CAESAR AUGUSTUS ISSUED A DECREE: Luke is an inspired
historian, who can therefore look into the heart of things and think on a grand
scale. The story he presents is a fascinating interplay of Roman imperial
authority and obscure Jewish compliance. But even the decrees of mighty Caesar
are bent to the Divine purpose. Augustus, with all his armies and bureaucrats,
is no more than a servant of God. For centuries the religion of freedom was
destined to contend against the despotic power of a great empire, a totalitarian
state which never hesitated to make the lowly masses subservient to its own
will. (Such states have not gone out of style, and will not, as long as man is
left to rule his own affairs. They have changed their names and ideologies, but
not their essential characters.) Even in his birth the founder of the new
religion was tossed to and fro at the whim of the emperor.
When he went to his death thirty-odd years later, it was again
as a mere random piece of humanity, to be "processed" by the same state, one
among many misfits and criminals impaled by Roman nails on Roman
The state had its purposes, but God had His. Each purpose was
fulfilled, but how different they were! In ordering the enrollment, the state
was seeking to achieve greater control over its subjects, and to lay the
groundwork for taxation. God made use of these materialistic enterprises to
fulfill the prophecy given by Micah, that His Son would be born in the little
town of Bethlehem, thereby becoming governor and shepherd of Israel (Mic 5
THIS WAS THE FIRST CENSUS THAT TOOK PLACE WHILE QUIRINIUS
WAS GOVERNOR OF SYRIA: The KJV uses "taxing" in the Old English sense of a
census, although the collection of revenue was prob a secondary purpose. Luke,
in using the word "first", seems to be saying that another enrollment followed
later. The second census, approx ten years later, is the one referred to in Act
5:37. At one time, since secular historians confirmed this census but knew
nothing of an earlier one, Bible critics presumed that Luke had made a serious
error in chronology. Recent discoveries have quite satisfactorily cleared up
this confusion, by confirming the earlier census and substantiating Luke's
"The first census (ie, enrollment prior to taxation) known to
have occurred under the governorship of Quirinius took place later (ie, AD 6)
than usually reckoned as the time of Jesus' birth. Reference to this census is
found in both Acts 5:37 and Josephus (Ant 18:26:2:1). Many have supposed that
Luke confused this census of AD 6 with one he thinks was taken earlier, but
which lacks historical support. The most satisfactory solutions that have been
proposed: (1) Quirinius had a government assignment in Syria at this time and
conducted a census in his official capacity. Details of this census may have
been common knowledge in Luke's time but are now lost to us. An incomplete ms
describes the career of an officer whose name is not preserved but whose actions
sound as if he might have been Quirinius. He became imperial 'legate of Syria'
for the 'second time'. While this is ambiguous, it may be a clue that Quirinius
served both at the time of Jesus' birth and a few years later. (2) The word
'prote' can be construed to mean not 'first', as usually translated, but
'former' or 'prior'. The meaning of v 2 is then 'This census was before that
made when Quirinius was governor.'
"It was customary to return to one's original home for such a
census. Also, powerful as he was, Herod was only a client king under Rome and,
like others, was subject to orders for a census. Furthermore, it is scarcely
conceivable that Luke, careful researcher that he was (Luk 1:14), would have
stressed the census unless he had reasonable historical grounds for doing so"
Usually the Roman practice was to register people at their
place of residence. This was not done in Palestine, prob because Jewish law and
tradition attached people to their original tribal homes, not to their current
residences. Because Joseph was of the "house and line of David" (v 4), it was
necessary that he return to David's land of inheritance, Bethlehem in Judah. It
has been suggested that women would not have been required to travel back to
their original family homes (LTJM 182).
Even if this were so, Mary would have desired to go with
Joseph, since they could scarcely have been unaware of Micah's prophecy (Mic
5:2; Mat 2:5,6). The decree of Augustus merely provided the reason, or the
pretense, for their trip. This trip was, for both Mary and Joseph, a journey
undertaken in conscious obedience to the will of God.
