Chapter 1 Birth and Childhood of Jesus Christ
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These pages of the Bible outline the life of Christ. As we study them we should ask ourselves three questions. First, who is Jesus Christ? Second, what has Jesus done for me personally? Finally, how should I respond to the love of Christ? As Martin Luther read the Bible he asked himself these same questions and answered them as follows: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.”
Historical Background 历史背景
The Old Testament Scriptures ended with the prophecy of Malachi. For over 400 years the prophets were silent. Then, in a humble stable, a child was born – God had sent the promised Savior!
We do not know the month, day, and year of Jesus’ birth. According to the Gospels it took place when Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome （Luke 2:1） and Herod the Great was king of Judea （Matt. 2:1）。 Most Bible scholars conclude from Matt. 2:13-22 that Jesus’ birth （or Nativity） took place some time before Herod’s death, which history dates at 4 B.C. Tradition places Jesus’ birth on December 25 or January 6, probably in the year 5 B.C.
Regardless of the exact date, we do know that the birth of Jesus Christ occurred at an excellent time in world history according to God’s divine plan and timetable （Gal. 4:4）。 Some 300 years earlier Alexander the Great of Macedonia set out to destroy the Persian Empire. Within 13 years his armies had conquered Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt, and Persia, extending his empire as far to the east as India. Following Alexander’s death his empire was divided among his most powerful generals. Within the next three centuries Greek （the language of Alexander） and Greek culture was spread widely in the countries that bordered the eastern half of the Mediterranean Sea.
However, it was Rome, not Macedonia, which proved to be the world power in the first century B.C. Roman armies extended their empire to almost every country around the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans insisted on law and order within the countries they ruled. For a rare moment in history, a general peace existed throughout this area. Individuals could safely sail the seas or travel the mighty Roman roads that connected countries and continents.
The time was right for the Savior to come to earth. Under Roman rule Christ could travel the highways of Palestine with little fear of robbers and safely preach his saving message. Later his disciples could carry the Gospel easily throughout the empire. The accounts of Jesus’ life, written in Greek, could be read and understood by educated people everywhere.
The Forerunner Announced （Luke 1:5-23） 先驱（路加福音1:5-23）
The events just before Christ’s birth are described in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke. Through the angel Gabriel God began revealing his plan of salvation and fulfilling his prophecies of old. The first to learn of Christ’s coming （or advent） was the priest Zechariah. This elderly man of God, who was to lead the temple service that particular morning, had been deep in prayer. As a faithful priest he had, no doubt, been praying that God would send the promised Messiah.
Suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared to him announcing that this prayer had been answered. In carefully chosen words Gabriel picked up the thought on which the Old Testament had ended. Through Malachi （3:1） God had promised that immediately before the Messiah’s coming a man would be born to prepare the people to receive their Savior. The final words of the prophecy were these: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” （Mal. 4:5-6）
Now the time of waiting was over. Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth would have a child who would preach with the spirit and power of Elijah. God commanded that the forerunner be named “John.” In Hebrew this means ‘“the Lord is Gracious.” This name emphasized God’s undeserved love for sinful mankind which caused him to send his Son to earth.
The Savior Announced （Luke 1:26-38） 救主（路加福音1:26-38）
The story then leaves the great temple in Jerusalem and the godly old priest. It turns to the tiny village of Nazareth and an ordinary young woman. Five months after speaking to Zechariah, Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named Mary. Again in a carefully worded yet simple message the angel made known the mystery of Christ’s coming （Luke 1:26-38）。 First he greeted Mary and put an end to her fears. Then he reminded her of the familiar prophecy of Isaiah （7:14）， “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” （“God with us” Matt. 1:23）。 Mary had been chosen to be “the virgin” and her son would be “Jesus” （“The Lord is Salvation”）。 He would be the promised Savior.
We should note that at this time, Mary showed a humble faith throughout her entire life. She did not question God’s word as Zechariah had. She only asked for more information about the part she was to play in God’s plan. Gabriel did explain her role. Through a miracle a child would come to life inside of her. God’s Holy Spirit would be its father. Meanwhile she would remain a virgin until the child was born.
Mothers-To-Be （Luke 1:39-55） 母亲（路1:39-55）
Mary soon left Nazareth and traveled to the home of her relative, Elizabeth, whom Gabriel had said was pregnant. No sooner had the women greeted each other than John leaped within his mother’s body. Thus he greeted the unborn Jesus, indicating that Jesus was the greater one. At this point Elizabeth honored Mary as the mother of the Lord, but Mary gave all praise to God.
