Matthew referenced the Old Testament more than 129 times to show that Jesus Christ truly was the promised Messiah. Known as “the gospel of the King,” Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, one that was looking for a king that would free them from Roman bondage and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. If someone were to suddenly appear and claim to be King, how would you know if you could believe him?
Since royalty depends on heredity, Matthew knew the people would ask for proof. So it comes as no surprise that he began his gospel with the genealogy to establish Jesus had rights to David’s throne. Both Joseph and Mary came from the line of David. Read Matthew 1:1-17. How does knowing that all Jewish history prepared a way for Christ’s birth, show God’s providence throughout history?
Until the mid-twentieth century, the oldest copies of the Old Testament were known as the Masoretic text, which were manuscripts translated between 500 and 950 A.D. In 1947, caves were discovered that held 900 ancient scrolls–the Dead Sea Scrolls–which dated back to the 2nd century B.C. The scrolls were found to be practically identical with the Masoretic text. Write out Matthew 24:35. What comfort does it give you to know that God’s Word stays consistent and doesn’t pass away over time?
Many believe the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-16 is that of Joseph, and the genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 is of Mary. Matthew, a Jew, starts with Abraham and moves forward to Jesus, appealing to the Jews. Luke, a gentile, traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Adam, appealing to all mankind. Reading both genealogy accounts, how does the difference of these two genealogies spark significance for you?
Matthew was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and witnessed many of the events he recorded. Whereas Luke openly acknowledges that he himself was not an eyewitness, but he “carefully investigated” (CSB) eyewitness testimony and wrote in an “orderly sequence” (CSB). Read Luke:1-4. How does Luke’s introduction help you know what he wrote is accurate?
This week we’re going to look at the details of two births that are unique to Luke’s gospel, Jesus and John the Baptist. Of course it would be Luke, who was trained as a physician, who would record the births of these two important babies! Read Isaiah 55:11. As we dive into Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth this week consider what is God’s purpose in including this in Scripture?
1 John 4:1 warns that many false prophets will go out into the world and that we should test every spirit to see whether it is from God. Read Acts 17:11. Can’t you imagine Luke investigating eyewitness testimony and “examining the scriptures daily” (KJV) to determine what was true? How does this challenge you to be a student of the Bible?
Zechariah wasn’t looking for a revelation from God. He was going about his priestly duties when the angel, Gabriel, appeared with a message from God. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son in their old age! Gabriel gave specific instructions regarding this child – his name would be John and he was to be raised as a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-21). The unique details Gabriel spoke regarding their long-awaited son would fill any parent with joy, but many would rejoice at John’s birth because he was evidence the Messiah was coming! Surely the presence of an angel and this message from God delivered personally to him caused Zechariah to respond in faith! Read Luke 1:5-23. Who was Zechariah focused on? Has focusing on your own inabilities instead of looking to God in faith ever stirred up disbelief in you?
Read Luke 1:57-80. Zechariah asked for a sign and did he ever receive one! For nine months he was unable to speak, but when his mouth was opened he praised God and prophesied the coming Redeemer would fulfill God’s covenant with David (vs. 69) and the oath he swore to Abraham (vs. 73). As Zechariah prophesied, he remembered and he believed. What did Zechariah remember? What is your belief based on?
Zechariah and Elizabeth both belonged to the priestly line, as would their son, John (Luke 1:5). But John was set apart not as a priest, but as a ‘prophet of the Most High’ (Luke 1:76, ESV). Instead of a comfortable life as a priest, he lived in the wilderness disciplining and preparing himself as he waited for God to send him out. John would’ve grown up knowing the words his father spoke at his birth as well as the prophecies concerning him. Read Luke 1:76-78, Isaiah 40:3-4, and Malachi 3:1. What was John’s role and purpose? Has pursuing the truth ever made your life uncomfortable?
Malachi, whose name means “my messenger,” was the last recorded prophet the Jewish people heard from before the close of the Old Testament period. The next prophet was John the Baptist 400 years later as the “messenger” fulfilling the prophecy in Malachi 3:1. We know nothing else about Malachi because he focused solely on the message God spoke, adding nothing about himself. Read John 1:19-28. Who is the focus of John’s story? How does this change the story you tell?
John would go before the Lord as a forerunner preparing for the ministry of Jesus. Read John 1:29-34 and Matthew 3:1-6. What is the message John spoke? How is John the Baptist the Messiah’s forerunner? Being a prophet wasn’t a glamorous job. In most cases it was a dangerous role that lead to being mocked, rejected and persecuted. We even see Stephen from the New Testament point out this reality in Acts 7:52. What does this verse uncover about those that prophesied the coming of the Messiah?
One of the clearest signs that Jesus Christ was the prophesied Redeemer was that He was born of a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14). Over 700 years after Isaiah spoke this prophecy, the angel Gabriel greets Mary, “highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28 NKJV). Mary’s response shows humility and even puzzlement at how this could be. Read Luke 1:26-45. What do you think made Mary favored by God and blessed among women (consider also verses 38 & 45)?
