Luke 2:1-20 The Babe of Bethlehem
In addition to our focus on the newborn Savior, think about Joseph and Mary, very young and somewhat alone:
Verses 1-5 Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome, and he called for an “enrollment” or census of everyone living within his empire, for purposes of taxation. People were required to travel to their “own city” of ancestry (verse 3), and in the case of Joseph and Mary, this was Bethlehem—about 70 miles travel from Nazareth, requiring uncomfortable four to five days travel for Mary, who was “great with child” (verse 5).
Verses 6-7 Mary had only Joseph, and perhaps a female relative or midwife, to attend to her in childbirth. Baby Jesus was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. It is unknown what kind of structure they shared with the animals, but it may have been a natural rock cave or a constructed stable. What we know is that they had to settle for humble, humiliating conditions because “there was no room for them in the inn” (verse 7; the JST changes it to “inns,” meaning they were turned away multiple times).
Verses 8-20 Some have taught that the shepherds were caring for the temple sheep, to be used in sacrifices; this being a type of the Savior as our sacrificial Lamb. The shepherds were likely righteous, devout men. As with Zacharias and Mary, the angel allayed the shepherds’ fear, then declared “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (verse 10).
The angel instructed the shepherds to visit the newborn Christ, then came “a multitude of the heavenly host” who were “saying, Glory to God … and on earth peace, good will” (verses 13-14); it does not say they were singing, but it would not be inappropriate to consider this a song or hymn of praise. All this abundantly convinced the shepherds to go “with haste” (verse 16). How has Jesus given you “peace [and] good will”?
The shepherds “made known abroad” the angel’s and the heavenly host’s messages, likely sharing with other righteous men and women who were in eager anticipation of the Messiah (verses 17-18; but of course, wicked king Herod also learns of the birth of the King of the Jews). As for Mary, she simply “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (verse 19).
May we always find and worship Him, and share the glorious tidings that we have “heard and seen” (verse 20).
Luke 2:21-39 Simeon and Anna in the Temple
Verses 21-24 After eight days, Jesus was circumcised, in obedience to Leviticus 12:3 (we do not know if the circumcision took place in the temple). As instructed to Joseph by the angel (Matthew 1:21), the Babe was given the name Jesus. This name in the everyday language of His family—likely Aramaic—was Yeshua, which is the same in Hebrew.
Forty days after His birth, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple, having waited until Mary’s “purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished” (verse 22). Here, Jesus was “presented” before the Lord, as called for in the case of all first-born males (see Exodus 13:2; Leviticus 12:2, 4). On this sacred occasion, the law of Moses called for the parents to bring a lamb as a temple offerings. In the case of the poor, “two turtle[dove]s, or two young pigeons” would suffice (Leviticus 12:6, 8); which is what Joseph and Mary did (Luke 2:24).
Verses 25-35 The temple encounters with Simeon and Anna are of stupendous significance, and may have been far above anything Joseph and Mary expected. Read verses 25-35 and consider:
- How is Simeon described? (verse 25). What had the Lord promised him? (verse 26).
- Why was Simeon at the temple at the same time as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus? (verse 27).
- As he took Baby Jesus into his arms (verse 28), what things did Simeon say in his prayer? (verses 29-32).
- How did Joseph and Mary react? (verse 33).
- What things did Simeon say to Mary? (verses 34-35)
Verses 36-39 As if their experience with Simeon was not sufficiently stunning, the engagement with the prophetess Anna added even more:
- How did Luke describe Anna? (verses 36-37; supposing that Anna had been married at age 14, then lived with her husband seven years, was a widow for 84 years, she was 105 years old).
- In addition to giving thanks to God for the blessing of meeting the Christ Child, what did Anna subsequently do, according to verse 38?
- What do the Messiah’s life and works mean to you? How do you go about speaking of Him to others?
- Verse 39 says that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth, without mentioning their sojourn into Egypt; this was, however, recounted by Matthew.