LINE: In addition to "house", "line" suggests direct
royal line of kings. Joseph might have been the true heir to David's
PLEDGED: Significantly, Mary is still called the
"pledged", "espoused" (KJV), or "betrothed" (RV), wife of Joseph. Even though
she now lived in his house, Joseph nevertheless "had no union with her" (Mat
1:25), in accordance with his resolution, until after the birth of her
Out of apparent disarray, the right people come to the right
place at the right time. How amazing is the providence of God! And the greatest
wonder is that His providence still works today. "When the time had fully come,"
Paul says, Jesus was born "of a woman... under the law" (Gal 4:4). She partook
of the sorrow and pain of childbirth, passing under the curse of the law of
Moses and becoming unclean. It was the shadow of a reality still to come, when
the baby, grown to manhood, would, of his own volition, come under the curse of
the law in death, that that curse might be once and for all removed (Gal
Lesson, When God became a Father.
No human setting could improve upon the luster of this perfect
"jewel". Jesus' status would not have been enhanced in the slightest if he had
been born in a palace. Human ingenuity would have been baffled to contrive a
fitting entrance into the world for God's Son. But God would rather choose the
weak things, and the lowly, so that nothing of the flesh can boast against His
glory. He bids us enter the stable, where a lowly maid clasps to her breast a
fragile newborn. In the darkness of that special night a tiny cry mingles with
the mutterings of the beasts: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God!"
See Isa 1:3: Centuries before, God had uttered this plaintive
cry. Now, in the stillness of the stable, the brute beasts turn quietly to gaze
upon the "crib" where the prospective owner of all creation lies. But outside,
the nation of Israel slumbers in darkness, not considering the wonder of the
little baby in the manger, who will one day assert his right to universal
dominion (Gen 1:28; Psa 8:6).
HER FIRSTBORN: "Her", esp Mary's. "Firstborn": see Psa
89:27; Col 1:20.
(AND SHE) WRAPPED...: Implying there was no one to help
CLOTHS: Only here and v 12 in NT. A swath or slice of
cloth. Swaddling clothes: his death and burial (wrapped in grave-clothes) was
foreshadowed in his birth: cp Luk 23:53; Joh 11:44; 20:6. He was truly born to
MANGER: Occurs only Luk 2:12,16; 13:15. "Phatne" also
denotes "a stall". So not only a "manger" but, by metonymy, the stall or crib
(Pro 14:4) containing the "manger". Prob the cave under an upper room, where the
animals were usually stabled (HVM 125). (Other early traditions say Christ was
born in a cave.)
THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR THEM...: "Foxes have holes and
birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head"
INN: "Guestchamber", the upper room (cp Luk 22:11; Jer
Blessings given in the path of home duty: shepherds at night
(Luk 2:8-20), Moses keeping flock (Exo 3:1,2), David in sheepfolds (Psa 78:70),
Gideon threshing (Jdg 6:11,12), Abraham in tent-door (Gen 18:1), and a woman
coming to draw water (Joh 4:7,26).
He came to his own, but his own received him not (Joh 1:11).
But lowly country shepherds did receive him! God has chosen the weak things: 1Co
LIVING OUT IN THE FIELDS: As late as mid-October
(Targum, WGos 30).
KEEPING WATCH... AT NIGHT: The tower of Edar (sig
flock) was located near Bethlehem (Gen 35:21; Mic 4:8; LTJM 1:186). Were these
flocks destined for sacrificial services?
AND THEY WERE TERRIFIED: Always, it seems, fear was the
natural first reaction to an angelic visitation (Luk 1:12, 29). When the angel
appears to us, to take us away to judgment, will we fear? It is a great comfort
to see that the all-too-human fear is so often met with the Divine message: "Do
not be afraid" (Luk 1:13,30). May it be so with us!
"The angel of the Lord passed over the city of Jerusalem;
there Herod and his courtly nobles held their drunken carousals, and there the
religious rulers of the Jews were preoccupied with secular ambitions" (MP
DO NOT BE AFRAID: So much of our lives is taken up with
fears: fears for our families or our livelihood, fears of violence or of
disease; sometimes, perhaps, nameless fears that paralyze action and even
prayer. How often we need the reminder of the angel's words: "Do not be afraid."
