Mary, the Shepherds, Jesus, and Us — Luke 2:8-20

The Bible Lessons below are from the former International Bible Lesson Commentary and International Bible Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr., which can be used for December 29, 2019. The Commentaries for these Bible Lessons can be found at: Luke Bible Lesson Commentaries and Lessons.

Angels Appeared to the Prepared

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:8-9).

In all of the accounts surrounding Jesus’ birth, those who saw Him as a baby were the most prepared to meet Him. The angels did not appear to the shepherds who lived in their fields just because they were poor; rather, this especially chosen group of shepherds probably thought in ways similar to the shepherd boy David, who became Israel’s greatest king and an ancestor of the Messiah. These shepherds had learned about God from the beauties of God’s creation. They may have known and identified with these words of David, “The heavens are telling the glory of God … Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). But the heavens did not speak words they could hear until the angel of the Lord appeared to them. The glory of God showed around them in a new way, and they heard an angel of the Lord speak their language. The angel put into words what they had learned from the sun and the stars, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14). Moreover, they learned about God’s glory in a new way, because the angel proclaimed, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). No wonder they left their field with haste to find the baby Jesus in a manger, and then returned “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

What Were Mary’s Expectations?

 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

The Bible does not reveal many of Mary’s thoughts after the angel told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Because God had shown her favor as the mother of the one and only Son of God, she might have expected that her life would become easier; however, many events made her life more difficult, especially as the time of Jesus’ birth drew near. Instead of relaxing at home and preparing for Jesus’ miraculous birth, an emperor decreed that she had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Instead of God leading her to a comfortable palace where He could give His Son the best of everything, Joseph found no place for them in an inn. Instead of a bed of luxury fit for the mother of a newborn king, Mary had to rest on a bed of hay. The nearest thing available for Jesus’ bed was a manger in a stable. Instead of rejoicing with their family at Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary probably celebrated alone in the company of curious animals. Reality may have contradicted all of Mary’s expectations, and she may have wondered with Joseph, “What has gone wrong!” Unexpectedly, God reassured them with the arrival of some shepherds. They told Jesus’ parents what the angel of the Lord had told them about their child, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who commit themselves to serving God sometimes find their life more difficult, but God always finds ways to reassure them with His peace, power, and presence.

Some Blessings from Believing God’s Words

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20).

The priest Zechariah met an angel in the temple, but Zechariah did not believe his words. When an angel met the shepherds, and announced that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem and they could find Him as a baby in a manger, they believed him and hurried off to see Jesus. From the Bible, we learn about some of the disappointments that can come from disbelief: Zechariah could not speak for at least nine months. From the Bible, we also learn about the thoughts of astonishment and feelings of awe that can come from believing God and His words. Because they believe in Jesus, believers ponder with wonder when they think about God sending His only begotten Son into the world to save them from their sins, cleanse their conscience, fill them with love, restore their peace with God and peace of mind, and give them eternal life. Some of the shepherds might not have lived long enough to hear Jesus teach, but some of them probably did. After they saw Him as a baby, some who believed in His coming might have died and joined the great cloud of witnesses who watched Jesus’ ministry from heaven as in a giant stadium (see Hebrews 12:1). Today, when people hear and believe the good news about Jesus Christ, they respond as the shepherds did after they saw the baby Jesus. They glorify and praise God. They tell others what they experienced after they trusted in Jesus as their Savior. Eventually, they will join the great cloud of witnesses in heaven and continue watching God’s saving work.

International Bible Lessons and Sunday School Lessons

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May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

Begin your study of the Gospel of John now!! OR Go to the “Contents” page to begin with John 1:1.

Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,
L.G.

Mary’s Poem of Praise – Luke 1:39-56

The Bible Lessons below are from the former International Bible Lesson Commentary and International Bible Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr., which can be used for December 22, 2019. The Commentaries for these Bible Lessons can be found at: Luke Bible Lesson Commentaries and Lessons.

The Truths of Science and the Bible

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).

The Bible teaches truths about the universe and us that science cannot discover from inside a test tube, under a microscope, or at the end of a telescope no matter how advanced. Modern science excludes God from its experiments, investigations, and conclusions. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone in the image of God. From the Bible, we learn that God creates everyone with awesome potential; people such as Moses whom God used to free the Hebrews from slavery. From the Bible, we learn that God can fill a tiny unborn baby with the Holy Spirit and babies can respond to their surroundings, for as an unborn baby John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Then when full grown, the Holy Spirit in John empowered him to preach and prepare people for the coming of God’s Son into the world. From the Bible, we learn that through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit God could conceive a baby in a virgin that would be fully God and fully human before He was born. Then, unlike the false gods and demigods of mythologies and novels that are capricious and immoral, Jesus, the Son of God, lived a perfectly moral and spiritual life. He taught the truth about God and reality. Because He loved the world, He died a sacrificial death to save believers in Him from Satan and sin. The Bible teaches us the most important truths about God and ourselves; truths that do not change but reveal deeper meaning with study and prayer; truths that will make an eternal difference if we live according to them.

Jesus Christ Our God and Savior

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’” (Luke 1:46-47).

The Holy Spirit inspired Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to ask Mary, “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:43). Through her inspired question, the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that the child within Mary was her Lord. Mary’s first words to Elizabeth were, “My soul magnifies the Lord;” the child within her, Jesus the Messiah, was Mary’s Lord too and worthy of adoration. Mary magnified the Lord by proclaiming truths about God that would enable Elizabeth and all who would hear or read her words to see more clearly and understand with greater detail how God, the Mighty One, the holy and merciful God, would work in the world to bless and save people.

When Mary magnified the Lord, the first fact she revealed was how her spirit rejoiced “in God my Savior.” Though she did not know exactly how God would work in the world, she knew that in some way her child Jesus would grow up and be involved in saving her and all of His people. She knew that God her Savior would work in and through her Son because the angel Gabriel had said that her son would be the “Son of God” (Luke 1:35). An angel of the Lord had also told Joseph that Jesus would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the days and years ahead, Mary would learn more from others and from Jesus himself about Jesus and how He would accomplish God’s saving work. As her Savior, Mary would follow Jesus to His cross and see Him raised from the dead.

The Way to Receive God’s Mercy

“His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).

When we know we deserve punishment, we usually ask for mercy. Sometimes people will ask for mercy when an unjust person threatens to hurt them. After Mary learned that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah, she rejoiced that many who deserve God’s just punishment would receive mercy through her Son. She proclaimed that with the conception of Jesus, God “has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:54-55). Furthermore, she declared that God’s mercy is for all who fear God.

Fearing God does not mean the cowering dread that a person might feel if they were facing a hideous, threatening monster. Because Mary knew God, she did not fear God as though God were a tyrant. From the Bible, we learn that those who fear God show forth a loving reverence and obedience toward God; while at the same time, they know that just consequences can follow disobeying or rebelling against God. A person who fears God loves and worships God. They love God so much that they do not want to disobey God or disappoint God by their thoughts or actions. They live in loving submission to the will of God. The Bible teaches that from generation to generation God offers mercy to those who deserve His just punishment, but accept His forgiving love and choose to bow in loving reverence. On Christmas Day, millions celebrate the birth of Jesus because they know they need the saving mercy that God the Father promised He would give to everyone who believes in His Word.

Please share your thoughts and ideas here on the International Bible Study Forum.

Receive our periodic International Bible Study Newsletter by sending me an email request to lgp@theiblf.com.

May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!

Begin your study of the Gospel of John now!! OR Go to the “Contents” page to begin with John 1:1

Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,
L.G.