I’ve been reading parts of the Bible that I missed during the Garden to City era at my old church (where we all read the Bible in one year, following the same plan). Yesterday I started Luke and today I read chapter 2. This is the chapter everyone knows because it’s the Christmas story. In fact, I couldn’t read it without hearing Linus’s voice. Anyway, despite the tendency to gloss over the stuff we all know well, reading the text this morning sparked some questions/ideas in me. So here we are.
FYI, my Bible is the NASB translation, it’s a little bit more old-fashioned than the NIV. So there’s a census right? In the NIV it says a census of “the entire Roman world.” The NASB translation says “all the inhabited earth.” That seems like quite a difference. I don’t think I noticed it before because I always used NIV. Apparently back then, only those under Roman rule were considered part of the world. Here was my train of thought regarding the census and Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem:
How many people was that?
Can you imagine if the US census required everyone to go back to the town they were born in? If this was the case, I would travel alone to London, Ohio while my brother traveled alone to Indiana, and then my two oldest brothers, mother, and father would go to the Chicago suburbs. Weird. I understand why they did it that way back then, but it’s kind of funny to think about in modern life.
Where was Mary born?
If everyone knew about the census why did Mary and Joseph wait that long? Why didn’t they go 2 months early so she wasn’t 9 months pregnant and then they would have gotten a hotel room? (Obviously I know this was all God’s plan, I’m just wonderin…)
No one was sympathetic about a heavily pregnant girl having to stay in a barn? What kind of people are like that?
Okay, so Mary has the baby, I wonder if she lost a lot of blood. I wonder if she was sick for a long time. I have no idea what they did, if anything, for post-natal care back then. She had a lot more kids so she must have been pretty strong.
Why the shepherds? I read in my study Bible that the fields they were watching were most likely for animals that were going to be sacrifices in the Temple. That answered my question of whether or not the shepherds were Jewish, because obviously they wouldn’t have Gentiles watching the animals for sacrifice. What was it about the shepherds that God knew they wouldn’t jump to conclusions about Jesus’ role on the earth? Being Jewish, they knew about the prophesies about the Messiah coming. My study Bible said that the Jews were hoping the Messiah would get all political and get rid of Roman rule, or they believed He would be this super ultra healer and get rid of all sickness and disease. But the shepherds were just excited that He was here. At this point in the story the Holy Spirit woke me up with this thought:
How easily this falls into the instant gratification syndrome we all have. I’m no good at waiting, especially when something right in front of me looks just as good. We’re all impatient. If the angels had told the Jewish leaders, would they have given the family 5-star treatment and put Jesus on a pedestal? I think they might have. And then the story would have gone in the wrong direction. Again, I know God had it all planned out and He did it just right to fulfill the prophesies, but do you ever wonder otherwise? If Jesus would have been accepted by the Sanhedrin from the start, he wouldn’t have been rejected by them 33 years later. If Jesus’ life purpose was to supplant the Roman government and heal all diseases, then life would have been great for everyone for the span of Jesus’ life. Instead, God orchestrated an amazing plan of keeping Him hidden, growing Him away from Jerusalem, priming Him for ministry, and making Him a threat to the status quo – all things that were necessary for his crucifixion and resurrection, which in turn affects not only the people of that day but us as well. If Jesus had focused only on the people of that time in that place, our own existence would be questionable. O how humbling that Jesus could look into the future and see each one of us, look into our eyes, and know that He could save every single one of us. Thousands of years before we were born.
John 17:20 (NLT translation) Jesus says, “I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.”
Thank you Father for Jesus suffering in His life so that we may all have a new life with You through His sacrifice and resurrection.