Sunday, December 23, 2018

Answering Christmas – Part 3: What Led Up to Jesus’ Birth?

Answering Christmas – Part 3:
What Led Up to Jesus’ Birth? - HOFC
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

This Document is a Sermon Outline, you may hear the full audio of the actual sermon by following the link Online Audio Files located above for this, and other Full Sermon Audios.  For a complete list of Sermon Outlines, visit, or Truth Digest on facebook; for our Official Church website, visit, or find us on facebook at House of Faith Church

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing the truths and falsehoods of Christmas, to gain a better understanding of the scripture, and how we can joyfully celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior without offense to God.

The series will focus on what I consider to be “keys” to understanding.

As Christians, we need have no fear of those who hate and despise the Word of God, and we need not have any fear of those who cry “foul”, or in other ways try to make a mockery of God.

The series will answer important questions about WHEN Jesus was born, WHY Jesus was born, WHAT led up to His birth, WHO Jesus was born for, and the most important key of all understanding, HOW do you KNOW Jesus?

My goal in this series is to answer once for all, all of the questions, doubts and misconceptions about Christmas, Jesus’ birth, why we celebrate and return this season to the former glory and celebration we remember from our youth!

Family, love, peace, time together, and a celebration of the bond formed between Christ our Lord and those who belong to Him!

Part 1 - When was Jesus Born?
Part 2 - Why was Jesus Born?
Part 3 - What led up to Jesus’ Birth?
Part 4 - Who did Jesus Die For?
Part 5 - How do you Know Jesus?

Part 3 - What Led Up to Jesus’ Birth?

The Bible's first and oldest written prophecy, given directly by God, is found in the opening chapters of Genesis. It alludes to the miraculous birth of Jesus.

The Messiah is prophesied to oppose the devil, overcome his attacks and ultimately seal his eternal fate. Genesis 3:15 states, 

“I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

The birth of man's Savior, more than two thousand years ago, is one of the most pivotal events to have ever occurred in the universe!

This appearance of Jesus, referred to as the Incarnation, is an eternal witness of perfect love.

 It shows that God's love is so profound that He was willing to make the greatest sacrifice, through the birth of His Son, and take the greatest risk, in order that His greatest creation could live forever with Him.

The following is a short timeline of the events leading to the birth and early years of Jesus.  The times given are approximates that most scholars agree on, and simply help with the order of events, and do not in any way try to serve as a specific date timeline.

                  I.            6 BC
a.      The Gregorian Calendar
                                                                         i.      We spoke in the first sermon of this series about the errors that were miscalculated in the Gregorian calendar, and that the calendar itself is wrong by approximately 4 years or so.

                                                                      ii.      6 BC is another approximation for our timeline of events

                                                                   iii.      Probably around May or June

b.     Zacharias
                                                                         i.      A man named Zacharias begins his work at Jerusalem's temple during the "course of Abijah (Abia)" (Luke 1:5, 8 - 9)

                                                                      ii.      While fulfilling his priestly duties, the archangel Gabriel (likely on Pentecost) visits Zacharias. This powerful angelic being informs him that his barren wife Elizabeth will miraculously bear him a son. This son, to be named John, will be filled with God's spirit from conception and will be raised under the Nazarite vow (Luke 1:5 - 15).

                                                                   iii.      Because Zacharias doubts the truth of what the angel states, he is rendered unable to speak until the birth of John (Luke 1:18 - 20, 57 - 64). John the Baptist, in early June, is conceived (Luke 1:23 - 24).

c.      Mary
                                                                         i.       Gabriel, during Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, is sent to a young virgin named Mary in the city of Nazareth (Luke 1:26 - 27). She is betrothed to a man named Joseph. The archangel informs her that she will miraculously conceive and give birth to (through the power of God) the Savior of mankind (verses 28 - 37)!

                                                                      ii.      Mary, though amazed at what she is told, accepts God's will for her (verse 38) and Jesus is miraculously conceived in her womb. She then leaves Nazareth to spend about three months (Luke 1:39 - 40, 56) with her cousin Elizabeth.

