Luke chapter 02 - A poor and humble start

Forced to travel to pay taxes, and then find no room in the inn. Born in a smelly stable, and visited by sweaty shepherds.

First published on the 19th of May 2018 — Last updated on the 26th of July 2021

God used hated taxes to get Joseph to fulfill Scripture

So, our bad times are simply God's way of forcing us to go down His path.

Luke has to present Jesus as the ideal Man. So Luke mentions very human issues.

Man’s biggest concern is wealth and this is always unevenly distributed. In 2015 America had 42% of the world’s wealth and second-placed China had 11 %. The ten wealthiest nations had 84% of the world’s wealth. There are approximately 200 countries in the world.

The poorest 40 countries own  1%  of the world's wealth.

Thus 150 countries have to share only 15% of the world’s wealth, giving each of them one-tenth of a percent.

In the wealthy United States, 80% of the people only own 15% of the wealth. So there is a vast majority of poor people on planet earth. The poor are not impressed with the small group of the wealthy elite who seem to end up in charge and ruling the poor. The 2016 American presidential election cost about 7000 million dollars. No poor person can win this election.

An endless problem on earth is the injustices and dislocations caused by the accumulations of great wealth in the hands of so few.

Luke appeals directly to the poor who are the vast majority. Jesus is their Man. Joseph, who adopted Him, and Mary were nobodies. Joseph and Mary, though religious,  had no idea that Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. So God drove them to Bethlehem by inspiring Augustus, the Roman Emperor or Caesar, to raise a special tax.

LUKE 2:1   And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Joseph, a poor man, has to travel about 140 kilometers from Nazareth to Bethlehem. His wife is heavily pregnant as the Baby is due in about one week. She has to ride on a donkey which is very uncomfortable and slow. The journey will take about a week. Will they get to Bethlehem before the birth? That thought would worry them all through the journey. So this is the worst time for Mary to travel. The donkey has to carry a week’s food, blankets for sleeping on the side of the road, and Joseph’s carpenter tools (two years later when the wise men get to Bethlehem, the family is still there and Joseph had to work in Bethlehem to support them). There is no place for baby clothes, baby cot, etc.

Why are they doing this uncomfortable trip? In order to pay taxes.

It is difficult to imagine a worse reason. We all hate paying taxes.

Rome burnt and looted 5 times destroying tax records

This verse of LUKE 2:1 is very contentious because historians find no record of this taxing in Rome's historical records.

But Rome was savagely attacked and looted and burned five times after the birth of Jesus. So is it surprising that historical documents are missing?

In AD 410 there were 3 days of looting and burning by the Visigoths under Alaric.

In AD 455 there were two weeks of senseless destruction and looting by the Vandals that was so bad that the word "vandalism" was born. They were seen taking the 7-branched candlestick with them when they left. The candlestick was never seen again.

In AD 546 there were several weeks of sacking the city by the Ostrogoths under Totila that left the city a barren ruin with its population reduced to a few hundred. (It used to be 1 million).

1084. Robert Guiscard's Normans indulged in a three-day plunder. Fires broke out across the city. Many inhabitants were killed or sold into slavery.

In 1527 the soldiers of Charles V stripped Rome bare as buildings were looted and burned. Half of the 55000 inhabitants were dead or homeless.

During all these riots and destruction, inhabitants of Rome who owed taxes would happily help the invaders to destroy the tax records.

So, where historical records have been destroyed we must rely on the Bible version.

In addition, there were two pagan Greek philosophers who were strong opponents of Christianity. They attacked the Christian beliefs in many ways. Celsus, who wrote around AD 175, and Porphyry who lived from AD 234 - 305.

Yet neither of these two men ever questioned the facts that Luke wrote.

LUKE 2:2    (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Another very controversial verse as many critics insist that historical records show that Cyrenius became governor in AD 6.

Again, we deal with the problem of inadequate data because of the many destructions that happened to Rome.

A. W. Zumpt, of Berlin, in his Commentatio de Syria Romanorun provincia a Caesare Augusto ad T. Vespasianum, has recently shown it to be probable that Quirinus was twice governor of Syria.

There is a gap of about 4 years in the records of the governors between about 4 BC and the year about 1 BC.

Historians are never able to say that Jesus was born in the year zero on our calendar. We humans never want to work with zero. Mothers never say that a baby is zero years old. They quickly change the age to so many months or so many weeks or so many days.

According to historian  A.W. Zumpt, there was a gap around the time of the birth of Jesus where  Quirinus could have had his first governorship of Syria. Emperor Augustus had made a rule that governors should hold office for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years. Quirinus would then be governor from about 4 BC to the birth of Jesus. Then his second term as governor started from AD 6.

Again, the anti-Christian philosophers Celsus and Porphyry who had access to documents that have since been lost, have never questioned nor criticized this statement of Luke.

LUKE 2:3   And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Notice how God hides His Big Plan by distracting everyone with their short-term problems and circumstances. The Jews hated paying taxes, especially when they had to pay to the hated Romans.

