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Good News of Great Joy

  • by LA UBF
  • Dec 20, 2009
  • 972 reads


The good news of great joy�

Good News of Great Joy

Luke 1:57-2:20

Key Verse 2:10

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”

Read 1:57-66. People tried to name the son after his father Zechariah, and yet the son ended up getting the name John. What does this episode indicate about the work of God?

Read 1:67. When did Zechariah prophesy? Who enabled him to prophesy? What does this event tell us about: 1) the work of the Holy Spirit; and 2) the work of God through his servants (Jesus Christ and John the Baptist)?

Read 1:68-80 and compare it with Luke 2:10. How are the two passages related? 

Read 2:1-7. How did the Savior end up being born in a manger in Bethlehem? What does this event show us about the work of salvation? 

Read 2:8-14. What does this passage further tell us about the reason(s) why the birth of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people?

Read 2:15-20. What did the shepherds do? What can we learn from them? 

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Good news of great joy�

 Good news of great joy

Luke 1:57-2:20

Key Verse 2:10

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

[Before I proceed with today's bible study, I would like to recommend several books to read. James Hastings, A dictionary of the Bible (1902); G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; T. J. Crawford, The Doctrine of the Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; J. Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied; B.B. Warfield, The New Testament Terminology of Redemption,  Biblical doctrines; B.B. Warfield: Redeemer and Redemption. I was able to buy all of them for $105.02, including shipping and handling.]

Merry Christmas! Nowadays a lot of people are unhappy for their houses are being foreclosed on. How nice would it be if when your house is about to be foreclosed on, someone shows up and pays off the mortgage for free? It would certainly be good news of great joy. Today we are told that God sent Jesus to redeem not just houses but people. People are more important than houses. Truly this is the good news of great joy. With this in mind let us study the passage in two parts.

Part I. He has redeemed his people (1:57-80)

About six months before the birth of the Savior, there lived in Israel a priest named Zechariah.  He was an old man, well along in years. He did not have a son for his wife Elizabeth was barren. So with his wife he kept praying. God heard him. While he was praying at the Lord's temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. And you are to give him the name John.” The news was too good to believe. So he blurted out, "Sir, I am too old. How can I be sure of this?" The angel became upset and said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Thus, for almost a year, he was not able to speak. Then when his son arrived, and became 8 days young, despite the objection of his relatives, according to the angel's instruction, he named the son John! Suddenly, the Holy Spirit filled him. His tongue loosened! He began to prophecy. 

Luke describes the prophecy in verses 67-79. This prophecy is relatively short, consisting of only 11 verses. But it summarily describes the work of redemption through Jesus Christ and his fore-runner, John the Baptist. This prophecy is reducible to one word: “Redemption.” This prophecy on redemption can be sub-divided into two departments: redemption accomplished (67-68) and redemption applied (69-79). [It is like a man making a medicine that can miraculously cure a disease. The discovery has already been made. Mission accomplished. All you need to do to get healed of the disease is to apply the medicine. So the distinction is, “redemption accomplished” [medicine right there in your palm]; and “redemption applied” [you need to consume the medicine. You need to put the pill in your mouth and swallow it. Then you will be done with the disease].

First, redemption accomplished (57-68)

Look at verses 67-68. “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” [Here “his people” refers to God’s elect - those who would believe in the Savior and saved.] Surprisingly, it is in the present perfect tense. Jesus was yet to be born. The problems were still raging in the world. The work of redemption was yet to be completed. But the Holy Spirit maintains that the redemption has already taken place! 

As used in the Bible, redemption is deliverance from the power of alien dominion and enjoyment of resulting freedom. As it bears on salvation, redemption refers to a release from the power of sin so the redeemed can enjoy the freedom from the power of sin. Sin is a deathly disease that separates man from God, the source of life. So after getting released from the dominion of sin, the redeemed can have fellowship with God so that he can have life and have it to the full. In a broad sense then redemption is God’s will and plan to restore fallen men back to the fellowship with him so they can spend eternity in his kingdom. Consistent with this truth, the Bible begins with a paradise (Genesis 1-2) and ends with a paradise (Revelation 21-22). The first one is called “paradise lost,” the latter “paradise regained.” The Scriptures we have in between the first two and the last two chapters of the Bible describe God’s efforts to heal the broken people living in a broken world, tangled up in all sorts of problems. And at the heart of all these problems is the deathly disease called “sin.”  

