Chapter 2:1-7 (ESV) - In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Question to consider: Why do you think Luke provides details about the decree from Caesar Augustus?
When we consider the order of events listed in Luke, we need to keep in mind that Luke is writing this as an apologetic to Theophilus to give him certainty about the things that he had heard. Luke had also pointed out that his own account wasn’t the first so there may be some details he provides that he found out from his own investigations and interviews, and some that are directly answering questions that Theophilus had after learning about the other accounts. One question Theophilus might have had was: You said Jesus was from Nazareth. How then could he have been born in Bethlehem?
In Matthew’s gospel, we found out that Joseph sought to divorce Mary quietly when he found out she was pregnant, but upon being visited by an angel, he took her as his wife as God commanded. It then skips right to Jesus being born in Bethlehem and points to the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy about this in Micah chapter 5. Luke provides the details on how this came to be.
Also in Matthew’s gospel, was mentioned in chapter 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Theophilus might have asked Luke: How could Mary be found with child from the Holy Spirit? Thus, Luke included a more detailed account of the births of John and Jesus.
As a side note, people are always vilifying the innkeeper because there was no room for them during this time. I don’t think Luke meant to vilify this person. If I call a hotel to book a room, and they don’t have any rooms available, I don’t accuse the front desk person of evil intent. Maybe Theophilus had heard Jesus was born in a manger and asked Luke how that came about. However, God is sovereign so this scene speaks more to how much Jesus emptied himself of His place in heaven to have such a humble beginning.
Dear heavenly father, we thank You for providing us with so many wonderful details about Jesus in Your word and for inspiring the authors to investigate and provide for us a faith that is grounded in history and reason. As we continue to learn about our Lord, we ask that Your scriptures will help us to see Him with new eyes and a heart that is inspired to serve You. Amen.