How it Really Happened – The Birth of Christ as the Bible Tells It

I appreciate movies on the life of Christ.  Movies like “The Nativity”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, & “The Gospel of John” may be a bit cheesy but they can make the Biblical narrative come more alive.  But as good as they may (or may not) be, we don’t want to get our understanding of the life of Christ from a movie.  They’re not exactly three wise mentrue to the Bible and tend to deviate from the chronology of events as they happened.  We want to know how it really happened!  So with the Christmas season here, I thought I’d write a short blog on how the events actually happened, as told by the Bible.

It happened (in order) like this:

Luke 1

Zacharias and his wife receive word from the angel Gabriel that they’re going to have a baby boy.  This boy will be the forerunner who prepares the way of YAWHEH (Luke 1:1-25)

The angel Gabriel visits an obscure teenage girl in Nazareth months later, telling her that she will give birth to the Son of God.  She should call His name “Jesus”. (Luke 1:26-37)

Mary leaves Galilee and visits her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.  When they see each other they rejoice and Mary sings the famous “Magnificat”.  (Luke 1:38-55)

Mary stays 3 more months with Elizabeth after she arrives and most likely sees the birth of John the Baptist, her Son’s forerunner. (Luke 1:56)

John the Baptist is named by Zacharias as his mouth is opened and He prophesies about the coming redemption.  Mary was likely there to hear it.  (Luke 1:57-80)

Matthew 1:18-25

Mary returns up north to Nazareth after being 3 months pregnant.  She is discovered to be with Child though she’s never been with a man.  Joseph considers writing papers of divorce in secret but while he thinks about these things, an angel appears to him and tells him to “marry Mary” and to name their Son Jesus.  (Matthew 1:18-25)

Luke 2:1-38

Caesar Augustus issues a decree that all should be registered in their hometown.  Mary and Joseph have endured 6 months of reproach in Nazareth.  Mary is now almost due to have their firstborn Son.  They travel about 7 days to the south and arrive at Bethlehem.  As the city is crowded with everyone to be registered, Mary’s time for delivery comes and she gives birth to Jesus in a cold stable since there’s no room for them in the town.  (Luke 2:1-7)

Some time after Jesus is born (probably minutes or hours) a group of heavenly hosts appear to Shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem.  These shepherds were likely keeping the flocks that were used to offer sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem.  After angelandshepherdshearing the angels, the shepherds go to Bethlehem and find Jesus in a feed trough.  After seeing the sign they begin telling the story to everyone in the area.  (Luke 2:8-20)

After Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph seek better accommodations.   Eight days after Jesus is born, He is circumcised in Bethlehem.  (Luke 2:21)

Thirty three days after Jesus is circumcised (Leviticus 12) Joseph and Mary travel to Jerusalem with their 6-week old baby.  The journey is about two miles.  After arriving at the Temple, they meet two elderly people who declare Jesus to be the Messiah and prophesy regarding Jesus’ ministry.  (Luke 2:22-38)

Matthew 2

After their stay in Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple, Mary & Joseph return to Bethlehem and find a house to stay in.  While in Bethlehem, a group of “wise men” from the east come to Jerusalem.  They tell Herod that a king has been born in his region.  They’ve seen His star and have come to worship Him.  After Herod gets more details he sends the wise men to Bethlehem, telling them to bring him word when they find Jesus.  Upon arrival they find Jesus in the house with Mary and worship Him.  After giving him costly gifts, they return to the East by a different route to avoid Herod.  (Matthew 2:1-12)

The night after the wise men visit, Joseph receives an alarming dream from an angel telling him to take Mary and Jesus to the land of Egypt to avoid Herod’s wicked plot to kill Jesus.  Joseph leaves that night and flees to Egypt.  The trip probably takes a few weeks.  (Matthew 2:13-15)

Herod realizes the wise men aren’t coming back.  In a blind rage he issues a decree for any children under the age of 2 to be murdered.  The city of Bethlehem probably loses 20 to 30 children in the massacre.  (Matthew 2:16-18)

After an unknown time (2 years?) Herod dies.  An angel visits Joseph in Egypt telling him it’s safe to return to the land of Israel.  (Matthew 2:19-21)

The family seeks to return to Bethlehem in the south but receive word from an angel that Herod’s wicked son Archelaus is reigning in his place.  They reluctantly return up north to the town of Nazareth where Jesus spends most of His earthly life.  (Matthew 2:22-23)

