort to follow and trust God.

Be Specific ________________________________________________

Monday (Luke 1:26-80)

Birth Announcement of Jesus the Messiah

1:26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 1:27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 1:28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” 1:29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. 1:30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! 1:31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 1:32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 1:33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” 1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” 1:35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.

1:36 “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age: although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 1:38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Mary and Elizabeth

1:39 In those days Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah, 1:40 and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 1:42 She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb! 1:43 And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? 1:44 For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 1:45 And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Mary’s Hymn of Praise

1:46 And Mary said,

“My soul exalts the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior,

1:48 because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant.

For from now on all generations will call me blessed,

1:49 because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;

1:50 from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.

1:51 He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.

1:52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,

1:55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

1:56 So Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.

The Birth of John

1:57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. 1:58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

1:59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. 1:60 But his mother replied, “No! He must be named John.” 1:61 They said to her, “But none of your relatives bears this name.” 1:62 So they made signs to the baby’s father, inquiring what he wanted to name his son. 1:63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed. 1:64 Immediately Zechariah’s mouth was opened and his tongue released, and he spoke, blessing God. 1:65 All their neighbors were filled with fear, and throughout the entire hill country of Judea all these things were talked about. 1:66 All who heard these things kept them in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the Lord’s hand was indeed with him.

Zechariah’s Praise and Prediction

1:67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

1:68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

because he has come to help and has redeemed his people.

1:69 For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,

1:70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago,

1:71 that we should be saved from our enemies,

and from the hand of all who hate us.

1:72 He has done this to show mercy to our ancestors,

and to remember his holy covenant:

1:73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham.

This oath grants

1:74 that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,

may serve him without fear,

1:75 in holiness and righteousness before him for as long as we live.

1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.

For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

1:77 to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

1:78 Because of our God’s tender mercy

the dawn will break upon us from on high

1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

1:80 And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he was revealed to Israel.

Prayer

Lord, may my faith be as childlike and obedient as that of Mary.

Scripture In Perspective

The angel prophesies the virgin birth of Jesus to the young woman Mary, who is to receive the incredible blessing of being maternal host to He whose “kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:33). Luke records the angel Gabriel reassuring Mary that God sent him to tell her that “the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” causing her to conceive and give birth to a son Who will be called “the Son of God” (vs. 35).

Notable is Mary’s righteous response offered with the expected humility of every true child of God: “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord, let this happen to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary visits and greets Elizabeth, who becomes “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41), declares in a loud voice the miracle of God, and praises Him in the language common to her time and place. [Note: This is an interesting qualifier for the idea that speaking ‘filled with the Spirit’ is always in so-called tongues (a nonhuman ‘spiritual’ language).]

Together Mary and Joseph celebrate with the Holy Spirit the fulfillment of prophesy growing within them. Mary shares a hymn of praise, “My soul exalts the Lord” (Luke 1:46), and returns to her home.

Luke accounts the birth of a son to Elizabeth, the naming of him John, and the release of Zechariah from being temporarily deaf and mute. [The NET study note regarding Luke 1:62, “they made signs to the baby’s father,” informs “The fact that they needed to signal him (made signs) shows that he was deaf as well as unable to speak.”] Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied that the way to salvation is “through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77) Once again, the filling of the Spirit caused a Heaven-sent message to be uttered in a known versus “spiritual” tongue.

Luke concludes his account by noting the passage of time leading up to John’s public ministry in the wilderness, time during which John becomes increasingly “strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80). John draws nearer to God in relationship and bolder in the declaration of Truth, resulting in his having no regard for the approval or reproof of mere man.

Faith In Action

Consider

Do we respond to a challenging word from God with the faithful submission of Mary?

Do we celebrate with other Believers, and with the Holy Spirit, the miracles of God in us and in our lives?

Reflect

Do we understand what it means to become increasingly “strong in spirit” and what this means in our personal walk with Christ?

Have you been confronted with a challenge in your service to God, one which would likely place you at odds with others? What resulted?

Pray

Ask the Spirit to encourage you in your life of service to God.

Act

Today I will choose one area in my life where God has challenged me, yet was met with my resistance, and I will intentionally work towards having a more submissive heart.

I will celebrate with other Believers the blessings He has poured out on me, inviting the Holy Spirit of God to join us in celebration.

I will practice growing in the spirit and drawing nearer to Him, through daily prayer and intentional Bible study.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Tuesday (John 1:1-18)

The Prologue to the Gospel

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 1:2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 1:5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.

1:6 A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. 1:7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 1:9 The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. 1:11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 1:12 But to all who have received him: those who believe in his name: he has given the right to become God’s children 1:13: children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.

1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory - the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 1:15 John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’“ 1:16 For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.

Prayer

Lord, I am myself humbled to know that Jesus, Who was present at Creation, humbled Himself to be born of a fallen human, which bears powerful witness to Your incredible sacrificial love.