               II.            The Birth of John the Baptist
a.      Mary leaves Elizabeth
                                                                         i.       Mary leaves Elizabeth and travels back to Nazareth (Luke 1:56). Elizabeth then gives birth to John between February 27 and March 11, six months before the arrival of Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36).

                                                                      ii.      Zacharias, on the day his son is circumcised, is able to again speak after he writes down that his name should be John (Luke 1:59 - 64).

                                                                   iii.      Joseph soon discovers that his espoused wife Mary is three months pregnant (Matthew 1:18). Although he believes she has committed adultery (punishable by death, see Leviticus 20:10), he considers saving her through a private divorce (Matthew 1:19).
                                                                    iv.      An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him the child in Mary's womb was miraculously created by God. Joseph believes the angel and decides to stay married to Mary. He also chooses not to “be with” Mary until after the birth of Jesus (verses 20 - 25).

b.     The Small City of Bethlehem
                                                                         i.      When Mary and Joseph arrive in order to pay Roman taxes and be counted for Census, the city is flooded with people (Luke 2:1 - 3). The couple, since all available lodging in the city is taken, must stay in a stable. Jesus is born in this location and laid in a manger (verse 7).

                                                                      ii.      The Lord's birth occurs between August 27 and September 9, with it highly likely occurring (due to its symbolism) on Saturday, September 2. This Saturday is special, in that it is Tishri 1, or the first day of Hebrew civil year 3757. It is also the Biblical holy day known as the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah).

c.      An Angel Proclaims to the Shepherds
                                                                         i.       An angel proclaims to shepherds tending their flocks that man's Savior has been born (Luke 2:8 - 11)! He also tells them that the unique location of his birth, along with what he is wrapped in, will be the sign that they have the right child (verse 12).

                                                                      ii.      The shepherds, after countless angels appear in the sky to praise God, travel into Bethlehem to look for Jesus (Luke 2:13 - 16). Jesus, on the eighth day after his birth, is circumcised in obedience to God's law (Leviticus 12:3, Luke 2:21).

                                                                   iii.      The Magi arrive in Jerusalem. The size of their caravan, which includes armed soldiers, alarms both Herod and the city (Matthew 2:1 - 3). Herod immediately sets out to gather all the city's chief priests and scribes (verse 4).

                                                                    iv.       After Mary's forty days of impurity after Jesus' birth are completed (Leviticus 12:1 - 4), she and Joseph travel to Jerusalem so that Jesus can be presented to God in the temple (Luke 2:22 - 24). While at the temple Simeon blesses the family and gives several prophecies (verses 25 - 35). A prophetess named Anna recognizes the Savior and tells others concerning him (verses 36 - 38). The family heads back to Bethlehem.

           III.            The last we know of Jesus’ childhood
a.      Herod demands
                                                                         i.       Herod tersely demands the priests and scribes tell him where the Messiah's birth is to take place (Matthew 2:4). They quote to him Micah 5:2 where it states he will come out of Bethlehem (verses 5 - 6). He then arranges a secret meeting with the Magi and finds out the star they originally saw in the sky appeared two years ago.

                                                                      ii.      Herod reveals to the Magi that the King they are seeking (Jesus) is in Bethlehem. He requests that after they find exactly where the child is located they come back to Jerusalem to tell him (Matthew 2:7 - 8).

b.     The Star
                                                                         i.       The star the Magi saw, which had disappeared, appears again when they leave Jerusalem! It shines and moves before them such that it leads them directly to a home (not a stable!) where they find Mary and Jesus (Matthew 2:9 - 11). They present their gifts to the family.

                                                                      ii.      The Magi, although they had planned to return to Jerusalem and report what they found to Herod, are warned in a dream not to do so. They take another route back home that bypasses Jerusalem (Matthew 2:12).

c.      Joseph and his dream
                                                                         i.       Joseph, right after the Magi leave, is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt until Herod dies (Matthew 2:13 - 15). This is done because Herod will soon seek to murder the Christ child.