In that time of intense emotional upheaval, who was noticing the greatest event in human history?

That way the Devil was fooled because Jesus as a Baby was helpless but Satan was not interested in an obscure couple in troubled times.

The Place of the Branch and the House of Bread

LUKE 2:4   And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be the King of the Jews, Jesus had to be in the bloodline of David.

Nazareth. Hebrew "Netzeret". The Place of the Branch.

Bethlehem. Hebrew "Bet Leḥem".  House of Bread.

JOHN 6:35   And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life:

God's House is His Temple.

Jesus is the House of God's Bread. The Word of God is the Bread that our souls feed on.

DANIEL 5:3   Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem;

The Temple is the house of God.
ZECHARIAH 6:12   And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:

From Jesus will spring forth the seven-branched candlestick of the seven church ages.

This 7-branched candlestick of Christians in their different church ages is the Body of Jesus and as such is the real Temple of God.
JOHN 2:19   Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

JOHN 2:20   Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

JOHN 2:21   But he spake of the temple of his body.

The members of the Bride are the building blocks that build up the Body of the Lord.

REVELATION 3:12   Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,

Each born-again Christian is some part of God's spiritual Temple.

II CORINTHIANS 6:16   ...  for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The saints from seven church ages are separate living stones that will be built up over 2000 years to create a spiritual Temple for God to dwell in.

EPHESIANS 2:20   And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

:21    In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

:22   In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Zechariah prophesied of seven eyes that are linked to the Branch, the branched candlestick.

ZECHARIAH 3:8   Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

:9   For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes:

The BRANCH (Christ) Who is the Capstone will have seven eyes that act as messengers to the seven branches of the great Candlestick that branches forth over seven church ages.

So Joseph reluctantly left Nazareth. It was totally the wrong time for him to travel. Mary was just starting the last week of her pregnancy. A time of serious discomfort when her body just wanted to rest as any movement was awkward.

LUKE 2:5   To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

They have to travel slowly because of Mary’s condition. Faster people overtake them so that when they get to Bethlehem the inn or hotel is full.

Travel slowly. Spend more time on the road. The faster people claim all the accommodation.

They find refuge in a stable that stinks and is not hygienic.

They are nobodies and no one cares for them. In crowded conditions, it is every person for themselves.

Stables are smelly and dirty old sweaty sacks on yokes

LUKE 2:6   And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

It is difficult to imagine a worse place to give birth in.

Stables are dirty places, covered in animal manure. They do not smell nice. The Baby is born. A manger, wet with spit from the cows and oxen licking up the last particles of food, is His cot. At the end of His life, Roman soldiers will spit all over Him too.

MARK 15:19   And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him,...

Why did they spit on Him?  He is the Bread of Life. We cannot eat bread until we have chewed it and thereby covered it with spit.

LUKE 2:7   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

There was no room for them. They were not wanted. At the start of His life, Jesus was on the outside of religious Jewish society. At the end time in the last church age, He stands outside the Christian church door.

The swaddling clothes in this case were old sacks.

The only cloth available in a stable is the old sacks that are wrapped around the wooden yokes that stop the wooden yoke rubbing against the animal’s neck and creating a sore spot. Horses, mules, and donkeys work hard and sweat. The rags wrapped around the wooden yoke get saturated in animal sweat. So Jesus was wrapped in rags that were full of sweat. Poor shepherds rushed to the stable, and were themselves dirty and sweaty as “they came with haste”. So they felt at home in His presence as He was wrapped in sweaty clothes in this dirty stable. Jesus makes the poor feel at home because He got off to the humblest start. Few babies could be born in poorer circumstances.

At the end of His life, there would also be sweat. He would sweat drops of Blood.

LUKE 22:44   And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Why? Adam sinned and his punishment was to earn his living by the sweat of his face. So human sweat had to touch the Blood of Jesus so that this punishment could be redeemed and one day, in the new earth, there will be no more sweat-induced hard work.

God ignored all the important religious leaders

Luke now makes it clear that God does not think the way we humans do. That is why God is not impressed with our human religious traditions.

Nor is God impressed with our religious leaders. God totally ignored all the religious leaders in that day as none of them were present at the birth of Messiah, Jesus in the flesh.

God is equally unimpressed with church leaders today as they ignore or corrupt the revelation of the mysteries of God at the end-time. That is why church leaders today cannot interpret the mysteries of God, just by using Scriptures. Jesus is revealed as He walks through the pages of His Word.

But we do not get this information from church leaders. They are not present at the birth of the revealed truth of Scripture.

LUKE 2:8   And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Simple, unknown men. They were out in the fields at night to protect their sheep.

LUKE 2:9   And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

:10   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

The Baby Jesus was God in the flesh

LUKE 2:11   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The Baby is the Lord.
DEUTERONOMY 6:4   Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

There is only one Lord and He is God.
ZECHARIAH 14:7   But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.

As the sun sinks on the final, or seventh, church age there is a flash of light in the very confused time of 45000 different churches and denominations.

