Luke 2
People's New Testament
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:1 The Birth of Jesus


The Decree of Augustus Caesar. The Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Babe in the Manger. The Shepherds and the Song of the Angels. The Circumcision of the Child. The Child in the Temple. The Prophecy of Simeon. The Prophecy of Anna. The Child at Nazareth. Jesus with the Doctors. My Father's Business.

Went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. Augustus Caesar, the nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, the first of the Roman emperors, was now the ruler of the civilized world. Though Judea was ruled by Herod as king, he was dependent upon and the servant of Augustus Caesar.

That all the world. The Roman empire which embraced all the world then known to civilization; all southern and western Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.

Should be taxed. A census was to be taken as a preliminary to a poll tax in the provinces.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:2 This taxing was first made, etc. This statement has caused some difficulty. Luke seems to affirm that the enrollment took place the year Jesus was born, but while Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Now Cyrenius was governor of Syria from A.D. 6 to A.D. 11 There are two ways of settling the apparent difficulty: (1) Augustus Caesar, incensed at Herod, ordered an enrollment for taxation of the Jews the year of the birth of Jesus. It was carried out in all probability by Cyrenius. The intercession of Herod's minister, Nicolas, averted the displeasure of Augustus and the taxation did not take place until Cyrenius was governor of Syria, after Archelaus, son of Herod, was deposed. These facts we learn from Josephus, and they remove the apparent discrepancy. But (2) A. W. Zumpt, of Berlin, followed by Alford and Schaff, make it highly probable that Cyrenius was governor of Syria twice, the first time from B.C. 4 to B.C. 1 I have not space for the argument which seems conclusive. But in B.C. 4 Jesus was born. Ancient writers, Christians as well as pagan opposers, state that Jesus was born while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:3 Every one into his own city. It was the Jewish custom to enroll by tribes and families. Joseph was of the family of David, and would have to be enrolled where the family had its landed inheritance.
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:)
2:4 Joseph also went up from Galilee. How long he had been living in Galilee is unknown.

Bethlehem. The city of David, and of David's family.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
2:5 To be taxed with Mary. Women had to be enrolled also and were subject to the poll tax. Mary was of the line of David, and hence would also have to go to Bethlehem.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:6 And so it was. Mary and Joseph, when journeying to Bethlehem, were probably ignorant of the fact that they were helping to fulfill the prophecy that pointed to Bethlehem as the birthplace of Christ.
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.
2:7 Her firstborn son. This implies that Mary was subsequently the mother of other children.

Swaddling clothes. A long, narrow cloth in which new-born children were closely wrapped.

In a manger. In the feeding trough of beasts of burden, probably attached to the inn, where there was no room for them among the crowds of strangers then in the city. When the Lord stooped from Divine glory to take upon him humanity, he stooped to its most lowly estate. An Oriental inn is thus described:

The khan is usually much on the model of the Eastern house, but of much larger extent. Four rows of apartments are so constructed as to enclose a large yard with a well in the center where the cattle may be kept. The outer wall is usually of brick upon a stone basement. The apartments are entered by the guests from travelers' apartments was often the row or the long room of stables, into which the floors of the apartments being a little extended, formed a platform upon which the camels could eat.''

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:8 There were... shepherds. The fields around Bethlehem have been for four thousand years the resort of shepherding. There David had cared for his flocks.

Keeping watch. To guard their flocks from robbers and wild beasts, and to keep them from straying.

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.
2:9 The angel of the Lord. An angel announces the conception of Jesus (Lu 1:28-37); a host of angels publish his birth (Lu 2:13,14); in his temptation an angel strengthens him (Mr 1:13); in his agony an angel comforts him (Lu 22:43); at his resurrection an angel rolls away the stone from the door of the sepulcher (Mt 28:2); at his ascension the angels attend him up to heaven (Ac 1:10); and at his second coming to judge the world he shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (2Th 1:7).
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:10 I bring you good tidings. The way to pardon and peace with God was about to be thrown open to all mankind.

To all people. The knowledge of God was no longer to be confined to the Jews, but to be offered to the whole Gentile world.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
2:11 City of David. A term applied to the village of Bethlehem as the birthplace of the greatest among Israel's kings; David's greater Son begins his earthly career in his ancestor's home. Seven hundred years before the prophet had predicted the Messiah's birth at Bethlehem (Mic 5:2).

