(3) Miracle Births
As we saw last week, Mark starts his story with the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. John the Evangelist starts his story with creation and the position of Jesus in the story of God and man. Both gospels leave off the details of Jesus’ birth.
1. Why might details of Jesus birth not seem relevant to Mark?
2. Why might they not seem relevant to John?
Which begs the question, why do they matter to Matthew and Luke? Let's start with Matthew.
1. Read Matthew 1:18-25
1. Betrothal was a legal agreement, and families would generally keep the betrothed couple apart. Matthew has already started with genealogies. Why does he go on to legalities?
2. How well do you suppose Joseph knew Mary at this point?
3. What might Joseph lose by not publically denouncing Mary? What does this tell us about the man who would stand in as Jesus’ father?
4. Was it normal to see and believe angels? Why is Joseph so “easily” persuaded?What persuades us that we are hearing the truth about God?
5. Why isn't Jesus called Immanuel? Read Isaiah 7:14,9:6
2. Luke starts in rather a different place. Read Luke 1:5-11.
a. Luke starts his story with John the Baptizer, and details of Temple rules and worship. What does this tell us about his intended audience?
b. Why might he have chosen these particular details?
3. Zechariah learns his wife will be pregnant, says no way, and is rendered dumb. Then... read Luke 1:26-35.
a. Would Luke’s audience be familiar with angels?
b. Are we familiar with angels? What do we imagine when we read this? (Has anyone read how Madeleine L’Engle imagined it?)
4. Read Luke 1:39-42
a. Luke is believed to have been a physician. What significance does that give to this passage?
b. The Catholic church uses Luke 1:28,42 in a prayer known as the “Hail Mary.” In what sense do you view Mary as blessed among women? In what sense is Luke 1:48 fulfilled in our generations?
5. Luke goes on to describe the birth of John the Baptist, which would have occurred a few months before the birth of Christ. He mentions circumcision on the eight day (Luke 1:59-65) and the unexpected choice of John’s name.
a. John’s name comes from Yochanan meaning God is gracious. How is this meaning important to the story?
b. Zechariah goes on to prophesy who John will be. Read Luke 1:76-79, Malachi 3:1,4:2 Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 9:2. Do you think Luke is familiar with older prophecies, or is he quoting a new one?
6. Read Luke 2:1-3 Augustus is the great-nephew of Julius Caesar. He was emperor from 27BC to AD14. Quirinius didn’t have the title Governor until around 6AD, when he held a census. Luke’s mention of the first census suggests there was more than one, so this one could easily occur at the time of Christ’s birth (around 5BC)
a. How do Luke’s historical references help us?
b. How do they hinder us?
c. How would they have seemed to his first readers?
Before moving on beyond the birth, can you come up with one word to sum up who each of the Gospel writers says Jesus is?