The flash of light reveals that there is no Trinity because you cannot find one name for three People.

ZECHARIAH 14:9   And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

But God has one name because the third commandment says you are not able to take the name of the Lord your God in vain. That name is Jesus. The name of Jesus is what sinners blaspheme with.

Paul reminds us that there is only one Lord, not three.
EPHESIANS 4:5   One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

The Baby is the Lord God, wrapped up in a bundle of flesh.

That is why wise men worshiped Jesus two years later when they found Him in a house as a Child.

MATTHEW 2:11   And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:

Luke makes no mention of the wise men. They came two years later, and found the young Child, not a Baby.  The wise men went into a house, not a stable. Jesus and Mary were present, but not Joseph.

Wise men would not have felt at home in the very unhygienic stable. Sweaty shepherds felt right at home in the stable. They were used to the smells of animals.

So Jesus, as a Man, got off to the poorest of starts in the humblest of circumstances. He thus fits in with the poor, who are the vast majority of mankind.

ISAIAH 9:6   For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

LUKE 2:12   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

A manger holds food. Jesus is the Word of God. Only the Word of God is food for our souls.

Man-made interpretations of Scripture are spiritual poison.

LUKE 2:13   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

LUKE 2:14   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

LUKE 2:15   And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

God summoned unknown, uneducated shepherds.

LUKE 2:16   And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

They moved fast. When God calls, He expects an instantaneous response.

LUKE 2:17   And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

They repeated what the angels had said. They did not make up their own version of the events.

LUKE 2:18   And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

People were amazed. Something like this had never happened before.

The scene was changing.

The hardest thing to do for people is to change their fixed opinions.

There are no prison bars that are stronger than a closed mind.

LUKE 2:19   But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Mary knew something great had happened but she did not know what it all meant so she just stored up the events in her mind. Later on it would all begin to make sense.

For the first and only time in human history, a multitude of angels appeared on planet earth in a fabulous display of praise and the glory of God.

Where did it happen? In a remote region of the Roman empire's border called Palestine. Where in Palestine? Nowhere definite. An unknown field somewhere in the vicinity of a minor town called Bethlehem.

Who was the audience for this one-off incredible supernatural extravaganza?

An unknown small group of uneducated, poor shepherds. Out in the fields they did not bath too often. They smelled like their sheep. We do not know who any of them were. Their names were not worth mentioning because they were such nobodies that no one would have recognized their names anyway. They were dead scared,  in the presence of the supernatural.

So Luke tells us something about God as a Human. He does things in a totally unexpected way. He ignored the favourites (the religious Jews in the Temple and the impressive one-man-leaders of the synagogues called Pharisees) and appeared in a most dramatic way to poor and struggling men who had no influence and absolutely no importance, and obviously no money.

No birthday gifts as the wise men went to a house

MATTHEW 2:11   And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him:

The shepherds were too poor to bring presents to His birth, there were no birthday presents.

A stinking stable is not the place for gifts.

Christmas was only invented about AD 350 by Pope Julius I just before he died in AD 352. Julius copied 25 December from the pagan Roman Emperor Aurelian who declared in AD 274 that 25 December was the birthday of the pagan sun god, Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun. Aurelian was killed in the next year, AD 275. So, introducing 25 December did neither of these men any good.

The shepherds were sufficiently grubby to feel at home and not be put off by the dirty and smelly circumstances of the stable. God was clothing Himself in human flesh and getting off to a start that was so completely unexpected in its simplicity that only the poor and unimportant could appreciate Him.

The Devil was totally fooled. He thought he knew better than to waste time and effort on a miserable stable and some unknown shepherds that were of no value. Two unknown no-bodies in the persons of Joseph and Mary could not have any significance in God's plan. Obviously, this whole scene had nothing to do with the coming of Messiah. When Messiah arrived it would be to the important religious leaders in the Temple and there would be much pomp and glory. Only then would Satan rally his demon hordes to do battle with Him. Satan was completely outwitted by a very humble and very simple scene that was acted out by very ordinary people who society regarded as having zero importance.

Jesus, the greatest Baby of all time, was accompanied in the stable by a group of zeros.

The digital information age of computers and cell phones has revolutionized our lives. The digital age depends on two numbers, one and zero.

The birth of Jesus, the Word of God Who had all the spiritual information that we need, revolutionized the world. He is number One. So everyone else at His birth had to be a zero.

Luke emphasizes this human relationship between Jesus the Man as 1 and the rest of us humans as 0.

The world around us wants to make us rate (self, ambitions, our church traditions, our church leader, our family, our culture, money, fame, women) as number 1  and what the Bible says as 0.

Notice how little the people of today, including churchgoers, know of the Bible.

LUKE 2:20   And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

These unknown shepherds had been the first evangelists. They had had a remarkable experience. They had spread what they knew of God's Plan around that region.

They only spread what they had seen and heard. They repeated what they had heard. They did not modify events to fit some agenda.




“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” — 1 Corinthians 16:23