God is for us, so who can be against us? (see Luk 12:32).
I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS: The gospel itself.
OF GREAT JOY: Joy is the perfect opposite of fear. The
joy of the gospel will cast out fear. We can know this joy, even in the monotony
of daily life, or the "valleys" of trial and suffering. This joy can enable us
to transcend the vague worries of the moment, because it is the foretaste of the
Kingdom. It is all a matter of letting our minds feed upon the wonderful
realities of the "good tidings" of Jesus.
TODAY: The angelic message has a great immediacy, which
is echoed in other passages: "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at
your house today" (Luk 19:5); "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now
is the day of salvation" (2Co 6:2); and again, Paul cried to the Athenians, "But
now (God) commands all men everywhere to repent" (Act 17:30).
IN THE TOWN OF DAVID: This links the child with the
prophecies of the great king of David's line, and the glories of his
DAVID: Who was a shepherd himself!
A SAVIOR... WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD: When the angel was
speaking to Mary, only the kingly aspect of Jesus was mentioned (Luk 1:32, 33).
When Joseph was being assured that all was well, only the Savior aspect was
mentioned (Mat 1:21). But now both are combined when the angel speaks to the
HAS BEEN BORN TO YOU: There is about this announcement
a universal appeal. "Christ is born to you," the angel said. To you the
shepherds, to you the outcasts, and to you -- any man or woman who will receive
him. "Whosoever will", let him come and partake of this blessing. Christ is born
A GREAT COMPANY: But at his death, Jesus was alone (Mat
THE HEAVENLY HOST: See Gen 28:12; 32:1,2. Cp Job
PRAISING GOD AND SAYING: Some people put clammy, pasty
hands over our happy mouths and say, "The angels didn't SING 'peace on earth,
good will to men.' According to the Greek, they SAID 'peace on earth, good will
to men.' " But we can't read that without something beginning to move in us. We
get a rhythm; we get music in your heart. 'Peace on earth, good will toward
men,' the angels SAID?! Surely the angels SANG at the birth of the Savior, and
shouted for joy at the beginning of the "new creation" as they did at the
beginning of the "old" (Job 38:7)! And we don't need the concordance to prove
Angels sing of "peace" on earth; disciples sing of "peace" in
heaven (Luk 19:38).
LET'S GO: The shepherds were willing to leave the "99"
(v 8) and seek the "one"! Not even one of the shepherds needed to stay behind
with the sheep -- that night the flocks had "guardian angels" (Psa
"His [Joseph's] brothers were jealous of him, but his father
[Jacob] kept the matter in mind" (Gen 37:11).
When the days of Mary's purification were ended (forty days in
all: Lev 12:2,4), Joseph brought her and the child to the temple at Jerusalem,
just a few miles to the north. The purpose was twofold. Firstly, Mary must offer
a sacrifice of cleansing from childbirth, in this case specified by Luke as two
doves or two pigeons (the sacrifice of the poor: Lev 12:8). The second purpose
was to present Jesus to the Lord (Luk 2:22), and to offer a sacrifice of money
(five shekels) for the redemption of a firstborn son (Num 18:15,16). Jesus was
born "of a woman... under the law" (Gal 4:4), and therefore in need of cleansing
and redemption himself. However, despite the best efforts of Joseph and Mary,
this child could not be truly redeemed with any gift but the sacrifice of
himself. This he would accomplish more than thirty years later, in a sacrifice
sealed by his own blood. All the laws of cleansing and purification were mere
pointers, down through the ages, to this one who would become the perfect
sacrifice, accomplishing his own redemption (Heb 9:11,12), and ours also, in
THEIR: KJV has "her", but "their" is correct (RV).
Jesus also needed purification.
JOSEPH AND MARY TOOK HIM: It was not essential that
mother and child come to Jerusalem to perform these sacrifices, since they might
be done by representatives (LTJM 1:194). This indicates, therefore, a continued
residence in Bethlehem.