“And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” -Luke 2:40

9 Things You May Not Know About Jesus:

jesus-walking-upon-the-sea

  1. Jesus had 4 brothers & at least 2 sisters (Mark 6:3).  His brother’s names were: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  The books of the Bible we know as James & Jude were written by two of them.
  2. It’s likely that Joseph died sometime before Jesus’ public ministry.  Joseph isn’t seen anywhere in the Gospels after the event in the temple when Jesus was a 12yr old boy.  If he was still alive at Jesus’ death its unlikely Jesus would have committed His mother to John the beloved.  If this were the case, Jesus had the responsibility of taking care of His family after Joseph passed away.
  3. The only attribute Jesus ever used to describe Himself in the Bible was “meek & lowly” (Matt 11:28-30).  He called Himself by different names (Alpha, Omega) but He never used an attribute besides this one to describe Himself.
  4. Jesus was a very common name in Israel during His time.  Lots of people were named Jesus.  But there was only 1 who actually fulfilled its meaning.  There was only 1 Jesus of Nazareth.
  5. The thing Jesus said in the Bible more than anything was “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  As the Word of God, He continually called us to do more than just listen, but to hear.
  6. Jesus sang some hymns with His disciples right before He went to the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26).  Most commentators think they were Psalm 115-117.
  7. Jesus used the city of Capernaum as a base to travel from during His ministry (Matthew 4:13, 11:23, 17:24; Luke 4:23; John 2:12).  His home there either belonged to Him, His family, or Peter.
  8. When Jesus walked on the water to meet the disciples in the boat, He walked at least 3 or 4 miles on the water before He got there (John 6:19).  The average person walks 1 mile in 20 minutes.  So Jesus spent over an hour walking on the sea before he reached the disciples!
  9. After Jesus rose from the grave, He folded His grave clothes (John 20:6-8).  With all respect, it shows the playfulness of God to fold his clothes right before He left the grave site.

What other unique, fun facts do you know about Him that are seen in the Bible?

“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written..” -John 21:25

A Running Father & A Prodigal Son

In Luke 15 we find one of the most beautiful pictures in the Bible, the story of the prodigal son.  It’s still hard for many people to picture their father running toward them with such tender love after such hideous crimes.  Many without knowing it have a picture of God as someone who is harsh or disconnected.  Our proneness to unbelief & dullness causes us to prodigal son 001forget how loving our heavenly Father really is.  That’s why this parable is so refreshing.  Jesus was showing us that the Father’s love is stronger than we could ever understand.

The Father loves us with the same quality & intensity of love that He loves Jesus with (John 17:23).  His heart is moved with compassion.  He weeps & laughs with us.  He yearns deeply for His creation & is the most relational Person imaginable.  We need to throw away our bankrupt ideas of an un-relational Father & look at the Scriptures to find out who He really is.

We know the story well.  The younger son tells his father that he wants his inheritance right away, which is a huge insult since it communicates “It would be ok if you were dead so that I can have your money”.  The father surprisingly agrees, giving us a picture of God’s desire that humanity be given the gift of choice.  After the son wastes all his inheritance he finds himself with nothing.  Finally he comes to his senses and decides to return home. That’s the part in the story where Jesus reveals the heart of His Father.  He gives us 5 descriptions of the father as he sees his repentant, starved son returning.  Each one of them is packed with revelation of who God is:

1)  His Father Saw Him – God sees us.  He knows every angle of the situation & understands what we’re going through.  The enemy wants us to believe that God is disconnected from our lives or has forgotten us.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  We are His beloved sons & daughters & nothing is hidden from His eyes.  He knows every detail of our story, our personality, and our struggles (Psalm 139).

2)  His Father Had CompassionGod not only sees everything, He feels deeply for us.  He is not a stoic, unemotional Person.  He pities His children when they go through hardships & pain.  He cares about us & loves us with all of His heart, soul, mind, & strength.  Since his heart is fully involved that means it’s vulnerable to feel pain when we reject His love.  It’s a high price to pay, but it’s worth it to Him.  He wants us with Him in His presence.

3) His Father Ran – This is probably my favorite one.  Can you picture a bright eyed, elderly father filled with love running towards you?  That’s how Jesus meant for us to see God.  He doesn’t wait for us to get to the porch.  He eagerly runs to meet us.  He takes 100 steps for our every 1 step.