Christ the Lord. The Anointed Lord, for which the nation was so eagerly longing.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:12 A sign to you. The sign was not itself a miraculous one, but the prediction of it was so. The babe, the swaddle, and the manger were the three tokens.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:13 A multitude of the heavenly host; i.e. angels, who are represented as a host surrounding the throne of God (1Ki 22:19 2Ch 18:18 Ps 103:21 Da 7:10 Mt 26:53 Re 19:14).

Praising God. Their praises are recorded in Lu 2:14.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:14 Glory to God. The life of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the earth was the working out and development of the song of the angels. It was Glory to God illustrated in his consecration and death. It was

peace in all the utterances of his lips; peace in his Gospel. It was

good will toward men; for every thought, word and act of that blessed life was the translation of God's infinite love into forms visible to the mortal eyes that saw him.

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.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
2:16 Came with haste. Mark the prompt obedience to the heavenly vision displayed by the shepherds. We see in them no doubts, or questionings, or hesitations.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:19 Mary kept all these things. A mother forgets none of those things which occur respecting her children.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
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.
2:21 When eight days were accomplished for circumcising of the child. See note on Lu 1:59. According to the law Jesus was circumcised the eight day. Born under the law of Moses, he kept it, in all things blameless, until the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14). He was circumcised because it was then God's law, to be obeyed until it was set aside. His example does not warrant infant baptism, because he was afterwards baptized when a man, but does show that the law of God is to be observed, whatever it may be. There is no ground for the assertion that baptism came in the place of circumcision. Note, (1) circumcised Jews were also baptized; (2) only males were circumcised, while both sexes are baptized; (3) there is no scriptural ground for the statement that one rite takes the place of another.

His name was called JESUS. The name was given on the eighth day, according to Jewish custom, which the angel had commanded (Lu 1:31).

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;
2:22 The days of her purification. See Le 12:4-6. These days were a period of thirty-three days after the circumcision of a male child. He was then to be presented in the temple by the parents.
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
2:23 Every male... shall be called holy to the Lord. That is, devoted to the Lord. See Ex 13:12. All the first-born were to be presented to the Lord and redeemed by an offering (Nu 18:15).
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.
2:24 To offer a sacrifice. The law required a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or turtle-dove for a sin offering, but in the case of the poor one of these birds might be substituted for the lamb, and the priest shall made atonement for her and she shall be clean (Le 12:6-8). The fact that Joseph and Mary brought a pair of birds instead of a lamb shows that they were very poor. The gifts of the wise men were after this.
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
2:25 Simeon. The first prophet to declare that Christ had come.

Waiting for the consolation of Israel. The promised Messiah.

The Holy Ghost was upon him. To give him supernatural knowledge. It was revealed to him that he should see Christ.

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
2:27 Came by the Spirit into the temple. Directed by and filled with the Spirit.

After the custom of the law. Offered the required sacrifices. The law was strictly observed, because Jesus was born under the law (Ga 4:4).

Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
2:28 And said. The utterances of Elizabeth, Mary and Simeon are consecutive. Each begins where the other ends. Mary sings her own born Messiah, Zacharias celebrates the triumph of Israel, and Simeon announces the hopes of the Gentiles. But, besides this holding forth the Messiah as a Savior for Gentile as well as Jew, what is remarkable is that he announces in Jesus a suffering Messiah as well as a glorious (Whedon).
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles. Scholars have said that in the work of opening the gates of Christianity to the Gentiles, Stephen was the forerunner of Paul. Might it not be said that Simeon was the forerunner of Stephen, and the Gentile Luke the historian of both? Yet the true doctrine on the subject is explicitly and repeatedly declared not only here, but in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Compare Isa 9:2 40:01:00 49:6.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
2:33 Marvelled. That Simeon should know the child.
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
2:34 Set for the fall and rising again of many. Christ brought downfall to the hopes of those who expected a temporal prince and a political millennium, and ruin to those whose desire for the kingdom of God was ambition for place and power in it, as the Pharisees. He brought rising to those who were willing that God should overthrow their plans and ambitions, and who accepted from him the grander gift of a universal kingdom, prepared for all people. The rejection of him brought ruin to the Jews; the acceptance of him brought life eternal.
(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
2:35 A sword shall pierce through thy own soul. He announces that the blessed mother should also be a sorrowing mother. Though she was exulted in the thought that her son should sit on the throne of David, she learns now that the calumny will make him its sign, and a sword shall pierce her soul.

