The Divine Glory in Subtle Shades of Simplicity
Tom J. Nettles
Geographical Setting – It is important for Luke to set his narrative at a
particular time. Thus the birth occurred in conjunction with a call for
registration for taxes during the time that Quirinius held some governing
II. Elevation of the Simple, outcast, and downtrodden. This is a theme of Mary’s magnificat, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (1:52).
A. Lukan Themes
1. Jesus gives special attention to the poor [1:48ff; 2:7ff; 4:18; 6:20ff; 7:13;14, 16:19-31; 18:35-43
2. tax collectors [ 3:12; 5:27, 28; 7:29, 34; 15:1, 18:9-14 19:1-10]
3. Sinners [5:8,20; 7:34, 37; 15:1, 2, 10; 19, 23]
4. Samaritans [9, 10, 17]
5. Gentiles [2:32, 7:1-10, 24:47]
6. Women [1, 4, 7:11-17, 36-50; 8:1-3, 40-48 10; 13, 18; 21; 23; 24]
B. Enrichment of the ordinary
1. Appearance to shepherds – known as dishonest; unclean; testimony not accepted in court; If this had been a manufactured bit of history, Luke hardly would have had shepherds as providing the first testimony to the birth of Jesus.
2. Wrapped in strips of cloth – he had exchanged the unviewable glory of his intrinsic holiness and excellence and essential omnipotence for the bands of cloth used to give warmth and a feeling of security to a new-born utterly dependent human child.
3. Lying in a manger – Jesus own birth would reinforce his message of “Take no thought for tomorrow, what ye shall eat etc.” In his birth, all that he had was on short loan from others and not his at all. The entire affair of bringing him safely into this world was a matter of divine providence.
No amount of earthly status could add anything to the intrinsic glory of
Christ; he needed no external trappings to exalt him and he came as an act of
pure grace; this is emphasized by the sheer glorylessness of his external
circumstances in entering the world. It is one element of Jesus’ being a
stumbling block that so inglorious a setting was given the Messiah. Note the
irony of the later observation, “Can any good thing come out of
III. Announcement – In accordance with the true heavenliness of this event, an angel, though again in a somewhat privatized setting [just to shepherds] announced this event. This angel would be joined by a “multitude” to express the amazing exhilaration of these glorious heavenly beings at the coming to earth of the one around whose throne they had sung and marveled for ages.
A. Pattern in Luke
1. Appearance of the Angel 9; cf. 1:11; 1:26, 27
2. Response of fear – 2:9; cf. 1:12, 13; 1:29, 30
3. Word of reassurance – 2:10; cf. 1:13; 1:30
4. Divinely ordained message – 2:10-12; cf. 1:13-18; 1:30-33
5. Sign event [in this case not including any questioning] 2:12; cf. 1:13, 24; 1:36
B. To the shepherds
1. The Angel stood before them [-The angel probably is not hovering in the air but is with the shepherds on the ground.
2. appearance of angels – The coming of the angel made the glory of the Lord shine around the shepherds, probably an emanation from the angels for they stand constantly before the glorious throne of the thrice-holy God. Even Moses, not an angel but a mere man, reflected the divine glory when he came down from the mountain [Exodus 34:29-35] Angel means messenger; and as usual these angels had a message from God; They spoke what God told them and no more.
3. The message was
· good news – gospel
· great joy – joy inexpressible, full of glory [1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 1:4]
to all the people
– in this case probably the Jews [not peoples] referring in particular to those
who already were recipients of promises and were waiting for the redemption of
· A child is born, a Son is given in the most humble of states [in stark contrast to the glory which shone around the angels; their radiance of glory was a manifestation of his intrinsic glory]
C. A Multitude of heavenly host join the single angel standing before the shepherds
1. They give Glory to God; Angels, both by divine revelation and continual observation knew that his entire episode would be a demonstration of the divine attributes in a way that no other event had ever been or would ever be.