IS TO BE CONSECRATED TO THE LORD: Poss ref to firstborn
at Passover in Egypt (Exo 13:2,12). Otherwise, the High Priest was so referred
to: Lev 21:6-8; Exo 28:36,38 (WGos 31).
DOVES... PIGEONS: Jesus was poor. Surely, if at all
possible, Joseph and Mary would have provided the very best sacrifice; not the
poorest, since they knew what a unique child this was. They evidently had no
choice. What does it really mean to be poor? Since God would not deny His Son
anything really necessary, then it must be concluded that it was in his best
interests to be materially poor. Therefore, material deprivation is not poverty
at all, Scripturally speaking. As Jesus grew older there were many things he
could do without, that "richer" children might take for granted. He could not,
however, do without a loving family, where parents placed the Word of God first
every day. Are our priorities for our children the same as God's priorities for
How often is waiting the lot of believers! How well do they
wait? What do they wait for? Jacob had waited for the salvation of God (Gen
49:18), as had Isaiah (Isa 25:9). David had waited on the Lord, to see His
goodness "in the land of the living" (Psa 27:13,14). The old man Simeon waited
for the "consolation of Israel".
SIMEON: Poss the son of Hillel (the founder of the
school) and the father of Gamaliel (Paul's teacher and "Rabban"): C&H 47;
THE CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL: Cp "redemption of Jerusalem"
(v 38). Recalls the words which open the second major section of Isaiah's
prophecy, after the historical interlude of Isa 36-39: "Comfort, comfort my
people... speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service
has been completed, that her sin has been paid for" (Isa 40:1,2). Thus opens the
great Messianic section of Isaiah's writings, where, setting his eye on the far
horizon, he contemplates the suffering servant of Yahweh, a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief. Can we then imagine how Simeon had occupied his time as
he waited, poring over the prophecies of Isaiah, studying that one book of
Scripture practically his whole life, all for this one moment?
Perhaps the stories of the Bethlehem shepherds had put him in
final readiness for this day, and now it had come. Led by the Spirit of God, the
old patriarch was drawn to the temple (v 27). Can we imagine Joseph and Mary
halting in their steps as Simeon approached them, in flowing robes, with white
hair and fierce eyes, practically the reincarnation of Isaiah himself? He took
the baby in his arms, with the dignity and tenderness of a grandfather. They
stood at the end of one age and the beginning of another. In Simeon could be
seen the lingering twilight of a day that had waxed old and would soon vanish.
The old man with wrinkled brow typified the nation and the law, long past their
years of glory, soon to be displaced.
In the babe in his arms could be seen the first light of dawn
of a new day of glory, a glory that would never fade away. Everything that
Simeon did and said here may be best understood within the framework of that
most Messianic of the OT prophets, Isaiah. (Cp also Gen 49:18; Isa 25:9; Psa
Simeon was "waiting for the consolation of Israel". Joseph of
Arimathea was "waiting for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:51). A little detail to
which we can add John 12:42: "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many
believed." A confirmation that there were many who realized that the time period
of Daniel was fulfilled and that Messiah should come.
Simeon sees the salvation of the Lord in the temple on Mount
Moriah, just as Abraham did (Gen 22), and as David did (2Sa 24:18). "So we have
this temple, being assembled by Solomon. A place where so visibly God's power
and mercy had been seen. A place where God's desire to repent of evil had been
carried out before. A place where salvation could be had.
"Does this interesting set of links end there? No... because
now we jump forward to the time when another son was born, but one that was oh
so much more precious and special. The Lord, OUR Lord -- Jesus Christ. The time
came for him to be presented before the Lord, at His special place, the temple.
The same place, the same location as Abraham, David and Solomon. What do we
find? 'Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and
devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was
upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die
before he HAD SEEN THE LORD'S CHRIST. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the
temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what
the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,
saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in
peace. FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN YOUR SALVATION, which you have prepared in the
sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to
your people Israel' " (Luk 2:25-32). Again, amazingly, at this place, we see a
link to seeing the Salvation of God!
