NEW PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH

WHERE GOD IS CALLING YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sunday School Lesson

December 21

Lesson 3

Give Glory to God

Devotional Reading: Psalm 19

Background Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

Luke 2:8-20

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Key Verse

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. —Luke 2:20

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Describe how God’s glory was revealed in the story of the Bethlehem shepherds.

2. Compare and contrast the reactions of first-century individuals and groups regarding the news of Christ’s birth with each other and with modern reactions.

3. Commit to sharing one’s own wonder at the birth of Christ with an unbeliever.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Baby Portrait: Awesome and Lowly

B. Lesson Background

I. Exalted Announcement (Luke 2:8-14)

A. Quiet Night (v. 8)

B. Blaze of Glory (vv. 9, 10)

C. Startling Information (vv. 11, 12)

D. Angelic Chorus (vv. 13, 14)

No Aurora Borealis!

II. Submissive Response (Luke 2:15-20)

A. Immediate Obedience (v. 15)

B. Amazing News (vv. 16-18)

C. Quiet Reflection (v. 19)

A New Interpretive Grid

D. Joyful Celebration (v. 20)

Conclusion

A. Quite a Contrast!

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction
A. Baby Portrait: Awesome and Lowly

People love baby pictures. Announce that a baby has been born, and people will immediately ask, “Do you have pictures?” We carry them in our wallets and purses. We share them through social media. We frame and hang them in our homes.

Years later we look at those pictures and ask ourselves, “Was he ever really that small?” “When did she get all grown up?” We hold in our minds the contrast between the tiny, helpless baby and the growing child or grown adult that the baby has become.

The story of Jesus’ birth can call up similar feelings. When we think of the infant Jesus at Christmas, we are awestruck that God was entering the world in that child. The Creator chose to enter His creation as a human baby, one as weak and vulnerable as any other. That baby grew up in a lowly setting to demonstrate amazing power that could belong only to God. Yet He also chose to surrender himself to His enemies and die a tortuous death.

Today’s text exemplifies this contrast. As we gain in our understanding here, we will move closer to comprehending what God has really done for us through Jesus Christ.

B. Lesson Background

Our lesson text is part of a much larger story of Jesus’ conception and birth in Luke 1 and 2. Luke weaves this story in with his account of John the Baptist’s conception and birth. Both births were announced by an angel, accomplished by God’s miraculous power, and accompanied by wonders that God performed. Both children were announced to be God’s future instruments. But Jesus stands supreme in this pairing. He is God’s Son (Luke 1:32a), the promised king (1:32b, 33), virgin born (1:35), the Lord (1:43), and the source of the salvation (2:30). To Him alone the glory of God belongs.

But as Jesus was born against the backdrop of Roman imperial power, there was another who claimed glory. Caesar ruled much of the world and had ordered it to pay him taxes (Luke 2:1). Some said that the true glory in the world was that of Rome’s political, military, and economic power. Of such glory Jesus and his family had none. Shut out from ordinary living quarters for humans, the newborn Jesus lay in a manger, a feeding trough for animals (2:7).

Where was true glory to be found—in the palaces of Caesar or the manger of Bethlehem?

I. Exalted Announcement

                                                                                  (Luke 2:8-14)

A. Quiet Night (v. 8)

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

The scene opens with a sight familiar to all who live in the area. Most people in the biblical world make their living in agriculture, and the herding of sheep and goats is prominent in their economy. Many famous people in Israel’s history were shepherds, including the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as the great King David.

Yet as common as it is to herd sheep, shepherds receive a measure of scorn from some. Because shepherds commonly stay out at night with their herds, some religious teachers view them with suspicion since nighttime is associated with thievery (compare Jeremiah 49:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). At the very least, the commonness of herding sheep does not impart prestige on shepherds.

B. Blaze of Glory (vv. 9, 10)

9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

To this ordinary scene comes a most extraordinary event. The angel of the Lord is a heavenly messenger of God. This is now the third appearance of an angel in Luke’s story line: Gabriel had announced John the Baptist to be the prophet of the great king (Luke 1:11) and Jesus as the king himself (1:26-33). Now an angel is about to make an announcement to a band of humble shepherds.

Luke describes an illumination of the nighttime scene. Such light can come only from God, who calls light into existence (Genesis 1:3). The typical reaction to the appearance of an angel is fear (Judges 6:22, 23; Luke 1:11, 12; Acts 10:3, 4). God’s heavenly messengers express the power and majesty of God, so the shepherds’ reaction of being sore afraid is understandable.