In her words, often called the ”Song of Mary,“ she told how God had blessed her （Luke 1:46-49）。 Then she described God’s salvation through Jesus Christ （vv 50-55）。 This message from Mary’s heart reveals her deep faith. We must remember that she was a commoner who had never gone to school. Nevertheless, she did know the word of the Lord. Her ”song“ repeats the mood and content of such Old Testament verses as 1 Sam. 1:11; 2:1-10; Ps. 103:17; Ps. 107:9.
A Word To Joseph （Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:56） 对约瑟的话（太1:18-25;路1:56）
After staying with Elizabeth for three months, Mary returned to her home in Nazareth. This was about the time when John, the forerunner was born. Soon it became obvious to the carpenter Joseph that his fiancee Mary was pregnant. In those days engagement was a solid agreement to get married. It was considered final and could only be broken through divorce. However, while Joseph was thinking about divorcing Mary, Gabriel appeared to him. The angel spoke of the miraculous child and told Joseph that Mary had done no wrong. He also said that the child was to be named Jesus. Joseph then took Mary to be his wife.
The Birth of Jesus （Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 2:1-20; 3:23-38） 耶稣诞生（太1:1-17;路2:1-20;3:23-38）
Throughout the Old Testament God had spoken about the Savior’s coming. One such detail was given in the prophecy of Micah （5:2）。 The Christ was to be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah.
The Roman emperor ordered that every Jewish male had to go to the hometown of his ancestors to register for purposes of taxation. We do not know whether God caused Augustus to order the registration or simply used this political event for his purpose. But in God’s plan of salvation his decree brought Mary to Bethlehem at the time of the birth.
Since Joseph and Mary were both descendants of King David （Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38） they had to travel to Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Of course this also meant that Mary’s unborn son would be a descendant of David （see Is. 11:1-2; Jer. 23:5）。 Again we see that the events around Christ’s birth were not accidents. They followed God’s plan.
The details of Jesus’ birth are well known. Unable to find room in an inn in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable. It was there that Mary gave birth to Jesus, wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. However, when thinking of the first Christmas and the picture of mother and child it is easy to forget what was actually taking place. God became flesh; the second person of the Trinity became human. We cannot understand the eternal Son being born, the almighty God as a helpless infant, the all-glorious One in need of diapers. Christ had not become human to be honored but to be humbled and to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of all mankind （Phil. 2:6-8）。
The birth of Jesus was an event of great importance. Shepherds were camped in the Bethlehem hills guarding their flocks. Without warning an angel appeared announcing the news of the Messiah’s coming. Then armies of angels appeared, singing that God was being glorified in heaven, and that peace had come to earth. Through sin, man had separated himself from God. Now God was at peace with man through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace （Is. 9:6）。
Note the response of the shepherds. Although they saw the angels, it was the preached word of God that inspired them （Luke 2:15）。 Then, after visiting the Christ child in the stable, they became lay witnesses spreading the news of Jesus’ arrival to their friends and neighbors （Luke 2:17）。
Jesus’ Circumcision and Presentation （Luke 2:21-38） 给小耶稣行割礼并献给主（路2:21-38）
Following that first Christmas day, Joseph enrolled in the census and found better lodging for his family. However, Mary and Joseph did not let earthly matters keep them from their spiritual responsibilities. They obeyed the Old Testament law （Lev. 12:3）。 On the eighth they took Jesus to be circumcised. In this way Jesus was placed under the law, and he began fulfilling that law for man’s salvation. It was also at this time that Joseph named the infant ”Jesus.“
On the 40th day Mary and Joseph took Jesus on the 7-mile trip from Bethlehem to the temple in Jerusalem. There, they followed another Old Testament law. Because he was Mary and Joseph’s firstborn son, Jesus was formally presented to the Lord （Ex. 13:2,12; Num. 18:15-16）。 Mary also offered a sacrifice making her clean after having given birth to a child （Lev. 12:1-8）。
While the family was in the temple a faithful man of God named Simeon came and took Jesus in his arms. Simeon’s knowledge of the past allowed him to prophesy concerning the future. The Old Testament taught him that while the Messiah would earn salvation for all men （Is. 42:6; 49:6） only some would make him their rock of salvation. For many he would be a stumbling block （Is. 8:14）。 Looking into the future, Simeon knew that Jesus was ”destined to cause the falling and rising of many“ （Luke 2:34）。
Finally, with sadness and deep sympathy, Simeon told Mary that she would endure much suffering. She would see Jesus despised and rejected by men （Is. 53:3） and die a painful death for sinful mankind （Ps. 22）。 This would cause a sword of deep sorrow to cut her own soul （Luke 2:35）。
A very old female prophet, Anna, then came up to Joseph and his family. She also witnessed that redemption was to be found in Christ Jesus.