"This is what the Jews missed. They saw the stones, the
ornamentation, the architecture, the beautiful temple. What they should have
been seeing was God, and the salvation He provides. They concentrated on the
temporary, and couldn't see the eternal. How often do we do this?
"Do we see the stones, and miss the salvation? Do we see our
brothers and sisters, with all their potential flaws... and even sometimes the
great talents that all of us have in different areas... and miss the important
thing... the salvation of God manifested in each and every one of us?
"Do we see the bread and the wine on a Sunday morning as a
snack to tide over our hunger for lunch? A way to get rid of the annoying tickle
we've had in our throats all morning? Or even just a chance to... feel better
"Or do we see the salvation of God?
"So Mount Moriah was all about reminding people that even
though we get all caught up in temporary things, there are eternal things, an
eternal hope, which we can see, and can draw hope from. It can be as solid a
rock and foundation to us as the physical Mount Moriah is.
"Perhaps to us we should use the bread and the wine, the
brothers and sisters around us, this place at this moment in time, as our own
private Mount Moriah... a place of power and hope... a place to see through the
veil of mortality to the plane of reality and immortality, where life isn't
distorted, and things can be seen clearly?" (MMc).
See Isa 61:1.
See Isa 6:1,3,5.
"The lingering twilight of declining day mingling with the
dawn of a better morn" (Candlish, Gen 143).
See Gen 46:30; Isa 57:1,2.
See Isa 52:10; 62:1,11. "Spiritual life is not bound to the
wheel of our natural life, even though it passes through phases of development.
There is something of the eternal about the qualities of character produced in a
godly man, qualities which remain fruitful whilst his faculties remain. Simeon
in the temple nursing a babe of a few weeks is like life in the truth.
Throughout our days we nurse spring within us, the vibrant promise of life to
come, the undying hope which sustains our mortal spirit. Fullness of summer and
the abundance of harvest are found in the satisfying plenitude of life in
Christ. The threat of winter and of the cold sleep in the ground is warmed by a
transforming hope, a confidence in the mercy of God, which turns death into a
sleep in the Lord, and the long wait into but a moment; or, as another part of
Scripture puts it, 'or ever I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my
princely people' (Song 6:12)" (TMD 192,193) -- "Before I realized it, my desire
set me among the royal chariots of my people" (NIV).
See Isa 52:10.
See Isa 42:6; 49:6; 60:1,3.
See Isa 8:14,15/ Isa 26:19 / Isa 7:14; 8:18.
AND SAID TO MARY: Ignoring Joseph.
See Isa 53:5,7,8; 2Sa 23:7; Psa 22:16.
SO THAT THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS WILL BE REVEALED:
That is, revealed to US!
A SWORD: Following the circumcision of the child 33 day
before (a sword) and the offering of sacrifice here (another sword). A sword
upon Christ in the cutting off of the flesh as a sacrifice. See also 2Sa 23:7;
Psa 22:16; Mat 10:34.
A SWORD WILL PIERCE YOUR OWN SOUL TOO: "Finally, the
story about her being pierced with the sword while Jesus hung dead on the cross,
receiving the pain of the spear through her own heart as she stood beside her
Son to the end and paralleled in Zec 12:10 where the Father Himself speaks,
'They shall look on me whom they have pierced', I find completely astonishing.
The Father and the mother of Jesus stood there by his side as it were, suffering
together in his agony, both of them with their hearts torn apart, the two-edged
sword of the Word on the cross revealing the thoughts and intents of the hearts
of man, woman and God, dividing asunder to the bone and the marrow, piercing to
the soul and the spirit of them all. God consciously opened his heart and
revealed his innermost feelings on that day, as did man unconsciously, and as
did Mary in her confusion. And that is what the sacrifice of Christ does for all
of us, it tears down the veils of our temples, it reveals all of us for what we
are, and most importantly, it reveals God for who He really is on the inside,
thus opening the way for our entry into the Holiest of all, to see into God's
own heart" (JP).
