The Gospel in Jesus’ Birth

And the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).

This is the day that many in the world set aside to consider the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is important for us to take note that God never commands us to observe the birth of His Son, and we have no example from the New Testament of such an observance.  We do not even know the day of His birth – December 25 was fixed hundreds of years later, and more because of the pagan festivals that surround that date than anything from the Scriptures.  Since the shepherds were out at night with the flocks (Luke 2:8), it is most likely that He was born in spring or fall.

Nevertheless, the birth of Jesus is an important event.  It is the moment at which the Word becomes flesh and dwells among mankind (John 1:1, 14).  It is the occasion of the miracle of the virgin birth (Matthew 1:22-23).  It is also the beginning of the fulfillment of the hope of Israel– and it is the feeling of hope that is about to come to pass that makes the story of Jesus’ birth so memorable.  Isaiah spoke of the one who would prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5) and Malachi speaks of the Elijah to come (Malachi 4:5-6); the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that his son would fulfill these things (Luke 1:13-17).

As a good Jewish girl, Mary would know all the predictions that were made about the Messiah – born to be the King, the One favored by God (cf. Isaiah 9:1-5, 11:1-10, etc.).  And then the angel Gabriel comes to her and tells her that the child she will bear by the Holy Spirit will fulfill these things.  He will be called great, the Son of the Most High.  He would receive the throne of David.  His Kingdom would never end.

These promises were no longer in the distant future.  They were here in the flesh.  God’s great plan was being realized in the flesh (Ephesians 3:11)!

The Good News of Jesus of Nazareth begins here.  In the messages of the angel Gabriel and the Holy Spirit through Zechariah, Mary, Simeon, and Anna, we learn how Jesus will overturn the way the world works (Luke 1:47-55), suffer and die (Luke 2:35), but would rule over a Kingdom without end (Luke 1:30-33), and would be light of revelation to both Jew and Gentile (Luke 2:31-32, 38).  Redemption was here!

Jesus of Nazareth was not born on December 25, but we can take advantage of the focus on Jesus’ birth to proclaim the message of His birth, life, death, resurrection, and lordship, just as Gabriel and the Holy Spirit did in those days of pregnant expectation so long ago.  Let us find our hope in God’s redemption through Jesus Christ, and proclaim the wonder of Jesus in our lives!

lesson by Ethan R. Longhenry

A Quick Gospel Primer

In John 19:19, we read about Pilate’s proclamation on Jesus’ cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It was recorded in Hebrew (the language of the land), Latin (the language of nobility), and Greek (the language of the masses). In a similar manner, we have four accounts of Christ’s life recorded in our Bibles, and, like the three languages of Pilate’s marker, each gospel communicates a consistent but unique view of Christ’s life and ministry.

Matthew’s gospel, for example, is geared toward a Jewish audience. Mark seems to cater to a more Roman audience while Luke’s record is Greek in language and style. Finally, the gospel of John has a more universal message.

The Gospel of Matthew

From the beginning, Matthew emphasizes the laws and traditions of Judaism. He focuses on the scribes and Pharisees, and he extensively refers back to Old Testament quotations throughout his writing. Multiple times in Matthew, we see the phrase, “that it may be fulfilled,” followed by an Old Testament reference. He is the only writer to use “church” in his writings. He arranges Jesus’ teachings into thematic passages. Jesus is called Son of David nine times. He emphasizes the kingdom of Heaven in over fifty verses.

In Matthew 10:6 and 15:24, the author refers to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” a term unique to this book. Matthew divides the sections of his book with, “When Jesus was finished,” or some variation that segues into a new topic or thematic section. This happens in Matthew 7, 10, 19, and 26. There are two pivotal points in the book. One is in chapter 4:17, recording, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’” and the other is in 16:21 when Jesus begins foreshadowing His crucifixion.

The Gospel of Mark

Mark is a rapid-moving book. It is aimed at convincing the reader that Jesus is God, quickly moving from one setting, miracle, or event to another. “Immediately” is used some forty times in the book. Suffering and persecution are themes of this gospel. He interprets and explains phrases and customs those outside Judah might be unfamiliar with, and he emphasizes the sovereign authority of Christ. There is no birth story or genealogy in Mark.

