Why did Jesus come?
What does the Bible really say about him?
We’re looking at some of these big questions about Jesus, reading through the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 1-3 outline something of the back-story to Jesus’ life and ministry. Luke begins and ends his account of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem; of central importance in the Jewish faith. Luke gives us historical details right from the beginning:
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
The Bible proclaims a God who keeps his promises. Central to the background to Jesus is God’s promises to Israel, seen throughout the Old Testament. The hope of one to come to make things right was the concern of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were childless yet faithful. The story of two special children follows.
An angel heralds to Zechariah some family news that will impact the whole nation: his son John, the forerunner, will come who will prepare the way, “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17)
Gabriel then appears to Mary, telling her of her pregnancy and of the greatness of her son; Jesus, “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). With all these Christmas miracles (and there’s plenty of them here, with angel visitations and a miraculous conception!), there’s also the reminder that “nothing is impossible with God” (1:37).
Both boys are rejoiced in, yet one is far greater. John the Baptist’s birth was remarkable, especially for his two elderly parents, but Jesus’ birth was miraculous. This Jesus brings angels rejoicing in the heavens, shepherds worshipping and glorifying God, and the climax of all of the promises God had made to his people in ages past.
This first Christmas is related to the first Easter. There is a promise that Jesus will one day bring redemption, forgiveness for sin, and shine forth light to all “who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:68-79).
In the humblest circumstances, God chose to come as one of us. The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning deliverance or salvation (the one who saves). In a time of tremendous expectation and hope for the Messiah (the Christ, or Anointed King), John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus the Lord, who was declared God’s beloved Son (Luke 3:22). He is both divine and human, with a human ‘lineage’ tracing back to David (making him the hope of Israel) and even back to Adam (the hope of all humankind).
This moment in history is unprecedented. God, through his Holy Spirit, broke both the silence of Jewish expectation and the darkness of human rebellion with the spectacular arrival of this baby – in whom all the hopes of humanity are found. In Jesus all God’s promises are found, fulfilled and vindicated. With all this in mind, Luke chapter four starts with Jesus’ ministry tested from the outset… (read more for yourself here).
Here’s a quick overview of Luke’s Gospel:
- Luke 1-3: Jesus: God’s Promises Fulfilled. Preparing the way.
- Luke 4-9: Jesus: God’s Kingdom Come. Ministry in Gaililee
- Luke 9-20: Jesus: God’s Purpose in Coming. The Journey towards Jerusalem
- Luke 21-24: Jesus: God’s Redemption and Hope. Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Author: AJ Buchan, August 2015.
*Adoration by Shepherds, National Gallery UK Creative Commons License.