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Podcast: There’s More to the Christmas Story Than You Think (Benjamin L. Gladd)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

How Messianic Prophecies Are Fulfilled in Jesus

In today's episode, Benjamin Gladd talks about how the Gospel of Luke draws on the riches of the Old Testament to reveal truly amazing things about the identity of Jesus, Old Testament prophecy, and the real meaning of Christmas.

From the Manger to the Throne

Benjamin L. Gladd

In this addition to the New Testament Theology series, Benjamin L. Gladd traces the dominant biblical-theological themes of the Gospel of Luke, showing how Luke draws from the Old Testament as a way of pointing to Christ’s redemption plan.

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Topics Addressed in This Interview:

01:41 - How the Gospel of Luke Reveals the True Meaning of the Old Testament

Matt Tully
Ben, thank you so much for joining me today on The Crossway Podcast.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Oh, it’s so good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Matt Tully
Today we’re going to talk a little bit about Christmas, about this coming of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels, and in particular, looking at a little bit of the Old Testament background that sort of surrounds the retelling of the Christmas story throughout the Gospels—and in particular, in the book of Luke. But before we get into that, a lot of Christians—all Christians to some extent—know that there is this Old Testament background to Jesus’s birth. We get that. We have a sense of that. We talk about that in how we describe Christmas, in the songs that we sing about Christmas, and yet sometimes I think that we don’t always know how all of that Old Testament—those prophecies and illusions—how they all actually connect to him. We know that they do, but we don’t really know how. So I’m hoping we can dig into some of those today. I guess first, big picture, how is the Gospel of Luke in particular significant to this idea of an Old Testament background to Jesus’s birth?

Benjamin L. Gladd
It’s significant for a couple of reasons. Number one, we can trace how the Old Testament is used throughout the Gospel, especially here in the infancy narratives, the first couple chapters. But what’s even more compelling is we see on the back end, particularly in Luke 24 when Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with his two disciples, he explains to them—rather, he berates them and then he explains—how there aren’t simply a couple passages that anticipate Jesus’s ministry, his birth, his life, his death, and resurrection and exaltation. It’s not simply a couple passages or a couple dozen passages; rather, it’s the entire thing. The entire Old Testament anticipates Christ in some way. Now, there are some texts that do so on the surface and do so very explicitly, and we see Luke mentioning these texts. And then there are also passages that are narratives, or maybe even portions of wisdom literature like Proverbs or the Psalms or these texts that also anticipate Jesus. And so the idea here is to read the Old Testament again in light of Christ and to determine the true meaning of the Old Testament itself. In other words, Jesus castigates the disciples because they’re not reading the Old Testament rightly. And so Luke is showing how the Old Testament rightly applies and rightly anticipates Christ. It does so through verbal prophecies that are messianic prophecies, but it also does so with institutions. Jesus is a greater covenant. He is a greater law. He’s a greater temple. He’s a greater priest and sacrifice. And then we also see typological correspondences with persons. He’s a greater David. He’s a greater Adam, we see in Luke 3 with the wilderness temptation. So it really is pulling together not just a couple Old Testament texts, but all of the Old Testament. It really is one of the clearest examples of this idea in the New Testament.

Matt Tully
It’s fascinating that in Luke—the end of Luke, as you say—we have this scene of Jesus with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, and he makes these statements about how all of the Old Testament was about him. And then it seems like almost Luke is then illustrating that in the whole Gospel. He’s kind of actually unpacking Jesus’s statement at the end of his Gospel throughout.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Yeah, he’s going back. I believe Luke has arranged his material with Luke 24 in mind so that the reader can go back and say, Let’s see what Old Testament texts the disciples have missed. And then you can go back and you can see that.

Matt Tully
It’s almost like by the time you would get to that statement of Jesus in Luke 24, the reader of Luke is nodding their head, Yeah, you’ve shown me that. I’ve seen that all along. Before we jump into the birth narratives, one phrase in Jesus’s statement there in Luke 24 has always fascinated me, and I wonder how that should apply to this conversation. The text says that Jesus, “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” It’s a fascinating phrase. What does that mean, and how does that apply to how we would think about reading the Old Testament rightly in light of Jesus?

