Luke doesn’t stop with the story of Jesus’ birth. To Luke, Jesus’ birth is a continuation of the long story of Israel. However, the birth also begins the climactic episode of Israel’s story, which reveals an outer layer…the Messiah has come for all of the world’s people, not just Israel. Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ birth has much bigger meaning than what many have traditionally extracted from it.
As noted, Luke doesn’t end the story of Jesus with the birth and the shepherds. Nor is it that the birth of Jesus merely functions as a heartwarming supplemental scene for Luke’s readers. We also see that Jesus will follow John who was born to Zacharias and Elizabeth. John is the one who will introduce Israel to its promised King, much like Samuel was born prior to David in order to introduce David to Israel. However, Luke includes the emperor, Augustus, in this story which locates Jesus on a much bigger map than just that of Israel. In fact, unlike Matthew’s account, Luke traces Jesus lineage back to Adam, man’s father, not just Abraham, Israel’s father.
Obviously, Jesus’ story doesn’t end by arriving on earth as a child. The story gets much bigger. Shortly after Jesus is born Luke tells us that He was brought to Jerusalem to the Temple where Simeon tells us Jesus would become a light to all nations. Later in chapter 2, Jesus has been discovered apart from family in the Temple where He says “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke is enlarging the meaning of Jesus’ life even as a young boy. Luke is connecting Jesus to the Temple, God’s dwelling place. Luke is forecasting a new Temple, one built for all the nations.
Fast forwarding to the end of Luke we discover that just as Jesus’ birth was widely misinterpreted so was His death. The pair on the way to Emmaus were shocked to learn that their Messiah was supposed to die a revolutionary’s death. This was intended by God? God’s kingdom was to be brought on earth in this strange way?
Luke started his Gospel with the unique introduction to John and Jesus, both born in unique ways. Luke ends his Gospel by connecting these births to one very unique death. In between, we watch John’s light shine for a short time before being snuffed out. Jesus’ light will last a while longer but it, too, will be snuffed out in a dramatic way. Yet, Jesus’ light will be relit and relit in a much bigger way than anyone expected.
The story of Jesus’ birth is obviously much bigger than just the blessing of His birth. Jesus’ birth is the continuation of Israel’s long story. His birth also begins that story’s climax, and yet, it begins another story for all nations. By being resurrected Jesus has begun building a new Temple, one suited for God to dwell in. Now, all obedient from Israel and every other nation can continue the kingdom work Jesus launched.
Does our current world see Luke’s perspective of Jesus, that’s it much bigger than the birth? Do families today tell Luke’s story how Luke told it then? Does our current world see Luke connecting the birth with the death, and also with the resurrection? Do current rulers see that God’s dwelling place with mankind is through Jesus, the real light of every nation? Do all nations recognize that it was their King that was born in such humble circumstances? …..May God bless us all as we try to communicate the story as He would!