4) His Father Embraced Him – God loves to show affection to us.  His affection is shown in thousands of different ways.  The trees, the sun, & the grass all show His affection for us.  The food on our tables, the encouragement of a friend, and the shirts on our back are all demonstrations of His love.  But most of all, the gift of His Word, the Cross of Christ, & the indwelling Spirit speak loud & clear that God loves us.

5) His Father Kissed Him Feeling the “kisses” of God’s Word is one the best feelings ever (SOS 1:2).  When He draws near & gives revelation of Himself to our hearts, we come alive.  Sometimes His “kiss” comes from a prophetic word.  Sometimes it comes from a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit.  Most often it comes when we quiet our hearts & read the Bible.  Daily He is longing to communicate what’s in His heart to us.

These 5 truths can become powerful weapons in the place of prayer.  We declare the truths of who He is back to Him.  For example, we open our bibles to Luke 15 and declare, “Father I thank you that you see me.  Nothing is hidden from Your eyes.” or “Father, thank You for being the running Father who runs to embrace me and show me kindness.”  As we pray the Word back to Him, over time, our internal chemistry will begin to change.

The subject of God’s love is not something we ever “graduate” from.  We need to be washed with the revelation of His love on a regular basis or we’ll burn out.

When the prodigal tried to explain himself the father cut him off with kindness.  He told the servants to put a new robe on him, to put the ring of the family on his hands, & new sandals on his feet.  Not only that, but the fatted calf was brought & a celebration feast began.  God’s love sometimes seems illogical, overwhelming, & too good to be true.  But it is true.  Forever we’ll be amazed at the riches of His kindness, which He has shown us through Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7).  God’s love will prevail.

Jesus the Carpenter

The majority of Jesus’ life is not recorded in the Scriptures.  We have the record of His birth and then a few glimpses into His childhood, but besides that, Scripture is silent until He started His public ministry at the age of 30.  These are what many have called “the silent years”.  As I have spent time in the carpenterGospels looking at Jesus’ life I have always found myself drawn to this period of His life before public ministry.  I believe these silent years are a treasury of revelation for the hungry heart.  Jesus was & always will be the Word of God (John 1:1).  That means every event in the life of Jesus shows us what God is like, including the years that aren’t recorded in Scripture.  The loud silence heard in these years serves as a doorway into fellowship with Him that is foundational to seeing Him rightly in the rest of the gospels.

So what happened during those years?  Of course we can never know in detail or go beyond the boundaries of Scripture but various facets of His family life, the customs of Galilee, the geography of Nazareth, and the religious culture of the Jewish people collectively paint for us an informative picture of what Jesus’ days might have been like.  The beauty of these years is in their normality.  For 30 years of His life Jesus lived like any other Man in Galilee at the time.  The Son of God who created the world was now hardly recognized or payed attention to.  We know from Mark 6:3 that Jesus was a carpenter and that He had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters.  It’s also likely that sometime during this time Jesus’ father Joseph died.  Joseph isn’t seen anywhere in the Gospels after the event in the Temple when Jesus was a 12yr old boy & if he was still alive at Jesus’ death its unlikely Jesus would have committed His mother to John the beloved.  If that were the case Jesus would have the responsibility of taking care of His family.  What was it like as the One we worship and pray to lived, ate, work, walked, talked, laughed, prayed, and cried?

Jesus’ humility is seen so beautifully when we meditate upon Him during those years.  Leonard Sheldrake, in his book “Our Lord Jesus Christ” says:

There was a renown all His own in those tender years because He was content to be lowly and silent without renown in the world His hands had fashioned.  It was a matter of new renown to Him that He who had been so honored and renowned in glory, should be altogether without renown within this cold, barren world.  Lovely lowliness was never so altogether lovely as when in the person of the King of kings He was a carpenter in Nazareth.  He whose glory had flooded the heavens walked unknown on the lanes of a despised village in Galilee.  He who had sat on the throne of God sat now on a rude bench in a cottage of the poorest of the people. 

He whose hand had arranged the stars in the firmament worked hard with saw and hammer to provide that coarse and scanty livelihood that fed the hungry mouths of the laboring poor.  He in whom God found all His delight was never once recognized or known by those nearest to Him, His kinsman according to the flesh.  His hidden years are hidden manna for those who can rise to appreciate the perfect submission and lowliness of Christ our LORD in Nazareth.”