                                                                      ii.       Herod, falsely believing that the Magi are mocking him by not coming back to Jerusalem after they worship Jesus' birth, flies into a rage. Remembering that they told him they first saw the star two years ago, he orders all male children in Bethlehem (AND the surrounding areas!) two years old or younger murdered (Matthew 2:16 - 18). This impulsive and murderous act fulfills prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15).

The time we read of Jesus is when Joseph and Mary take him to Jerusalem and Jesus goes to the Temple without them and teaches the teachers.

After which, we do not read anything until just before the beginning of His ministry.

So, What are the Odds?

Let’s look at two of the specific prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament.
“You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” (Micah 5:2, NLT)
“The Lord himself will choose [a] sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel-‘God is with us.'” (Isaiah 7:14, NLT)
Now, before considering ALL the prophecies, you have to stop and ask yourself how many people in the category of potential Messiah throughout history were born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem.
In the case of hundreds of detailed prophecies being fulfilled by one person, we are talking about virtually impossible odds.
When forensic scientists discover a DNA profile match, the odds of having the wrong person is frequently less than one in several billion. It would seem we are in the same neighborhood of odds, and numbers of zeros, in considering a single individual fulfilling these prophecies.
Professor of mathematics Peter Stoner gave 600 students a math probability problem that would determine the odds for one person fulfilling eight specific prophecies.
(This is not the same as flipping a coin eight times in a row and getting heads each time.) First the students calculated the odds of one person fulfilling all the conditions of one specific prophecy, such as being betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. Then the students did their best to estimate the odds for all of the eight prophecies combined.
The students calculated that the odds against one person fulfilling all eight prophecies are astronomical-one in ten to the 21st power (1021).
To illustrate that number, Stoner gave the following example: “First, blanket the entire Earth land mass with silver dollars 120 feet high. Second, specially mark one of those dollars and randomly bury it. Third, ask a person to travel the Earth and select the marked dollar, while blindfolded, from the trillions of other dollars.”
It’s important to note that Stoner’s work was reviewed by the American Scientific Association, which stated, “The mathematical analysis … is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound, and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.” 
With that as an introduction, let’s add six more predictions to the two we’ve already considered, giving us a total of Professor Stoner’s eight:
Prophecy: The Messiah would be from the lineage of King David.
Jeremiah 23:5
600 B.C.
Fulfillment: “Jesus … the son of David …”
Luke 3:23, 31
4 B.C.
Prophecy: The Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Zechariah 11:13
487 B.C.
Fulfillment: “They gave him thirty pieces of silver.”
Matthew 26:15
30 A.D.
Prophecy: The Messiah would have his hands and feet pierced.
Psalm 22:16
1000 B.C.
Fulfillment: “They came to a place called The Skull. All three were crucified there-Jesus on the center cross, and the two criminals on either side.”
Luke 23:33
30 A.D.
Prophecy: People would cast lots for the Messiah’s clothing.
Psalm 22:18
1000 B.C.
Fulfillment: “The soldiers … took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said, ‘Let’s not tear it but throw dice to see who gets it.’ ”
John 19:23-24
30 A.D.
Prophecy: The Messiah would appear riding on a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9
500 B.C.
Fulfillment: “They brought the animals to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.”
Matthew 21:7
30 A,D.
Prophecy: A messenger would be sent to herald the Messiah.
Malachi 3:1
500 B.C.
Fulfillment: John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not know.”
John 1:26
27 A.D.
The eight prophecies we’ve reviewed about the Messiah were written by men from different times and places between about 500 and 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Thus there was no opportunity for collusion among them. Notice too, how specific they are.
Bible scholars tell us that nearly 300 references to these specific prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility.
It could never happen, no matter how much time was allotted. One mathematician’s estimate of those impossible odds is “one chance in a trillion13.

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