11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
In verse twelve the Textus Receptus has a definite article before the word "manger" which the Nestle/Aland 26 lacks, and the Nestle/Aland 26 has the connective "kai" before the word "lying" which the Textus Receptus lacks.
I. Luke has determined to focus upon the angelic message of "great joy".
II. Each of the elements of the paragraph address "joy" issues.
I. The Issues of the "Sign".
A. The announcement had these parts...
1. Today a Savior has been born to you
2. He is "Christ" the "Lord"
3. The birth took place in the "city of David"
B. The particulars of the "sign".
1. You will find a "baby"
3. Lying in a manger
C. If a "sign" is an illustration of the thing it "signifies", the issues seem to be thus...
1. The "baby" signals His identification with humanity.
2. The "swaddling cloths" signal His identification with David.
3. The "manger" signals His identification as "food for the beasts (sheep)".
a. When it is recognized that the Scriptures clearly identify, as a major characterization, the Christ as the "bread of life", the manger connection is not off target at all.
b. When it is recognized that the Scriptures also clearly identify the people of God as His "sheep" (Psalm 100:3), the manger connection is seen to be even more on target.
D. It cannot be that the Christ was born to a virgin in the city of David and placed in a manger on the "day" that He was born "accidentally". These issues form a fundamental theological statement that undergirds all faith for all time: the Davidic Son was, and was not, of "David" because His ability to produce the Joy of Life was absolutely tied to the effective fulfillment of the Promise which was given to alleviate the distress of David's soul as that distress was revealed in 2 Samuel 7. The only real hindrance to the experience of that Promise exists in the mind/heart complex of men at the level of "faith". The Promise believed yields great joy. The Promise disbelieved yields great grief for one reason: the stage upon which the Promise "performs" is fraught with extraordinary pain and distress and there is no remedy for him/her who does not "trust".
II. The Rationale for the Sign.
A. Since the only real hindrance to the experience of that Promise exists at the level of 'faith', the rationale for the "sign" is what it has always been -- a foundation for faith.
B. As a "sign", however, it must be understood immediately that it does not function in the same way for those of us who read about it as it did for those shepherds to whom the announcement was given.
1. The shepherds were in a totalimmersion mode -- put there by the angel and the visitation of the glory and the host of heaven.
2. Those of us who read of their experience are not in anything like that mode. Even the most thoughtful and meditative of us end up with an intellectual grasp of the experience that is a significantly lesser experience.
C. As a foundation for faith, we must also understand how "faith" works...
1. The shepherds' experience argues for "faith" as the result of an overwhelming of the resistance that is pretty much automatic in the heart and mind of human kind.
2. That Luke wrote of that experience for Theophilus' sake argues that "faith" can also be the result of a kind of vicarious participation with the overwhelmed.
a. In any case, "faith" is not simply a matter of reading something and making a choice to "believe" it. This is the "faith" of the "free-willers" who wish to argue that the only thing that stands between man and God in the matter of faith is "that free will thing".
b. Everywhere in the Bible that "faith" is presented, it possesses a sufficient level of persuasion to determine the course of action that is to be taken. The old "faith/works" difficulty arises at this point.
1) Knowing that faith is a level of persuasion that determines the course of action taken, many think that by taking a certain course of action, they can "create" the "faith" that should have been at the root of the action. These also think that they can point backwards to the action(s) in order to argue for the presence of the "faith" that pleases God..."Lord, Lord, we did many mighty works in Your name...".
2) Knowing that faith is a level of persuasion that determines the course of action taken, others realize that taking a course of action that is not driven by conviction is mere hypocrisy. These also know that being driven by conviction is not necessarily "faith" because deception is real and there are a myriad of examples of people being "driven" by convictions that are not rooted in Truth.
c. Everywhere in the Bible that "faith" is presented, it is a persuasion that has its roots in "Truth".
1) This means that God, Who is the Truth, must be "persuasionably present" any time "faith" comes into existence.
a) The Scriptures are not shy about attributing "faith" to the ministry of the Spirit of God and denouncing the "flesh" as any sort of adequate "author" of genuine faith.
b) Those same Scriptures, however, often do not mention the presence of God in the contexts of faith and they also often simply reveal the instrument(s) of His persuasion so that men are often misled into the thinking that a "recreation" of the "events" will recreate that instrumentality.
2) This also means that if God, for whatever reason, chooses not to be the persuader when "Truth" is presented, men will not believe what is true no matter how great the evidence is that it is "truth". God often permits the internal antagonism of man toward the truth to rule the day. That is to say that He often chooses not to be the persuader even when the truth is being presented.
3) This also means that God often "persuades" when there is no discernible instrumentality -- no angels, no glory lighting up the night, no verbal argument, no heavenly host, etc..
a) This is not to say that "no verbal argument" means "no specific content of information" -- faith never exists in a vacuum of the absence of "Truth".
b) This is only to say that often the Spirit of God produces the conviction of "faith" when no one is present to "present" arguments for the truth except Himself as He uses truth that has been absorbed by the mental faculties of the person in whom He is working.
D. Thus, the "sign" was a presentation of verifiable truth that did not generate the sought-for "faith", but did validate and confirm it as truth and not deception. It is a fact of life that people must have validation after the fact if the faith is to continue. Thus, people are always looking for "validation" after the fact. They will often make a decision of faith and then seek for confirmation that it was of God by some rationalization of their developing circumstances.
E. And in this way Luke's record for Theophilus both argues for "faith" and presents the sought after validation.
1. Luke knew that anyone can say almost anything as a "thing to be believed".
2. He also knew that his sidekick, the apostle Paul, was adamant that even if an angel from heaven was the one contradicting the Gospel, he was to be rejected.
3. He also knew that not many are sufficiently confident to take on an angelic majesty over the terms of the Gospel unless they have bonafide truth in hand and bonafide validation as a past experience.
III. The Temporal Issues of the Sign.
A. As a sign, the shepherds could look for a new-born who was wrapped in the cloths that were typical of the house of David and who was at rest in a manger.
B. As for the legitimacy of the details, the only verifiable aspect that night was the baby's identity as a newborn. Whether he would prove to be a legitimate member of the house of David was an issue that would have to await further investigation. And whether He would prove to be legitimate "food" for the sheep was a matter that would have to await years of developments.
C. At best, the "sign" serves only as a validation for the heart-inclined -- something that only exists by the Spirit.