Summary: Today we learn about the birth of Jesus Christ so that we can understand the reason for his birth.
We are studying the Gospel of Luke in a series of sermons I am calling, “To Seek and To Save the Lost.” Today I would like to study one of the best-known passages in all of Scripture. It is read every Christmas in almost every church all over the world. It is Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-7.
Let us read about the birth of Jesus Christ in Luke 2:1-7:
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
One commentator says, “If you try to point out something to a dog, the dog will often look at your finger instead of at the object you’re trying to point to. This is frustrating, but it illustrates a natural mistake we all make from time to time.”
It’s a mistake that many people make when thinking about the Christmas story. What do people in our culture think about when they think of Christmas? They think about gifts and angels and shepherds and wise men and animals and a manger and parents and, oh yes, a baby. Most people in our culture really do not understand why Jesus was born.
And yet, Jesus’ birth is the most significant birth in all of history. Our western calendar recognizes this by dividing history into events Before Christ (BC) and events Anno Domini (AD), that is, After Christ.
Today I would like to examine the birth of Jesus Christ. I would like to explain the details of his birth, and then conclude with the reason for the birth of Jesus Christ.
So, let’s learn about the birth of Jesus Christ so that we can understand the reason for his birth. Let’s learn about:
1. The Decree by Caesar (2:1-3)
2. The Destination of Joseph (2:4-5)
3. The Delivery by Mary (2:6-7)
I. The Decree by Caesar (2:1-3)
First, we learn about the decree by Caesar.
A. The Person Behind the Decree (2:1a)
First, notice the person behind the decree.
Luke began his account of the birth of Jesus by stating that in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus (2:1a). Caesar Augustus was not his name, but rather his title. Caesar means “emperor,” and Augustus means “majestic, sublime, highly revered.”
Caesar Augustus was born on September 23, 63 BC, and his name was Gaius Octavius. His grandmother was Julius Caesar’s sister, making Octavius his grandnephew. After Julius’s assassination in 44 BC, Octavius learned that Julius Caesar had adopted him and made him his heir. In keeping with Roman custom, he took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (usually shorted in English to Octavian).
Octavian’s ascension to the throne in 31 BC marked the beginning of the Roman Empire. The Roman Senate conferred on him the title of Augustus. He restored unity and peace after a long period of destructive civil wars, and ushered in the Pax Romana, an era of peace and prosperity throughout the entire Roman world that lasted for two centuries. He is arguably the most significant person in Roman history.
Caesar Augustus died in 14 AD, having ruled for almost 45 years. He left a legacy of peace, prosperity, wise administration, and many public works. The network of excellent roads he built enabled the easy spread of the gospel by Christians after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
B. The Extent of the Decree (2:1b)
Second, observe the extent of the decree.
The decree that went out from Caesar Augustus was for all the world (2:1b). This phrase refers to the whole Roman Empire and not to the entire world. One commentator said that “to the Romans, their empire was the entire world and they considered the other parts of the earth to be relatively unimportant.”
C. The Purpose of the Decree (2:1c)
Third, look at the purpose of the decree.
The reason Caesar Augustus issued his decree was so that all people residing in the Roman Empire should be registered (2:1c). This registration, or census, had two purposes. One was to register people so that they could be taxed, and the other was to register young men for military service. Since Jews were exempt from Roman military service, this registration was to be used as a basis for collecting taxes.