They Beheld His Glory

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and

wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and

laid Him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7, NKJV

The five or six months before the birth of Jesus must have been both exciting and somewhat apprehensive for Joseph and Mary. Can you imagine the excitement that they must have experienced? God honored them by allowing them to be the earthly parents of His Only Begotten Son. But there were also problems – much like the kind we experience each day.

How much did the neighbors know? What about the gossip that may have been spoken within the community? Could it be that Mary remained in her home, and the people of the little village of Nazareth never knew that Mary was expecting a child? Perhaps they did know that Mary was expecting but did not know that she was already with child when she married Joseph. How would they explain the early birth of Jesus?

Then there was that prophecy in the book of Micah. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2, NKJV).

Since Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth, how could this prophecy be fulfilled?

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So, all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1-7, NKJV).

Since it was not customary for a righteous Jew to take the direct route to Bethlehem through Samaria, Joseph and Mary probably went by way of the Jordan Valley. Riding a donkey for eighty miles over rough terrain is difficult for anyone but seems virtually impossible for a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

Since God was in control and had predetermined that Jesus would be born in a small cave, which was used as a stable, in the city of Bethlehem, He gave them strength and endurance for the journey. In those days, stables were often under a deep outcropping of rock or in small caves. Sadly, this is where Joseph and Mary had to spend the night because there was no room in the inn. A trough, which was a long open box used for cattle and horses to eat from, was used for the manger.

 We may be wondering about the relationship between Joseph and Mary. In Luke’s chapter two narrative, the King James translation calls Mary “his espoused wife”; this term may be more familiar to some people. The New Kings James translation calls Mary “his betrothed wife,” whereas the New American Standard Bible translation states that Joseph was engaged to Mary. The Greek word is “emnesteumene,” which means “betrothed.”

Yet, we recall Matthew saying that Joseph took Mary as his wife. Has Luke made a mistake? No, it appears that Luke is making a point. The wedding ceremony did take place, and Mary became his legal wife, but the marriage was not fully consummated. We recall Matthew stating that Joseph did not have sexual contact with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. Marriage is not ultimately completed until there is a physical union between the man and woman. Thus, Luke made an essential point by referring to the relationship as a betrothal. We should not let this special emphasis pass without notice.

Now let us return to Luke’s story. “Now, there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger’ (Luke 2:8b-12, NKJV).

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwilltoward men’” (Luke 2:13-14, NKJV).

God sent an angel to the fields outside of Bethlehem to announce this miraculous birth to the shepherds. Perhaps these are the same fields where David tended the sheep and David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, gleaned grain.

Let us pause and reflect upon the angel who is making the announcement. He is probably the angel, Gabriel, who has already appeared to Zacharias and Mary. Gabriel told Zacharias: “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19b, NKJV).

Gabriel first made his appearance to Daniel. In Daniel’s seventh chapter of the book, he interprets a messianic vision of the future reign of Jesus. In the ninth chapter, he gives Daniel the seventy-week messianic timetable. It seems that the angel, Gabriel, was responsible for announcing all the events relating to the coming of Jesus to the Israelites. So, it seems logical that it was Gabriel, who appeared first to Daniel, then to Zacharias, then to Mary, then to Joseph, and now to the shepherds.

Let us make certain that we do not confuse “The Angel of the Lord” of the Old Testament with “an angel of the Lord” in the New Testament. A careful study of the Old Testament shows that the term “The Angel of the Lord” refers to the pre-incarnate Son of God. In the New Testament, the “Only Begotten Son of God” has become incarnated in the human form of baby Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews says: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9, NKJV).

In his infinite wisdom, God chose this time to bring forth His Son, who is incarnated as the baby Jesus. The apostle Paul emphasized this day, on God’s calendar, by referring to it as “The Fullness of Time.” This was an unusual time when there was peace around the world. It also fulfills Biblical prophecy (Dan. Chapter 9).

Note that the announcement was made to the lowly shepherds, representing the world’s ordinary people. Whereas in the past, only the High Priest could approach God, now God is accessible to all people through His Son, Jesus, who later told his apostles: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b, NKJV).

“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:15-20, NKJV).

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21). Jesus was born a Jew, under the Mosaic Law, and he kept every letter of the law throughout His entire life including the time during His excruciating death. In his death, the law was fulfilled.

Since sacrifices were required by the Jewish law thirty-one days after childbirth (Lev. 12:1-8), Joseph took Jesus and Mary on the ten-mile journey up to Jerusalem for these sacrifices.

In Jerusalem, on this particular day, a man and woman were destined to take their place in history along with God’s other chosen servants.

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So, he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel’” (Luke 2:25-32, NKJV).

“And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed”‘ (Luke 2:33-35, NKJV).

Simeon’s statement to Mary: “a sword will pierce through your own soul” referred to Mary’s suffering as she later watched her son as He died on the cross.

“Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years who did not depart from the temple but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant, she gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38, NKJV).

Joseph and Mary then returned to their new home in Bethlehem. We can only speculate as to why they did not return to Nazareth. Perhaps there were social issues that they wanted to avoid.

Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright @ 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

One Reply to “They Beheld His Glory”

  1. Cindy Browning

    Uncle Wayne, so thankful for you and for your insights. I know that your website is so helpful to lots of people. You really are an inspiration to me. Love, Cindy

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