Matthew 2:1-12 The Wise Men
The Bible account suggests that the wise men were not present shortly after Jesus’s birth, but that there was a period of months or even up to two years between His birth and their visit (by combining the information in Matthew 2:2, 16 we can calculate that Jesus would have been about “two years old [or] under” when the wise men came). In any case, the news of the promised Child had spread, and has come to the attention of these holy men from the east, as well as to wicked king Herod:
- We do not know who the wise men were, exactly where they came from, nor how many there were (contrary to the traditions that include their actual number and names; perhaps it is thought there were three because of the three gifts they presented to Jesus in verse 11).
- They went to Jerusalem and began asking where they could find the King of the Jews, having been led by a star (verse 2). What unfortunate consequences came about, as a result? (verses 3-6).
- The wise men were apparently from a sufficient distance they did not know of the local politics nor the evil mind and agenda of Herod. It appears that they told Herod of the time period when Jesus was born (verse 7), which informs Herod of the approximate current age of Jesus, who is referred to as a “young child” in verses 8 and 11.
- Based on the prophecy in Micah 5:2 (as told to him by the chief priests and scribes), Herod sends the wise men to search for Jesus in Bethlehem. What did Herod say was his motive for locating the “young child”? (verse 8).
- Again following the star, the wise men find the house where Jesus was. What was their reaction? (verses 10-11).
- In verse 12 we come upon the first of four inspired dreams in this chapter. What was the message of the first dream, given to the wise men?
Shepherds and the wise men sought and found Jesus Christ. We can do this daily in our own ways.
Matthew 2:13-23 Fleeing to Egypt
- To whom was the second dream given, and what were the message and the result? (verses 13-15; their length of time in Egypt is not given, except to say “until the death of Herod,” which scholars believe was about three years).
- Note: The “flight” to Egypt resulted in the fulfillment of prophecies that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Egypt (see Matthew 2:15; Micah 5:2; Hosea 11:1; in regard to Nazareth, our Old Testament does not include such a prophecy, but Matthew says in 2:23 that this had been “spoken by the prophets.”
- How did Herod react when he realized what had happened? (verse 16; Herod the Great was so brutal that he also killed one of his wives, three of his sons, and other family members who could be potential threats).
- What was the next dream? (verses 19-21).
- What was the fourth dream? (verses 22-23).
We have seen some of what Heavenly Father did to prepare for and assure the birth and mortal life of His Son and our Savior. What things do you recognize that He has done—and continues to do—to secure your mortal learning and growing experiences?
Luke 2:40-52 Young Jesus
With the exception of His time in Egypt, the only information we have about the Savior between the visit of the wise men and His mortal ministry is found in Luke 2:40-52: Read verses 40, 51-52 and note what we learn about Jesus during these all-important formative years.
The Joseph Smith Translation adds: “And it came to pass that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him” (JST, Matthew 3:24-25). Note the following in regard to 12 year-old Jesus:
Verses 41-42 Their annual Passover journey to crowded Jerusalem shows some of the religious devoutness in Jesus’s upbringing. While in Jerusalem during the feast, young Jesus may have observed from year to year the preparation and sacrifice of innumerable lambs, which would have been a poignant experience, as He contemplated His eventual role as the Lamb of God who would become the true, eternal Passover offering.
Verses 43-46 After the family had “fulfilled the days” of celebration—traditionally eight days in all—Joseph and Mary were unaware that Jesus was not with the presumably large traveling company as they returned to Galilee. His absence came to their attention after “a day’s journey,” requiring them to spend a day in return to Jerusalem, then up to three more days before finding Him, totaling up to five days of separation and agonizing angst.
Verses 46-47 Finally finding Jesus “in the temple” probably means an outer area of the temple, where the “doctors” (rabbis or other religious teachers) were “hearing him, and asking him questions” (according to the Joseph Smith Translation for verse 46). It is notable that at age 12 Jesus was teaching the Jews’ teachers; Matthew noting, “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”
Verses 48-50 Mary asks Jesus why He had “thus dealt with [them],” and Jesus’s reply about being “about [His] Father’s business” informs us that He already understood a measure of His calling and His relationship to Heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary did not fully understand, yet He still submitted himself and “was subject unto them.”
What do you learn from Luke 2:39-52 about parenting? About family life?
In spite of Jesus’s family being the most important family ever to come to earth, from the very beginning they were not spared hardships. Like all families, they experienced and endured the vicissitudes of mortality, moving forward in faith and fortitude.
Thank you for this! Very helpful.