“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…”
I would guess at some point we have heard the opening line to Luke’s Christmas account in Luke 2.
But before we get to the details of Luke 2, consider the opening words of Luke’s Gospel:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
I love these opening words of Luke because it seems like Luke was a bit of skeptic. He was a missionary who traveled with the Apostle Paul and no doubt an avid follower of Jesus. Here’s the interesting thing about the opening line. There were MANY who tried or did write an account of Jesus’ life based on the information that was handed down from the Apostles. But Luke did his own investigation. Perhaps his background in detail as a doctor is why God chose him to take previous accounts, investigate their authenticity, and then write an orderly account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Luke wants to affirm and reaffirm the truth of Jesus, the events of his life, the content of his teaching, and the saving mission he was on.
Luke is written to all the skeptics who wish they could investigate everything for themselves. Luke does and God’s Spirit provides it to us for our certainty as well.
So what does that say of Luke’s record of the birth of Jesus? Accurate, detailed, and written so we may have certainty in our faith as well.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
Luke sets the birth of Jesus in the context of the Roman empire. Perhaps we wish there was a little more detail like “Jesus was born on December 25” (Which he most likely wasn’t.) But the names Luke mentioned are verifiable people of history. Their mention sets the birth of Jesus in a historical context. It is real. It happened. It is not a fantasy story fabricated by Luke.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5)
Joseph was a faithful follower of the Lord. Certainly the dream which clarified who the child was Mary would be giving birth to helped. However, to take your pregnant fiancée on a 90 mile journey over rugged terrain to some might seem like an act of craziness, but to us we see a heart of faith that God was working…even through a government mandate which made them leave Nazareth for Bethlehem…and maybe not return for more than a year. Remember they had to flee to Egypt after his birth due to the evil heart of King Herod.
Luke’s detail give certainty that this baby born in Bethlehem was the one God spoke of. He was to be a descendent of David…just like Mary and Joseph were.
Details are important. Imagine if all we had was, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John’s Gospel…for Friday!) While we trust this is the Word of God, it is a bit vague and a lacks concreteness. In all his detail, Luke gives the historical setting, the specific actions and the reasons why Joseph and Mary did what they did.
Everything a curious mind would want to know…God provides through the inspired pen of Luke!
Apply: What details stand out to you about Luke’s account? (Read Luke 2:1-20 for tomorrow’s devotion.)
Prayer: Lord, thank you for using Luke’s inquiring and detailed mind to record accurately the birth of your Son. Through his detail we too can have certainty that Jesus was born to be OUR Savior too! AMEN.