Luke 2: Good News!
April 25, 2012
Luke Chapter 2, is perhaps one of the most famous passages, in the most famous of all books, the Bible (and, in case I haven’t mentioned this, the Bible is the number 1 best-selling book of all time, and also interestingly the number 1 shop-lifted book of all time). The danger for someone like me, who has been around Luke 2 and heard Luke 2 for most of my life, is that it will simply wash over me in a comforting flow of familiar words and images, and I will not let the passage surprise and confront me. So, I was very grateful for the opportunity to look at the passage outside of the Christmas season, and to work to hear it afresh and anew.
The word of the angels grip me, “Do not be afraid!” When angels show up in the glory of God, we humans need to hear, “do not be afraid.” But, we need to hear this not only as angels appear, we need to hear this word from God at most moments of our life. The reason the angel says that the shepherds should not be afraid is because the angel brings “good news of great joy.” The world then needed good news. The world today needs good news. The nightly news in general is not good news. The general message is not “don’t be afraid.” The underlying message in many ways is “be afraid, or at a minimum carry around a low level anxiety.” What if the nightly news were different (Cal was right it was Anne Murray, and I apologize - it wasn’t schmaltzy, I was right when I was a kid – this is a good song - well at least the desires expressed in the song are good – they are kingdom desires – and ok I will admit it - I still like the melody and folky feel). But, the desires expressed in this song just do not seem to happen. Shalom has been shattered. We need Shalom restored, we need saving. That is why the content of the Angelic announcement of good news is so crucial.
The content of the good news is not just a vague wish for a better world, the news is concrete: “in the town of David, a Savior has been born, who is Messiah, the Lord.” We didn’t talk about this Sunday, but the Angel could have just said “Bethlehem,” but instead says “Town of David.” Remember David was the pinnacle of Israeli kingship, so it will be important as we go through the Luke to remember that Jesus is a rightful heir of David, and Jesus like David is a king, but as we go we will see what a different kind of King Jesus is.
In David’s town, a Savior has been born. Salvation has come to take on purely a religious and other worldly connotation. To these first Jewish hearers, Savior would have certainly stirred memories of the deliverer, Moses, who delivered the Hebrew people from the oppression of the Egyptian Pharoah and slave masters. These shepherds would have thought of their own current oppression, under the thumb of the Roman Caesar, Augustus, and his puppet King, Herod.
But, there is a deeper bondage, than the bondage under Caesar or Pharaoh, there is the bondage of humanity to the enemy of our souls. Since, the garden and the shattering of Shalom, this has been true, whether we are on the upside or underside of human powers.
The Savior will deliver from Rome, (though not how anyone would have guessed) but will first and much more importantly deliver from the enemy, and our own tendencies to collude with the enemy as we shatter shalom. We noted “the who” Jesus saves – sinners. Sinners, it turns out as we read the Bible, are all of us. One of the big mistakes we will encounter religious people making as we read thru Luke – is that they will think that “sinners” is a category separate from them, but the Bible is pretty clear it is them also. It turns out we have met the sinners and they are us.
The “what” the savior saves sinners from is first of all - sin. Sin, at its most basic means missing the mark. We miss the mark of being image bearers of the Living God, who desires perfect shalom for His good creation. Sin shatters Shalom. We need to be saved from our tendencies to shatter shalom. The Savior saves us from this, and then saves us from the effects of the shattering of Shalom – disease, social and personal, and death - to name a couple of the most obvious. So, we noted that as Jesus heals a woman who has been bleeding for years, that she has been “saved” (this is the literal translation from the Greek – not healed as the NIV has it – but the NIV is right in this - being physically healed is an experience of salvation). Healing is a little taste of resurrection come early, and disease is a little taste of death come early. So we long for more tastes of the salvation of our God.
One last thing to note in this already too long blog (speaking of too long – the talk itself bordered on being too long – so my Wednesday morning quarterbacking of the talk was that I made the fairly classic mistake of having too much information – it just all seemed so good – and I was so excited about it – I really loved getting into this text in April – I found it very powerful), is that the Savior saved us, is saving us, and will save us. In the New Testament all tenses of the verb are present. We can rightly say that we were saved, but while we say this we need also to say, we are being saved, and we will be saved.
So brothers and sisters may you experience this good news of great joy and know this Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. His name is Jesus.