Scripture In Perspective

John inexorably links Jesus (Who is “the Word” and “fully God,” 1:1) to Creation by proclaiming that in the beginning all things came in to being by Him, “the life...the light of mankind” (vs. 4). Even though mankind in rebellion chooses darkness, this light continues to “shine on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered” (vs. 5) the light.

John introduces the man and the ministry of John the Baptist (or as some might have it, the Baptizer), a truly humble man who would “testify about the light” (John 1:7) and proclaim the coming of the Christ. He reminds that Christ is the “true light, who gives light to everyone” (vs. 9). Jesus, a part of the Trinity, created the Earth and everything in it, yet man failed to recognize and “receive Him” (vs. 11).

Redemptive salvation, the “right to become God’s children” (John 1:12), is the sovereign provision of God. John proclaims it to be a right irrespective of to whom one is related (born by human parents), what man wants or wills for himself (by human desire), or any mandate of ones spouse (a husband’s decision). Salvation is obtained purely by an individual’s choice to accept the Lordship of Christ, may not be coerced, and is provided for only by the sovereign grace of God.

John reminds that “the Word became flesh” and humbled Himself to live among us” a demonstration of His glory” and that He was an absolutely unique being, “the one and only [the only begotten]...who came from the Father” (John 1:14).

Faith In Action

Consider

The Apostle John dismisses any doubt that may remain (after a careful study of Genesis 1-4) of the participation of the Son, together with the other two Persons of the Trinity, in Creation.

Do we appreciate what He gave up for us? He was a flawless perfect Being, untouched by the ravages of the Fall, Who dwelled with the Father in Heaven before humbling Himself to be born a man.

Reflect

Do we observe that the light of God is always present no matter how dark things appear?

When and how have you celebrated and shared with another the Good News of the undeserved gift of salvation?

Pray

Ask the Spirit to show you light where you see only darkness.

Act

Today I choose to thank God that, no matter how dark things seem, His light is always there for me.

I will celebrate His undeserved gift of salvation and pray that He will trust me with an opportunity to tell somebody about the Good News.

Be Specific _________________________________________________

Wednesday (Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-21)

Matthew

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1:1 This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah (by Tamar), Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 1:4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz (by Rahab), Boaz the father of Obed (by Ruth), Obed the father of Jesse, 1:6 and Jesse the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon (by the wife of Uriah), 1:7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, 1:8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah, 1:9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 1:10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 1:11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

1:12 After the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 1:13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 1:14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, 1:15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ, fourteen generations.

The Birth of Jesus Christ

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 1:19 Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to divorce her privately. 1:20 When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 1:21 She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 1:22 This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 1:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” 1:24 When Joseph awoke from sleep he did what the angel of the Lord told him. He took his wife, 1:25 but did not have marital relations with her until she gave birth to a son, whom he named Jesus.

Luke

The Census and the Birth of Jesus

2:1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes. 2:2 This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 2:3 Everyone went to his own town to be registered. 2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David. 2:5 He went to be registered with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him, and who was expecting a child. 2:6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds’ Visit

2:8 Now there were shepherds nearby living out in the field, keeping guard over their flock at night. 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: 2:11 Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. 2:12 This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 2:13 Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

2:15 When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord has made known to us.” 2:16 So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger. 2:17 When they saw him, they related what they had been told about this child, 2:18 and all who heard it were astonished at what the shepherds said. 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. 2:20 So the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told.

2:21 At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Prayer

Lord, Your consistency in keeping every promise, showing me that You never change, is the reassurance I so desperately need in this fallen and unstable world.

Scripture In Perspective

Matthew documents the genealogy of the human Jesus, “all the generations from Abraham...to Christ” (1:17), evidence that God kept His promise to bless the world with a redeemer from the line of Abraham and David.

Luke recounts the demand of the Roman Empire that a census be taken “to register all the empire for taxes” (2:1). Joseph of the “house and family line of David” (vs. 4) travels from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where the Romans had assigned his family to be counted. Joseph is engaged (traditionally the same as marriage, minus the final step of approval for marital relations) to Mary, who is pregnant and gives birth to a son once they arrive in Bethlehem.

Matthew’s story of the pregnancy and birthing by Mary of the baby Jesus is recorded similar to Luke’s, although unique to Matthew is the text “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (Matthew 1:20) which purpose was to keep Joseph from divorcing Mary; just as an angel of the Lord was dispatched to stay Abraham’s hand from sacrificing Isaac (see Genesis 22).

Angels appear to shepherds and announce the birth of “your Savior” (Luke 2:11). Choosing to go to Bethlehem to see the child, the shepherds share the angelic message of the coming child with Mary and Joseph and everyone they meet. [Note: The shepherds were very likely a specialized group assigned to care for sacrificial lambs, unblemished lambs kept apart for sacrifice. They would have known where to find Jesus, nearby in the same place the sacrificial lambs were sheltered.]