Sig of names: grace (Anna), face of God (Phanuel), blessed
(Asher). See 2Co 4:6; Joh 1:14; Gen 32:30.
ASHER: See prophecy, Gen 49:20.
SEVEN YEARS AFTER HER MARRIAGE: Perhaps married at
15-18, widowed at 22-25... now aged 84, and a "temple virgin" (2Ch
SHE NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE: Where she prob had a special
apartment, as did Huldah (2Ch 34:22).
See Mal 3:16,17: "However dark the national picture we can
always find a faithful remnant who fear the Lord, and wait for the tokens of His
Hand. We read of them as the Old Dispensation closes amid the darkness and
sorrow in which the just retribution of God had left them: 'Then they that
feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it,
and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord,
and that thought upon his Name; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts,
in that day when I make up my jewels.' Four hundred years pass, years of
conflict, heroism, and intrigue, and when the light of divine revelation shines
once more on the Jewish scene, we find the remnant still there, Mary and Joseph,
Zacharias and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, and others whose names are recorded in
the Book of Life" (MP 19).
REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM: Cp "consolation of Israel" (v
25). See Lesson, Redemption.
NAZARETH: Described in MP 23,24. Cp Mat 2:23.
AND THE CHILD GREW...: "The woman gave birth to a boy
and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him" (Jdg 13:24).
HE WAS FILLED WITH WISDOM: "The Spirit of the LORD will
rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel
and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD" (Isa
Vv 41-52: Jesus grew; he developed. This is not a picture of
one who was God during his human days. It is normal human existence; His
knowledge did not start complete and, even more significantly, he is wiser at 30
than he was at 12! His failure to realize that his parents would be worried when
he stayed behind in Jerusalem, was the normal absent-mindedness of a 12-year-old
totally absorbed in an activity, even though the activity showed perception of
God, unusual for one of that age.
EVERY YEAR: Not binding on women (Exo 23:17), but Mary
went "every year" anyway -- even with a family of small children. Clear evidence
of the devout character of this family.
WHEN HE WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD: "Historians tells us that
from post-Captivity days, and almost certainly in the time of Jesus, the bar
mitzvah ceremony for Jewish boys was performed at the age of twelve, although it
was later changed to thirteen (possibly because of a Jewish desire to break all
association with the life of Jesus of Nazareth). If this is correct, it meant
that Jesus went up to Jerusalem that year as a 'son of the commandment' and a
full member of 'the congregation of the Lord'. His subsequent behaviour would
certainly indicate that this was the case" (AO).
"From my youth up" (Psa 88:15), the child Jesus was
considering his role!
AFTER THE FEAST WAS OVER: Lit, "when they had fulfilled
the days" (AV). "Passover is followed by seven days of unleavened bread, and
since attendance during this period was voluntary, many pilgrims returned home
immediately after the Passover sabbath. But not so the family of Jesus, they
'fulfilled the days'.
We could learn a lot from the devotion of this family. They
had their priorities right. The love and service of the Lord God came first in
their lives. Too often we give our children mixed and confusing signals.
Sometimes we attend the special study and fellowship occasions which form part
of our ecclesial calendar, and sometimes we go where we want to go and do what
we want to do instead. Subconsciously we convey the impression (although we
would never admit this) that God is just one of the options which life has to
offer, instead of an absolute necessity. And then we wonder why, in later years,
our children do not take on the saving name of Jesus Christ or have no real
enthusiasm for the things of the Truth. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and
his righteousness' was our Lord's advice at the commencement of his ministry
(Mat 6:33). It had always been a rule of family life, and he knew that it was
BUT THEY WERE UNAWARE OF IT: "But he told neither his
father nor his mother what he had done" (Jdg 14:6).
During this period, it was customary for rabbis to hold
seminars in the Temple (WGos 42).
AFTER THREE DAYS: Some 30 years later, she found him
again, 3 days after Passover!