Benjamin L. Gladd
That’s a very good and very difficult question. At the end of it, I think the idea is God ultimately unlocks the meaning of the Old Testament. That it is a divine, God-enabled gifting to his people that helps us read the Old Testament the way it should be read. And that sounds very exclusive, like only believers can—

Matt Tully
Or maybe subjective.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Right. Or maybe subjective, but let’s remove the word subjective and put correct. Because I don’t think that Jesus is being fast and loose with Scripture here. I think he’s saying, No, this is the only way to read the Bible. This is the only way to read the Old Testament. And that comes ultimately by divine enablement. At the end of the day, God, and he alone, is the one who opens our eyes to the Old Testament to see how Christ fits in light of it. This is a divine thing. This is something that God graciously does for his people and to his people.

06:17 - Biblical Prophecy: What It Is and Isn’t

Matt Tully
And related to that, throughout our conversation I do want to keep coming back to the question of what Jesus’s original hearers—the contemporary Jews in his day—would’ve expected about these verses and prophecies that he was citing. But before we get to that, all of this does connect to this broad idea of prophecy, on a fulfillment of prophecy. And I think that’s a term and idea that Christians today probably have a wide range of understandings. That idea of prophecy gets thrown around a lot, and people have different perspectives on it. So, when you think about the idea of biblical prophecy in the Old Testament, how would you define that? What should we think that is? What isn’t it, especially when it comes to Jesus?

Benjamin L. Gladd
Great question. There are different types of prophecy, and I think this is what’s so confusing, or can be confusing, for believers. When I use the word prophecy, they’re thinking in terms of an Old Testament prophet says it explicitly, and then Jesus fulfills it. We have these sorts of things like in Micah 5.

Matt Tully
So, that does exist?

Benjamin L. Gladd
Yes, it does exist. These are explicit, verbal prophecies. We have this sort of thing in Micah 5 where the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. And then what happens? The Messiah is born in Bethlehem. So, you see there’s a one-to-one connection there. That’s just one type of prophecy. Now, as I mentioned before, there’s another type of prophecy, and that’s where we use this fancy word called typology. And typology is a very broad term. It can be a difficult idea to explain, but I think typology covers a range of things. There are particular events in the Old Testament, there are prominent individuals in the Old Testament, and then there are institutions in the Old Testament that also prophetically anticipate Jesus. And this is something where people say, Well, typology is very subjective. And how do you know if something’s a type or not? The New Testament authors have given us loads of information in how they see Jesus fulfilling these sorts of things. For example, they put their finger on the truth that Jesus is the greatest sacrifice. That is an institution. And so here we have direct connections between sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross. That is a typological connection. Many, many New Testament authors make that connection. He is also the true temple. The Old Testament temple, the Old Testament tabernacle, prophetically anticipates Jesus as the true temple and his people as the true temple as well.

Matt Tully
Why do you use that word anticipates? I think we often think of prophecy as predicting. What’s the difference there?

Benjamin L. Gladd
I like the word anticipate because I think it’s less offensive. I can use it in a number of ways. For example, Elijah’s life: there are aspects of Elijah’s life, and perhaps even all of Elijah’s life, that prophetically anticipate that Elijah is a type of Christ. Elisha is a type of Christ. David is obviously a type of Christ. Abraham, Noah, and Adam—these are types of Christ. What happens with these individuals will one day happen again with Christ. And so that’s why I say—it sounds weird, but I think I’m right here—that Jesus is a better David than David ever was. Jesus is a better Abraham than Abraham was. Abraham was a shadow, David was a shadow, Noah was a shadow, Adam was a shadow. These figures—their lives, the events that they’re connected to, what they did and what they didn’t do—anticipate the perfect Christ.