Again God is not indifferent to the pathetic condition of the people. In God's mercy, he prepared a plan to restore people back to him, so they could live with him in his kingdom, and he made this plan even before the foundation of the universe! “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Here the proclamation, “He has come and has redeemed his people” is as good as a man declaring, “The miracle pill has been invented! And it has arrived at your door. Go ahead and take it!” And guess what! Jesus is the miracle pill! In fact the Apostle John saw that the Lord God was so mindful of man’s sickly condition that he even had the pill ready, the pill called “the Lamb of God” slain even since the creation of the world! (Rev 13:8) “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” So we are exhorted to accept what the Holy Spirit maintains! That is, in Jesus the Savior, for all who believe in him, they already have been redeemed. For them, the perfected redemption is already theirs!

Second, redemption applied (69-80)

In verses 69-79 (which I would like to call Pilgrim's Progress, Zechariah's version), the Prophet Zechariah talks about the progress in which the work of redemption must occur in each person’s life. Look at verses 70-71, “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us…” Here, a horn of salvation refers to the power of Jesus, the power to save his people from their sins (1Co 2:1-5; Titus 2:11-14; Romans 5:8; 8:31-39). Zechariah had lived more than 2000 years ago. In those days they did not have modern day power equipment such as bulldozers or cranes. In his days, the horn of an animal like an ox is one of the best examples of power or strength. Had he lived in our day he could have called Jesus as “the bulldozer of salvation,” or the like. Jesus has the power to save us from the hands of our enemies. Jesus enables us to serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness all our days. 

Before sending Jesus, the horn of salvation, the Lord God sent John the Baptist so he could go before Jesus. God did this so John could prepare the way for Jesus. How will John prepare the way? Look at verses 76-79. "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, To give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven To shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." 

This was what happened to me. During the winter of 1971, I graduated from law-school. But I did not know the purpose of my life. Around that time my family went bankrupt. The creditors came and took away everything – house, farm lands, pieces of furniture, household essentials such as rice cookers; they even took away sandals. So my father grew bitter. Although I was the youngest son he expected me to pass the bar exam quickly, make a lot of money, and save the “Kim family.” But there was a problem with me: I inherited a deathly disease called “sin.” And it broke out only at the prime of my young adulthood. The symptoms were subtle but tenacious. To begin with I had no desire to study. I found no meaning, no purpose, and no direction of life. So I decided to become a Buddhist monk. I went to a Buddhist temple and stayed there for a while. But even the life as a monk looked meaningless. So I came out. Then I just goofed around doing nothing. By that time I was supposed to respond to the call to serve the military. But I ignored it. But the police did not. So I was on the black list. I grew desperate. God waited for this time to come. One of my law-school class mates invited me to a Bible study. To me, he was John the Baptist. He prepared the way for the Lord. As I kept studying the Bible, especially Luke's gospel, and later the book of Romans, I came to have the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of my sins. Then because of his tender mercy, Jesus, the Rising Sun, rose on me. Through the life giving word of God and prayers of many, the Lord enlightened me and helped me to gradually gain the strength to come out of darkness. Step by step, little by little, the Lord pulled me out of the shadow of death; he strengthened and empowered me to walk in the light of Jesus Christ, the Rising Sun! It has been a long process of receiving God’s healing as well as gaining personal growth, and it has been the process of redemption taking place in my inner person. And this process is still continuing. Now, I am very thankful that even as I wait for the Son of God to appear from heaven, I rejoice as much as I am enabled to serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness! Praise be to the Lord!

II. Today a Savior has been born to you! (2:1-20)

After the prophecy by Zechariah, as promised, indeed God sent us Jesus the Savior. In Luke’s gospel 2:1-5, the Apostle Luke gives us the account of the way Jesus was born. Let us read the passage. In this passage the Apostle Luke presents us evidence that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world which God promised to send, because about seven centuries before Christ, through the Prophet Micah the Lord God promised to send the Savior to Bethlehem, the town of David. People forgot about this promise. But God did not. Using the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, the Lord moved people in such a way that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. 

Thus, verses 6-7 read, “While they were there [in Bethlehem] the time came for the baby to be born. And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” This passage reminds us of the kind of love God has for us. In love he came to a lowly place, with the desire to redeem lowly sinners to a higher plane. No one likes to stay in a stinky place like a manger. Lately one brother decided to join a discipleship program. So he had a plan to move into a room located at the basement of a where several brothers in Downey UBF live together. After seeing the place, he changed his mind, for it looked like manger. Then he thought about Jesus who was born in a manger. Then as he thought about it, he realized that the basement was far better than a manger. [It has a shower, nice kitchen sink, freezer, microwave oven, comfortable bunk-bed, power hookups, laundry machines, and much more.] So he changed his mind again and three days ago he moved in. 