2. They announce peace to those who are the objects of his good pleasure. The savior has come to reconcile the elect. [Ephesians 1:5, 9]
D. Confessional importance of Angels – 1 Timothy 3:16
1. At the Birth – Luke 1 and 2
2. Temptation – Mt. 4:11
4. Resurrection –Lk 24:4-6
5. Ascension – Acts 1
6. Aids in gospel proclamation – Acts 5:18-21; 12:6-11
IV. Titles of Jesus
A. A theme of Luke
1. Son of the Most High – 1:32
2. Son of God – 1:35
3. My Lord - 1:43
B. In the Text
1. Unto you is born a Savior “Call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” Matthew 1:21.
2. who is Christ – “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ) [John 1:41; “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26). “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” 1 John 5:1.
3. the Lord– “My Lord and my God” John 20:28; “Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” Philippians 2:11
V. Importance of the historical appearing –
A. Scripture texts showing the emphasis on the true, physical historic phenomenon of the incarnation of the eternal Son of God in a true human nature - Lk 24:26, John 3:17, Acts 17:3, Romans 3:21; Romans 8:3; 9:5; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:6, 7; Col 1:19; 2:9; 1 Tim 1:15; 3:16; 2 Tim 1:10; 2:8; Titus 1:2, 3; 3:4; Heb. 1:6; 2:9, 14; 5:7. 1 John 4:2
B. God’s redeeming activity is not accomplished by an act of mere will. It had to be accomplished through the completion of and honoring of righteousness among his human creatures. “Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
VI. Responses to the immediate occasion –After the angels returned to heaven several responses of earthly recipients of these angelic visitations are seen.
A. The Shepherds had three responses
1. They went immediately and found things just as the angels had said. Nothing can thwart the plan of God is sending his Son to accomplish the saving of his people. All of it will be just as God has said.
2. They told others about these events and about the content of what the angels had said. A savior was born; the savior was indeed the Christ, and the Christ was the Lord.
3. The shepherds evidently had believed this with a saving belief for they returned, “Glorifying and praising God” and knew that the message they had heard proved to be unalterably true.
B. Those that heard the shepherds had a response – They wondered, that is, they found these things to be matters of marvelous importance. They perceived that, indeed, something full of mystery had occurred.
C. Mary responded
1. She “treasured up” all these things. From the moment of Gabriel’s appearance to her (the angel that stands in the presence of God) to the appearance of the shepherds (who were among the most lowly esteemed in the earth), Mary’s life had been a whirlwind of infinitely glorious events.
¨ To her had been give the statement as to how the Son of God would also be her own son. Hers would be a truly Trinitarian experience in which the Holy Spirit came on her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her so that the child to be born would be the “Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).
She was told that
¨ She had been moved mightily to give forth from the overflow of her own soul a mighty statement of praise to God who had set forth in her own body invincible actions in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant that would be deemed weak and insignificant by the powers of the world. (Luke 1:46-56)
¨ Joseph, her betrothed, also had been assured by divine revelation of the supernatural events that led to the pregnancy of Mary (Matthew 1:18-25)
She had made a
journey to the city of
2. She pondered them. Throughout her life she saw unfolding before her the truth that she would soon be forced to hear, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”
VII. Assumptions and Inferences
A. Connections between History and Redemption – The Fall took place in time and space and brought God’s curse on man in particular but by extension on all the earthly creation. Within that sphere, then, God’s righteous judgment must be manifest and it must be accomplished in the nature that sinned.
B. Clarity and Simplicity of Revelation – Although the incarnation itself, shows a wisdom and power of truly divine proportions and a complete understanding of it will always elude us and the contemplation of it will be one of the most entertaining and joyful experiences of eternity, the events themselves and the announced purpose of these events is very clear. The Son of God has become incarnate in order to be a savior of Sinners, to gather his people together as a redeemed community.
C. We must learn to be content and find our only security and deepest joy in knowing that, no matter what the appearance of our earthly status, we are so absolutely in the hands of God, that no earthly position is any more secure than another but all positions are equally matters of divine directive and will.