These years war against our pride & selfish ambitions.  If we truly are called to be like our Master then we too should be content to live in obscurity and be faithful with the small things that God has entrusted to us.  He lived before His Father’s eyes alone.  He was carpenter 2overlooked, misunderstood, and even looked down upon as an illegitimate child (because of the virgin birth).  Yet not once during Jesus’ life did He get frustrated because someone wasn’t honoring Him or respecting Him.  The majority of His life, people had no idea He was God in the flesh.  And so He passed from one stage of His life to the next – childhood, boyhood, youth, and manhood.

We must learn to fellowship with Jesus here.  This will bring significance to every aspect of our lives.  When we are washing dishes we can fellowship with Jesus, remembering Him in the carpentry shop chopping wood.  When we simply love our family day by day we can encounter Jesus who took care of His mother & siblings.  When we sit down to eat a meal, we fix our mind upon Jesus who also sat down to a humble meal in their small home in Nazareth.  The silent years of Jesus make the most common things meaningful & holy.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name…”    -Phil 2:5-9

We don’t have to fight for our honor or reputation.  The One who deserved to have the adoration of everyone made Himself of no reputation.  We don’t have to get offended when we’re mistreated.  Our LORD was the most mistreated & misunderstood Person to ever walk the earth.  He was made like us in all things, except without sin.  We’re called to follow in His footsteps and to be faithful with what God has given us.  It’s not the amount that we’re faithful with, that God rewards.  It’s the quality of love and meekness we do it in.  Before Jesus ever stepped onto the public stage of ministry, before He ever did one sign or wonder, the Father’s voice declared from heaven.  “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   God’s definition of success is much different than ours.

What is Apostolic Christianity?

Sometimes when I read the letters of Paul the apostle I feel like I’m encountering someone from a different planet.  The way that he lived and thought is so foreign to our mindsets.  Paul was a man obsessed with Jesus.  Everything he did completely revolved around the Lord and His purposes.  Of course Paul was an ordinary man just like us but he knew something about the worth of Christ that few Christians in our day understand.  What Paul knew is what caused him to live the way he did.  I have heard it said before that if we knew what Paul knew then we could live like Paul lived.

This applies to all the apostles and great men and women of faith in the early church.  If we knew Jesus the way they did  we would live much differently .  Peter, James, and John had lived with Jesus, the God-Man for over 3 years.  They saw Him eat and sleep.  They heard His words and recognized the sound of His voice.  Jesus had become their best friend and when He was taken from them a deep wound formed in their hearts for Him to return.  They missed Him and longed to be with Him again.  This is what caused the Apostles to live like they lived – they had been with Jesus:

“Now when they (Sanhedrin) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” –Acts 4:13

In essence, apostolic Christianity is simply seeing the worth of Jesus like the Apostles did.  Though we cannot see His physical frame with our eyes or hear the tone of His voice we can behold Him by the Holy Spirit and have the same encounters with Him in our day (this is exactly what Paul prayed for the churches everywhere he went (Eph 1:17-19).  In order to see Jesus the way the apostles did we must go on a journey of discovering the Man behind the name we so often use.

Love consists of knowledge. We are most intimate with those we know at the deepest levels.  This applies just the same in our relationship with Jesus.  We cannot claim to be intimate with Him if we do not know the details of His life, personality, and attributes revealed in the Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  Since Christ is our life the most natural thing should be to devour every detail of His life that is available to us.  Yet it’s becoming common for people in our generation to know very little about the life of Jesus and yet call themselves followers of Him without seeing any contradiction.

We must ask hard questions and ask if we are guilty of being more in love with an idea of Christ than with Christ Himself.  Has Christianity become a formula of truths that we believe or is it a life centered around the Person of Jesus?

One of the reasons many people in the church are burning out is because they’ve been called to live a radical life of Christianity without Christ, a “Christ-less Christianity” if you will.  This has and always will lead to disillusionment.

We must return to our first love and search out the riches of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus.  The Gospels should be most precious to us.  They reveal Him, line upon line and grant us access to Him that the multitudes only dreamed of.   When we encounter Him and understand what the early church did it will empower us to live as they lived.  As we look upon Him in the Scriptures with eyes of faith, the fog will lift and our lives will be changed.   That’s what apostolic Christianity is all about – the glory of Jesus.

“If the believer would enter into a better, deeper, fuller knowledge of God he must prayerfully study the person and work the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures!   Let this be made our chief business, our great delight, to reverently scrutinize and meditate upon the excellencies of our Divine Savior as they are displayed upon the pages of Holy writ.  Then, and only then, shall we ‘increase in the knowledge of God’.  The ‘light of knowledge of the glory of God’ is seen only ‘in the face of Jesus Christ'”.  -A.W. Pink