Lesson 1: Beginnings

When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves–that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.

N.T. Wright

Christians celebrate the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, found in the four gospels, as the high point of the Bible. However, if we believe Jesus is the Messiah, the incarnation of God, the Word made flesh, then studying how he taught us to live through his words and actions should be the number one priority of those who follow him. This week we read stories of his early years and the beginning of his ministry.

Devotion: Read Luke 2:21-40. Jesus’ incarnation is an extension of what God has been doing through the Hebrew people. He comes to fulfill (meaning “to fill to overflowing”) God’s covenant with Abraham, not replace it. Joseph and Mary circumcise Jesus, name him, present him in the Temple, and offer a sacrifice, all in accordance with the Torah. Simeon proclaims salvation has come for all nations in the long-awaited Messiah (Gen 12:3). Anna is the first to share about God’s redemptive activity in Jesus. It is important for us to remember that we are not the first to walk with God. Many have come before us to teach us about connecting with the Divine. Who has influenced, for good or bad, your view and understanding of God? What negatives in your past must you overcome? What positive influences have helped form you?

Personal Worship Option: Read Psalm 2. Simeon proclaims the Messiah will cause the rising and falling of many. God will bring justice into the world. The oppressed will be set free and the oppressors will be punished. Pray for both the oppressed and oppressors in our world, that all will be set free from sin.

Dig A Little Deeper:

2:21 Circumcision marks Jesus as part of the covenant community. Since he is immersed in the ritual obligations of the Law, he is able to fulfill and transform the covenant God made with Abraham. Mary and Joseph obey God by naming him “Jesus” (Lk 1:31), the Greek form of “Joshua,” meaning “the Lord is salvation.”

2:22 Two rituals are being performed. First, women are purified after childbirth (Lev 12:2-4). Second, the father performs a ritual called “redemption of the firstborn” when eldest children are recognized as belonging to God in a special way (Ex 13:2, 11-16).

2:24 The couple presents an offering designed for those who are poor and cannot afford a year-old lamb (Lev 5:7-10). One of the birds is for a sin offering; the other for a burnt offering.

2:25 “Consolation” comes from the same Greek root word (“paraklesis”) as “comforter”

(“parakletos”). It was commonly used to refer to the Messiah (Is 12:1; 49:13; Jn 14:16).

2:29 Simeon’s song, celebrating salvation for all nations, reflects Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 52:10.

2:34 Jesus’ ministry forces people to decide what they believe (Lk 1:46-55; Is 8:14). Consider the highs and lows Mary will experience in the coming years. Are you willing to allow your loved ones to suffer so that God’s desires for the world can be accomplished?

2:36 Jewish scholars list four female prophets: Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jdgs 4), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14), and Noadiah (Neh 6:14). The New Testament says Anna, Elizabeth (Lk 1:41), and Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9) prophesy. Paul assumes women prophesy in the early church (1 Cor 11:5).

2:40 This verse is used to support the Recapitulation Theory of Atonement which states Jesus enters each stage of humanity, yet remains obedient and sinless. See Appendix B.

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