The Gospel of Luke

Luke is referred to as a physician. He is very detailed and technical in his identifications of people and places. In Luke 19:25, when referring to the camel and the needle, he uses a word for a surgeon’s needle. (The others recording this use a word for a stitching needle.)

Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. In his genealogy, he traces Mary’s line back to God, and he emphasizes individual’s encounters with Jesus. Women, children, and the needy encounter Jesus often in this book. Prayer is heavily emphasized. Luke 11, 18, and 21 are all prayer passages peculiar to Luke. He also puts an emphasis on grace and the urgency of salvation.

The Gospel of John

This is sometimes referred to as the gospel of belief, and the concept of belief is found ninety-eight times in the book. The author never identifies himself by name. He is always the apostle “that Jesus loved.” Chapters 2:13, 5:1, 6:4, and 11:55 record different Passovers, and this helps us give a timeline Jesus ministry.

John only records seven miracles, and five of them are unique to John. Also, John emphasizes Jesus’ control over His timeframe. In chapters 2:4, 7:6, 7:30, 8:20, and 13:1, John refers to Jesus’ time or hour coming. This cumulates in John’s thesis at the end of his book (20:30-31) – that these events are recorded to stir belief in his readers.

Conclusion

One cannot get the full picture of Jesus by studying only one of the gospels. They all have unique contributions to giving us a complete picture of Christ. This has been recorded for us that we may believe and know for certain the faith we have in Jesus. They confirm His deity, His power, His humanity, His fulfillment of prophecy, and His control over the events surrounding His life and death.

lesson by Tim Smelser

The Gospel in Five “Seconds”

In this lesson, we are going to look at five seconds that are part of the gospel message – the second covenant, the second, birth, the second coming, the second death, and a second chance.

Five Seconds

The Second Covenant

In II Corinthians 6:15-16, the question is asked what God has in common with idol, and, in this, the author emphasizes the covenant relationship God wishes to have with His people. The first covenant is recorded in Exodus 19-20, but Hebrews 8:6 begins speaking of a better second covenant. The authors conclusion in Hebrews 8:13 is that the previous is no more. We are under a better covenant, with a perfect sacrifice and priesthood. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says that He came to fulfill and accomplish all that was intended by the old covenant, and this new covenant is open to all who would come to God (Galatians 3:24-27).

The Second Birth

This covenant relationship is accomplished through a rebirth. Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about this in John 3:3-7, and this birth involves water and the Spirit. Paul explains this rebirth in Romans 6 in terms of a death, burial, and resurrection. We die to sin, and we are raised to a new life. We have moved from a state of separation into a covenant relationship with God.

The Second Coming

This was a very important element in the apostles’ teachings. In Acts 1:11, angels reassure the apostles that Jesus will return one day. Jesus Himself states this in the first part of John 14, saying that if He is preparing a place for His followers, He will return to take them to that place. It is a time to be reunited with our Savior. Matthew 24:50 tells us this time is unpredictable.  There is a negative side to the second coming. II Thessalonians 1:7-9 speaks of a day of vengeance against those who have rejected God. On the other hand, the Hebrew author writes of hope and salvation in Hebrews 9:28.

The Second Death

This brings up the second death as described in Revelation 21:8. A lake of fire is described, and it is the fate of those who have not prepared for the second coming by being born again.

A Second Chance

Fortunately, the gospel contains good news of a chance to avoid the tragedy of the second death. Acts 8, Simon the sorcerer is given a second chance after he offers money for the apostles’ power. I John 1:9 tells us of forgiveness of sins if we repent of and confess those sins to our Father. FInally, in Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son who recognized his condition away from his father and was granted another chance.

Conclusion

We can be part of this new covenant if we submit to the second birth, preparing for the second coming and avoiding the second death. If we stumble on our way, we know we can be forgiven and be granted a second chance.

lesson by Tim Smelser