10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

This heavenly messenger does not come in judgment but in mercy. So he tells the shepherds to fear not (compare Luke 1:13, 30). The angel brings good tidings, like the prophet Isaiah’s promise of good tidings for the suffering people of God (see Isaiah 40:9; 52:7; 61:1). The joyous news is not just for the shepherds but also for all who await the fulfillment of God’s promises.

We notice that this glorious message to all people is first given to ordinary, lowly shepherds. God’s glory works that way.

What Do You Think?

What are some ways the Christmas season renews your hope? Why is that?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In preparing for the season, at home or church

In observing family or church traditions

In recalling memories of Christmases past

C. Startling Information (vv. 11, 12)

11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Birth announcements typically proclaim an addition “to our family” or something similar. This one is different. This announcement is of a birth that is unto you, as if the new baby is of the family or families of the shepherds!

The birth has taken place in Bethlehem, but the angel designates the little town as the city of David instead. This is not a secret code, for the shepherds know immediately that the reference is to Bethlehem (see v. 15, below). The angelic designation is a reminder that the birthplace is the home of Israel’s great king, the one to whom God made a promise of a descendant whose throne would endure forever (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). That long-awaited promise is now coming to fulfillment.

The angel calls the newborn child a Saviour. We are familiar with that term for Jesus in designating Him as the one who saves from sin. But for the shepherds, this term may sound at first like a title that the Romans give to their successful rulers. But the Scriptures call God the Savior of His people (Isaiah 43:3; Hosea 13:4; etc.). Is this child to be a rival to Caesar for the title of Savior?

The angel adds that this Savior is Christ, a Greek word meaning “anointed one”; therefore this is the designation of God’s king. The further designation the Lord expresses supreme authority. Rome insists that Caesar is the only king and lord, but for the people of Israel the true king is none other than God himself (notice the irony in John 19:15). Therefore only God can be rightly called Lord in the ultimate sense. This child brings with Him the authority of God himself!

12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Now comes the great contrast. The announced Savior/Christ/Lord will be identified with a sign indicating which newborn child is the right one. But the sign also indicates the kind of king the child will be. The sign is not that the child is to be found wrapped in swaddling clothes (that is, securely and warmly wrapped with strips of cloth); to be wrapped that way is just normal procedure. A nonbiblical work written a century or two before Jesus reflects this normalcy: “I was nursed in swaddling clothes, and that with cares. For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:4, 5; contrast Ezekiel 16:4). Therefore to be wrapped in swaddling clothes is nothing unique as a sign.

The unique sign, rather, is that this child lies in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. No lodging is available for the family (Luke 2:7), so Joseph and Mary have taken shelter with animals, perhaps in one of the caves near Bethlehem used as a stable. The promised king, the powerful Lord and Savior, is born in the lowliest of circumstances!

Visual for Lesson 3. Keep this map posted for the rest of the quarter to give your learners a geographical perspective.

What Do You Think?

In what format do you find the retelling of the Christmas story especially meaningful? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Children’s Christmas program

Christmas Eve service

Family gatherings

Live nativity scene

Television or movie

Other

D. Angelic Chorus (vv. 13, 14)

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying.

The solitary angel is now joined by a great choir of angels. Or more specifically it is an army of angels since the term that is translated host typically refers to armies. Heaven’s army, so much more powerful than any human army, now joins in praise to God for the king who lies in an animal’s feeding trough.

14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Who is worthy of glory? Only God—the true God who is sending His Son as a human infant who lies in a manger. God is supreme, above all who pretend to have authority or power. The highest glory can belong only to Him.

In sending His Son, God is bringing His supreme blessing to humanity. Earth has been filled with turmoil, violence, and fear ever since our first parents rebelled against God. Now God promises to restore His peace to the troubled earth.

For the shepherds living under Roman occupation, the angelic note of praise strikes another contrast. The Pax Romana, or “Roman peace,” is what Rome claims to give its subjects. Now true peace, God’s peace, is near—not through Caesar but through God’s anointed one.

What Do You Think?

How can your church better promote the peace Christ brings?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In distinguishing Christ’s peace from the peace that the world tries to achieve

By use of social media

Through Christmas programs

Other

The peace and good will of God, sing the angels, comes to those who submit to the reign of the king whom God is sending. These people have God’s favor. The decision to submit to Christ is what will result in peace.

No Aurora Borealis!

