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The Birth of Jesus

1–2 During those days, the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus,[a] ordered that the first census be taken throughout his empire. (Quirinius was the governor of Syria at that time.) Everyone had to travel to the hometown of their family to complete the mandatory census. 4–5 So Joseph and his wife, Mary, left Nazareth,[b] a village in Galilee, and journeyed to their hometown in Judea, to the village of Bethlehem,[c] King David’s ancient home. They were required to register there, since they were both direct descendants of David. Mary was pregnant and nearly ready to give birth.

6–7 When they arrived in Bethlehem,[d] Mary went into labor, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the newborn baby in strips of cloth, and Mary and Joseph laid him in a feeding trough since there was no available space in any upper room in the village.[e]

An Angelic Encounter

That night, in a field[f] near Bethlehem, shepherds were watching over their flocks. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared in radiant splendor before them, lighting up the field with the blazing glory of God, and the shepherds were terrified! 10 But the angel reassured them, saying, “Don’t be afraid, for I have come to bring you good news, the most joyous news the world has ever heard! And it is for everyone everywhere! 11 For today in Bethlehem[g] a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah.[h] 12 You will recognize him by this miraculous sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in the feeding trough!”[i]

13 Then all at once in the night sky, a vast number of glorious angels appeared, the very armies of heaven! And they all praised God, singing:

14 “Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven!
    For there is peace[j] and a good hope[k] given to the sons of men.”

15 When the choir of angels disappeared and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go! Let’s hurry and find this Word[l] who is born in Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 So they hurried off and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in a feeding trough.

17 Upon seeing this miraculous sign, the shepherds recounted what had just happened. 18 Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was astonished by what they were told.

19 But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant.

20 The shepherds returned to their flock, ecstatic over what had happened. They praised God and glorified him for all they had heard and seen for themselves, just like the angel had said.

Baby Jesus Dedicated in the Temple

21 On the day of the baby’s circumcision ceremony, eight days after his birth, his parents gave him the name Jesus, the name prophesied by the angel before he was born. 22 Forty days after the birth of her son, Mary’s time of purification had completed, so she came to the temple with a sacrifice, according to the law of Moses.[m] So Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to Jerusalem to be dedicated before the Lord.[n] 23 For it is stated in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be set apart for God”[o] 24 and is required to offer a prescribed sacrifice, “either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”[p]

25 As they came to the temple to fulfill this requirement, an elderly man was there waiting—a resident of Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. He was a very good man, a lover of God who kept himself pure, and the Spirit of holiness rested upon him. Simeon believed in the imminent appearing of the one called “The Refreshing of Israel.”[q] 26 For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him[r] that he would not see death before he saw the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. 27 Keeping his promise, the Holy Spirit led Simeon to be in the temple court at the very moment Jesus’ parents entered to fulfill the requirement of the sacrifice.

28 Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied:

29–31 “Lord and Master, I am your loving servant,
    and now I can die content,
    for you have fulfilled your promise to me.
    With my own eyes I have seen your Word,[s]
    the Savior you sent into the world.
32 He will be glory for your people Israel,
    and the Revelation-Light for all people everywhere!”[t]

33 Mary and Joseph stood there, awestruck over what was being said about their baby.

Simeon then blessed them and prophesied over Mary, saying:

34–35 “A painful sword[u] will one day pierce your inner being,
    for your child will be rejected by many in Israel.
    And the destiny of your child is this:
    he will be laid down[v] as a miracle sign
    for the downfall[w] and resurrection of many in Israel.
    Many will oppose this sign, but it will expose to all
    the innermost thoughts of their hearts before God.”

36–37 A prophetess named Anna was also in the temple court that day. She was from the tribe of Asher and the daughter of Phanuel.[x] Anna was an aged widow who had been married only seven years before her husband passed away. After he died she chose to worship God in the temple continually. For the past eighty-four years[y] she had been serving God with night-and-day prayer and fasting.

38 While Simeon was prophesying over Mary and Joseph and the baby, Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child. From that day forward she told everyone in Jerusalem who was waiting for their redemption that the anticipated Messiah had come![z]

39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required of them by the Law of the Lord, they took Jesus and returned to their home[aa] in Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew more powerful in grace, for he was being filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

At Age Twelve Jesus Visits the Temple

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to worship at Jerusalem during the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus turned twelve,[ab] his parents took him to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, as was their custom. 43 A full day after they began their journey home, Joseph and Mary realized that Jesus was missing. 44 They had assumed he was somewhere in their entourage, but he was nowhere to be found. After a frantic search among relatives and friends, 45 Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

46 After being separated from him for three days, they finally found him in the temple, sitting among the Jewish teachers,[ac] listening to them and asking probing questions. 47 All who heard Jesus speak were awestruck at his intelligent understanding of all that was being discussed and at his wise answers to their questions.