Matt Tully
That word anticipate, too, for me at least, it also helps to retain the significance and the meaning of those people, those ideas in their own day and own time. It’s not as if David’s whole life was only, in a sense, pointing forward. He had his own role to play in the story, even as he anticipated the real David, the greater David.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Yeah. The first half of David’s life is amazing, but the second half is terrible. But Jesus never had a Bathsheba moment. Jesus never had a census moment. Jesus never had these issues. He has the best parts of David. But not only does he have the best parts of David, he also didn’t do what David did. And so he is the best version of David, and he is this consummate king who now it’s upon the throne and rules over the cosmos. David’s life points to that reality. So that’s sort of what I mean here when I say that there are patterns in the Old Testament—individuals, events such as the Exodus (a second Exodus theme is so huge to Luke’s Gospel), there are institutions in the Old Testament, and there are persons and individuals. All of those things anticipate Christ’s work. And so Luke lets the reader go back. In other words, he wants the readers to go back to the Old Testament and start rereading it over and over again in light of Christ.

11:24 - Expectation vs. Reality

Matt Tully
So when we jump into the first few chapters of Luke, we meet a number of characters. There’s Zechariah, there’s Simeon, there’s Anna, and each of them seems to have some idea of this coming Messiah who would save Israel. So I wonder if before we jump into those specific passages, could you summarize what the nation of Israel—what Jews in that day—were thinking and expecting when it came to this promised Messiah?

Benjamin L. Gladd
Messianic expectations are so vast and so complex that scholars and commentators don’t even want to even go there at some level.

Matt Tully
So there wasn’t a really clean, single vision of what the Messiah was going to be?

Benjamin L. Gladd
It’s exceedingly diverse, but I think we can pull, or synthesize, some of these views and say that by and large, at least primarily speaking, the expectation was that there would be a coming king and that this king would overthrow the bad guys. He would force Israel’s neighbors to bow the knee, he would subdue them, he would put down, that he would be a righteous judge, and that Israel’s enemies would be subdued and they would submit to God’s reign. In other words, it’s a primary political figure, and so we can see strands of this sort of thing going on in all four Gospels, these types of expectations. So, when Jesus comes on the scene, they’re expecting the Romans to fall and the Romans to submit. And that’s not the kind of king that we get, at least initially.

Matt Tully
Well, Let’s jump in Luke 1. Why do you think it is that Luke starts his Gospel—his recounting of Jesus’s life and ministry—with John the Baptist and Zechariah? Why start there and not with Jesus?

Benjamin L. Gladd
John is a preparatory figure. He’s a figure that prepares Israel for the Lord’s coming, for Christ’s coming. And so not only does he prepare the way for Jesus and for the pouring of the Spirit, he’s preparing the way for Jesus’s birth. Luke details not just the birth of Jesus, but he details the birth of John too. So he really juxtaposes John’s birth and Jesus’s birth. Whereas John will be a prophet of the Most High, what is Jesus? He’s the Son of the Most High. And so Jesus is a better John. As amazing as John is, in fact, the synoptics will say that Jesus himself says that he’s the greatest of the prophets. He is the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. He is still merely a preparatory figure for the coming Jesus.

Matt Tully
There’s this amazing line that I’m sure many of us have wondered about. When the angel comes to Zechariah, he says that his son, John, will come “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” What is he getting at? What should we understand from that?

Benjamin L. Gladd
Elijah’s life was dominated by calling Israel to repentance. Israel was not in a good condition when Elijah and Elisha showed up on the scene. And so I think the same idea is at play here. And we can see this later on in the narrative by how John clothes himself—he dresses like Elijah. He has Elijah’s diet. I’m assuming it was low-cal as well. Israel is in a terrible state, and so that’s why he has to offer a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, because Israel is really in a state of cursing and exile. And so he’s got to prepare Israel, because if Jesus just shows up without John, Jesus’s glory and Jesus’s righteousness will completely crush Israel. An unholy people cannot dwell with a holy God. So John, as the messenger figure from Malachi and from Isaiah 40, he’s got to prepare Israel for the Lord’s coming. He’s got to prepare Israel for Jesus, because if he does not prepare them, Jesus, the Lord, will show up in judgment and just wipe everybody out.

