Discovering Bethlehem

Day 20

Good morning, Theophilus.

Today we begin Dr. Luke’s Gospel. Luke was a physician and historian and a traveling companion of Paul. Luke was also a gentile, and as such, the only Biblical author who was not Jewish. In his travels with Paul, Luke had the opportunity to meet and interview the eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus. This gospel is the chronological narrative he put together from these interviews. It is addressed to Theophilus. Theophilus means “friend of God” and I assume this was Luke’s way of personally addressing his gospel to all those who count themselves a friend of God.

As a physician, Luke was very interested in human beings and concerned with alleviating human suffering. Luke’s Gospel more than any other emphasizes the humanity of Jesus and also highlights the aspects of Jesus’ preaching ministry that called for social justice. Because Luke is so interested in the humanity of Jesus, he gives far more attention to His birth than Matthew, Mark and John.

Here are some of my thoughts as I read Luke 1 and 2 this morning:

It’s interesting how the coming of Christ involves a mixture of the supernatural and simple people. Angels, prophecy and other supernatural elements play a big role in preparing for the birth of Christ. But we also see God profoundly at work in the lives of very ordinary, simple people.

An older childless couple who had lived a simple, quiet, righteous life and probably assumed nothing terribly special would ever happen in their lives. They were mistaken. They became the parents to the greatest prophet ever.

The shepherds. What was their life like? Rustic and rural, a pastoral life lived in the fields and under the stars. They were chosen by God to be the first recipients of the Gospel and privileged to see the Good Shepherd on the night of His birth.

An old prophet and prophetess in Jerusalem who, no doubt, lived very simple lives, yet had penetrating prophetic insight and spoke amazing words over the baby Jesus.

Who did God choose to be the “step-father” of His Son? Not a priest or a prophet; not a king, but a carpenter. This simple honest tradesman would be the man whom the only begotten Son of God would first call His abba.

And what about the mystery of Mary? She stands alone. She is completely unique in human history. All along God’s plan required a very special woman. The proto-prophecy was that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. A woman would give birth to the Son of God. But who? A girl of about fifteen named after Moses’ sister, Miriam (Mary). Mary came from the royal line of David, but for several generations her family line had been living in a very humble state. It is certainly accurate to say that Jesus was born to a poor peasant girl. As Mary said in her prophetic song

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me.

Even the place of Jesus’ birth was simple. Not Jerusalem or Rome, but Bethlehem.

But you Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be ruler in Israel.

(Micah 5:2)

In the world’s way of thinking great things happen to “great” people in “important” places. But this is not God’s way of thinking. No matter who you are or where you come from, if you will walk humbly with God, you can expect God to great things for you.