48 His parents were shocked to find him there, and Mary scolded him, saying, “Son, your father and I have searched for you everywhere! We have been worried sick over not finding you. Why would you do this to us?”

49 Jesus said to them, “Why would you need to search for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be here in my Father’s house, consumed with him?”[ad]

50 Mary and Joseph didn’t fully understand what Jesus meant.

51 Jesus went back home with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother[ae] treasured Jesus’ words deeply in her heart. 52 As Jesus grew, so did his wisdom and maturity. The favor of men increased upon his life, for he was greatly loved by God.[af]


  1. 2:1–2 It is ironic that the Roman emperors viewed themselves as “gods” while the little baby born in a feeding trough was the true God incarnate.
  2. 2:4–5 “Nazareth” is taken from a Hebrew word for “branch” (Isa. 11:1). God controls all events, proven by the fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, even though his parents were living in Nazareth. See Mic. 5:2.
  3. 2:4–5 The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about sixty-five miles (105 kilometers) and would have taken a number of days for them to arrive. Bethlehem, or Byt-lehem, means “house of bread,” the prophesied birthplace of Messiah. However, the Hebrew word lechem is a homonym for “fighter” or “warrior.” Jesus was born in “the house of fighters.” Bethlehem is the city of David, who was one of the greatest fighters in the entire Bible. Perhaps this is why the people of Jesus’ day expected him to fight the Romans and free their land from foreign occupation. Jesus fulfilled both aspects of the meaning of Bethlehem in Gethsemane and on the cross, where he fought the “Goliath” of our souls and won, becoming bread for the world.
  4. 2:6–7 Or “While they were in Bethlehem.”
  5. 2:6–7 This is the Greek word kataluma. This is not an “inn” but simply the upstairs level of a home where guests would stay. It means there was no guest room available in Bethlehem for Mary to give birth. Since all of Joseph’s and Mary’s family also made the journey because of the census, every home of a relative would have been full. In that day Bethlehem was far too small of a village to have an actual inn, all the katalumai there were occupied. It is likely that Joseph and Mary had to sleep downstairs in the main room of a relative’s house. The downstairs of a village home in that day was like an all-purpose room that served as a workshop during the day, and at night it was used to shelter frail animals, while the rest of the flock was left outdoors. The kataluma was not a full-fledged barn or stable, but it did contain a drinking trough or manger cut in the bedrock. This was the likely place where the baby Jesus was placed after his birth.
  6. 2:8 Many scholars believe that these could be the same fields where sacrificial flocks were kept for temple worship. How fitting that these shepherds would hear the announcement of the birth of the Lamb of God. Others believe these fields could have been near the field of Boaz, or the fields where David once watched over the flocks of his father, Jesse.
  7. 2:11 The Greek text says, “the city of David.”
  8. 2:11 Translated literally from the Aramaic text. This is one of the most amazing statements found in the Gospels declaring the deity of Jesus Christ.
  9. 2:12 A baby lying in a feeding trough where animals were kept nearby, wrapped in strips of cloths, became a sign of the Man-Savior’s life on earth. He entered the world as a lowly baby, and though he is the mighty God, he lived his life on earth in gentleness before all. The shepherds that night were possibly near Bethlehem at Migdal Eder, “the [watch] tower of the flock.” This would fulfill both the prophecies of Mic. 5:2 and Mic. 4:8, which say, “to you it [he] will come, your dominion [kingdom] from old will arrive.” It was at the lower floor of the watchtower (Migdal Eder) that the birthing of the Passover lambs would take place. Selected ewes that were about to give birth would be brought there. After the birth of the lambs, the priestly shepherds would wrap the lambs in cloth and lay them in a manger lined with soft hay to prevent them from hurting themselves, for Passover lambs must be unblemished with no bruise or broken bone. The miracle sign for these priestly shepherds would be a baby boy lying where the Passover lamb should be—in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth. It was at the cradle of Jesus Christ that the kingdom from ancient times arrived on earth.
  10. 2:14 Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel of peace. The four prominent sacrifices of the Old Testament are emphasized in the four Gospels. In Matthew we see the death of Christ in the figure of the trespass offering, in Mark the sin offering, in Luke the peace offering, and in John the burnt offering. The peace God gives us is emphasized in Luke’s Gospel, which is why the angels announced peace and hope. On the day of his resurrection Jesus said, “Peace to you.”
