December 25, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

The Person of the Good News

for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (2:11–12)

Having reassured the stunned and frightened shepherds that he came bearing good news, the angel then gave them the details of that good news. That very day, in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4), history’s most significant birth had taken place. It had happened in the most unlikely of places—in the city of David (the tiny hamlet of Bethlehem; see the discussion of 2:4 in chap. 12 of this volume). The angel prefaced his threefold description of the newborn Child by telling the shepherds that the One of whom he spoke had been born for them. Collectively, as noted above, Jesus is the Savior of both Jews and Gentiles; individually, He is the Savior of everyone who believes in Him (John 3:16). The angel did not give the Child’s earthly name; Savior, Christ and Lord are all titles. But since the name “Jesus” means “the Lord is salvation,” its meaning is encompassed by the term Savior.

The description of Jesus as Savior is an apt one, since the reason He was born was to “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21; cf. Luke 19:10). That obvious truth is often obscured in contemporary presentations of the gospel. Too often Jesus is presented as the One who will rescue people from unfulfillment in their marriages, families, or jobs; from a debilitating habit they cannot overcome on their own; or from a sense of purposelessness in life. But while relief in those areas may be a by-product of salvation, it is not its primary intent. Mankind’s true problem, of which those issues are only symptoms, is sin. Everyone (Rom. 3:10, 23) is guilty of breaking God’s holy law and deserves eternal punishment in hell. The true gospel message is that Jesus Christ came into the world to rescue people from sin and guilt—not psychological, artificial guilt feelings, but true, God-imposed guilt that damns to hell.

Christ is an exalted title for a baby born in such humble circumstances. The name and its Old Testament counterpart, Messiah (Dan. 9:25–26), both mean “anointed one”; one placed in a high office and worthy of exaltation and honor. Jesus was anointed first in the sense that He is God’s appointed King, the “King of kings” (Rev. 17:14; 19:16), who will sit on David’s throne and reign forever, as Gabriel told Mary (1:32–33). He was also anointed to be the great High Priest (Heb. 3:1) for His people; the mediator between them and God (1 Tim. 2:5) who makes intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). Finally, Jesus was anointed as a prophet, God’s final and greatest spokesman (Heb. 1:1–2).

Lord in a human sense is a term of respect and esteem, given to someone in a position of leadership and authority. Especially it was the title borne by slave owners; kurios (Lord) and doulos (slave) were connected. To call someone Lord was to acknowledge your subservience. In the New Testament Sarah called Abraham lord, acknowledging his authority over her as her husband (1 Peter 3:6).

But in this context Lord is no mere elevated human designation; it is a divine title. To say that this Child is Lord is to say that He is God. When used in reference to Jesus Christ, kurios (Lord) conveys all that is implied by the tetragrammaton YHWH (“Yahweh,” which the Septuagint translates kurios)—the name of God (cf. Ex. 3:14–15). The most fundamental and basic confession of Christianity is, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3). No one who does not affirm Christ’s full deity and equality with God the Father can be saved for, as He warned the Jews, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you will die in your sins” (John 8:24. For a discussion of the “I am” statements in John’s gospel in reference to Christ’s deity, see John 1–11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2006], 14, 348). Romans 10:9 declares that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The angel then gave the shepherds a sign by which they could recognize this remarkable Child: they would find find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. That the baby would be wrapped in cloths would not single out Jesus for the shepherds, since that was done to all Jewish babies (see the discussion of 2:7 in the previous chapter of this volume). To fail to properly care for a newborn baby, including wrapping it, was unthinkable (cf. Ezek. 16:1–5). But Jewish mothers did not usually put their newborn babies in a manger, so that would narrow the shepherds’ search to the Child of whom the angel spoke. The stark contrast between Jesus’ exalted status as Savior, Messiah, and God and the humble circumstances of His birth emphasizes the magnitude of His “[emptying] Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).[1]

12 The “cloths” (KJV, “swaddling clothes,” from the verb sparganoō, “to swathe,” GK 5058) would constitute a “sign.” Babies were snugly wrapped in long strips of cloth, giving them warmth, protection of extremities, and a sense of security in their newborn existence. The combination of a newborn baby’s wrappings and the use of the manger for a crib would be a distinctive “sign.” Perhaps they also imply that in spite of seeming rejection, symbolized by the manger, the baby was the special object of his mother’s care. In Ezekiel 16:1–5, Jerusalem is symbolically described as a heathen child who was neglected from birth until God rescued and cared for her. She had not been given the usual postnatal care and so was not wrapped with strips of cloth (Eze 16:4). But Jesus was not so neglected. On the other hand, the “sign” might be only the strange circumstance of the newborn child’s being in the manger at all. If one moves further in the Lukan narrative, this “sign” may also point to the burial scene of Jesus, in which linen becomes yet another “sign” (cf. J. Winandy, “Le signe de la mangeoire et des langes,” NTS 43 [1997]: 140–46).[2]

2:12 How would the shepherds recognize Him? The angels gave them a twofold sign. First the Baby would be wrapped in swaddling cloths. They had seen babies in swaddling cloths before. But the angels had just announced that this Baby was the Lord. No one had ever seen the Lord as a little Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths. The second part of the sign was that He would be lying in a manger. It is doubtful that the shepherds had ever seen a baby in such an unlikely place. This indignity was reserved for the Lord of life and glory when He came into our world. It makes our minds dizzy to think of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe entering human history not as a conquering military hero, but as a little Babe. Yet this is the truth of the Incarnation.[3]

2:11, 12 The city of David here refers to Bethlehem. In other passages, the phrase means Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:7). Savior … Christ … Lord: These three titles together summarize the saving work of Jesus and His sovereign position. What God was called in 1:47, Savior, Jesus is called here. The word Christ means “Anointed,” referring to Jesus’ royal, messianic position. The word Lord was the title of a ruler. The meaning of the word is defined by Peter in Acts 2:30–36. Jesus is destined to sit and distribute salvation’s benefits from God’s side, ruling with the Father.[4]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2009). Luke 1–5 (pp. 158–160). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 79). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1374). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1253). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

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