Surely Mary will forever be remembered, but being favored by God didn’t mean her life was going to be easy (Luke 2:34-35). What happens if our confidence in God rises and falls based on what we imagine God’s favor should look like in our lives? In 2015, National Geographic published a story with the headline, “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman.” Read Luke 1:46-55. Does this sound like how Mary described herself? Count how many times Mary used the phrase ‘He hath’ – who did Mary magnify?
As stunned as Mary must have been to receive the news that she, a virgin, would give birth to Jesus, imagine her fiance, Joseph’s reaction! Since Joseph and Mary had not yet “come together” (Matthew 1:18), Joseph likely assumed Mary had been unfaithful. Ancient Jewish engagement was as legally binding as marriage and if a betrothed woman were to become pregnant it was considered adultery (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Joseph, a righteous man, showed Mary compassion when he decided to divorce her privately. Read Matthew 1:18-25. Why might Joseph have been chosen to raise Jesus as his son?
In a dream, the angel called Joseph “son of David,” reminding him of his royal lineage. Perhaps this helped prepare him for the news he was about to receive – that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). Jesus did not come from a human father. This made Jesus’ birth different than any other human ever born, and different from Greek myths of children born from gods who lay with women. When Joseph awoke did he immediately realize Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled and he was a part of it?
Unlike Joseph who obeyed God in what seemed like an impossible situation, Jonah ran in the opposite direction. Read Jonah 1 and you’ll learn that God asked the prophet Jonah to do the impossible – to go to Israel’s enemy and give them the opportunity to repent. Nineveh was the infamous city of the Assyrians who were cruel people with a history of abusing Israel. Jonah learned that running from God is futile and leads to hardship. Do you relate to Joseph or Jonah? Do you run away from or toward God in an impossible or inconvenient situation?
“For to us a child is born…” (Isaiah 9:6a, emphasis added). In a time of moral and spiritual darkness, Isaiah prophesied that mercy was coming – but in an unexpected form – as a child. In his humanity, Jesus came into the world the same as every human, born as a baby, vulnerable and dependent. Jesus wept and experienced hunger, thirst, weariness, and temptation. He was despised, rejected, falsely accused and He suffered and experienced death. From a human perspective, we may wonder how could this have been God’s plan. Read Hebrews 2:14-18 and Galatians 4:4. Why do you suppose Jesus came as a baby and lived a life on earth instead of arriving from heaven as a 30-year-old man ready to go to the cross?
“…To us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6b, emphasis added). In His deity, Jesus is the strong and sinless Son of God who was given by the Father and called Mighty God. Jesus was fully human, yet remained fully God as He has eternally been (John 1:1,14, Hebrews 13:8). When we recognize Jesus as a distinct and holy being, our worship is filled with awe and wonder at the glory and majesty of our Mighty God. Read Psalm 100:3 and John 4:23-24. Why is Jesus worthy of your worship? Why is the object of your worship important?
The Isaiah Scroll, dated 100 B.C., is one of the most impressive Dead Sea documents. At twenty-four feet long it is well preserved and contains the complete book of Isaiah. Prior to being discovered, skeptics claimed portions of Isaiah were written after Christ lived. But the intact book of Isaiah provides further confidence that the Old Testament was written by the third century B.C. and that prophecies of Christ predated His birth. Read Isaiah 53. What specific parts of Christ’s story do you see in this prophetic chapter that may have caused people to think it was written after He lived?
Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee, roughly ninety miles north of Bethlehem of Judea, where the Messiah was prophesied to be born (Micah 5:2). Every 14 years Rome took a census for military and tax purposes and Jewish men were to return to the city of their fathers. Joseph, returned to Bethlehem where David grew up. God used Augustus Caesar’s edict to get Joseph and a very pregnant Mary to make the long uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem, where she gave birth to Jesus. A trip they likely would not have chosen to take at that time had the Roman Caesar not unknowingly played an important part in fulfilling God’s Word. Read Romans 8:28. Has there been a time you’ve experienced discomfort that you can now see accomplished God’s good purposes?
Read Micah 5:2. God chose a highly unlikely place in the little town of Bethlehem, the name meaning “house of bread,” to be the birthplace of His Son, the “Bread of life” (John 6:47-51). Bethlehem won’t be remembered for its greatness, but because of the Eternal One whose “origin is from antiquity, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2, CSB) whose greatness will extend to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4). What makes a lasting legacy? How do you want to be remembered?
Long before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” (Isaiah 40:5, KJV). Centuries later, in the middle of a dark night, a bright light surrounded shepherds watching over their sheep when the “glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9, KJV). When Jesus was born, the fullness of God’s glory was seen as it had never been seen before (John 1:14). Humble shepherds, who were social outcasts, were the first to hear the good news of Christ’s birth! How does this demonstrate God’s love for you regardless of how you perceive your worth?
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV). God’s glory is like the brightness of the sun – it is impossible to separate the sun from its rays. Likewise, it is impossible to separate Christ’s glory from the nature of God, because Christ is the exact expression of his nature (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9). All creation is called to bring glory to God, yet we sometimes get this backwards thinking God exists to glorify us.