Thursday, December 27, 2012

Luke 2

The Birth and infancy stories of Jesus as recorded in Luke. The story of the birth of Jesus is one of the best known and told passages in all the Bible. The back drop of the Roman Empire, the birth of Jesus, the shepherds in the fields the choir of angels and, my favorite verse, at the end of the events -- Mary, "pondering these things in her heart."

Verse 21 -- 8 days later. If Jesus was born on December 25 then this would be January 1 (the 8th day) Mary's son is circumcised and named "Jesus".

22-38 are two stories of encounters with people waiting for the messiah. The first is an elderly man named Simeon who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah. When he goes to the Temple for prayer he encounters the holy family and blesses the child -- notice "a light to the Gentiles and glory for Israel in 32" -- reminding us of the purpose of the coming of the Son of God.
     The second story is the prophet, Anna (or Hanna) who was at least 84 years old (depending on how you read the Greek she could be closer to 100) who blesses the child and praises God for the privilege of seeing the messiah.

The family moves to Nazareth in 39-40. This is followed by the story of Jesus at the age of 12 visiting the temple in Jerusalem with his parents (41-51). Most of us read this and can't figure out how Jesus parents could miss him for a whole day when traveling back to Nazareth. The answer is now complicated. Here is what I think: People traveled in caravans in those days. The women and children would start walking early in the morning (with a few men for protection) and the men would begin walking later in the day -- they would meet up late afternoon after the women had set up camp and were preparing dinner. At 11 Jesus would have traveled with the women (not yet being an adult) at 12 Jesus would have traveled with the men -- being an adult in their understanding (having passed the age of Bar Mitzvah). Mary, assuming he was with the men, wouldn't have looked until night. Joseph, assuming he was with the women, wouldn't have looked until night -- the classic "what, I thought he was with you . . ." follows.

In the meantime, Jesus is playing Rabbi with the teachers in the temple: listening and asking questions and everyone is "astonished at his wisdom." When confronted by his parents his enigmatic response: "I must be in my Father's house" leaves them a bit baffled. He returns to Nazareth with them and, curiously, we don't hear any stories of Jesus until he turns 30 and is being baptized by John in the River Jordan.

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