  11. 2:14 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “good will among people” or “good will among people with whom he is pleased.”
  12. 2:15 The Greek is the word rhema.
  13. 2:22 This comes from Lev. 12:1–7. When a son was born, the mother went through a forty-day period of purification, and then she was to offer a sacrifice to complete the process.
  14. 2:22 The ark of the covenant, signifying the presence of God, had been absent from the temple since 586 BC, when the Babylonians destroyed the temple. Herod’s temple had no ark of covenant until Jesus came into the temple that day. God returned to the temple when Mary carried her baby into its courts. What a dramatic moment! See Mal. 3:1–2.
  15. 2:23 Ex. 13:2, 12.
  16. 2:24 Because Joseph and Mary were rather poor, not yet having received the gifts brought by the wise men, they offered a pair of doves or pigeons instead of a lamb (Lev. 12:6–8). Mary offered a sin offering, showing her need of a Savior. Jesus would one day be offered as her true Lamb.
  17. 2:25 “The Refreshing of Israel” is a name for Jesus that can also be translated “The Encourager of Israel.”
  18. 2:26 Simeon’s name means “he who hears.”
  19. 2:29–31 Or “Manifestation” in the Aramaic.
  20. 2:32 This is a fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies, such as those found in Isa. 9:2; 40:5; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1–3.
  21. 2:34–35 This is a unique Greek word used for “sword.” Literally it means “a large broadsword.”
  22. 2:34–35 The Greek word translated “appointed” actually means “to lie down.” Jesus was laid down on a cross and in a tomb for us and rose again for us.
  23. 2:34–35 The Greek word translated “falling” can also be translated “downfall” or “destruction.” Perhaps this was a prophecy of the cross of Jesus Christ, where many will rise or fall depending on what they do with Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are all destined to be joined to him in his death and resurrection (Gal. 2:20). Every believer experiences both a “downfall” and a “resurrection.”
  24. 2:36–37 The name Asher means “blessed.” Phanuel means “the face of God.”
  25. 2:36–37 Some Greek manuscripts make her age to be eighty-four. But the most reliable Greek and Aramaic texts state that she had been in the temple for eighty-four years. If so, this would make her at that time to be about one hundred six. God is faithful to those who wait in faith. Both Simeon and Anna were privileged to touch the Christ before they died in faith.
  26. 2:38 The Greek text literally says that Anna told everyone “who was looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” This is a figure of speech for the one who would come and set them free; i.e., the Messiah. What amazing prophetic words came through Simeon and Anna!
  27. 2:39 Luke omits their journey to Egypt to spare Jesus from the death decree of Herod. That information is given to us by Matthew. But none of the Gospels gives all the details of this period. Luke also has nothing about the visit of the wise men (Matt. 2:1–12), and Matthew tells nothing of the shepherds or of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:8–28). All four Gospels supplement one another. A long period of time likely transpired between vv. 38 and 39.
  28. 2:42 At the age of twelve, a boy was called by the Jews a “son of the law.” The number twelve is found often in the Bible and is linked to God’s perfect administration and our human alignment to it. God’s family of Israel was made up of twelve tribes, twelve sons of Jacob. Jesus chose twelve apostles, there are twelve months in the yearly cycle, and there are twenty-four elders around God’s throne (twelve times two). Jesus coming into the house of God at age twelve points to the perfect alignment he had with his Father as the Apostle of our faith. See Heb. 3:1.
  29. 2:46 Or “rabbis.”
  30. 2:49 The first recorded words of Jesus, when he was only twelve, are given to us here.
  31. 2:51 Mary was an amazing woman and should be honored as the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. She was the only human being who was with Jesus all the way from his birth to his death. She is also mentioned in Acts 1:14.
  32. 2:52 We know virtually nothing about the eighteen years between ch. 2 and ch. 3, when Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized by the prophet John. We knew he grew in favor with God and men. He served his earthly father in a carpenter’s shop. It is likely that Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, died during this season of his life. This left Jesus with the responsibility as firstborn to provide for his family. Amazing mysteries surround this one who is too marvelous for words!

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