Each time I think about Jesus born in a manger, I end up thinking about the gold fish living in a small pond located at my backyard. In the pond I keep 11 gold fish. As I see them, I often ask myself, “Wow, the water is so dirty. How can they survive in such a dirty place?” Then I wonder: “Could I be born as a fish, willing to live with them in such dirty water?” And, “Am I willing to die for them, so that the fish could be transformed into an interesting creature like me?” Of course the answer is NO. But Jesus was different. He said Yes to the idea of becoming like one of us smelly sinners! And he was born as a tiny baby to die for our sins. And he rose again to transform and to lead us to his kingdom. This is truly the good news of great joy!

The problem of the people of Jesus’ day (and certainly the people of our own generation) was that although the Savior was born to them, people did not realize the news. So what did God do? Look at verses 8-10.  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’”

The shepherds might have wondered about what kind of news would bring such great joy. So without delay, the angel said: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in manger."” Here the angel gave three titles of the baby: Savior, Christ, and Lord. According o Matthew 1:21, Jesus is a Savior for he came to save his people from their sins. In Greek the word “Christ” means “the anointed.” In Hebrew it is “Messiah,” the one whom God [appointed and) promised to send to save his people. The Lord denotes the ownership (over the one to be redeemed). The Bible says Jesus is the Creator. He is the author of life. So he alone has the right to redeem sinners, and restore them back to him so they would become his own (Ephesians 1:14).

In the following verses, the Apostle Luke further explains why the birth of Jesus is the good news of great joy. Look at verses 13-14. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." One of the meanings of the expression “glory to God” is to say, “All the credit goes to God!” The birth of Jesus (his person and his work) offered us the full opportunity to come to know God fully, for Jesus’ life in a physical body and all the good work Jesus has done reveals God’s glory. And therefore the credit goes to God in the highest.

Then there is peace to men. This peace is not like the peace worldly rulers promise. Caesar Augustus proclaimed the era of Pax-Romana (Peace of Rome). But this peace was a fake peace, because in order to establish a political peace he shed the blood of many, causing wounds and scars to his subjects. But it is not so with the peace Jesus is giving. Jesus came to shed his own blood so through his sacrifice all of our sins would be forgiven, that we would love and serve God willingly and joyfully. In the same way, as Jesus forgave us of our sins, we can also forgive one another. So the peace Jesus gives is the peace with God and with men. This peace prepares the environment for joy to spring up and overflow. 

After listening to the angel’s message what did the shepherds do? Look at verses 15-18. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” The shepherds “spread the word.” They shared the good news of great joy. Thanks to their service, the Apostle Luke also could dig up the story. Thanks to the Apostle Luke sharing the news, many more came to learn about the news. In this way the good work of spreading the word continues to this very day. Despite the world being inundated with all sorts of bad news, still the good news keeps spreading great joy among many. 

Practically though although we share the good news, not all people are as excited as we expect them to be. Rather a lot of people are apathetic about the news. Some people are excited for a while and then when small difficulties arise, the excitement fizzles out and they go sullen. The duration of their joy is just like a firework that decorates a night sky a few seconds and then disappears. But Mary knew how to retain the joy of salvation better. Look at verses 19 and 20. “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary set a good example of the way to retain the joy of Christmas message, that is, she “treasured up” all these things, and “pondered” them in her heart. Say, “Mary treasured up.” Say also, “Mary pondered.” 

The shepherd also set a good example. Look at verse 20. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” They got the joy of the Christ’s birth the best! The shepherds’ example reminds me of Missionary Peter Park of Lagos Nigeria. The living conditions of Nigeria are not great. According to Answers.com, Nigerian’s average income per year is $330 (about $27 a month). And for the most part, the streets are filled with garbage. But Missionary Peter Park is very happy. There he made powerful disciples out of the students of UNILAG (University of Lagos, which is considered as the Harvard of Nigeria). Since he lives there spreading the good news, he is always joyful. A while ago due to some con-men misusing his name, he was detained in London for money laundering charges. But God protected him, and in a few months he was released. Then he went back to Lagos. When he stepped out of the airport, he walked into the parking lot. He looked up the Nigerian sky and sniffed up the air through his open nostrils. And there was the smell: the smell of exhaust gas emitted from all the substandard cars running around. “Ah! I like the smell. Finally, I am home.” And do you know what? Despite the unfavorable conditions of life, Nigerian UBF students are extremely happy: in fact, in my opinion Lagos UBF has the world best Praise Team! They are the most joyful dudes. 

One word: good news of great joy!



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