That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Christ brings to light by bringing into activity the thoughts of the heart. The result of preaching Christ is always to awaken opposition or love and obedience.

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
2:36 One Anna, a prophetess. An aged saint who spoke by inspiration.

Daughter of Phanuel. Evidently a man well known in that day.

Of the tribe of Asher. One of the twelve tribes occupying the strip of seacoast from Sidon to Carmel.

And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
2:37 A widow for fourscore and four years. She had passed seven years with a husband when young and then remained a widow until, at this time, she was eighty-four years old, devoting herself to a religious life.

Departed not from the temple. Probably assigned, on account of her saintly character, a chamber in the temple.

And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Luke 2:38 Spake of him. Of the Babe, she speaking by inspiration, and declaring that he was the promised child.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
2:39 They returned into Galilee. Luke omits the stirring events that lie between the visit to the temple and the return to Nazareth, possibly because they are so fully given by Matthew. See Mt 2:1-23.

Their own city Nazareth. The old home of Joseph and Mary, now to be the home of Jesus until he was thirty years of age; a mountain village in southern Galilee.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
2:40 The child grew. He was a child, and a child that grew in heart, in intellect, in size, in grace, in favor with God. Not a man in child's years.

Filled with wisdom. The body advances in stature and the soul in wisdom. The divine nature revealed its own wisdom in proportion to the measure of the bodily growth (Cyril). In the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16), one of the inscrutable things that was that the Divine man should become a babe, not only in body, but in mind and wisdom.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
2:41 Went to Jerusalem. The law of Moses required that the adult males of the Jewish nation should appear before the Lord, at the place of his altar, three times every year--at the great festivals, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Though females were not required to attend, they often did from religious devotion.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
2:42 When he was twelve years old. At the age of twelve a boy was called by the Jews son of the law, and first incurred legal obligation. Henceforth it would be his personal duty to keep the law.
And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
2:43 Fulfilled the days. The seven of the passover week.

Jesus tarried behind. Luke neither tells us that Jesus remained behind at Jerusalem intentionally, nor that Joseph and Mary lost sight of him through want of necessary care. A circumstance must here have been omitted, and we may safely suppose that Joseph and Mary joined their fellow-travelers in the persuasion that Jesus, who knew of the time and place of departure, was among the younger ones.

But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
2:44 In the company. The caravans, in which the passover companies went, for the purpose of protection against beasts and robbers, must have each been large, composed of many parties, clans and kindreds. Jesus might easily, therefore, have not been missed until the end of the first day.
And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
2:46 In the temple. Probably in one of the porches of the court of the women, where the schools of the rabbis were held, and the law regularly expounded.

In the midst of the teachers. The learned rabbis. Some of the greatest doctors of Jewish history lived about this period--Hillel, Rabbi Simeon and Gamaliel.

Asking them questions. It was the custom in Jewish rabbinical schools for scholars to ask questions.

And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
2:49 How is it that ye sought me? Did ye not know that I must be in my Father's house? That is, in the temple, where they did find him. They ought to have come there at once. These words are the first in which he reveals his consciousness of his supernatural birth.
And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
2:50 Understood not. Did not comprehend all he meant in speaking of his Father's house.
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
2:51 He went down with them. If his heart drew him to the temple, the voice of duty called him back to Galilee, for the law required obedience to parents.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
2:52 Jesus increased. Jesus grew up among a people seldom and only contemptuously named by the ancient classics, and subjected at the time to the yoke of a foreign oppressor in a remote and conquered province of the Roman empire; in the darkest district of Palestine; in a little country town of proverbial insignificance; in poverty and manual labor; in the obscurity of a carpenter's shop; far away from universities, academies, libraries, and literary or polished society; without any help, as far as we know, except the parental care, the daily wonders of nature, the Old Testament Scriptures, the weekly Sabbath service of the synagogue at Nazareth (Lu 4:16), the annual festivities in the temple of Jerusalem (Lu 2:42), and the secret intercourse of his soul with God, his heavenly Father (Schaff).
The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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