Tag Archives: ponder

Luke 2 – Jesus Childhood

Countless volumes have been written on the life of Jesus over the last 2,000 years. Starting with the Gospels to studies of today. There is, perhaps, no person of whom more has been written yet probably 99% of what is written covers only the final three years of his life. We are told very little about the childhood of Jesus. In fact, it is only here in Luke 2 and in Matthew 2 that we find any description of the childhood of Jesus.

Here in Luke 2, we begin with a story that is so familiar we can recite it. Actually, most of us probably do as we listen to Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. This is the account of the birth of Jesus. Yet what is fascinating to me is that many times as we have read and heard this account, how much we get wrong or how much we have unknowingly added to it.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4 – 7(NASB) Look at this and tell me; Where is the donkey that Mary road? The passage makes no mention of a donkey, yet every picture we see shows Joseph leading a donkey while Mary rides. How far along was Mary in her pregnancy? The passage says that “while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.” Yet once again, we have an image of them arriving just in time to deliver the child that night. Where is the Innkeeper? It says that there was no room in the inn, but there is no innkeeper who turned them away, but once again, we have vilified this non-existent innkeeper as being uncaring. What is interesting is when we realize that the word for inn is actually better understood to mean guest room. It is the same word used later to describe the room in which the last supper took place.

This is a reminder for us. There is an old expression, “familiarity breeds contempt.” The saying means that the more comfortable we become with something, the less reverence and respect we have for it. In this case, we have become so familiar with the story that we have allowed these misconceptions to creep in without returning to the source. It is crucial that we regularly spend time in the scriptures and do not simply rely on our fallible memories of what they say.

Another thing that strikes me is how we so often end this passage with verse 15 “ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” We remember that the shepherds went to see Jesus, but we forget that after seeing him that they take it a step further. Verse 17 tells us that “When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” The shepherds did not merely keep this information to themselves. Instead, they began to tell everyone what they had been told. It makes me rethink the word of the “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The second line says, “how still we see thee lie.” But imagine being one of the shepherds. Imagine seeing what you have seen. How quite could they have really been as they spread the news? No, it is quite possible there was a lot of energy in the streets that night.

Luke then tells us of Jesus’ dedication at the temple. Here we are introduced to two individuals for the only time. These two elderly individuals, Simeon and Anna, have each independent of one another, faithfully served God awaiting the fulfillment of prophecy through the arrival of the Messiah. Simeon declares in verses 30 – 32, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon knew that God had been faithful and allowed him to see the Messiah. I make special note that Simeon did not see the Messiah as a gift only for Israel, but for the gentiles a well. Anna, for her part, was a prophetess, and God spoke through her to proclaim Jesus to those who were present.

Luke then skips ahead 12 years to present another visit to the temple by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This time Jesus stays behind at the temple when his parents leave. Since they were traveling as part of a large caravan, it took a while for them to realize they had left Jesus behind. When they return, they do not find a lost and forgotten child, but instead, they find in listening to and questioning the teachers of the law at the temple. For the first time, we hear Jesus speak, and what he says is quite telling. He says, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house (or about my Father’s business)?” Jesus was far from a lost child but rather was seeking to honor his heavenly father in what he was doing.

As I read this passage, a few things stand out to me. First, we find a particular expression repeated twice in this passage in verse 19, following the shepherd visit, we read, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And then again in verse 51, after they find him with the teacher in the temple, we read, and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” This reminds us of the words found in verse 1:29 “But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.” For all Mary had been told and for all she had seen, it was still so hard for her to comprehend what it all really meant. She knew what the angel and had said, and she had heard the words of Simeon and Anna, yet still there remains that disconnect of comprehending. I think this is where we often fall short as well. But we too often make the mistake of saying, “I am just going to believe it, even if it does not make sense” rather than doing as Mary did and pondering things in our hearts.

The second thing I take from this passage is once again a reminder that God is faithful to his promises. Not only had the promised Messiah come, but we have a clear example of God being faithful to his promises in the person of Simeon. In verse 26, we read that “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” And so we see a clear and tangible example of God’s faithfulness to his promises.

The third, and perhaps most important, is the understanding of the humanity of Jesus. We speak of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh. We can describe Jesus as fully God and fully man, but too often we downplay the humanity of Jesus and focus on his being God. Yes, he is fully God, but thankfully he was fully human as well, facing all that we face. If he were not, then he could not be a sufficient sacrifice for our sins. Luke, a physician by trade, emphasizes the humanity of Jesus not only in the description of his birth, but also in verse 40, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, [r]increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” and again in verse 52 “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke points us to the truth that Jesus grew just as we all do; mentally, physically, and spiritually.  If I were to sum up the most essential point of chapter 2, this would be it. That Jesus truly became human.

Ponder Anew

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Join me in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Words by Joachim Neander, 1680
Music by Unknown, 1665

 


Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150

“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. “Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand,
Deuteronomy 30:8 – 9

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you
Luke 12:24 – 28


 

When we look at the world today compared to 200 years ago, we have some pretty amazing things.  We have computers that not only allow us to process and save information, but connect us with the rest of the world.  We have telephones that not only connect our homes and offices, but that we carry with us everywhere.  And with the simple flip of a switch, we illuminate the night.

Yes, we have amazing developments but we seem to simply take them for granted. But imagine the thought processes of those who brought these things to life.  Where would we be without people like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell or Charles Babbage.  These people thought beyond what was, to what could be. When we stop to consider the impact they have had on the world, it is staggering.

But if these people, as well as others, could have this impact on the world, how much more has the very Creator of the Universe had on each and every one of us.  As I look at the words of  Joachim Neander’s hymn, “Praise To The Lord, The Almighty” I can not help but ponder these thoughts.

He begins his hymn with a call for each of us to join together in praise and worship of God.  He calls, “All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration.” This call is a theme that we hear in Psalm 150 where we read,

“Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.”

 He goes on to reflect on many of the things God has done.  Our minds are drawn to the realities that God reigns over all, that he shelters and sustains us, that he provides for our needs.  We see that God “will prosper us abundantly in all the work of our hands.” (Deuteronomy 30:9) We are reminded that His “goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives.” (Psalm 23:6)

Unfortunately, these are all things we can so easily take for granted.  They are things we can simply fail to reflect on and consider.

This draws us to what seems a pivotal point in the hymn.  Neander calls us to, “Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, If with His love he befriend thee.”  You see, when we stop to consider the magnitude of what God has done in this world, we can not help but be amazed. When we genuinely “ponder anew” what He has done for us personally we must sing our praises to Him.  But if this is not enough, we need to consider what is beyond our comprehension.  We reflect on the reality that the Almighty Creator of the Universe calls us friends.  (John 15:15)  That he cares personally for us.  This is why Jesus reminds us, in Luke 12:28 that if God can so beautifully clothe “the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you.”

Yes God can and will care for His people, as he always has.  The God who sustains the world, can sustain each and every one of us.  When we stop and “ponder anew” this truth, our voices are drawn to join with all of God’s people when we declare, “Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.”

 

 

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