Although this must have been a dreadful time for his parents,
here we have a type of the death and resurrection to take place some years
later. Jesus was gone for 3 days -- possibly presumed dead. The joy of his
resurrection can perhaps be better appreciated by our finite minds if we
consider the joy of receiving back a child we thought was gone.
SITTING AMONG THE TEACHERS, LISTENING TO THEM AND ASKING
THEM QUESTIONS: Among this group could have been Gamaliel the great teacher,
Nicodemus, and/or Joseph of Arimathea.
AMONG THE TEACHERS: Jesus in the midst of: (1) thieves:
Joh 19:18; (2) his disciples: Joh 20:19; (3) the teachers of the Law: Luk 2:46;
(4) two or three: Mat 18:20; (5) the lampstands: Rev 1:13; (6) the throne: Rev
QUESTIONS: Traditional passover question: 'What do you
mean by this service?'
"During the seven days of unleavened bread which followed the
Passover, it was apparently customary for leading rabbis to hold seminars in the
temple court, so that any who wished might take advantage of their instruction.
Jesus was undoubtedly keen to make the most of such opportunities, for when his
parents later came looking for him 'they found him in the temple, sitting in the
midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions'.
"It is surely a mistake to imagine, as some have, that Jesus
was arguing on level terms with these men of the Law, confounding and confuting
them by his superior knowledge. Jesus knew that 'iron sharpeneth iron' (Pro
27:17) and that as a 'son of the Law' he must be about his Father's business. He
was preparing himself for the cut and thrust of debate that would follow in the
years to come. As the prophet had said many centuries earlier, 'the spirit of
the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit
of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and
shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord' (Isa 11:2,3). Its
effect was already evident, for 'all that heard him were astonished at his
understanding and his answers' (Luke 2:47)" (AO).
"One wonders where Jesus ate and slept during the three days
he was separated from his parents. If he had gone to the home of some friend of
the family, Joseph and Mary would surely have found him sooner. The most likely
explanation is that some priest, delighted by his thirst for knowledge, or one
of the learned rabbis, took him to his home in the city. It is interesting to
consider that the elders with whom Jesus had discussions that week may have
included Simeon or Gamaliel or Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea!"
EVERYONE WHO HEARD HIM WAS AMAZED AT HIS UNDERSTANDING AND
HIS ANSWERS: "The Greek text seems to imply that not only did Jesus ask
question after question, but also that many were thrown back at him for him to
supply the answers. One enquiry would certainly have been prominent in those
discussions. It was Passover time, and according to universal Jewish custom
through many centuries, the firstborn of each family put the question at the
Passover meal: 'What mean ye by this service ?' (Exo 12:26). Here was God's
firstborn, in His house, asking the same question.
"The answer which Scripture supplied was: 'It is the SACRIFICE
of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in
Egypt', the Lord 'not suffering the destroyer to come into the houses' covered
by the blood of the lamb (Exo 12:23,27). With what mixed feelings was this young
man now learning the fuller meaning behind that divine deliverance. Psa 88:15
has these poignant words: 'I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up.'
The cross was already beginning to cast its shadow across his path"
SON, WHY HAVE YOU TREATED US LIKE THIS?: Motherly
anxiety drove Mary to interrupt these learned teachers. There is reproach in the
words, but perhaps also a pardonable pride: 'This is my boy with whom you elders
find it worthwhile to discuss Scripture!'
"Your father" ct with "my Father" (v 49)!
ANXIOUSLY: The sw describes the "torments" suffered by
the rich man in Hades in the parable in Luke 16:23-25.
IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE: Or, 'about my Father's business"
(KJV). Lit, "in the things which are my Father's..." The first recorded words of
Jesus, crystallizing the purpose of his life (cp last words: "It is finished":
"And all the members of Christ's greater family still need to
learn that lesson: if they would find Messiah they can do no better than look
for him in the symbolism of the Temple and the Passover and in all the wisdom
contained in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms" (AO).
Alongside this, consider the passages in the Psalms expressing
the cherished desire to dwell in the house of God: Psa 27:4; 48:1-3,12,13;
63:1-3; 84:1-4; 122:1-4,6,7.