Matt Tully
You mentioned Isaiah. In Luke 3 we get this reference—this quotation—from the book of Isaiah related to John. Again, briefly, what should we understand from what Isaiah is saying there and how it relates to John the Baptist?

Benjamin L. Gladd
This is the longest quotation of Isaiah 40 in the synoptics. And what’s unique here in Luke 3 is in verse 6: And all people will see God’s salvation. All flesh will see his salvation. The other synoptics do not include that line. I think here this is talking about the nations—about the Gentile—coming in and being a part of God. But really, I think the thrust here in Isaiah 40 is that this preparatory figure is announcing the restoration of not just a few things, but the restoration of all things. And so really, this is a technique that all New Testament authors use, and that is they cite one text, or maybe they’ll cite a couple of texts, which Luke does all the time. He cites Isaiah all the time. But Luke is not just thinking about Isaiah 40:3–5. He’s thinking about Isaiah 40–66. In fact, he may even be thinking about all of the book of Isaiah. And so really, when he quotes just Isaiah 40:3–5, he’s thinking of the entire message of Isaiah; that is, God has come, and now is the time when he’s going to pull his people out of spiritual slavery, pull his people out of Babylonian captivity, and bring them into the promised land of the new creation. Coming out of exile is more than simply being liberated; it’s drawing out of and into. Israel’s drawn out of slavery and into the new creation. And so that’s why Luke’s Gospel spends so much time talking about the way or the second exodus. Jesus himself is even called “the way” in John’s Gospel because he is the way in which God’s people are delivered and placed into the new creation.

Matt Tully
You mentioned the subtle reference to the Gentiles in that spot. In Luke 2, we read a story of Simeon. He’s a devout Jew who’s apparently just kind of hanging out in the temple, and when he sees Jesus, the Holy Spirit opens his eyes to his true identity. He then offers up this short prayer to God in which he mentions the Gentiles. I wonder if you could explain what he’s saying there and, generally speaking, what was the understanding of the Messiah vis-a-vis the Gentiles at this time? Was that part of his mission that everyone would’ve understood? It seems like, as we progress in the story of Jesus, his comments about Gentiles, and then certainly after Jesus, that’s controversial to a lot of the Jews in the day, that the Gentiles would be welcomed in, in some sense.

Benjamin L. Gladd
We do have texts. For example, just to back up here, here in Simeon’s praise—in this hymn—it’s in verse 32, at the end of the hymn, when he says (he’s talking here about the baby), "Jesus, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel. This is an illusion—partial quotation—of Isaiah 42 and Isaiah 49. And this is about the Isaianic servant figure who not only restores the remnant of Israel, but he also restores a remnant of Gentiles, of the nations. And so he’s bringing both groups into the family of God. And so this is one text—and we can look at several texts in Isaiah and elsewhere, even in the Psalms and in the other prophets—where you do have nations joining Israel in becoming part of the people of God. That is not a New Testament thing. That is very much an Old Testament thing. It goes all the way back to the Abrahamic covenant, and ultimately back to Genesis 1–3. And so the fact that Gentiles become part of the people of God, that’s not a new thing. In fact, here they join the people through the servant. That’s interesting. That’s beginning to set the stage for Jesus. But what happens is that the expectation in Isaiah, especially in Isaiah, it appears that when the nations join Israel, they have to look like Israelites.

Matt Tully
In terms of their customs and their rituals.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Yes, they have to dress like Israelites. In fact, we even have texts like in Zechariah 14 about how they’ll celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles there, and in Isaiah 66 it says they’re going to function as priests in the temple of God. Gentiles! This is amazing! But what Jesus—and we see this very sharply in Paul—what they say is this: if you want to participate in the people of God, you have to identify in and trust in Jesus. You see, we really don’t have Old Testament texts that say, Hey, when the Gentiles join Israel, just trust in the Messiah. We don’t have those texts. We have the texts that just speak of a remnant of Gentiles joining Israel, and they become Israelites. They’re still Gentiles, but they do convert. Here, what Jesus is saying is, No, you just have to trust in Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate Israelite.

