The Weakness of God

07 Jun
Weakness of God

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“In Luke 2:8-14 we have a third annunciation scene, which follows the same pattern as the previous two: the appearance of an angel, a response of fear, the command not to fear, the announcement of a birth that brings joy. In this case, however, the announcement is not to a parent of the child to be born, for this birth is not just a family affair. Indeed, the angel stresses that he brings a message of ‘great joy which shall be for all the people’” (Luke 2:10).[1]

Zechariah announced the birth of John in Luke 1:67, 76, but an angel announced the birth of Jesus. Luke is continually showing the supremacy of Jesus over John, of whom Jesus says there was no greater prophet (Luke 7:28). Moreover, the Lord continually shows in the story of Jesus’ birth as man that his coming takes place under the most undesirable circumstances (Philippians 2:6-7). No one could expect anything great to come from such a birth. Mary was accused of adulterous behavior. Absolutely no one wanted anything to do with the birth—i.e. there was no room for Jesus in their society. News of Jesus’ birth came to others by way of shepherds. Shepherds were disqualified as witnesses and to sit as judges in local courts.[2] They were considered naturally dishonest, because so many were caught stealing from their masters. Additionally, they allowed their sheep to graze on other peoples’ lands, and their work made them continually ceremonially unclean. Even Jesus had to call himself the “good” Shepherd (John 10:11, 14) in order to contrast himself from how shepherds were generally perceived in 1st century AD society. Witnesses such as these were chosen by God to be the first to tell others of the Messiah’s birth.

In Luke 2:8 we are told that the shepherds were in the same country (G5561) where Jesus was born. This, no doubt, means simply that they were in the fields just outside Bethlehem as indicated by the word field (G5561) in John 4:35. The point is they were near to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, and they left their flocks to verify the sign the angel had given them and in the process prove the Scripture:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times…. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.” (Micah 5:2-3, 5a)

It is difficult to miss what God has done in the birth of Jesus. God comes to us in the form of a babe, unable to care for himself. He must be cared for in order to survive. When Jesus comes to us, we, too, must care for that precious Presence in us, if we are to benefit from his life within. Jesus was born into the weakened Davidic line, which few would take seriously during the first century AD after so long a time under foreign rule. We find the babe living in a stable, a humble place for the birth of the King, and his birth was announced for the first time by people no one really took seriously. In fact, many would avoid such men.

Finally, Jesus was born in one of the smallest towns of the Jews, where he went pretty much unnoticed by his countrymen. He is for all intents and purposes completely unknown, coming to us out of the middle of nowhere, among a people who are powerless before the mighty of the world. Could he be at a greater disadvantage? Yet, God has become weak in order to amaze the mighty and the truly greats of our world. He has become foolish (becoming man) in order to bewilder the wisdom of men, because the weakness of God is mightier than man’s strength, and the foolishness of God is wiser than all the wisdom found in the great universities of men (1Corinthians 1:25, 27). Out of the ashes of the Davidic line rose the Messiah who would truly bring peace to our world (Luke 1:79) in contrast with Caesar Augustus, who through his Pax Romana, was worshiped through the world census as “the divine savior who has brought peace to the world.”[3]


[1] Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts; a Literary Interpretation, vol. I; page 38

[2] Babylonian Talmud; Baba Metzia 5b; see also Sanhedrin 25b

[3] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, 58-61.

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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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