"We must be driven and obsessed and extreme and fanatic -- but
the driving motive power must be love of God and of Christ and of the
Brotherhood and of mankind, and the purpose must be study and self-suppression
and service. Most people are ciphers, zeros -- dead and dull and drifting in
small selfishness and shallow satisfactions. This can be the case 'in the Truth'
as well as out of it: it is the natural way, and very pervasive. It is a
refreshing relief to see a man driven by a purpose beyond himself, though all
purposes but one are perversions of man's true purpose, and lead only to a
common grave with the most purposeless of men. It was said of Christ that 'he is
mad... that he hath a devil... he is beside himself'... 'The zeal of Thine House
hath eaten me up.' He is our example. His singleminded intensity was beyond the
comprehension of the careless, common crowd" (GVG).
THEN HE WENT DOWN TO NAZARETH WITH THEM: The first
phase of "his Father's business" led him back to his mother's home and Joseph's
workshop for 18 years (cp Psa 40:7,8). Character can be developed to perfect
satisfaction in the most mundane of settings and circumstances!
"Understanding that things are to be done in God's time table
and not ours is such a hard lesson. Christ at a young age was willing to accept
that it was not time for him, even though he knew that there were many young men
in scriptures who began their work at a young age. We too get frustrated when we
think the time for something is right now and we meet obstacles. I find that God
is in such control, that when I head a certain direction and the doors open
easily, I am aware that this is right for today. I am also aware that many times
my plans are not happening as I anticipated or wanted. When I push them forward
anyway, I usually find grief. When I let go and let God take control, I find a
larger lesson or blessing that I ever anticipated. God is graciously caring for
us... let us listen and learn the better way" (CPv).
AND WAS OBEDIENT TO THEM: The Lord Jesus, as he grew
up, was "subject" to Joseph and Mary, so that whatever they asked of Jesus did
not require him to transgress any divine commandment. What a wonderful
guardianship was selected for the development of the Lord Jesus.
"Nevertheless, until the call came, Jesus was content to be
subject to Joseph and Mary in Nazareth, even though he was now a 'son of the
Law' with more understanding than his parents. He knew that the fifth
commandment was as much an obligation as all the others: 'Honour thy father and
thy mother... that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the
earth' (Eph 6:2,3). Never, it may be assumed, was this commandment so fully and
so conscientiously observed as during these early years in the life of our Lord;
certainly, none deserves so much as he to 'live long on the earth', and in due
course he will!" (AO).
BUT HIS MOTHER TREASURED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART:
"The words Luke uses to describe her respectful fervour are an echo of the words
used of Jacob's concern for Joseph and his momentous dreams in Gen 37:11"
Cit 1Sa 2:26 (cp Pro 3:4): Jesus' spiritual development is
consciously patterned upon the spiritual development of the young child Samuel.
He was not a second person of a "Trinity"; he was not a Divine Being
masquerading as a baby or a little boy -- he WAS a child, growing up in the same
way, and learning his lessons from the Scriptures and from daily life, as would
any other child. He was one of us.
Boys of the hills grow larger views.
For are the hills not high?
And does not climbing exercise
The will of those who try?
The highest peak is first to see
The glory of the dawn,
And that same peak can see the sun
When others think 'tis gone.
Up to the hills he lifts his eyes;
From whence shall come his aid?
His safety cometh from the Lord,
Who heaven and earth hath made.
And thus the little Son of God,
In Galilee's green hills,
Soon learned to trust God's staff and rod
To keep him from all ills.
O Nazareth, thy very streets
Should shout aloud for joy,
For they did feel the happy feet
Of God's own little boy.
"Amid the wonder and solitude of his Father's creation,
knowledge was transformed by that strange alchemy into wisdom, and prayer turned
to communion... In despised Galilee, far from the glittering opulence of the
Roman court, far from the rabbinical schools of Jewish learning, Jesus grew up
as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground, preparing himself, and
being prepared by his Father, for his manifestation, first to Israel, and then
to all mankind" (MP 27).