After eight days Jesus is circumcised, and Mary and Joseph give Him the name of Jesus, “the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).

Faith In Action

Consider

God reminds us throughout His Word that He always keeps His word. Do we observe that our view of things is often obscured by worldly expectations rather than enlightened by God’s promises?

God used the census by the Roman Empire to fulfill one element of His prophesy and the shepherds of sacrificial lambs to deliver the angels’ message to the parents of the Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus.

Reflect

Do we acknowledge that we need to wait patiently on the Lord, like Joseph, before we act precipitously? It would have been difficult in that culture and time to be traveling with a pregnant fiancé.

When have “worldly eyes” led you to make a decision, similar to Joseph contemplating divorce, but God stepped in and opened your eyes to see His perspective?

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to recall to your memory places and times where you frequently act without first consulting Him, and agree with God to slow down and ask the Holy Spirit first before acting.

Act

Today I choose to recognize God’s faithfulness at a moment in my life, thank Him for His faithfulness, and then share that with one who needs encouragement.

Be Specific ________________________________________________

Thursday (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:22-40)

Matthew

The Visit of the Wise Men

2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem 2:2 saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. 2:4 After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 2:5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said, “for it is written this way by the prophet:

2:6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

2:7 Then Herod privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared. 2:8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and look carefully for the child. When you find him, inform me so that I can go and worship him as well.” 2:9 After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. 2:10 When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. 2:11 As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 2:12 After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back by another route to their own country.

Luke

Jesus’ Presentation at the Temple

2:22 Now when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 2:23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be set apart to the Lord”), 2:24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is specified in the law of the Lord, a pair of doves or two young pigeons.

The Prophecy of Simeon

2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 2:27 So Simeon, directed by the Spirit, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the law, 2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying,

2:29 “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.

2:30 For my eyes have seen your salvation

2:31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:

2:32 a light,

for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

2:33 So the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. 2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected. 2:35 Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed: and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!”

The Testimony of Anna

2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. 2:37 She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 2:38 At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

2:39 So when Joseph and Mary had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

Prayer

Lord, may I be sensitive to my obligations and Your promptings, as were the wise men, and present my life to You in tribute and worship.

Scripture In Perspective

Jesus is presented at the Temple for the purification ritual, “according to the law of Moses” (Luke 2:22), which required the first born male to be “set apart to the Lord” (see Exod. 13:2). In the Temple, the prophets Simeon and Anna both affirm the child Jesus’ deity and purpose as the Savior; they bless Mary and Joseph, rejoicing with them.

Upon completion by Mary and Joseph of the Old Testament purification ritual for a male child, they return to the town of Nazareth. “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).

“Wise men” (Matt. 2:1), acting on their awareness of prophesy related to the coming of a new and unique King Whose birth would be heralded by a bright star, come to Jerusalem to look for the child. They recognize their obligation to bring tribute and, in astonishment and with awe, “bowed down and worshiped Him” (vs. 11).

King Herod makes effort to trick the wise men into revealing the location of the baby Jesus, so that He might be eliminated as a threat to him: “Go and look carefully for the child. When you find him, inform me so that I can go and worship him as well” (Matt. 2:8). God warns the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod, for they would, inadvertently, be assisting him in his murderous plans.

Faith In Action

Consider

Do we see the hand of Satan in King Herod’s attempt to defeat God? Are we as in awe of God’s gift as were the wise men?

Reflect

Are we well-informed of the teachings of the Bible, so that when something happens that is prophesied by the Bible we, like the wise men, will recognize it?

When have you recognized God moving in your life, or in the life of your Christian community, and made a special effort to give Him tribute and worship?

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to make you more sensitive to God’s working in the world around you and also to the Enemy’s schemes to interfere with His work in you.

Act

Today I choose to recognize one area in my life where the Enemy manipulates me in an attempt to impede the plan of God, and to pray against that interference.

I will pause and recall in amazement and with gratitude what God has done for me and share that with another Believer.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Friday (Matthew 2:13-23)

The Escape to Egypt

2:13 After they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.” 2:14 Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. 2:15. He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became enraged. He sent men to kill all the children in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from the age of two and under, according to the time he had learned from the wise men. 2:17 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping and loud wailing,

Rachel weeping for her children,

and she did not want to be comforted, because they were gone.”

The Return to Nazareth

2:19 After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 2:20 saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 2:21 So he got up and took the child and his mother and returned to the land of Israel. 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the regions of Galilee. 2:23 He came to a town called Nazareth and lived there. Then what had been spoken by the prophets was fulfilled, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene.

Prayer

Lord, may I be alert to Your warning of how to avoid places of danger.