The year 2012 witnessed what was called “the world’s best light show.” Due to an increase in solar activity, the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) appeared with greater than usual intensity, as pulsating curtains of color danced across the night sky during February and March. One could sign up for “aurora alarms” to be notified when auroras reached certain levels of visibility. Savvy travel agents marketed cruises to locations where viewing would be optimal.

Yet we may safely presume that even the best view of the auroras could not compare with the glory of the Lord on the night of the angelic message. This is sharpened by the fact that the unsophisticated men to whom the angels appeared had never used a telescope, had never seen the sky pierced by searchlights, and had never heard voices or music through electronic amplification. To describe their experience as overwhelming seems so inadequate. No wonder they rushed to the baby (see the next verse)!

Our response each Christmas should be the same: hurry to Jesus. To contemplate the wonder of the aurora borealis is a marvelous thing. To embrace the one who created the aurora borealis is infinitely better still. See John 1:3.—V. E.

II. Submissive Response

                                                                                (Luke 2:15-20)

A. Immediate Obedience (v. 15)

15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

With the expression it came to pass, the story shifts from the message of the angels to the response of the shepherds. The angels have disappeared; now the shepherds are alone in the scene. They speak in a way that confirms their immediate submission to the angelic message: Let us now go expresses urgency—“We must go!” They affirm their intent to do exactly as the angel has instructed. This reveals trust in the truthfulness of the angel’s message. That message is the Lord’s message.

The shepherds as ordinary people have no power, riches, or prestige to lose in recognizing that God’s promised king has come into the world (contrast Mark 10:21, 22). They are ready, eager to see what God has done. They are ready to receive the peace that God is delivering to His people.

B. Amazing News (vv. 16-18)

16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The shepherds’ words are confirmed by their actions—they go to Bethlehem as quickly as they can. What the shepherds see is exactly what the angel said they would see. The angelic appearance was not a hallucination. What the shepherds heard predicted by the angel is what they now see with their own eyes.

Luke introduced Mary and Joseph earlier as ordinary folk, subject to the whims of those in power. So the two have come to Bethlehem to pay taxes, perhaps on a piece of farmland that Joseph has inherited (Luke 2:1-5, not in today’s text). With no guest lodging available, this humble, devoted pair now make do with other shelter as their newborn lies in a trough used to feed farm animals.

The babe lying in a manger is the sign of which the angel spoke. God’s promised king, Christ the Lord, the world’s Savior, is designated by such lowliness. He will not rule like Caesar or any other earthly ruler. He will rule in lowliness, as the servant of all. And it begins here—in a feeding trough.

17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Throughout his two volumes of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, the author emphasizes that when people see what God has done in Christ, they share the news with others (examples: Luke 7:16, 17; Acts 8:4). The angel has brought “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds (Luke 2:10, above). Now, having seen the child about whom the angel spoke, they feel compelled to tell others. The shepherds are witnesses of what God has just done. There will be many more eyewitnesses in the years ahead regarding Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.

What Do You Think?

When were times you had to share good news immediately with others? If none of these involved the message of the gospel, why not?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Among members of your immediate family

Among members of your extended family

At work or school

Other

18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Like others who have heard the stories surrounding the conception and birth of John the Baptist, those who hear the shepherds’ story display wonder at this message (compare Luke 1:65, 66). The people are uncertain about its meaning. Have these shepherds truly seen and heard angels? How can a poor infant sleeping in a feeding trough be God’s promised king? How can anyone so weak challenge the power of Caesar? How can God bring peace to His people by such a means as this?

Years later, Jesus’ disciples will wonder whether it is really Jesus who appears before them alive after He dies the death of a criminal on a cross (Luke 24:41). Indeed, God can bring peace to His people by such a means as this! In His Son’s submissive lowliness, His obedience to the mission of the cross, God triumphs over all the powers that hold the world in the grip of evil. It is indeed a wondrous message, but it is a true message.

C. Quiet Reflection (v. 19)

19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

The best informed of the witnesses is Jesus’ mother, Mary. She had received the angel Gabriel’s first message about the pending birth of her child (Luke 1:26-38). She had heard her cousin Elisabeth’s words exalting her child as “Lord” (1:43-45). Mary had herself praised God for what He was promising to do (1:46-55).

But even for Mary, the events are not yet entirely clear. Why does she find herself in a stable? Why do shepherds come in from the fields at night to see her child? How will her child take His place as God’s king? We easily imagine such questions going through Mary’s mind as she struggles to put everything together, to make sense of it all.

