As we read the gospels, Matthew – John, we will notice a great deal of symbolism regarding Jesus and His identity as the Messiah, the very Son of God. I don’t believe there is any detail left to chance that speaks of Jesus’ identity and mission.
For example, His birth announcement to the shepherds watching or guarding their sheep at night. Luke 2:12: This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Why would the sign of the Messiah be associated with a cave? As always, to understand any portion of the bible we need to understand the original context of first century Jewish life in Israel. That’s a far cry from 21st century America.
First of all who were these shepherds? It is widely agreed upon that they raised sheep that would be used for sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. Far from the ordinary shepherd, they had special training and had to guard them from all danger, harm and injury.
What was significant about the location of His birth? When it was time for a lamb to give birth, the shepherd would bring it into one of the caves around Bethlehem. These were birthing caves kept in ritual purity since the lambs would be used as sacrifices, in fact many any of the male lambs would be used for the Passover sacrifice.
Because there was no room in the local inn since Bethlehem was crowded with people reporting for the governor’s census, they used one of these birthing caves for sacrificial lambs, because He Himself would become the ultimate sacrificial Passover Lamb that would pay for the sins of the world. His sacrifice was for you and available by His grace through faith.
There are several traditional Christmas hymns that mention shepherds, swaddling clothes and no room in the inn. As we sing them this Christmas may we see beyond a picturesque scene to the rich symbolism of His true identity and purpose. (Information from Rabbi Jason Sobel)
To be continued next week.
Pr. Bob Snitzer
By the Way:
Today, 2:30 confirmation
December 20, 9:00Sunday morning worship. Sermon: Son of David
Sunday school for all. Dec. 20, 10:15
No worship service Dec. 24, 27, Jan 3, they will be videoed and available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Pilot-Knob-Lutheran-Church-Forest-City-IA-431071033738650/ and our website at: www.pilotknob.org
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