Visit of the Wise Men （Matt. 2:1-18） 博士朝拜圣婴（太2:1-18）
Still filled with wonder, Mary and Joseph took Jesus back to Bethlehem. Sooner than they expected, however, the prophecies of Simeon were fulfilled. Gentile wise men （called Amagi@）， following a special star, came to the house where the child Jesus was, and worshiped him. As part of their worship they gave Jesus precious gifts: gold, sweet-smelling incense, and an expensive lotion called myrrh.
While Jesus was a rock of salvation for the magi, he was a stumbling block for King Herod. Angry at the thought of a rival king, Herod tried to learn from the wise men where this new king lived. When he failed, Herod ordered his men to kill all male children two years old and younger who were living within the area of Bethlehem. Most Biblical scholars think that about 20 children thus were murdered. However, Jesus was not one of them. God had warned Joseph in a dream to take his family to Egypt. The gifts of the magi may have helped pay for this move.
Egypt to Nazareth （Matt. 2:19-23; Luke 2:39） 从埃及到拿撒勒（太2:19-23;路2:39）
This short stay in Egypt was yet another part of God’s plan for Jesus （Matt. 2:15）。 Some time later evil King Herod died a painful death. His stomach was eaten by worms. It is said that the smell of his breath was so bad that no one could remain near him.
Following Herod’s death, Joseph wished to return to Bethlehem, but he learned that the king’s evil son was the new king. So Mary and Joseph took Jesus and moved back to Nazareth fulfilling yet another prophecy （Mat. 2:23）。
Jesus’ Boyhood （Luke 2:40） 耶稣的少年时期（路2:40）
The Bible covers the next ten years of Jesus’ life in a single sentence: ”And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him“ （Luke 2:40）。 Those who wish to know more about Jesus during this decade of his childhood must look at his later life for clues. Jesus did not grow up an only child. He had several brothers and sisters （Matt. 13:55-56）。 Although he lived in the town of Nazareth, he must have spent a lot of time out in the countryside watching farmers and shepherds going about their work, and looking at the birds and the flowers. Later he often talked about these in his parables and teachings （Matt. 13:18-23; Matt. 6:26-30）。 And, of course, Jesus was given good religious training by his parents. He studied the Old Testament and learned to read it in the original Hebrew language. In his ministry he often referred to or quoted the Scriptures, especially those verses that spoke about his own work as the promised Messiah. Finally, in his adult life Jesus often went to a hilltop to pray. This habit also may have started in his childhood.
Jesus in the Temple （Luke 2:41-52） 耶稣在圣殿（路2:41-52）
According to Jewish custom, Jesus’ childhood came to an end when he was 12 years old. At this age he reached the first stage in becoming an adult. He was then expected to start learning an occupation or trade. In this important year of his life Jesus went through a sort of ”confirmation.“
It all started when Jesus traveled with his parents on a trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On this trip （perhaps in the spring of A.D. 8） he took part for the first time in public worship at the temple. A few days later, Jesus became separated from his family and friends. After looking for three days, Mary found him in the temple. Contrary to what many have thought, the Bible shows that Jesus was there to listen, not to teach.
At this time we hear the first recorded words of Jesus Christ. Mary began to scold him ”Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.“ He replied, ”Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house“ （Luke 2:48-49）？ With simple wisdom Jesus informed his parents that he was not guilty of breaking the Fourth Commandment and that he understood his mission in life. God the Father, not Joseph, was his Father. Jesus had come to earth to do his heavenly Father’s bidding.
Following this story, another large part of Jesus’ life is described in a single sentence. Jesus, between the ages of 12 and 30, ”grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men“ （Luke 2:52）。 During these years we assume Jesus learned the carpenter’s trade from his father （Mark 6:3）。 And whatever else Jesus did, we know one thing for certain: he never sinned （Heb. 4:15）。