Matt Tully
He is the way you get in.

Benjamin L. Gladd
He’s the Israel. He’s the way in which one enters the people of God. You see, it’s so focused on an individual. And we really don’t have that idea in the Old Testament. That’s not an idea that we get in the Old Testament. I think there are hints along the way. I think we could pursue those texts, but I think the general expectation is that Gentiles join the people of God by resembling the Israelites, by doing what they do. That’s really the cluster of texts that we get.

Matt Tully
So that’s the mystery of Gentile inclusion that Paul references?

Benjamin L. Gladd Yes I believe so.

Matt Tully
It’s not just that Gentiles are somehow brought in, but it’s that they’re brought in through Jesus and through faith.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Through Jesus. They identify with Jesus, who is the true Israel, and therefore, they are true Israel. And so we see this in Luke’s Gospel. For example, we get in chapter seven with the centurion, and the centurion’s faith is so amazing that he tells Jesus, Hey look, just say the word, and my servant will be healed. And what does Jesus say? Jesus says, You are amazing. I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel. Do you see? Here’s a God-fearing Gentile.

Matt Tully
I mean, he’s sort of an oppressor of Israel in a sense.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Right, in a certain way. Apparently, he has built the synagogue, but at the end of the day, he’s a Gentile. Even though he has drawn close to Judaism, he would still be a second class Israelite. That’s how they would treat him. But Jesus looks at this “second-class citizen” and says, You’re amazing. You have great faith. What happens here in chapter eight in the stilling of the storm? What do we get here when the disciples fail to realize who Jesus is? What does Jesus call them? He says in verse 25, Where is your faith? In Mark’s Gospel it’s, You of little faith. And so here we have this centurion—great faith. Disciples, where is your faith? Do you see? Oddly, this Gentile, this God-fearing Gentile, has more faith than the disciples do. And the disciples have seen way more than what this centurion has seen.

Matt Tully
Which seems to then emphasize that faith is the key issue here, not ethnicity.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Not ethnicity. At the end of the day—this sounds so Pauline, but it’s in the Gospels—at the end of the day, what separates the community of believers from the outsiders? It’s faith in Christ. And it’s very clear in the Gospels. It’s not just a Pauline thing.

23:07 - Mary’s Song

Matt Tully
Let’s jump into Mary’s song, this beautiful portion in Luke 1 where Mary offers up this prayer in song to God in light of the news from Gabriel. I want to look even a little bit before we get into what Gabriel says to Mary and kind of walk through that. It’s a passage that we’re all so familiar with, and I think we can sometimes read through it quickly and miss what’s going on here. So Gabriel says to Mary, “He [your son] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” So first, what would a Jewish hearer, like Mary, have understood about the phrase “the Son of the Most High”?

Benjamin L. Gladd
The Son of the Most High. That is a very high title. My sense is that title is a divine title. It’s very close to a divine title. In fact, later on in verse 35, I think that title’s unpacked even more. It says the holy one will be born and he will be called the Son of God. And so there’s a lot of debate about that. When it says the phrase Son of God, does that simply mean that Jesus is a king, just as David was the son of God? Is this a Psalm 2 idea? We hear the Son of the Most High. In fact, it’s really in Mark’s Gospel, I think, where we really get this phrase unpacked in a great and profound way, that Son of God does not simply mean Jesus does what his Father does or what God does; just as God rules, so Jesus rules. Yes, that’s part of it, but Jesus is the Son of God ontologically. He is divine. And that’s why in Luke’s Gospel, Luke loves to use the term kyrios, or Lord, throughout his Gospel. Luke labels Jesus kyrios, or Lord, and the disciples will use the term Lord, and they may not think in terms of, Oh, he’s Yahweh incarnate. There are times when they probably aren’t thinking that, or when other people use the term Lord. For example, here in verse 42: “in a loud voice she exclaimed, ‘Blessed are you [talking about a Mary] among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” So this is amazing because Elizabeth calls Jesus Lord while he is in the womb of Mary. She may be just simply referring to Jesus in a way that says he’s master, he’s a great one, or something like that. But the use of Lord here is very careful. There may be a side of this that even evokes Yahweh incarnate, that he is Lord. Because Lord is the most common way of designating Yahweh in the Old Testament. And look at verse 45: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” That, in verse 45, is clearly Yahweh. So the previous verse, or previous two verses, the use of Lord there—