Scripture In Perspective

In a dream, an angel cautions Joseph to flee from Herod to Egypt and “stay there until I tell you” (Matt. 2:13). In the same way that God had called His ‘son’ the nation of Israel out of Egypt, He called His Son Jesus “out of Egypt” (vs. 15).

Matthew records the demonic rage of Herod when he discovers that he has been “tricked by the wise men” (2:16), who had not informed him of the whereabouts of the baby Jesus, and so has missed the opportunity to murder the baby Jesus. Herod, in a desperate last-ditch effort, has his soldiers kill every child in Bethlehem below the age of two. [Note: His reaction is eerily reminiscent of Pharaoh’s genocidal declaration, “All sons that are born you must throw in to the river” (Exod. 1:22) during his attempt to cripple the Israelite nation.] Although failing in his evil mission, Herod fulfills the prophesy of the Prophet Jeremiah, “Rachel weeping for her children...because her children are gone” (31:15).

Once Herod dies, God sends an angel to instruct Joseph to “take the child and his mother...to the land of Israel” (Matt. 2:20). Arriving in the region of Judea, he discovers that the equally evil son of Herod reigns. At the prompting of an angel, Joseph moves on to the region of Galilee, “to a town called Nazareth” (vs. 23), fulfilling the prophesy that Jesus would be known as a Nazarene.

Faith In Action

Consider

God calls us out of our places of hiding, our Egypt’s, and in to His light to be under His protection.

The Enemy is filled with insane hatred and rage for anyone and anything associated with Jesus and thus attempts to subvert or destroy all who are His and all He is doing.

Reflect

We must be alert to and avoid the “regions” controlled by the Enemy and his demons. In the light given to us by God, we must learn to recognize and avoid if possible those dark places.

When has God called you out of a place of safety, where you have been in hiding from the people and pressures that threaten you, to once again be ‘in the world but not of it’ (see John 17:15,16) to do His work?

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to press into you the wisdom to know when you are hiding from things that are truly dangerous vs. hiding from His chastisement and conviction for your sinful choices.

Act

Today I choose to discern a place where I have been hiding, maybe a place where I run from fellow humans or where I avoid serving Him. I will surrender these “secret places” to Him.

I will also discern a place where I know the Enemy is strong in my life e.g. on the Internet, in the company of a person or persons, at a specific location (bar, beach, club, home), during a form of entertainment (hobby, TV, sport) - and I will intentionally avoid that place.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Saturday (Luke 2:41-52)

Jesus in the Temple

2:41 Now Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year for the feast of the Passover. 2:42 When he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 2:43 But when the feast was over, as they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 2:44 but (because they assumed that he was in their group of travelers) they went a day’s journey. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 2:45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 2:47 And all who heard Jesus were astonished at his understanding and his answers. 2:48 When his parents saw him, they were overwhelmed. His mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 2:49 But he replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 2:50 Yet his parents did not understand the remark he made to them. 2:51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. But his mother kept all these things in her heart.

2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with people.

Prayer

Lord, may Your favor be on me as I am being prepared for ministry in Your name, as it was on Jesus as You prepared Him for ministry.

Scripture In Perspective

Luke records evidence that Jesus, at 12 years of age, makes His unique knowledge and understanding of God’s Word obvious to others. “‘Why were you looking for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) illustrates the failure of His parents to be adequately watchful and to fully understand Who Jesus truly is.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:52) does not denote that God’s favor is earned through works. Rather, it states that God blessed Him, and blesses us, in preparation for His ministry through us, more so when we desire for ourselves what He desires for us; wisdom and righteous living.

Faith In Action

Consider

Becoming strong is a repeated biblical theme for Christians. The Apostle Paul challenges us to be strong in caring for our physical bodies, the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19), and strong in training for spiritual warfare using “the full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11).

The age of 12 appears to be a developmental point of reference for the human capacity to fully engage the complex thinking necessary to volitionally comprehend and respond effectively to the call of God to a saving relationship with Him.

Reflect

Just as Jesus in the flesh, our prototype, was not asked of God to perform works in order to receive blessings for ministry, neither are we. He desires our obedience and our submission as evidence of our availability to serve for His glory and not our own.

When preparing for a specific ministry, perhaps a short-term mission trip or a service project, did you sense God blessing your preparation?

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of a place in your life where you need to be better prepared to serve Him.

Act

Today I choose, for the sake of my physical body, “the temple of the Holy Spirit of God,” to improve on something that I do or to begin something I don’t do. I will revisit the “full armor of God” teaching.

I will ask God to bring me in to the company of a young person (approximately age 12) and, with the permission of the parents, encourage that young person to consider Christ.

Be Specific _________________________________________________

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study –“The Parallel Gospels in Chronological Order” – Week 1 of 12 - prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in June of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.

Related Topics: Devotionals, Curriculum