Friday, December 12, 2008

Salvation in Luke's Christmas (Luke 1, Luke 2)

This weekend, I will be giving the sermons at my church, Hope Chapel West Oahu. For the three weeks before Christmas, we are (very roughly) following the outline of Rick Warren's new book, The Purpose of Christmas. This week, the sermon title is Christmas is a Time for Salvation, and I will be preaching mainly from Luke 1-2. As I studied, I was impressed with the amount of references to salvation in Luke's birth narrative.

Notice these lines from Mary, Zechariah, the angel, Simeon and Anna:
  • And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)
  • 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. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David… salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— (Luke 1:67-71)
  • to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:74-75)
  • 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… (Luke 1:76-77)
  • But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
  • And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him... Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:25, 28-30)
  • At that very moment [Anna] came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Salvation is a central theme in Luke's story of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the "horn of salvation" and even salvation itself - and of course, Jesus' name means "salvation."

Zechariah talked about both salvation from enemies and from sin. In most of the NT, the emphasis is on deliverance from sin - in fact, sin is the enemy from which Jesus delivers us. The salvation that Jesus brings is also salvation to something - Zechariah rejoices that we are saved "to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness." This is good to remember today - the message of salvation is not only deliverance from sin and its consequences but deliverance to a life of positive righteousness and usefulness to God.

Here, at the beginning of Luke, the emphasis is on salvation for Israel: "redeemed his people," "redemption of Jerusalem," "consolation of Israel." The angel's message is "good news for all the people" - but "people" (laos in Greek) refers to the nation of Israel, not the whole world. Luke doesn't leave out Gentiles (Jesus is "a light to the Gentiles," according to Simeon), but he downplays them at the beginning of his gospel. Luke raises the profile of Gentiles slowly in his story, culminating with his focus on Paul's mission to the Gentiles in the second half of Acts.

The picture: The Nativity, by Martin Schongauer, 1470s.

4 comments:

  1. Dr. Manning, will your messages from this weekend become podcasts? BTW, I liked your spot for DCAT on NHIA this weekend. The LOTR action figures were funny. You do realize they called them "figurines" in the spot though right? That's a step away from saying you play with dolls. Honest mistake though I guess. Ha ha...

    I'm glad you brought to attention all the references to salvation in Luke's birth narrative. That was exciting to read. Why do you think Luke chose to downplay the role of the Gentiles at the beginning of his gospel and instead raise it slowly? Was it because his Jewish audience at the time may have not been ready for the fact that salvation was for everyone and he wanted to break the idea in slowly so as not to turn them off right off the bat? Was this a "seeker-friendly" gospel? Ha ha...had to come full-cirlce to Rick Warren.

    God Bless,
    Keoki

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  2. Hi Keoki,

    Yes, I just posted the two Christmas sermons, plus a few radio interviews from earlier this year.

    I'll have to look for the NHIA video - I haven't seen it yet. I hope they mentioned that I love the book, not just the figures! Oh well.

    I think Luke raised the profile of Gentiles in his account mainly because that's the way it happened historically. Jesus was the Messiah to the Jews, and had minimal involvement with Gentiles. One of the central themes of Acts is how the gospel about the Messiah moved from Jerusalem to Rome, crossing from Palestinian Jews to Hellenistic Jews to Samaritans and ultimately to Gentilees. Luke hints at the beginning that this would one day happen, but he shows accurately that the Messianic movement began as an exclusively Jewish group.

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  3. Oops - forgot to mention - the new sermons are posted in the right margin of the blog, or you can get them from the "teachings" tab of the church website, hcwo.com.

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  4. Thanks, Dr. Manning. Got em!

    Keoki

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