Luke will later note that Mary keeps memories in her heart of amazing things associated with Jesus’ childhood (Luke 2:51). Her puzzlement will be greatest when, as Simeon will prophesy, her heart is pierced with a sword of grief at Jesus’ death (2:35). Jesus’ death will become the lowest point of His lowly calling that begins in the manger. But the cross is to be answered by the triumph of the resurrection, demonstrating that God is truly victorious through Jesus’ voluntary weakness. This is what Mary and all who follow Jesus must come to understand.

What Do You Think?

How are you like and unlike others regarding the kinds of experiences you ponder most in your heart? Why is this question important?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

During times when God seems closest (Christmas, personal victories, etc.)

During times when God seems distant (personal or national tragedies, etc.)

Other

A New Interpretive Grid

I have a friend named Ron whose background growing up was Reform Judaism. He tells the story of his father’s conversion to Christianity on discovering the love of Jesus. After accepting Christ, the father shared the good news with other family members and even with Ron’s friends.

Ron, a teenager at the time, was somewhat annoyed at his father’s zealous new ways. One day when Ron found himself home alone, he decided to get to the bottom of this lifestyle change. He took his father’s Bible and sat down. He read the entire book of Matthew, and, as Ron said, “I just knew it was true.”

Some converts like to say that their lives were “wrecked” by God. That is because when we collide with the love of Jesus, we can never go back to business as usual. But in the process of wrecking our old way of seeing life, in destroying our old interpretive grid, God provides us with a new one, a better one.

Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, those whom the shepherds told, my friend Ron—all received a new way of looking at life, a new interpretive grid. Like them, we will not comprehend everything at first. Like Mary, we may have to ponder at length. But ultimately our response can be like hers as we treasure every touch from God.—V. E.

D. Joyful Celebration (v. 20)

20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The shepherds have made the angel’s message their own. As the angel army praised God, now the shepherds do as well. What the angel had promised, the shepherds have verified. They truly have become witnesses of God’s work.

The shepherds’ praise and worship will characterize the lives of Jesus’ followers after His resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:47). The shepherds show no concern regarding their low status in the eyes of the world. God has reached out to them in their lowliness through the lowliness of His Son. That changes all of life, to the glory of God.

Conclusion
A. Quite a Contrast!

The contrast in today’s passage is between the power of the world and the lowliness of the Son of the almighty God. That contrast is the contrast of the ages! If we know Jesus, we can never think of life in the same way again. Life can never be about becoming powerful, wealthy, or important. It can only be about seeking and embracing the lowliness of Jesus Christ, thereby giving our lives in service for the sake of others who need to follow Him as well.

Perhaps we feel like shepherds, alone in the night, ignored by others. If so, we can know that the angelic message is for us, that Christ comes for us. We can and should join the shepherds in joyfully sharing that good news.

B. Prayer

Our mighty, all-powerful God and Father, we are in awe that You sent Your Son into the world in such a lowly estate. We are most of all in awe that in Jesus You gave Your Son in death for us. Empower us to live as reflections of His lowly service that others might hear and believe. In Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Share the news!

How to Say It

aurora borealis uh-roar-uh boar-ee-a-lus

(a as in mad).

Bethlehem Beth-lih-hem.

Caesar See-zer.

Gabriel Gay-bree-ul.

Hosea Ho-zay-uh.

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

Pax Romana(Latin)Pahks Ro-mah-nah.

 

 

December 28

Lesson 4

Worship God’s Son

Devotional Reading: Mark 9:15-24

Background Scripture: Matthew 14:22-36

Matthew 14:22-36

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.

35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;

36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

Key Verses

When they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. —Matthew 14:32, 33

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Describe how people reacted to and interacted with Jesus in light of the miraculous powers He demonstrated.

2. Explain why worship is the natural reaction to Jesus.

3. Identify one specific way to approach worship with a greater sense of awe and make a plan to do so.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Self-Reliance vs. Christ-Reliance

B. Lesson Background

I. Dismissal for Solitude (Matthew 14:22, 23)

A. Sending Away (v. 22)

B. Being Alone (v. 23)

II. Walking on Water (Matthew 14:24-27)

A. Difficult Situation (v. 24)

B. Startling Appearance (v. 25)

C. Fearful Reaction (v. 26)

D. Comforting Response (v. 27)

The Navy Hymn

III. Test of Faith (Matthew 14:28-32)

A. Request, Response, Result (vv. 28-30)

B. Rescue, Return, Reverence (vv. 31-33)

Walking with Jesus

IV. Healing the Sick (Matthew 14:34-36)

A. Jesus Recognized (vv. 34, 35)

B. Wholeness Results (v. 36)

Conclusion

A. Coming to Jesus

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless