Luke 2

 

 

The Redeemer’s Birth (vs. 1-20)

 

1 “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar

Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” - more accurately, that there should be

a registration, etc.; that is, with a view to the assessment of a tax.

 

2  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Cyrenius; Latin, Quirinus. He is mentioned by the historians Tacitus and Suetonius.

He appears to have been originally of humble birth, and, like so many of the soldiers of

fortune of the empire, rose through his own merits to his great position. He was a gallant

and true soldier, but withal self-seeking and harsh. For his Cilician victories the senate

decreed him a triumph. He received the distinguished honor of a public funeral, A.D.

21 (Tacitus, ‘Ann.,’ 2:30; 3:22, 48; Suetonius, ‘Tib.,’ 49).

 

3 “And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  4  And Joseph also

went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of

David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of

David:)  The city of David, which is called Bethlehem.  After all the long ages

which had passed, still the chief title to honor of the little upland village was that

there the greatly loved king had been born. Bethlehem (“house of bread”) was built

on the site of the old Ephrath  the Ephrath where Rachel died.  Of the house

and lineage of  David The position in life of Joseph the royally descended, simply a

village carpenter, the equally humble state of Mary, also one of the great king’s

posterity, need excite no surprise when the vicissitudes of that royal house, and of the

people over whom they ruled, are remembered. The old kingdom of David had been

dismembered, conquered,  and devastated. The people had been led away into a

captivity from which few,  comparatively speaking, ever returned. All that the house

of David had preserved were its bare family records. Hillel, the famous scribe, who

was once a hired porter, claimed to belong to the old princely house.

 

5 “To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife,” - The older authorities here omit

“wife.” Translate, with Mary who was betrothed to him - “being great with child.”

 

6 “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that

she should be delivered.”  The universal tradition of the Christian Church places the

nativity in winter. The date “December 25” was generally received by the Fathers of

the Greek and Latin from the fourth century downwards.

 

7 “And she brought forth her firstborn son,” - This expression has no real bearing

on the question respecting the relationship of the so-called brethren of Jesus to

Mary. The writer of this commentary, without hesitation, accepts the general tradition

of the Catholic Church as expressed by the great majority of her teachers in all ages.

This tradition pronounces these brethren to have been:

 

  • either His half-brethren, sons of Joseph by a former marriage; or

 

  • His cousins. In the passage in Hebrews 1:6, “when He bringeth in the

           First Begotten into the world,” “First Begotten” signifies

“Only Begotten.”  - “and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and

laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

 

The inn of Bethlehem, what in modern Eastern travel is known as a khan or

caravanserai, as distinct from a hostelry (the ‘inn’ of ch. 10:34). Such an inn or khan

ffered to the traveler simply the shelter of its walls and roofs. This khan of Bethlehem

had a memorable history of its own, being named in Jeremiah 41:17 as the ‘inn of

Chimham,’ the place of rendezvous from which travelers started on their journey to

Egypt. It was so called after the son of Barzillai, whom David seems to have treated as

an adopted son (II Samuel 19: 37-38), and was probably built by him in his patron’s

city as a testimony of his gratitude.  The stable was not unfrequently a limestone cave,

and there is a very ancient tradition that there was a cave of this description attached

 to the “inn,” or caravanserai, of Bethlehem. This “inn” would, no doubt, be a large

one, owing to its being in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and would often be

crowded with the poorer class of pilgrims who went up to the temple at the

seasons of the greater feasts. Bethlehem is only six miles from Jerusalem.

 

 

The Birthplace and the Birth of Jesus Christ (vs. 1-7)

 

Two travelers, coming up from Galilee, approach the city of David. The

knowledge they possessed of the event in which the glories of David’s

house were to culminate must have invested every feature with a peculiar

sacredness of interest. Note Dean Stanley’s description of Bethlehem, on

the crest of a ridge of black hills terraced with vineyards. As beheld by

Joseph and Mary, what a stream of patriotic memories, mixed with the

inspirations which spring from the sense of ancestry, must have flowed

over their souls! There is the scene of the notable gleaning of the gentle

Moabitess who had accompanied Naomi from those mighty hills which rear

their pinnacles in the distance behind. There, Jesse with his seven stalwart

sons had lived. In those fields and gorges the youngest of the seven had

learned to sling his stones and sing his psalms — had been prepared for the

future which lay before him. From that city had come the mightiest of

David’s warriors — Joab and Abishai and others. Lo! there, too, by the

gate is the famous well of Bethlehem, of which David had longed to drink,

but, faint as he was, would not, because the drawing of its water had been

at the cost of life, strength, and blood. Manifold is the appeal to the heart

of the pilgrims, who, lowly as their condition is, are scions of Israel’s royal

house. They are nearing the place of which prophecy had said (Micah

5:2), Bethlehem Ephratah……out of thee shall One come forth unto

 me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old,

from everlasting.” They know that the fulfillment is at hand. Whither shall they

go? High time that one should be at rest. Shall they go to the inn — the khan or

caravanserai?  (If interested see Dean Farrar’s sketch of the nativity scene –

http://christianwritings.net/chapt-1.htm - CY - 2012) But the inn is full. There

is no place in it for such as they. The necessity is urgent. And their refuge —

so a tradition mentioned by Justin Martyr says — is a grotto or cave in the

limestone rock on which the village stands, used as a stable for horses and

a pen for cattle. The horses’ manger is the cradle for the KING OF

KINGS!  Born there and thus, the precise date of the birth is not apparently

determinable.

 

 

Christ Excluded (v.7)

 

How little welcome did the world give its new-born Saviour!   The birth in

Bethlehem  was THE MOST IMPORTANT BIRTH WHICH EVER

TOOK PLACE ON OUR PLANET!   Had the world appreciated the advent,

it would have heralded it on every shore; but so little wisdom was there in

the world that the precious Child had, so to speak, to steal into the world

in a stable and among the cattle. It was humiliating to be born, even had

palace halls received Him; but how humiliating to be born in the common

cattlepen, because there was no room for Mary in the inn! And yet, in thus

making His advent, He identified Himself not only with the poorest, but also

made common cause with the beasts. They, too, have benefited through

Christ being born — there is less cruelty to animals in Christian than in

other lands; and the religion of love He came to embody and proclaim will

yet do more to ameliorate the condition of the beasts. Meanwhile let us

notice how sad it is if men have no hospitality to show to Jesus, but STILL

EXCLUDE HIM FROM THEIR HEARTS AND HOMES!

 

Little did the occupants of that inn at Bethlehem imagine who it was they were

turning away when Joseph and Mary sought admission there. They did not realize,

for they did not know, whom they were excluding.  Practically they were declining

to receive, not only the Messiah of their country, but the SAVIOUR OF

THE WORLD!   What they did in guiltless ignorance, men too often do in wilfull

and culpable rejection. Jesus Christ is sometimes excluded by men:

 

  • FROM THEIR THEORIES OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT.

They have constructed such a perfect theory of government out of the

Operation of physical law, that there is no room at all for an interposing

Savior. The whole space of their kingdom of truth IS OCCUPIED!

 

  • FROM THEIR ESTIMATE OF THEIR INTELLECTUAL

NECESSITIES. They believe that, by applying their knowledge, their

reasoning faculty, their intuitive powers, to nature and to mankind, they

can reach all the conclusions there is any necessity to attain, All that is over

and above this is redundant; there is no room in their sense of need for a

DIVINE TEACHER.   Well did the Master say that to enter the kingdom

Of heaven we must become as a little child. The self-sufficiency of a

complacent maturity thinks it has nothing to learn; it bars its doors; it sends

the light of the world elsewhere; its little “inn” of knowledge and aspiration

is occupied from floor to roof.  (For this they “willingly are ignorant.”

(II Peter 3:5)

 

  • FROM THEIR ESTIMATE OF MAN’S SPIRITUAL WANTS. Very

many are they who are not unwilling to welcome a Guide, but who have no

room for a Savior; for they have no sense of sin. They want to know which

of the commandments they have broken. It does not occur to them that

they have been owing to their great Creator, to their heavenly Father, to

their Divine Friend, ten thousand talents of reverence, obedience, gratitude;

and that they have been only offering to Him a few poor pence, or that they

have had nothing at all to pay. They are not conscious of a deep and wide

gulf between their indebtedness and their discharge, and they go on their

way not knowing that “the God in whose hand their breath is, and whose

are all their ways, they have not glorified” (Genesis 2:7; Daniel 5:23);

that they have sinned against the Lord, and need His abounding mercy. They,

therefore, have no room for CHRIST, THE DIVINE PROPITIATION,

THE GREAT RECONCILER OF MAN TO GOD!

 

  • FROM THE HABIT OF THEIR LIFE. Of all those who exclude

Jesus Christ, the most numerous and perhaps the guiltiest are they who,

recognizing His claims and His powers, refuse to welcome Him to their

hearts. Their lives are so crowded with cares, with the business of the

market or of the household; or they are so filled up with the pleasures and

the prizes of this world; or they are so occupied with pursuits which, if

intellectual, are unspiritual, that there is no room for that Divine One

who comes to speak of sin and of mercy and of the life which is spiritual and

eternal, who claims to be trusted and loved and served as the Savior of the

human soul and the Sovereign of the human life. So, while admitting His

right to enter, they do not open the door. Alas! of what enlightening truth,

of what blessed restfulness of heart, of what nobility of life, of what

eternity of glory, do men bereave themselves by crowding out the Lord

            who loves them, by excluding the Redeemer from the home of their hearts!

 

 

The Bethlehem Shepherds See the Angels (vs. 8-20)

 

8 “And there were in the same country” -  that is, in the upland pastures

immediately in the neighborhood of Bethlehem - “shepherds abiding in the field,

keeping watch over their flock by night.” Why were shepherds chosen as the

first on earth to hear the strange glorious news of the birth of the Savior of the world?

It seems as though this very humble order was selected as a practical illustration of

that which in the future history of Christianity was to be so often exemplified —

“the exaltation of the humble and meek.” Mary would learn from this, the first visit

of adorers to her Babe, that the words of her song (the Magnificat) would in very truth

be realized. The subsequent visit of the learned and wealthy travelers from the

East (Matthew 2:1-12) would tell her that the words of the Isaiah prophecy were all

 literally, in their due order, to be fulfilled, some of them even in the unconscious

childhood of her Son (see Isaiah 60:3, 6; Psalm 72:10). Now, among the Jews at that

period shepherds were held in low estimation among the people. In the Talmud (treatise

‘Sanhedrin’) we read they were not to be allowed in the courts as witnesses. In the treatise

Avodah-Zarah’ no help must be given to the heathen or to shepherds. The Mishna

(Talmud) tells us that the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in

the Bethlehem pastures. This semi-sacred occupation no doubt influenced these poor

toilers, and specially fitted them to be the recipients of the glad tidings. They would hear

much of the loved Law in the solemn ritual of the great temple. They would know, too,

 that there was a rumor widely current in those days that the longlooked — for Messiah

was soon to appear, and that their own Bethlehem was to witness His appearing.

 

9 “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,” - better, an angel. The

Greek word rendered “came upon them” — a very favorite word with  Luke —

suggests a sudden appearance - “and the glory of the Lord shone round about

them: and they were sore afraid.”  The white shining cloud of intolerable brightness,

known among the Jews as the Shechinah, the visible token of the presence of the

Eternal, in the bush, in the pillar of fire and cloud which guided the desert-wanderings,

in the tabernacle and the temple. It shone round the Redeemer on the Mount of

Transfiguration (ch. 9:28-36).  It robed Him when, risen, He appeared to the

Pharisee Saul outside Damascus.  The occasional presence of this visible glory was

exceedingly precious to the chosen people. The terror felt by the shepherds was the

natural awe ever felt by man when brought into visible communion with the dwellers in

the so-called spirit-world. 

 

10  “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you

good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

 

11 “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is

Christ the Lord.”  A Savior.  Another favorite word with Paul and Luke. The

terms “Savior” and “salvation” occur in their writings more than forty times.

In the other New Testament books we seldom find either of these expressions.

 

 

 

                        Welcome News from Heaven (vs. 8-11)

 

It is surely not without significance that this most gracious manifestation

and announcement was made to these humble Hebrew shepherds “keeping

watch over their flock by night.” It suggests two truths which are of

frequent and perpetual illustration.

 

1. That God chooses for His instruments the humble rather than the high.

Our human notions would have pointed to the most illustrious in the land

for such a communication as this. But God chose the lowly shepherd, the

man of no account in the estimate of the world. So did He act in the

beginning of the gospel (see <I Corinthians 1:26-29). And so has He

acted ever since, choosing often for the agents of His power and grace

those whom man would have passed by as unworthy of His choice.

 

2. That God grants His Divine favor to those who are conscientiously

serving Him in their own proper sphere. Not to the idle dreamer, not to the

man who will do nothing because he cannot do everything of which he

thinks himself capable, but to him who does his best in the position in

which God’s providence has placed him, will God come in gracious

manifestation; and it is he whom He will select to render important service

in His cause. But the main thoughts of this passage are these:

 

·   WELCOME TIDINGS FROM THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. “They

were sore afraid.” “Fear not… I bring you good tidings.” Why have men

always been so sore afraid in the presence of the supernatural? Why have

they feared to receive communications from heaven? Something much

more than a popular belief (see Judges 13:22)is required to account for

so universal a sentiment. It is surely that sinful men are profoundly

conscious of ill desert, and fear that any message that comes from God, the

Holy One, will be a message of condemnation and punishment. What

would be the expectation with which a camp of rebellious subjects, who

had taken up arms against their sovereign, would receive a messenger from

the court of the king? Had that guilty age known that God was about to

announce “a new departure” in His government of the world, what ample,

what overwhelming reason would it have had to apprehend a message of

Divine wrath and retribution! How welcome, then, the words, “Fear not…

I bring you good tidings”! Of what depth of Divine patience, of what

boundless breadths of Divine compassion, do these simple words assure us!

 

·   TIDINGS OF SURPASSING VALUE. Tidings “of great joy.” The

birth of the Babe in Bethlehem “that day” — what did it mean? It meant:

 

Ø      Deliverance from a deadly evil. To these shepherds, if they were

patriotic children of Abraham, the promise of a Savior would mean

deliverance from the national degradation into which Israel had sunk —

a spiritual as well as a political demoralization. To them, if they were

earnest religious inquirers, it meant deliverance from the bondage and

penalty of sin. This is the significance which the word has to us: in that

day was born into the world a Savior, a Divine Redeemer, One who

should save the souls of men from that which is the one curse of our

humanity — sin.

 

Ø      The fulfillment of a great hope. To those who then learned that “the

Christ” was born, it meant that the long-cherished hope of their nation

was fulfilled, and that whatever the Messiah was to bring about was at

length to be accomplished. A great national expectation has passed,

with us, into a glorious hope for the human race — the hope that under

Christ this poor sin-stricken world will rise from its ignorance, its

superstition, its godlessness, its vice, and its crime, and walk in

newness  of life, in the love and the likeness of its heavenly Father.

 

Ø      Restoration to our true position. That Savior is “Christ the Lord.” We

who have sought to rule ourselves and to be the masters of our own lives,

and who have suffered so much in so many ways by this guilty

dethronement and usurpation, are now to find our true rest and joy by

submitting ourselves to Him who is “the Lord” of all hearts and lives;

in His service is abiding peace and “great joy.”

 

·   TIDINGS OF GENERAL AND OF PARTICULAR APPLICATION.

These glad tidings are for “all the people,” and they were for those startled

and wondering shepherds. “To you is born.” As we hear the angel’s words,

we know that they are for all the wide world, and, whoever we may be,

            FOR US!

 

12 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in

swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  This was to be the sign. On that night

there would, perhaps, be no other children born in the Bethlehem village; certainly

the shepherds would find no other newly born infant cradled in a manger!

 

13 “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly

host praising God, and saying,”  The troop of angels issues forth from the depths

of that invisible world which surrounds us on every side. (“some have entertained

angels unawares” – Hebrews 13:2)  One of the glorious titles by which the eternal

King was known among the chosen people was “Lord of sabaoth,” equivalent to

“Lord of hosts.” (Romans 9:29; James 5:4) - In several passages of the Scriptures

is the enormous multitude of these heavenly beings noticed; for instance, Psalm 68:17,

where the Hebrew is much more expressive than the English rendering; Daniel 7:10,

“Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” (see, too, the Targum of

Palestine on Deuteronomy 33, “And with him ten thousand times ten thousand holy

angels;” and “The crown of the Law is his [Moses’], because he brought it from the

heavens above, when there was revealed to him the glory of the Lord’s Shechinah,

with two thousand myriads of angels, and forty and two thousand chariots of fire,” etc.).

 

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,” - At that juncture, strange

to say, the Roman empire was at peace with all the world, and, as was ever the case in

these brief rare moments of profound peace, the gates of the temple of Janus at

Rome were closed, there being, as they supposed, no need for the presence

of the god to guide and lead their conquering armies. Not a few have supposed that

the angel choir in these words hymned this earthly peace. So Milton in his

‘Ode to the Nativity’:

 

“No war or battle’s sound

Was heard the world around

The idle spear and shield were high uphung:

The hooked chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood,

The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;

   And kings sat still with awful eye

  As if they surely knew their souvran Lord was by.”

 

But the angels sang of something more real and enduring than this

temporary lull. The gates of Janus were only too quickly thrown open

again. Some seventy years later, within sight of the spot where the

shepherds beheld the multitude of the heavenly host, the awful

conflagration which accompanied the sack of the holy city and temple

could have been plainly seen, and the shrieks and cries of the countless

victims of the closing scenes of one of the most terrible wars which

disfigure the red pages of history could almost have been heard - “good will toward

men.”  A bare majority of the old authorities read here, “On earth peace among men

of good will;” in other words, among men who are the objects of God’s good will

and kindness. But the Greek text, from which our Authorized Version; was made,

has the support of so many of the older manuscripts and ancient versions, that it is

among scholars an open question whether or not the text followed in the Authorized

Version should not in this place be adhered to.

 

 

 

                        The Human and the Heavenly World (vs. 13-14)

 

The strange and elevating experience through which the shepherds of

Bethlehem were passing prepared them for a scene which was fitted to

awaken still greater surprise and spiritual excitement. For suddenly, all of

them appearing together, a multitude of the heavenly host began to make

angelic music; strains of sweetest song filled the air, and the words of that

celestial chant, so exquisitely sweet, so full of comfort and of hope to our

human race, were fixed in the shepherds’ mind; they found a place in the

sacred record; they make melody in our ear today. The scene and the song

suggest to us:

 

·   THE INTEREST WHICH THE ANGELIC TAKES IN THE HUMAN

WORLD. It is a striking and significant fact that the advent of Jesus Christ

to our world should be preluded and accompanied by the ministry of angels

(ch. 1:11, 26; here, v. 9). It confirms the truth elsewhere indicated that the

history of mankind is the subject of deep interest to the holy intelligences

of heaven. They inquire with a pure and heavenly curiosity into the

relations of God with man (I Peter 1:12). They reverently admire the

wisdom of God in His dealings with His human children (Ephesians

3:10). They rejoice over the smallest accession to the kingdom of God

(ch. 15:10). They expend their powers in the accomplishment of

God’s will concerning us (text, and Hebrews 1:14). Our Savior is One

in whom they also have profound interest, though they need not His

redemption, and their worship of Him is a large element in their celestial joy

(Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 5:11-13).

 

·   THE ADVENT OF CHRIST AN EPOCH IN THE KINGDOM OF

GOD. Well might a multitude of the heavenly host chant those words of

the text, “Glory to God in the highest;” well might they join in the high

praises of the King of heaven. For when Jesus Christ came as He thus came,

in lowliness of perfect humiliation (v. 7), that the world into which He

thus entered as a helpless babe might be redeemed and restored (v. 10),

two things were done.

 

Ø      The exceeding greatness of the Divine grace received its most wonderful

illustration. Possibly — may we not say probably? even the records of the

kingdom of God contained no event illustrative of a more magnanimous

pity and a more sacrificial love than this expression of “good will to men.”

 

Ø      The foundation was ]aid on which a Divine kingdom of truth and

righteousness should be reared. On the rock of the Divine incarnation

rests the whole grand edifice of the restoration of the human race to

THE LOVE AND LIKENESS OF GOD!  Then indeed, when Jesus was

born in Bethlehem, the glory of God was most fittingly celebrated; for

then was the glory of His grace manifested, and then was the glory that

should be rendered Him by our humanity assured.

 

·   THE COMING OF CHRIST TO OUR WORLD THE INCOMING

OF ITS PEACE. “Peace on earth.” It has taken long for the work of Jesus

Christ to bring about this result, even as things are today. And how much

remains to be done! To some eyes it may seem as if only the elementary

lesson had been learned. But if we look long enough and deep enough we

shall see:

 

Ø      That the gospel of Jesus Christ has been, and is, offering to every

burdened human heart a peace which is immeasurably profound and

inestimably precious.

 

Ø      That the teaching and the Spirit of Jesus Christ are perfectly fitted to

inculcate and to inspire peace, and even love, between man and man.

 

Ø      That under His benign government, and just so far as His will is

consulted, man is leaving strife and discord below and behind him,

and is moving on an upward path toward the sphere where peace

                        and purity dwell together.

 

15 “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven,

the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and

see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16   And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying

in a manger.  17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the

saying which was told them concerning this child.”  Thus these men, at the bottom

of the social scale in Israel, were chosen as the first preachers of the new-born King.

Gradually the strange story got noised abroad in the city. The vision of Zacharias,

the story of Mary, the two strange births, the marvelous experience of the shepherds.

Following upon all this was the arrival of the Magi, and their inquiries after a new-born

Messiah, whom they had been directed by no earthly voices to seek after in the

neighborhood of Jerusalem. It was then that the jealous fears of Herod were in good

earnest aroused, and the result was that he gave immediate directions for the massacre

of the innocents in Bethlehem, of which Matthew writes.  (Matthew 2:16-18)

 

18 “And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them

by the shepherds.  19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in

her heart.”  Such a note as this could only have been made by Mary herself. She

knew her Child was in some mysterious sense the Son of God. A glorious being not

of earth had told her that her Boy would be THE SAVIOR OF ISRAEL!   The

visit of the rough shepherds to her in the crowded caravanserai, and their strange but

quiet and circumstantial story of the angel’s visit to them, was only another link in the

wondrous chain of events which was day by day influencing her young pure life. She

could not as yet grasp it all, perhaps she never did in its mighty gracious fullness; but,

as at the first, when Gabriel the angel spoke to her, so at each new phase of her life,

she bowed herself in quiet trustful faith, and waited and thought, writing down,

we dare to believe, the record of all that was passing, and this record, we think, she

showed to Luke or Paul.

 

 

                        The Wisdom of Devout Meditation (v. 19)

 

Mary “kept” all those things which she had heard, treasured them in the

secret chamber of her mind, dwelt upon them in her heart. Much she must

have wondered what it could all mean and what would be the issue of it.

Doubtless the hope that was in her purified her heart as so sacred a hope

would do (I John 3:3), and made her life a life of reverence and prayer.

It was good for her to think much of the purpose God was about to

accomplish through her instrumentality; she would be the better fitted for

that holy motherhood by which she was to be so highly honored, and by

which she was to render so inestimable a service to her nation and her race.

The fact that she did keep and dwell upon these solemn and sacred

mysteries may remind us of:

 

·   THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST WORTH KEEPING. These are not

moneys that may be kept in the bank, nor jewels that may be treasured in

the cabinet, nor parchments that may be guarded in the strong box; they

are none other than Divine thoughts which we can hold in our hearts. And

of these there are Divine revelations. They may be of His holy purpose,

such as Mary’s heart held; or they may be of His own character or

disposition toward us His children, such as we may learn and hold; or they

may be revelations of our own true selves, of our character and our

necessities and our possibilities; or they may be of the way by which we

can approach and resemble God. There are also Divine invitations — to

return from our estrangement, to draw near to His throne, to accept His

mercy, to walk by His side, to sit down at His table. There are Divine

exhortations to duty, to service, to self-sacrifice. And there are Divine

promises, of provision and protection and inspiration here, of blessedness

and enlargement hereafter.

 

·   THAT WHICH CONSTITUTES THEIR SUPREME VALUE.

 

Ø      They pertain to God Himself, and therefore connect us with the Highest.

 

Ø      They affect us, ourselves — our character, our inner life, our essential

being.

 

Ø      They bring us into harmony with all things; for he that is right with God

and true to himself is adjusted to all other beings, and is ready for all

other things.

 

Ø      They render us fitted for life anywhere and in the distant future; so that

death will be a mere incident in our history, not concluding our career,

but only opening the gate into other and brighter spheres.

 

·   THE DANGER WE ARE IN OF LOSING THEM. There is a

plausible philosophical theory that a thought once received into the mind

cannot ever be wholly lost; once there it remains there, though it may be in

the far background, unperceived, unemployed. But, as a matter of practical

life, we know too well, both from testimony and experience, that the best

and highest thoughts may escape our view; they may be only too easily lost

sight of and disregarded. Neglect, or an engrossing interest in lower or in

more exciting subjects, will make them invisible, ineffective, useless. It is a

most pitiable thing that in every generation there are multitudes of souls

that once welcomed and cherished the loftiest conceptions and the noblest

aspirations, to whom these thoughts and hopes are now nothing

whatsoever; they are gone from their mind; they have not been wisely

“kept,” but foolishly and culpably lost. Therefore:

 

·   THE WISDOM OF A REVERENT MEDITATION. We do ourselves

the truest service when, by pondering on them, we keep sound and whole

within our hearts the great thoughts of God. The power of continuous

meditation is one of the faculties of our human nature; but the rush and

strain of modern life constitute a powerful temptation to let this faculty rust

in disuse. But as we love ourselves truly and wisely we shall resist and

overcome the temptation. All souls that would do their sacred duty to

themselves must think well and much on the things they know. If they

would truly and thoroughly understand that of which they speak, if they

wish Divine truth to have its own purifying and transforming power over

them, if they aspire to build up a strong and influential character, if they

wish to be “no longer children,” but men in Christ Jesus, they must ponder

in their hearts the doctrines they count in their creed, the language they

take into their lips. It is the truth we dwell upon that we live upon.

(Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Matthew 6:21)

 

20 “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the

things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”

 

 

 

            The Savior’s Birth and the Angel’s Sermon (vs. 1-20)

 

We now pass from the person of the forerunner to that of his greater Successor.

The priest’s son was great, but the Virgin’s Son was greater. John was a great

gift to the world, as every true reformer must be; but a Savior is God’s supreme

Gift to the children of men. Now, in this narrative before us we learn:

 

·   HOW THE WILL OF EVEN HEATHEN MONARCHS IS MADE TO

FULFIL THE WILL OF GOD. The Divine will, expressed seven centuries

before this time by Micah the prophet (v. 2), was that Jesus should be born

in Bethlehem. But until a short time before His birth appearances seemed to

show that He must be born in Nazareth. When lo! Augustus, the heathen

emperor at Rome, demands a census, and the Jewish families must enroll

themselves at the tribal cities. This simple circumstance, whose purpose

was the levy of men or the levy of money, brought Mary to Bethlehem in

time to become, in the appointed place, the mother of the Lord. It surely

shows the full command which God has over the wills even of those who

are not His worshippers. He is the Sovereign of all men, whether they like it

or know it or not. Cyrus was His shepherd, although he did not know God

(Isaiah 44:28; 45:4); and Augustus orders a census and “keeps books”

in subservience to Divine purposes and fulfillment of Divine promises.

 

·   HOW LITTLE WELCOME DID THE WORLD GIVE ITS NEWBORN

SAVIOR. The birth in Bethlehem was the most important birth

which ever took place in our planet. Had the world appreciated the advent,

it would have heralded it on every shore; but so little wisdom was there in

the world that the precious Child had, so to speak, to steal into the world

in a stable and among the cattle. It was humiliating to be born, even had

palace halls received Him; but how humiliating to be born in the common

cattlepen, because there was no room for Mary in the inn! And yet, in thus

making His advent, He identified Himself not only with the poorest, but also

made common cause with the beasts. They, too, have benefited through

Christ being born — there is less cruelty to animals in Christian than in

other lands; and the religion of love he came to embody and proclaim will

yet do more to ameliorate the condition of the beasts. Meanwhile let us

notice how sad it is if men have no hospitality to show to Jesus, but still

exclude Him from their hearts and homes!

 

·   THE FIRST GOSPEL SERMON WAS PREACHED BY AN

ANGEL. The importance of the birth at Bethlehem, if unrecognized by

man, is realized by angels. Heavenly hosts cannot be silent about it. They

must begin the telling of the glad tidings. If we suppose that the shades of

night threw their mantle over Mary when the Babe was born, then it would

seem that interested angels looked for an immediate audience to hear the

wondrous story. Where shall one be found? The inn is full of sleepers or

revelers; they are not fit to hear the message of peace and joy. But outside

Bethlehem in the fields are shepherds — humble men, doubtless, and

despised as in all ages. Still, they are kind to the sheep — “saviours,” in

some sense, of the dumb animals they tend and feed — and now in the

night watches they are awake and watchful. Here, then, is the angel’s

audience. Does it not instruct preachers to be content with very humble

hearers, and it may be sometimes very few hearers? An audience may be

most important, even though few and despised. But we must next notice

the message .of the angel. Coming with dazzling light, perhaps the

Shechinah-glory encircling him, he first scared the poor shepherds. They

were “sore afraid.” It was needful, therefore, that he should first put to

flight their fears, and then proclaim the glad tidings of a Savior’s birth,

which gospel is intended for all people. The sign also which he gives is that

the Babe shall be found in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger. It is a

message about a Savior in apparent weakness but in real power. Such is

the gospel. It is a message about a personal Savior, who, in spite of all

appearances, is “the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, and the Prince

of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). We must “preach Christ” unto men if we know

what it is to preach the gospel. Again, we must notice the angelic choir.

The angel has arranged for a “service of praise” along with his preaching.

There is the angel’s sermon and then the angels’ song. The sermon is short,

but its contents are of priceless value. The same may be said of the

angels’ song. It speaks simply of “glory to God in the highest, and on earth

peace among men in whom he is well pleased” (Revised Version). It must

have been a melodious service — such music as heavenly harmony secures;

angelic choristers doing their best to interest and elevate a few poor

shepherds. Another lesson, surely, to those who would “sing for Jesus.”

The preaching of the gospel should be backed up by the singing of the

gospel. Praise has its part to play as well as preaching and prayer. It was at

the praise part of the dedication service in Solomon’s temple that The glory

of the Lord appeared (II Chronicles 5:11-14).

 

·   THE AUDIENCE PUT THE PREACHING TO AN IMMEDIATE

TEST. The shepherds, as soon as the angels passed away, went at once to

Bethlehem. They were resolved to see for themselves. There was a risk in

this, for the sheep might be endangered in their absence; but they resolve to

run the risk if they can see the Savior. “Never venture, never win.” Hence

they came with haste to Mary, and gaze with rapture on her Child. They

see and believe. They are ready to accept this “little Child” as the Savior of

the world. A little Child was leading them! Next we find them becoming his

witnesses. They tell all who will listen to them what the angel said, and

what they consequently had been led to Bethlehem to see. Having found a

personal Savior, they cannot but proclaim Him to others. One who listened

to their story and profited by it was Mary. She pondered their sayings in

her heart. The shepherds have become important witnesses for THE

INCARNATE SAVIOUR!  So should all be who have really seen Him

by the eye of faith. But yet again, the shepherds, like the-angels, burst into

praise. “They returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that

they had heard and seen, AS IT WAS TOLD THEM!” This is the real end

of gospel preaching when it leads the audience up to praise. Hence this is

represented as the chief employment of the redeemed. Experience is only

perfected WHEN GOD IS PRAISED!

 

·   WE SEE HERE A HUMAN SUCCEEDING AN ANGELIC

MINISTRY, It does seem strange that such a gospel should not be

preached by angels. (This will happen again one day.  Revelation 14:6-7 -

CY - 2020)  That they are anxious to do so appears from this

narrative. We may be sure that they would esteem it highest honor to

proclaim the message of salvation unto man. But after short visits and short

sermons, the angels are withdrawn, and these poor shepherds spread the

glad tidings, telling in a very humble way what they have seen and heard.

It is God’s plan, and must be best. It is those who need and have found a

Savior who are best adapted to proclaim Him to others. A human ministry

is more homely and sympathetic and effectual than perhaps any angelic

ministry could be. Besides, a human ministry is less caviled at and objected

to than an angelic would be. We thus learn at Bethlehem important lessons

about preaching to humble audiences, and out o£ them manufacturing

preachers. The angels were doubtless satisfied as they looked down upon

the shepherds who had listened so eagerly to their story, and saw them

becoming preachers in their turn. To multiply Christ’s witnesses is the

great work of preachers whether angelic or human.

 

 

The Shepherds and the Herald Angels (vs. 8-20)

 

From limestone cavern, we are taken by the evangelists to the long grassy slopes which

stretch to the east of the Jewish city. Hidden in some nook of these slopes rest pious

shepherds. Shepherds have always been a meditative class of men, accustomed to the

sweet silences of nature, and, apart from the bustle and stir of cities, invited to quiet

communion with their own hearts. It would seem that these shepherds were men of

the spirit of Simeon. They quickly understand the message borne to them. Calmly

and promptly, they respond at once, as if it were the intimation of that for which they

had been waiting. “Let us go and see.” There they lie, “nursed in devout and lonely

thought,” unaware of the myriad myriads of the shining that hover over them. It is the

moment of a pause, of a hush through nature. Lo! the angel of the Lord comes on them;

in an instant a presence, a glory, is around them; and first into their hearts is poured the

gospel for all the ages. Of this gospel, note:

 

  • Its substance. (v.11.) “Born to you this day”God’s gift to men,

to sinners, especially to those who believe. “A Savior, which is Christ”

the Anointed One — He of whom the prophets spoke, and whom David,

the shepherd of Israel, prefigured; the Sent, not by but from God, from the

depths the Divine Personality; the Son from the bosom of the Father.

“CHRIST THE LORD”the JEHOVAH,  to whom every knee shall

bow (Philippians 2:10); the Ruler who shall restore the lost, and unite

the scattered, and fulfill the kingdom which is righteousness and peace

and joy.

 

  • The character of this gospel. (v..10.) “Good tidings of great joy;” the

most blessed message ever proclaimed — one of unspeakable blessedness;

a joy to which no bound can be set, which no geographical limit can

measure, which no thought of class, or race, or sect can embitter; JOY TO

ALL THE WORLD’S PEOPLES!

 

  • The sign the gospel. (v.12.) “A Babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes,

and lying in a manger.” The Babe is the sign of the kingdom, is the token

of the King. “Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise

enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 23: 3). And now suddenly

as the sign is given, “a blaze of song spreads o’er the expanse of heaven,”

and

 

“Like circles widening round

Upon a clear blue river,

Orb after orb, the wondrous sound

Is echoed on for ever:

      ‘Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,

And love towards men of love — salvation and release.’”

 

The announcement of the birth is made to shepherds. Why were they

selected for this great honor? Points of fitness may be traced. Was not the

first blood of sacrifice (Abel’s) that of a keeper of sheep? Was not the

chosen type and earthly root of the Christ a shepherd taken from the

sheepfolds? Is not one of the favorite symbols of the world’s Savior the

good shepherd? Is not the Savior’s work that of him who leaves the ninety

and nine and goes after the sheep which is lost? Of all earthly things, are

not the pastoral life and spirit the nearest correspondents to the life and

spirit of the incarnate Son of God? And as to the gospel that was preached,

is there not a truth in the quaint language of an old writer, “It fell not out

amiss that shepherds they were; the news fitted them well. It well agreed to

tell shepherds of the yearning of a strange Lamb, such a Lamb as might

take away the sin of the world. Such a Lamb as they might send to the

Ruler of the world for a present.” Any way, it is not to supercilious

Pharisee, not to Sadducee cold and dry as dust, not to Essene ascetic and

separatist, not to Herodian worldly and crafty, not to the mighty or the

noble that the first tidings of the great joy are brought. The first preacher is

the heavenly angel, and the first congregation some lowly, simple men,

who are doing their duty in the place which God has appointed to them.

Thence comes the lesson to us. Heaven is always near the dutiful. They

who watch faithfully what has been given to their charge, not seeking

“some great thing to do,” not hurried and restless in their work, but caring

for the things, many or few, over which God has placed them, are close to

that gate of the celestial kingdom through which there peals the music,

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Two points in this portion of the narrative may be touched upon:

 

  • The conduct of the shepherds when the tidings of the birth are borne to

them. On the withdrawal of the heavenly vision, they say (v. 15), “Let us

now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.” The

flocks are somehow disposed of. This is a matter to be at once attended to.

A word of God, a voice of the Holy Spirit in the heart, a command or duty

pertaining to the heavenly life, claims precedence over all other claims.

“Seek first the kingdom of God (Ibid. ch. 6:33).  Prompt obedience is the

way of blessing. “They came with haste.” Yes; “the King’s business

requireth haste” (I Samuel 21:8).  Never delay. Paul acted in the spirit of

the shepherds when, God having been pleased to reveal His Son in him,

“immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16).

 

  • The conduct of Mary. The shepherds eagerly told their wonderful tale.

And all the people who heard, wondered. “But Mary (v. 19) kept all

these sayings and pondered them in her heart.” The wonder of the people

soon passed away; it was but “as the morning cloud and the early dew”

(Hosea 13:3).  Religious feelings are conserved and deepened through reflection

and prayer. Blessed secret — the keeping and pondering in the heart!

 

 

 

The Circumcision and Presentation of the Child Jesus (vs. 21-40)

 

21 “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child,” –

These ancient rites — circumcision and purification — enjoined in the Mosaic Law

were intended as perpetual witnesses to the deadly taint of imperfection and sin

inherited by every child of man. In the cases of Mary and her Child these rites were

not necessary; but the mother devoutly submitted herself and her Babe to the ancient

customs, willingly obedient to that Divine Law under which she was born and

hitherto  had lived - “His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the

angel before He was conceived in the womb.”

 

22 “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were

accomplished,” -  This period lasted forty days from the birth.  The forty days,

according to the date of the nativity accepted universally by the Catholic Church,

would bring the Feast of the Purification to February 2 - “they brought Him to

Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord;  23 (As it is written in the law of the

LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

(Exodus 13:2; 22:29; Numbers 3:13)

 

24 “And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of

the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” The proper

offering was a lamb for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or dove for a sin

offering; but for the poor an alternative was allowed — instead of the more

costly present of a lamb, a second pigeon or dove might be brought. (See

Leviticus 12:2-8).  The deep poverty of Mary and Joseph is shown in this

offering. They would never have put the sanctuary off with the humbler

 had the richer gift been in their power.

 

The Episode of Simeon and His Inspired Hymn (vs. 25-35)

 

25 “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon;

and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel:

and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”  Many expositors have believed that this

Simeon was identical with Simeon (Shimeon) the son of the famous Hillel, and the

father of Gamaliel. This Simeon became president of the Sanhedrin in A.D. 13.

Strangely enough, the Mishna, which preserves a record of the sayings and works

of the great rabbis, passes by this Simeon. The curious silence of the Mishna here

was, perhaps, owing to the hatred which this famous teacher incurred because

of his belief in JESUS OF NAZARETH.   Such an identification, although

interesting, is, however, very precarious, the name Simeon being so very common

among the people. Waiting for the consolation of Israel. There was a

general feeling among the more earnest Jews at this time that the advent of

Messiah would not be long delayed. Joseph of Arimathaea is especially

mentioned as one who “waited for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43).

(May it be said of us that we are “waiting for the kingdom of God” – CY –

2012)  Dr. Farrar refers to the common Jewish prayer-formula then in use: “May I

see the consolation of Israel!” A prayer for the advent of Messiah was in

daily use.

 

26 “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not

see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” The idea of the aged Simeon

comes from a notice in the apocryphal ‘Gospel of the Nativity,’ which speaks of him

as a hundred and thirteen years old.  These legendary “Gospels” are totally devoid

of all authority; here and there possibly a true “memory” not preserved in any of the

“four” may exist, but in general they are extravagant and improbable. The Arabic

‘Gospel of the Infancy’ here speaks of Simeon seeing the Babe shining like a pillar

of light in his mother’s arms.  There is an old and striking legend which speaks of

this devout Jew being long  puzzled and disturbed by the Messianic prophecy

(Isaiah 7:14), “A virgin shall conceive;” at length he received a supernatural

intimation that he should not see dearth until he had seen the fulfillment of the

strange prophecy, the meaning of which he had so long failed to see.

 

27 “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents

brought in the child Jesus,” - This was evidently the usual expression which the

Nazareth family adopted when they spoke of the Child Jesus (see, again, in v. 48

of this chapter; and also in v. 33, where the older authorities read “his father”

instead of “and Joseph”). The true story, which they both knew so well, was not for

the rough Galilaean peasant, still less for the hostile Herodian. The mother knew

the truth, Joseph too, and the house of Zacharias the priest, and probably not a few

besides among their devout friends and kinsfolk. The Nazareth family, resting quietly

in their simple faith, left the rest to God, who, in His own season, would reveal the

secret of the nativity - “to do for him after the custom of the law,”

 

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy

word:” -  The beautiful little hymn of Simeon was no doubt preserved by the

Virgin Mary and given to Luke. The Nunc dimittis has been used constantly in the

liturgics of Christian Churches for eighteen plus centuries. Simeon represents himself

under the image of a sentinel, whom his master has placed in an elevated position,

and  charged to look for the appearance of a star, and then to announce it to the world.

He sees this long-desired star; he proclaims its rising, and asks to be relieved of the

post on the watch-tower he has occupied so long.

 

Manifestly Simeon could go to his last sleep as quietly as to his nightly rest. 

We may commit not only the folded hours of the night to God,

but also the folded hours of eternity

 

What a wonderful blessing for the man, like Simeon, who can say at the end of

life, “I am satisfied!  “Lord, let me depart in peace!”  Simeon knew by

special communication from God — “it was revealed unto him by the Holy

Ghost” (v. 26),  that he should reach a certain point in the coming of the

kingdom of God, that his heart’s deep desire for “the Consolation of

Israel should be granted him. And waiting for this, and attaining it, his

soul was filled with joy and holy satisfaction. It is right for those who are

taking a very earnest interest in the cause of Christ to long to be allowed to

accomplish a certain work for Him. Again and again has the parent thus

striven and prayed and longed to see the conversion of all his (her)

children, or the teacher of his (her) class; the minister of Christ to see the

attainment of some pastoral design; the missionary to win some tribe from

barbarism and idolatry; the translator to render the Word of God into the

native tongue; the national reformer to pass his measure for emancipation,

or temperance, or virtue, or education, or the protection of the lives and

morals of women or children. And this deep desire of the heart has been a

constraining power, which has nerved the hand and energized the life,

which has brought forth the fruit of sacred zeal and unwearied toil. God

has given to these souls the desire of their hearts, and they have gone to

their grave filled with a holy, satisfying peace. So may it be with us. And

yet it may not be so. We may be called upon to quit the field of active labor

before the harvest is gathered in. Others may enter into our labors. If we have the

spirit of Christ in our service, if we go whither we believe He sends us, and

work on in the way which we believe to be according to His will, we may

rest in the calm assurance that the hour of our cessation from holy labor is

the hour of God’s appointment, and a peace as calm as that of Simeon may

fill our soul as we leave a not- unfinished work on earth to enter a nobler

sphere in heaven.

 

30  “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,  31 Which thou hast prepared

before the face of all people (more accurately rendered, all peoples);  32 A light

to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory  of thy people Israel.”  Men like Isaiah,

who lived several centuries before the nativity, with their glorious far reaching

prophecies, such as Isaiah 52:10, were far in advance of the narrow, selfish Jewish

schools of the age of Jesus Christ. It was, perhaps, the hardest lesson the apostles

and first teachers of the faith had to master — this full, free admission of the vast

Gentile world into the kingdom of their God. Simeon, in his song, however, distinctly

repeats the broad, generous sayings of the older prophets.

 

 

 

                        A Satisfied Human Spirit (vs. 25-30)

 

There are few more exquisite pictures even in Holy Writ than the one

which is here drawn for us. An aged and venerable man, who has lived a

long life of piety and virtue, and who has been cherishing an

ever-brightening hope that before he dies he should look upon the face of

his country’s Savior, directed by the Spirit of God, recognizes in the infant

Jesus that One for whose coming he has so long been hoping and praying.

Taking Him up into his arms, with the light of intense gratitude in his eyes,

and the emotion of deepest happiness in his voice, he exclaims, “Lord, now

lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.… for mine eyes have seen thy

Salvation.” Life has now no ungranted good for him to await. The last and

dearest wish of his heart has been fulfilled; willingly would he now close

his eyes in the sleep of death; gladly would he now lie down to rest in the

quiet of the grave.

 

·   THOSE WHO MUST BE UNSATISFIED IN SPIRIT. There is a vast

multitude of men who seek for satisfaction in the things which are seen and

temporal — in taking pleasure, in making money, in wielding power, in

gaining honor, etc. But they do not find what they seek. It is as true in

London or New York City as it was in Jerusalem, eighteen centuries/now

twenty centuries after Christ as ten centuries before, when Solomon wrote

that “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:8).  All the rivers of earthly good may run into the great sea of

an immortal spirit, but that sea is not filled. Earthly good is the salt water that

only makes more athirst the soul that drinks it. It is not the very wealthy,

nor the very mighty, nor the very honored man who is ready to say, “I am

satisfied; let me depart in peace.”

 

·   THOSE WHO MAY BE SATISFIED IN SPIRIT. Simeon knew by

special communication from God — “it was revealed unto him by the Holy

Ghost” — that he should reach a certain point in the coining of the

kingdom of God, that his heart’s deep desire for “the Consolation of

Israel should be granted him. And waiting for this, and attaining it, his

soul was filled with joy and holy satisfaction. It is right for those who are

taking a very earnest interest in the cause of Christ to long to be allowed to

accomplish a certain work for Him. Again and again has the parent thus

striven and prayed and longed to see the conversion of all his (her)

children, or the teacher of his (her) class; the minister of Christ to see the

attainment of some pastoral design; the missionary to win some tribe from

barbarism and idolatry; the translator to render the Word of God into the

native tongue; the national reformer to pass his measure for emancipation,

or temperance, or virtue, or education, or the protection of the lives and

morals of women or children. And this deep desire of the heart has been a

constraining power, which has nerved the hand and energized the life,

which has brought forth the fruit of sacred zeal and unwearied toil. God

has given to these souls the desire of their hearts, and they have gone to

their grave filled with a holy, satisfying peace. So may it be with us. And

yet it may not be so. We may be called upon to quit the field of active labor

before the harvest is gathered in. Others may enter into our labors. But if it

should be so, there is a way in which we may belong.

 

·   THOSE WHO CANNOT FAIL TO BE SATISFIED IS SPIRIT. For

we may be of those who realize that it is in God’s hand to fix the bounds of

our present labor, and to determine the measure of the work we shall do on

earth. We may work on diligently and devotedly as those who have much

to do for God and man, yet clearly recognizing that God has for us a

sphere in the spirit — world, and that He may at any hour remove us there,

though we would fain finish what we have in hand below. If we have the

spirit of Christ in our service, if we go whither we believe He sends us, and

work on in the way which we believe to be according to His will. we may

rest in the calm assurance that the hour of our cessation from holy labor is

the hour of God’s appointment, and a peace as calm as that of Simeon may

fill our soul as we leave a not-unfinished work on earth to enter a nobler

sphere in heaven.

 

33 “And Joseph and His mother marveled” -  It was not so much that Simeon

foretold new things respecting the Child Jesus that they marveled; their surprise

 was rather that a stranger, evidently of position and learning, should possess

so deep an insight into the lofty destinies of an unknown Infant, (perhaps there

are millions today who have like insight into the SECOND COMING OF THE

LORD JESUS CHRIST – CY – 2012) brought by evidently poor parents into the

temple court. Was their secret then known to others whom they suspected not? -

 “at those things which were spoken of Him.”

 

34 “And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother,” - It is noticeable

that, while Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph, he refrains from blessing the Child, of

whom, however, he pointedly speaks. It was not for one like Simeon to speak words of

blessing over “the Son of the Highest.” The words which follow are expressly

stated to have been addressed only to Mary. Simeon knew that she was related —

but not Joseph — to the Babe in his arms; he saw, too, that her heart, not Joseph’s,

would be pierced with the sword of many sorrows for that Child’s sake - “Behold,

this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign

which shall be spoken against;”  For nearly three centuries, of course with varying

intensity, the name of Jesus of Nazareth and His followers was a name of shame,

hateful and despised.  Not only among the Roman idolaters was “the Name” spoken

against with intense bitterness (see the expressions used by men like Tacitus, Suetonius,

and Pliny), but also among his own nation, the Jews, was Jesus known as“the Deceiver,”

“that Man,” “the Hung.” These were common expressions used in the great

rabbinical schools which flourished in the early days of Christianity.  (I have an

entry in my commentary “Since last teaching this 9 years ago, Jesus’ name is avoided

in high circles” – August 31, 2004 – which would have been speaking of 1995.  Now

it is much worse, witness the media’s involvement in the Presidential Election of

2012, how mockingly they refer to Biblical standards – CY – 2012)

 

35  (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) – Christian art has

well caught the spirit of her life who was, in spite of her untold suffering, “blessed

among women,” in depicting her so often and so touchingly as the mother of sorrows

(Mater Dolorosa). The childhood in the Nazareth home, and the early manhood in

the Nazareth carpentry, were no doubt her happiest days, though, in those quiet years,

expectation, fears, dread, curiously interwoven, must have ever torn that mother’s heart.

The days of the public ministry for Mary must have been sad, and her heart full

of anxious forebodings, as she watched the growing jealousies, the hatred,

and the unbelief on the part of the leading men of her people. Then came

the cross. We know she stood by it all the while. And, after the cross and

the Resurrection, silence. Verily the words of Simeon were awfully

fulfilled -  “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

 

 

 

Greeting of Anna the Prophetess (vs. 36-38)

 

36 “And there was one Anna, a prophetess,” -  The name of this holy woman is

the same as that of the mother of Samuel. It is not necessary to assume that this

Anna had the gift of foretelling future events. She was, at all events, a preacher.

These saintly, gifted women, though never numerous, were not unknown in the story

of the chosen people. We read of the doings — in some cases the very words are

preserved — of Miriam, Hannah, Deborah, Huldah, and others - “the daughter

of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser:” -  It is true that at this period the ten tribes had

been long lost, the “Jews” being made up of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin;

but yet certain families preserved their genealogies, tracing their descent to one or

other of the lost divisions of the people. Thus Anna belonged to Asher -“she was

of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;”

 

 

 

                        The Touchstone of Truth (vs. 34, 36)

 

We do not suppose that Simeon saw the future course of the Savior and of

His gospel in clear outline; but, taught of God, he foresaw that that little

Child he had been holding in his arms would be One who would prove a

most powerful factor in his country’s history; and he saw that relationship

to Him would be A SOURCE OF GREATEST BLESSING or of weightiest

trouble, or of most serious condemnation. Thus guided by this venerable saint, we

will regard the gospel of Christ as:

 

·   A TOUCHSTONE. Our Lord Himself was a touchstone by which the

men of His day were tried. He came not to judge the world, but to save the

world, as He said (John 12:47); and yet it was also true that “for

judgment He came into the world,” as He also said (ibid. ch. 9:39). His

mission was not to try, but to redeem; yet it was a necessary incidental

consequence of His coming that the character of the men who came in

contact with Him would be severely tested. When the Truth itself appeared

and moved amongst men, then it became clear that those who were

ignorantly supposed to be blind were the souls that were seeing God (“that

they who see not might see”), and equally clear that those who claimed to

know everything had eyes that were fastened against the light (“that they

who see might be made blind”). As Jesus lived and wrought and spoke, the

hearts of men were revealed — those who were children of wisdom heard

His voice (ibid. ch. 18:37), while those who loved darkness rather than

light turned away from the revealing Truth. And today the gospel is the

touchstone of human character. They who are earnest seekers after God,

after wisdom, after righteousness, gladly sit at the feet of the great Teacher

to learn of Him; but they who live for pleasure, for gain, for the honor that

cometh from man only, for this passing world, pass Him by, indifferent or

hostile. They who are prepared to come as little children to learn of the

heavenly Father, receive His Word and enter His kingdom (here, ch. 18:16);

while they who consider themselves able to solve the great problems of life

and destiny keep their minds closed against the truth.

 

·   A SWORD OF SORROW. It was not only Mary’s heart that was

pierced by reason of her affection for Jesus Christ. Loyalty to Him proved

to that generation, and has proved in every age since then, a sword that has

wounded and slain. At many times and in many places it has meant violent

persecution — stripes, imprisonment, death. In every land and in every age

it has exposed men to hostility, to reproach, to temporal loss, to social

disadvantage, to a lower station, to a struggling life, to a wounded spirit

(ch. 9:23; John 17:14; II Timothy 3:12). Our Lord invites us

to regard this inevitable accompaniment of spiritual integrity as an honor

and a blessing rather than a stigma and a curse (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

·   A STUMBLING-STONE. That “Child was set for the fall… of

many.” The truth which Jesus spoke, the great work of salvation He

wrought out, has proved to many, not only in Israel, but in every land

where it has been made known, a rock of offense (see ch. 20:18;

I Corinthians 1:23).

 

·   A STEPPING-STONE. Not only for the fall, but for the “rising

again,” was that Infant “set.” By planting their feet on that safe, strong

rock:

 

Ø      the humiliated and even the degraded rise to honor and esteem,

Ø      the humble to hopefulness,

Ø      the weak to strength,

Ø      the blemished to beauty,

Ø      the useless to helpfulness,

Ø      the children of earth to spheres of blessedness and

     joy in the heavenly world.

 

37 “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed

not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” 

Probably, in virtue of her reputation as a prophetess, some small chamber in the

temple was assigned to her.  This seems to have been the case with Huldah

(II Chronicles 34:22). It has also been suggested that she lovingly performed some

work in or about the sacred building. Farrar suggests such as trimming the lamps

(as is the rabbinic notion about Deborah), derived from the word lapidoth,

(torches), splendor.  Such sacred functions were regarded among all nations as

a high honor.  The great city of Ephesus boasted her name of νεωκόρος

neokoros -  templesweeper, as her proudest title to honor.

 

38 “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord,

and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

 

 

The Circumcision and Presentation in the Temple (vs. 21-38)

 

  • THE CIRCUMCISION. With regard to the circumcision, observe:

 

Ø      The Son of God is not only “made of a woman,” he is “made under the

Law.” He is entered into all the requirements and circumstances of the

covenant “with Abraham and his seed.” The apostle tells us why — “to

redeem them that were under the Law” (Galatians 4:4-5).  Christ took

the bond under which Israel was bound, and became Israel’s Surety for it.

Now it is ended. There is a new form of righteousness in which the wall of

partition between Jew and Gentile is removed. The apostle adds “To

 redeem them that were under the Law, that we”i.e. as many as

have been baptized into Christ, Jew or Greek, bond or free — “might

receive the adoption of sons” (Ibid. v. 5).  This adoption is now the

standing through grace.

 

Ø      The circumcision has its special place in the making of Jesus by God to

us Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, Redemption (I Corinthians

1:30).  It is an evidence that the Son of God was sent “in the likeness of

 sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3).  Circumcision supposed its subject to be a

sinner. It supposed that a condemnation rested on him as such. The Lord

Jesus, God’s beloved Son, therefore took the sinner’s place, and in

the drops of blood shed on the eighth day after birth served Himself, as it

were, the heir to the condemnation of sin. Of this condemnation He

spoke when He bowed His head on the cross and said, “It is finished!”

 

Ø      The circumcision has its special meaning with regard to the spiritual

history of believers. See in this connection Colossians 2:10, “You

Christians” — thus we may paraphrase the sentence — “have, through

your union with Christ, the reality of circumcision. When you gave

yourselves to Christ, a work was done in you which was equal to the sharp

and painful renunciation — the putting off — of the body of flesh, of that

mind of the flesh with its affections and lusts which is enmity against God.

It was through the repentance wrought in you that you became partakers

of the remission of sins. When you were buried with Christ in baptism,

your old, unbelieving self was circumcised to the Lord. You found the new

position, the new life, that is complete in Christ. (For the manifold

suggestiveness of the circumcision of the infant Jesus, read Keble’s hymn

in his ‘Christian Year.’  See:

(www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Poetry/christmas_tide_poetry_of_john_ke.htm#circumcision)

 

  • THE PRESENTATION. The forty days of purification prescribed by

the Law of Moses having been accomplished, Joseph and Mary bring the

Babe to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. As Mary’s Firstborn, He

must be formally separated. And in the narrative of this separation we are

reminded of the lowly condition of the parents. Not the lamb and the

pigeon, but the two young pigeons allowed in cases of poverty, constitute

the sacrifice, so low had He stooped whose place is the bosom of the

Father. Look at the welcome prepared for Christ as He is borne in Mary’s

loving arms into His Father’s temple.

 

Ø      Think first of the man by whom the welcome is expressed. He is called

simply “a man in Jerusalem.” Not the priests. In connection with the

infancy we trace three acts of adoration — that of the shepherds, that of

Simeon and Anna, and that of the heathen Magi. In all there is no

representation of the circles of authority; at least, there is no dwelling on

the importance of those through whom the homage is shown. The tribute

of the human heart is sufficient for the Son of man. (“My son, give

me thy heart”  (Proverbs 23:26).  Of this man we know nothing more

than is told us by Luke. His name is Simeon. He is (v.25) “righteous and

devout, one of those who looked for the consolation of Israel, and

 the Holy Spirit is upon him.” The character — all that is

memorable — is summed up in the title he himself takes (v. 29), “Thy

servant.” For years he has been looking — a sharer in the expectation

which had become earnest and eager among the pious. But he thinks and

prays and hopes in a light that is peculiar to himself. Somehow — we are

not told how — the intimation has been borne into his soul (v. 26) that

“he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Is not the picture of this “watcher for the morning “a beautiful one? Do

we not seem to see him, weary of the word-wranglings, the fightings

over pin-points of ceremonial, which abounded, piercing through the

hypocrisies with which the religious world was honeycombed; amid

confusions becoming worse confounded, breathing the prayer,

“O thou Hope of Israel, come quickly”?  Is not this man an example

to us? Is not this present time the watch-night to Christ’s people?

(Romans 13:11:14)  Are we watching as he watched — “not asleep

in sin, but diligent in the Lord’s service, and rejoicing in His praises”?

 

Ø      Regard next the scene in which the welcome is given. The watcher is in

the temple — there in the spirit of David’s psalm, “That I may dwell in

the courts of the. Lord, beholding the beauty of the Lord, and

 inquiring in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).  He is there led by the Spirit.

When “two unnoted worshippers” enter, his eye fixes on the two; faster

beats the heart, “It is He; that child is He — the Lord’s Christ.”

An incident that is indelibly photographed in the heart of Christendom

is that in which the venerable seer takes the Babe in his arms, and lifts

his eyes to heaven “in prayers that struggle with his tears.”

 

o       Behold the sign of the Babe realized. To welcome the true child-

nature, as Simeon welcomed Jesus; to see heaven in the Child,

and open the soul to the impression, becoming child-like, and

therefore Christ-like; — this is to receive the kingdom of heaven.

 

o       Note that in spiritual history there is a moment of discovery — the

discerning of the hidden glory in Jesus. This moment is typified in the

conjunction of the watcher and the watched for (v. 27) — when the

parents brought the Child Jesus, then he received Him into his arms.

We may not be able always to distinguish the very time and way; but

there is the morning hour in the life, the awakening to the claim of God

on the soul, to the fact “I am a sinner, and I need the

LORD’S CHRIST  and the answering fact, “He is the Savior,

 and He wants me.” Would that Simeon’s joy were realized in all

who read, “Mine eyes have seen thy Salvation”!

 

Ø      Observe the song, the familiar “Nunc dimittis.” What sweetness,

what beauty in this, the “swan-song” of the Christian Church as it

has been called!

 

o       How tenderly the heart asks the supreme release! What more can be

desired! The servant has seen the Master. And yet it is no prayer of

longing initiated by the heart itself. Had it not been revealed to him that

the hour of departure would follow the vision of the Lord? The human

will touches the Divine. “Let me depart… according to thy word.”

(v. 29)

 

o       How the song thrills with the sense of a love free and universal as the

light of God (vs. 31-32)! So it is when the Lord’s Christ is really

seen!  The place of Christ is “a place of broad rivers and streams”

(Isaiah 33:21).  (I recommend Ezekiel 47 – Spurgeon Sermon – Waters

To Swim In – this web page – CY – 2012)  Christian love is necessarily

a missionary love. The word which it sows into the innermost

desire is, “Let there be light.” Christians may learn this, too, from

Simeon — he, the Israelite, seeks the good of the Gentiles. The salvation

in which he rejoices is one “for revelation to the Gentiles.” Should not

we Gentiles reciprocate by embracing in our prayer and effort God’s

people Israel? — seekmg that the whole thought of the venerable watcher

may be fulfilled — the Lord’s Christ, the Light for the Gentiles and

the Glory of Israel.

 

o       A soul thus filled out of the fullness of God’s love is ready, to depart.

Death to it is only a departing, the dismissal of the servant from the scene

of earthly toil, that he may enter more fully into the joy of the Lord.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depert in peace.” The aged

servant has still another word. He has his blessing for the parents.

 

Ø      Mark the prediction addressed to Mary.

 

o       The more general announcement, which seems at variance with the

exalted strain of the song; but in this variance it harmonizes with the

words of prophecy (e.g. Isaiah’s forecasts), and interprets the experience

of the ages. For “Christ is both a Corner-stone and a Stumblingstone,

and perhaps, in some sense, He is both the one and the other to us all.”

 

o       The more special announcement. Ah! how often the love which is the

source of the purest joy is the occasion of the most poignant sorrow!

Many a mother can understand the word of the seer to the mother,

“A sword shall pierce through thine own soul.” Well when the

wound is that only of a holy sorrow! Thus:

 

o       The prophetic word is attached to the blessing, that, through the

Lord’s Christ, “the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed”

(v.35).  It is true: the attitude of every heart to Christ is the revelation

of that heart in the roots and springs of its thinking.

 

Ø      The sketch of Anna the prophetess is the concluding and

consummating feature of the day. She, too, is an interesting person.

A widow, after seven years of married life, and now “advanced in many days”

(v.36), at least four score and four. Devout, almost an inmate of the temple,

and recognized as a prophetess. She, too, has her thanksgiving, as she

comes in “at that very hour.” But the notable circumstance in regard to

her is that she is the first preacher of Christ in the city of the great King.

“She speaks of Him to all them that are looking for redemption.”

She is the pioneer of the great host of women that publish the tidings

(Psalm 68:11, Revised Version). In this host may many who read or hear

be included!

 

 

The Testimony of Womanhood (vs. 36-38)

 

From this interesting episode, without which the beautiful story of the infant Savior

in the temple would hardly be complete, we learn”

 

·   THAT THERE IS ROOM IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST FOR THE

SERVICE OF WOMANHOOD. It was well that the aged Simeon should

bear his testimony to the birth of the Savior; it was also well that this aged

and honorable prophetess should “likewise give thanks.” Woman as well as

man was to utter reverent joy on this supreme occasion. Woman, in the

person of Anna, might well rejoice; for in the kingdom of Christ there is

“neither male nor female;” all distinction of sex is unknown. Woman is as

free to enter that kingdom as man; she may reach as high a position, by

personal excellency, in it; she is as welcome to render holy service and

fruitful testimony; is as certain to reap the reward of fidelity in the kingdom

of heaven to which it leads. Women were the most faithful attendants on our

Lord during His earthly ministry; they have been, since then, the most regular

            worshippers and the most devoted workers in His Church.  (see homily on

            Luke 8:2-3 below).

 

·   THAT LONG LONELINESS MAY WELL BRING US INTO

CLOSE COMMUNION WITH GOD. Anna had a very long widowhood

(v. 36), and in her loss of human fellowship she waited much on God.

She “departed not from the temple, but served God… with prayers night

and day.” When denied one another’s society, what can we do better than

seek fellowship with our heavenly Father, with our Divine Friend? What,

indeed, can we do so well? Communion with the Father of our spirits will

bring healing to the wounded soul, will be companionship for the lonely

hour, will promote sanctity and submissiveness of will, will remind us of

those other children of his who need our sympathy and succor, and will

send us forth blessing and blest on the errands of love.

 

·   THAT A VISION FROM GOD SHOULD RESULT IN PRAISE

AND TESTIMONY. Anna “gave thanks unto the Lord, and spake of Him

[the infant Christ] to all,” (v.38). Inspired of God, she recognized the long

looked-for Messiah, and immediately she broke into praise, and forthwith

began to communicate the joyful fact to all whom she could reach. This is the

true order and the right procedure. When God reveals Himself or His truth to

us, we must first go to Him in gratitude and praise, and must lose no time in

passing on to others what He has entrusted to us.

 

·   THAT AGE HAS ITS OFFERING TO BRING, as well as youth and

            prime. It is pleasant to think of the aged Anna, some way past four score,

            bent and feeble with the weight of years, speaking to “all them that looked

for redemption in Israel.” Let those of us whose strength is well-nigh gone

and who have hope of rest by long and faithful labor, not be persuaded to

retire from the field, but labor on until the darkness of death arrests us.

 

·   THAT HOLY EXPECTATION WILL MEET WITH ITS FULFILMENT.

      There were many looking (“all of them,” etc.) for redemption (v. 38); and as

they waited for God and upon Him, their hearts’ desires were granted. God

may delay His answer for a while, even for a long while, but in due time it

will come. The seeker will find; the worker will reap.

 

 

 

 

Christianity and Woman (see ch. 8:2-3) 

 

  • WHAT CHRISTIANITY OWES TO WOMAN

 

Ø      Its Divine Author and the Object of its worship was, “as concerning

the flesh,” born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). The Son of God was,

in a true and important sense, the “Son of Mary.”

Ø      Jesus owed the care and the training of His childhood to a human mother.

Ø      He received, during His active life, the generous provision of ministering

women (ch. 8:2-3); these, out of “their substance,” supplied His

necessities.

Ø      He found some of His best disciples and of His most faithful attendants

in women (Matthew 27:55-56).

Ø      He had the comfort of the near presence of three devoted women in His

last agonies (John 19:25). Closer to Him in that awful hour than the

ruthless soldier and the taunting enemy, rendering Him a silent and

sorrowful but not unvalued sympathy, stood three women who loved

Him for all that He was in Himself and for all He had been to them.

Ø      Last at the cross, women were first at the sepulcher (ch. 23:55-56;

24:1).

Ø      Women were united with the apostles in the upper room, waiting and

praying for the further manifestation of the Lord after His ascension

(Acts 1:14).

Ø      The Apostle Paul owed much to women in his abundant and

fruitful labors (Philippians 4:3).

Ø      From that time to this, women have been rendering valuable service to

the cause of Jesus Christ: the mother of Augustine, the mother of the

Wesleys, and many hundreds more have, by their holy and faithful

motherhood, done signal service to the gospel. In these later days,

moved by the Spirit of God, women have, by their writings and by

their prophesyings,” effected great things for the furtherance of

the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

 

  • WHAT WOMAN OWES TO CHRISTIANITY

 

Ø      We know what barbarism does, and fails to do, for woman.

Ø      We know also what Greek and Roman civilization did, and failed

to do, for her; in how unsatisfactory a condition it left her; how

completely it failed to raise her to her true spiritual dignity. We

know what Christianity has done and is doing for her.

 

o       Jesus Christ taught and enforced the transcendent value of

every human soul.

o       He admitted women into His kingdom on the same terms on

which He received men: “In Hm is neither male nor female.”

(Galatians 3:28).

 

o       He gave to women a sphere of honorable service in His kingdom;

not only (as above) accepting their loving ministry for Himself,

but for His disciples also.

o       Influenced increasingly by these ideas, the Church of Christ has

been giving to woman a place of growing honor and usefulness;

it has made her the full helpmeet and equal companion of man;

(One of my favorite passages in the Bible says that we are

“heirs together of the grace of life”  (I Peter 3:7).  It has opened

for her the gateway of knowledge and influence; it has placed

her on the highest seat to receive its respect, its affection, its service.

 

  • THE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH WOMAN MAY RENDER.

 

Ø      She can minister to the sick and suffering; she has a gentle touch of hand

and a tenderness and patience of spirit for which we often look to man in

vain.

Ø      She can train the child in the home, and, by giving to him or her the

earliest and deepest impressions concerning Divine love, which prepare

them for noblest work in after-years in various fields of holy service.

 

39 “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the

Lord,” -  Another note, which tells us of the rigid obedience which Mary and

Joseph paid to the Law of Israel, under which they lived - “they returned into

Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”  To complete the story of our Lord’s

early life, we must insert from Matthew, before this return to Nazareth, the visit

of the Magi, and the flight to and return from Egypt. It is probable — even if the

Gospel of Matthew, as we have it, was not then written — that these details, the

Visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt, were facts already well known to

those whom this Gospel was especially designed to instruct.

 

40 “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:

and the grace of God was upon Him.” Another of this evangelist’s solemn

pauses in his narrative. In this short statement the story of twelve quiet years

is told. From these few words Luke evidently understands the humanity of Jesus

as a reality. The statement that “he waxed strong, filled with wisdom” (the

words, “in spirit,” do not occur in the older authorities), tells us that, in the teaching

Paul and Luke, the Boy learned as others learned, subject to the ordinary growth and

development of human knowledge; thus condemning, as it were, by anticipation, the

strange heresy of Apollinarius, who taught that the Divine Word (the Logos) took,

in our Lord’s humanity, the place of the human mind or intellect. And the grace of

God was upon Him. The legendary apocryphal Gospels are rich in stories of the

Child Jesus’ doings during these many years. But the silence of the holy four, whose

testimony has been received now since the last years of the first century by the whole

Church, is our authority for assuming that no work of power was done,

and probably that no word of teaching was spoken, until the public ministry

commenced, when the Messiah had reached his thirtieth year.

 

 

 

            The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus (vs. 21-40)

 

We pass now from the angel’s sermon and the shepherds’ faithful

verification of it to the next notable events in the great life which embodies

the gospel for mankind. And we have here:

 

·   THE CIRCUMCISION. (v. 21.) This was the admission of Jesus

when only eight days old into the Old Testament Church. It was a painful,

bloody process, and as such it was the beginning of that life of suffering

upon which God’s Son had determined to enter in the interests of men.

There are not the same details about this circumcision that there were

about John’s. The outstanding fact was that He received the name Jesus,

indicating that He was to be the Savior of mankind. Into the Jewish

covenant, consequently, there has entered by this circumcision a Savior,

One destined, like His namesake Joshua, to lead the Lord’s people out of all

bondage into glorious liberty. This was a practical identification of Him

with the people of God, before He could, at least humanly, decide for

Himself. And there is nothing better for little children than to be thus early

associated with the cause of God.

 

·   THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE. (vs. 22-24.) The

circumcision constituted Jesus a member of the old covenant, but his

presentation in the temple was His formal dedication to the service of the

Lord. The mother was directed, at the end of forty days from the child’s

birth, to appear before the Lord with two offerings — one for a sin

offering, the other for a burnt offering. In Mary’s case, because of her

poverty, the offerings consisted of two doves or two young pigeons The

one sacrifice expressed a sense of sin, the other a sense of consecration,

both beautiful in the mother of our Lord. The first was entirely out of place

if she was “immaculate,” as some represent her. In addition there would

be paid for Jesus the redemption price of five shekels, that he might be

excused from temple service, and might dedicate Himself to the Lord in

another capacity. When we consider all His Messiahship meant, it was

really a payment that He might have the privilege of serving the Father as

the Fulfiller of the ritual, and thus as the Abolisher of the ritualism of the

temple. It would have altogether confused matters if He had undertaken any

service about the temple as the Levites and priests did, a word, the Messiah

could not well have come, like the Baptist, from the tribe of Levi; but it

was better He should belong to one which was not bound to the altar. And

here we must notice as a practical point that the claim made on the

firstborn by the Lord as being His peculiar possession, is a claim which we

should all recognize as just. We are not our own, but bought with a price,

and so bound to glorify God with our bodies (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

This Jesus alone realized in fullness, but we ought to try to realize it in

increasing measure.