Matt Tully
It seems like he’s trying to connect those two.

Benjamin L. Gladd
That’s the idea is that Luke is connecting Jesus’s Lord in the womb, and then the Lord in the Old Testament fulfilling his promises. So he’s starting to bring the two together. And we’re just in chapter 1. It’s fascinating.

Matt Tully
It must have been so, in some ways, shocking. Mary’s response in light of these kinds of statements is all the more amazing when you know that she’s perhaps thinking along these lines. What does it mean that the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David? What would that have conjured in her mind?

Benjamin L. Gladd
I think the Davidic promise in 2 Samuel 7, and texts like that, where God promised to David that he will have a descendant, he will reign from the throne. There’s a whole network of Old Testament texts that really resonate very well here. And this would be pretty standard stuff in the first century. what’s unusual is parenting kyrios with a Davidic servant.

Matt Tully
Because the Davidic servant was not necessarily thought of as being divine.

Benjamin L. Gladd
No. I think there are Old Testament hints. There are some passages, such as Daniel 7 and even in Micah 5, where it says his comings forth are from long ago. There is something enigmatic. There are a couple texts—Psalm 110, and this is amazing because Jesus even quotes Psalm 110. David said, “to my Lord.” Who is “my Lord” there? And Jesus cites that text as a proof of his preexistence. In fact, he this is in the midst of a polemic, and he’s talking here to these religious teachers and he goes, Oh, you guys think the Messiah is just the descendant of David. But then he goes on the cite Psalm 110, “David said, ‘My Lord.’” And so Jesus is saying, Oh, but the Messiah is not simply a descendant of David. The Messiah has actually preceded David, and he has existed before David existed.

Matt Tully
And yet he’s also a descendant.

Benjamin L. Gladd
In his humanity he’s a descendant.

28:23 - Don’t Skip the Genealogies

Matt Tully
I want to get into that and talk about the genealogies that we see in Luke 3. First question: Unlike the Gospel of Matthew who opens with this genealogy of Jesus, Luke waits until chapter three, until after he’s told the story about John the Baptist and after Gabriel comes to Mary and she responds to that. Why do you think it is that the genealogy comes at this point? It’s actually paired with the introduction of Jesus in his public ministry at age thirty. Why does he wait this long?

Benjamin L. Gladd
I think the answer involves asking, Where does he do it? He puts the genealogy in between Jesus’s baptism and the wilderness temptation. And what’s so fascinating is right before the temptation, Luke says that Jesus is the son of Seth, the son of Adam, and the Son of God. In other words, when we read the wilderness temptation, we need to think about how Jesus is Adam. He’s a greater Adam. This is the clearest text in the Gospels that links Adam with Jesus. Now, we get that connection in Paul, especially in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, but here in the Gospels this connection is clearly made in Luke 3, warranting the idea that Jesus is not simply Israel; he’s Adam. Adam and Israel are very connected in the Old Testament, and so now here we have in Luke 4, when Jesus goes into the wilderness, he does so as Adam, but he also does so as Israel. That’s why he quotes Deuteronomy three times. So Luke is drawing both Adam and Israel together, and Christ, and he’s aligning them.

Matt Tully
So is that the whole purpose of the genealogy—the connection to Adam?

Benjamin L. Gladd
It’s not the whole purpose, but it’s one of them. Another very compelling connection is in verse 36 when he mentions Noah, in verse 37 he mentions Enoch and then he mentions Seth. That’s Genesis 1–11. So whereas Matthew goes to Abraham, you can almost see Luke goes, Thanks Matthew, but I’m actually going to go beyond. I’m going to go all the way. I’m going to up you. But then John even then ups Luke and John goes all the way to Jesus as Creator.

Matt Tully
How would you summarize the different point that Matthew versus Luke are making with their genealogies?

Benjamin L. Gladd
That’s a great question. I think in Matthew’s genealogy there are two points. Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. He is not simply an Israelite; he is the Israelite. He is the Abrahamic son. And then on the other hand, and this is stronger, he is the Davidic King. And that’s very glaring in Matthew. But in Luke—by mentioning Noah, Enoch, Shem, Seth, and Adam—he’s going pre-Abraham.

Matt Tully
Does that fit with the emphasis on Gentiles a little bit more?

Benjamin L. Gladd
It certainly fits because all of humanity goes back to Genesis 1–11. It also fits very well with creation. Jesus is not simply saving individuals from their sin; he is delivering the cosmos from the stain of sin. It’s a cosmic salvation that Jesus brings about, and that’s why Luke is so concerned with the first several chapters of Genesis, because it’s everything, right?

31:57 - Immanuel, God with Us

Matt Tully
Maybe as a final question, as we gather together and we read the Christmas story so often—and obviously, the first few chapters of Luke are one of the best places to encounter Jesus’s birth—what would be a couple of Old Testament passages that you would recommend that we read first as a way to prepare ourselves to then encounter Luke’s presentation of Jesus’s birth?

Benjamin L. Gladd
Genesis 1 and 2 is going to be my number one, because in Genesis 1–2 we see God’s design for humanity—how God created Adam and Eve to bear his image and to rule over the serpent and to rule over creation and to bring his glory to the ends of the earth. It’s an amazing thing! And so Luke is trying to connect Jesus with Genesis 1–2. Adam and Eve, prophet, priest, and king; Jesus, prophet, priest, and King. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of those expectations. Think of it like this: God’s intention and God’s design in Genesis 1–2—his purpose in creating that cosmos, that universe—it may have looked as though it was failing at times in Israel’s history. It looked as though it would never come about. Who’s going to rule over the serpent? Who’s going to rule over Israel’s enemies? Who’s going to rule over sin and death? And what do we get? Even as an infant, and even before he’s born, we start to see the connections being made that Jesus will not only save people from their plight, but he will also deliver this world from the stain of sin and will transform it into the new creation, with the result that heaven and earth would become one location—that God would dwell with us. I know we’re talking about Luke here, but this is why I love Matthew’s Gospel because Matthew cites Isaiah here and he says, “And he is Immanuel, God with us.” God sends his Son to save people from sin and to restore creation so that Revelation 21 and 22 would be activated, that heaven would come down and God would dwell with his creation. Isn’t that amazing? Because there in Revelation 22, what do you have? You have the Lamb and you have God the Father, and they are sitting on the throne and they are dwelling with people. Right now, God is in heaven. We’re on earth. That’s a problem. There’s space between us. We’re in different dimensions. But in Revelation 21 and 22, you have two dimensions collapsing into a single place, a single location. And that’s what Genesis 1–2 are about. One day God will dwell with us, and in Jesus we start to see that happening—do you see?—in a very real and true way. And so, really, the first coming of Jesus begins the process, and the second coming of Jesus finishes what he has begun. So, it’ll be very political the second time around.

Matt Tully
Yeah, a different feel to it. Ben, thank you so much for walking us through these first few chapters of the Gospel of Luke. It’s amazing to see how much is packed into these stories, how much intentionality. We all know that’s true, but to see it come out, and then to see how all Scripture hangs together as it does, is really amazing.

Benjamin L. Gladd
Amen. Thank you so much, Matt. I appreciate your time.


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