Bethlehem First…Then Jerusalem

Recently I had the chance to preach from Luke 2:1-7.  One noteworthy aspect of Jesus’ birth is the fact that it occurred in Bethlehem, and not Jerusalem.  Of course, Bethlehem was the necessary location based on God’s prophetic word in Micah 5:2ff, but it was also a remarkably symbolic spot.  Birth in Bethlehem associated the kingly, divine, and messianic Jesus with his royal forbearer, David, but it did so in a particular manner.  Birth in Bethlehem associated Jesus especially with David’s humble beginnings as a shepherd, and not first with David’s later royal rule as symbolized in the City of David (see 2 Samuel 5:9).  David’s son, who is also David’s Lord, would be, like his ancestral father, a shepherd king marked by humility (Note: I’m helped in this paragraph by David Garland’s great Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – see pages 119-120).

Bethlehem Church of the Nativity
Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity
City of David
City of David (area to the lower right with green trees showing)

Now, what I find fascinating is the way this situation will reverse at Jesus’ second coming.  The Bible associates Jesus’ return not with obscure Bethlehem, but rather with royal Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:15-24, perhaps Ezekiel 40-48, Acts 1:9-12, Revelation 21-22).  If the baby Jesus came in association with David’s humble beginnings as a lowly shepherd, the man Jesus will return in association with David’s powerful reign.  We can debate whether the biblical view of Jesus’ return pertains at all to a physical Jerusalem (I for one think it probably does), but the symbolized message is clear no matter what: Jesus will return as the ruling sovereign of the universe.

North Toward Old City
Looking north up the Kidron Valley (Old City on the far left; Mount of Olives on the right)

Jesus will return as the king Shepherd and the ruling Savior.  When he does, may he find us to be delighted subjects!

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