The New Testament reading for Friday, August 17 is:

Luke 2 (Listen)

The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when1 Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,2 who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 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.3

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14   “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”4

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29   “Lord, now you are letting your servant5 depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30   for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.6 She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents7 saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”8 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature9 and in favor with God and man.

Footnotes

[1] 2:2 Or This was the registration before
[2] 2:5 That is, one legally pledged to be married
[3] 2:7 Or guest room
[4] 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men
[5] 2:29 Or bondservant
[6] 2:37 Or as a widow for eighty-four years
[7] 2:48 Greek they
[8] 2:49 Or about my Father's business
[9] 2:52 Or years

(ESV)


English Standard Version: Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

New Testament Pastoral Commentary for Luke 2
Author: Pastor Zach
Earlier this month, I endured another birthday. I say I endured another birthday because my birthday is not a favorite day of mine. Indeed, I much prefer a low-key and reflective day rather than a celebratory and boisterous one.

In preparation for my birthday, my wife Melody asked me what I wanted as gifts. I answered as I always do: "Books!" I have an acute case of "bookophilia," as anyone who has visited my office knows. I love to read theological tomes. I even keep a wish list on amazon.com so that Melody can buy me exactly what I want for special occasions. Not a lot of creativity is needed when choosing a gift for me. Simply select a book from my wish list.

Over the years, it seems that gift giving has gone from being creative to calculated. People are no longer happy with just any gift; rather, they want a specific gift. And if they do not receive that specific gift, they return their unwanted gift to the store. In fact, I stumbled across a website the other day called yourchristmaslist.com. It allows you to, with great specificity, identify what gifts you would like to see under your softly lit Christmas tree on the morning of December 25. Its home page boasts: "Tired of standing in long lines, exchanging all of your unwanted Christmas gifts? Here's your chance to get what you want this year! Sign up now for a Christmas Gift List!" Clearly, we have become hopelessly particular when it comes to our gifts.

Our attitude toward the gifts of this world has sadly spilled over into the gifts of God's Spirit. There are some Christians who, with great definitiveness and earnestness, demand that God give them one spiritual gift or another. This is especially true with the so-called "spectacular gifts," such as the gift of tongues or the gift of healing. But unlike the wish lists we create for our birthdays and Christmas, we can place no such specific demands on the Holy Spirit. Rather, the Spirit passes out his gifts when and where he pleases.

In our reading for today from Acts 2, we read of an outpouring of God's Spirit that is truly remarkable in the history of the church: the outpouring of God's Spirit on Pentecost. In this particular instance, God's Spirit enables Jesus' disciples to speak in languages they have not learned to spread the message of Jesus. As verse 4 says, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." I like the old King James Version of this verse because it more closely corresponds to the Greek: "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Did you catch that? The Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak in tongues. It was a gift. That means they couldn't coerce or demand their sudden linguistic proficiency. It was a gift given by the Spirit when and where he pleased.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the Spirit's gifts thusly:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-9)

Paul is abundantly clear: Not every person receives every one of the Spirit's gifts. To one the Spirit gives a certain gift. To another the Spirit gives a different gift. Different gifts for different people. And yet, there is only one Spirit. For it is the "same Spirit" who doles out gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, and even tongues. As Christians, we may have different gifts, but we all have the same Spirit. This is why, after Peter receives the spiritual gift of tongues and begins to preach, he finishes his sermon with this invitation: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38). The gift of God's Spirit is for every one of us.

Blessedly, Jesus' disciples received just the right gift for just the right moment on that Pentecost day. For because they could share the gospel in many languages, "three thousand were added to their number that day" (verse 41). The Spirit's gift was right on target for the gospel's cause that day. And the promise is that the Spirit continues to give out gifts to his people that are right on target for the gospel's cause in our day. So whatever your spiritual gift may be, know that it is just the right gift for you and, perhaps more importantly, it is just the right gift for the cause of God's kingdom. No spiritual gift wish list needed.