Don’t Be Afraid!
The kingdom of God has come near. Mark 1:15
Nearly every time an angel appears in the Bible, the first words he says are “Don’t be afraid!” Little wonder. When the supernatural makes contact with planet Earth, it usually leaves the human observers flat on their faces in fear. But Luke tells of God making an appearance in a form that doesn’t frighten. In Jesus, born with the animals and laid in a feeding trough, God takes an approach that we need not fear. What could be less scary than a newborn baby?
On Earth Jesus is both God and man. As God, He can work miracles, forgive sins, conquer death, and predict the future. But for Jews accustomed to images of God as a bright cloud or pillar of fire, Jesus also causes much confusion. How could a baby in Bethlehem, a carpenter’s son, a man from Nazareth, be the Messiah from God?
Why does God take on human form? The scene of twelve-year-old Jesus debating rabbis in the temple gives one clue. “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers,” Luke tells us (2:47). For the first time, ordinary people could hold a conversation with God in visible form.
Jesus can talk to anyone—His parents, a rabbi, a poor widow—without first having to announce, “Don’t be afraid!” In Jesus, God draws near.
Heavenly Father, we pause at Christmas to remember how Your Son came to us in the form of a helpless baby . . . and we worship in amazement and wonder that God came near to us.
The Feast of the Passover Jesus and His family attended was one of three annual feasts that Israelite males were required to attend (see Exodus 23:14–17). It’s estimated that 100,000 or more visitors would make their way to Jerusalem for this special occasion. At twelve years of age, Jesus was one year away from His entrance into Israelite manhood when He would become fully responsible for keeping the law. Today’s reading records Jesus’s unexplained absence from His family (Luke 2:43–45), but He was well aware of His mission (v. 49). This early scene in the temple where people were amazed at His teaching (v. 47) contrasts sharply with a later account where they would not be amazed but would try to kill Him (19:45–47).