 

·   THE TESTIMONY OF SIMEON. (vs. 25-35.) While Jesus was

being presented, an aged believer called Simeon comes, Spirit-impelled,

into the temple. His character is clearly sketched for us. He was

 

Ø      just and devout;

Ø      waiting hopefully for the advent of Him who was to be Israel’s

      Consolation;

Ø      the subject of special revelation about seeing Messiah before death.

 

And now he comes into the temple to recognize intuitively the Messiah in

Mary’s little Child. The result is his appropriation of the Child for an

instant, that he might fondle him on his breast. Then does he pour forth his

swan-song, the “Nunc Dimittis,” which has been such a pathetic word in

the experience of the Church. This prayer of Simeon suggests such

thoughts as these:

 

Ø      A peaceful departure is not only possible, but most desirable.

Manifestly Simeon could go to his last sleep as quietly as to his nightly

rest.  We may commit not only the folded hours of the night to God,

but also the folded hours of eternity.

Ø      The preliminary of such a departure is the sight of the Savior. The

Child Jesus was the Divine Savior provided for the aged Simeon, and

in His tender care we may also rest.

Ø      The peculiar joy of salvation is that it is intended for all people, Gentile

as well as Jew. After all the talk about selfishness, there is no system

which embraces all the world as Christianity does.  But after thus

speaking gratefully to God, Simeon speaks sympathetically to the

wondering Joseph and Mary. He gives them an old man’s benediction.

They had a mighty charge and needed great grace to fulfill it. And then

he speaks special words of warning as well as of encouragement to Mary

about the Child.

 

And here we notice:

 

Ø      That the fate of multitudes often hangs on the destiny of an individual.

So was it with the Child Jesus.

Ø      His fate will be one of determined opposition even unto death.

Ø      It will involve Mary in desperate distress; but

Ø      by the tragedy many hearts shall be revealed. The crucifixion of Jesus

is the touchstone by which our spiritual condition may be best

determined.  According as we are attached to or repelled by a crucified

Savior must be our spiritual or carnal state.

 

·   THE TESTIMONY OF ANNA. (vs. 36-38.) Anna was another

inspired person waiting for the advent of Messiah. An aged widow, she

seems never to have left the temple, and to have risen as near the ideal of

ceaseless service as one in this life could. She also gave thanks to God as

with eager eye she gazed upon her Redeemer in the Person of the holy

Child. And to all who, like herself, were looking for redemption, she spoke

of Jesus as the Redeemer promised and NOW GIVEN! There is not the

same melancholy tone about Anna as about Simeon. She speaks about

redemption, and will wait for it, while Simeon seems inclined to reach it as

speedily as possible by death.

 

·   THE EARLY DEVELOPMENT OF JESUS. (vs. 39-40.) Its sphere

was Nazareth; not the place human wisdom would have selected for a holy

development. A sinless life there was the greatest of all miracles. And here

we are told of:

 

Ø      His development in physical strength. “The Child grew.” If the Savior

had never been a child, but always full-grown like our first parent, He

would not have commanded so much sympathy in the world. Little

children take delight in the thought of Him who was once like them

a little child.

 

Ø      His development in spirit and in wisdom. The reference seems to be to

energy of will and to intuitive insight, and the reflective form of the

verbs seems to attribute the progress to His own effort. That is to say:

 

o       His will grew in force while

o       His soul grew in insight.

 

As a Boy He lacked no decision of character and His insight was

remarkable for one of His years.f5

 

Ø      He became, consequently, the Object of Divine grace. This favor of the

Father was His by right. He won His way to it, and it could not have

been justly denied Him. The human race was no longer in the Father’s

sight utterly depraved. A redeeming feature had appeared in the person

of the holy Child Jesus in Nazareth. God’s attitude towards the world was

thereby altered, and justly so. There are persons who give a halo of holy

attraction to the sphere in which they live. Nazareth became redeemed

from universal suspicion because of one little Child who was living there.

It is for us to rejoice in such a Savior as we have in Jesus, One who

passed through the stages which we individually experience, and

was sinless in them all. Childhood attains new interest for us, and its

innocency was once a perfect reality as the little feet of the Lord of

life and glory trod the streets of Nazareth.

 

 

The Child Jesus at Jerusalem (vs. 41-52)

 

41 “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the

passover.”  The Law required the attendance of all men at the three great Feasts

of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). The dispersion

and subsequent residence of so many Jews in distant lands had much broken up

the regular observance of these directions. Still, many devout Jews were constantly

present at these feasts. This Mosaic ordinance was only binding upon men, but 

Hillel recommended women always to be present at the Passover. The constant

yearly presence of Joseph the carpenter and Mary at this feast is another indication

of the rigid obedience of the holy family of Nazareth to the ritual of the

Law of Moses.

 

42 “And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after

the custom of the feast.”  When a Jewish boy was three years old he was given

the tasseled garment directed by the Law (Numbers 15:38-41; Deuteronomy 22:12).

At five he usually began to learn portions of the Law, under his mother’s direction;

these were passages written on scrolls, such as the shema or creed of

Deuteronomy 6:4, the Hallel Psalms (Psalm 114, 118, 136). When the

boy was thirteen years old he wore, for the first time, the phylacteries,

which the Jew always put on at the recital of the daily prayer. In the well known

and most ancient ‘Maxims of the Fathers’ (‘Pirke Avoth’), we read

that, at the age of ten, a boy was to commence the study of the Mishna (the

Mishna was a compilation of traditional interpretations of the Law); at

eighteen he was to be instructed in the Gemara (the Gemara was a vast

collection of interpretations of the Mishna. The Mishua and Gemara

together make up the Talmud. The Mishna may roughly be termed the text,

the Gemara the commentary, of the Talmud).

 

43 “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child

Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem;” -  The feast lasted seven days.

Now, a boy in the East, twelve years old, is usually far more advanced than

is ever the case in our Northern nations, where development is much

slower. We may well suppose that the Boy was left much to Himself during

these days of the feast. It requires no stress of imagination to picture Him

absorbed in the temple and all that was to be seen and learned there. It

was, doubtless, His first visit since infancy to the glorious house. Slowly,

surely, had He been growing up into the consciousness of what He was and

whence He came: may we not in all reverence assume that His self-recognition

first really burst forth from the depths of His childhood’s unconsciousness in

that solemn week spent in the storied temple courts?  When Joseph and Mary

and their friends, as was usual after the seven days, commenced their return

journey, the Boy, instead of joining this homeward-bound company of pilgrims,

went as usual to the temple and the great teachers there, wholly absorbed in the

new light which was breaking in upon Him. There they found him. Strange that

they should have for so long searched in other places. Had they only called to

mind the sacred secret of the Child, surely they would have gone at once to the

temple; was it not, after all, His earthly home, that holy house of His Father in

Jerusalem? - “and Joseph and His mother knew not of it.  44 But they,

supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey;

and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

45 And when they found Him not, they turned back again to

Jerusalem, seeking Him.”

 

46 “And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple,” - 

According to the common way of reckoning among the Hebrews, this expression,

“after three days,” probably means “on the third day.” One day was consumed

in the usual short pilgrim-journey. His absence at first would excite no attention;

on the second, as they missed Him still, they sought Him in the various pilgrim

companies; and on the day following they found Him in the temple courts, with

the doctors of the Law - “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing

them, and asking them questions.  47 And all that heard Him were

astonished at His understanding and answers.” In the temple enclosure, says

the Talmud, there were three synagogues — one at the gate of the court of the

Gentiles, another at the entrance of the court of the Israelites, a third in the southeast

part of the inner court: it was in these that the rabbis expounded the Law. Among

the famous doctors, or rabbis, then living and teaching in Jerusalem, were

the famous Hillel, then very aged, verging, we are told, on his hundredth

year; his almost equally illustrious rival, Shammai; Gamaliel, the master of

Saul of Tarsus; Jonathan, the compiler of the Chaldee Paraphrase of the

sacred books; Simeon, the son and successor of Hillel; Nicodemus, who,

some years afterwards, came to Jesus by night, and, when the end was

come, reverently assisted in laying the King’s Son with all honor in His

tomb in Joseph of Arimathaea’s garden. We may, with great probability,

assume that amongst those “doctors” whom the Boy questioned at that

Passover Feast, some if not all of these well-known men were sitting.

The apocryphal Gospels, as usual, profess to give us details where the true

story is reverently silent. The ‘Gospel of Thomas’ (second century), for

instance, tells us that Jesus, when on the road to Nazareth, returned of His

own accord to Jerusalem, and amazed the rabbis of the temple by His

solution of the hardest and most difficult questions of the Law and the

prophets. In an Arabic Gospel of somewhat later date than that of Thomas,

we find the Boy even teaching the astronomers the secrets of their own

difficult study. Probably Stier’s simple words approach the nearest to the

truth here, when he suggests that his questions were “the pure questions of

innocence and of truth, which keenly and deeply penetrated into the

confused errors of the rabbinical teaching.”

 

48 “And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said

unto Him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father

and I have sought thee sorrowing.”  Mary’s words have in them something

of reproach. Joseph, it is noticeable, stands evidently apart; but the mother,

strangely as it would seem at first, associates him in “thy father and I have

sought thee sorrowing.” Had she, then, forgotten the past? Who but Mary

could have repeated this sacred memory of her mistake, and of the Boy’s

far-reaching answer? What forger could have imagined such a verse?

 

49 “And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me?” - To the gently

veiled reproach of Mary, Jesus replies, apparently with wonderment, with another

question.  It had come upon Him so quietly and yet with such irresistible force that

the temple of God was His real earthly home, that he marveled at His mother’s

slowness of comprehension. Why should she have been surprised at His still

lingering in the sacred courts? Did she not know who He was, and whence

He came? Then He added, wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s

business?”  There was an expression of Mary’s which evidently distressed

the Child Jesus, “thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” “In

my Father’s house, where my Father’s work is being done, there ought I to

be busied. Didn’t you know this?” But the twelve silent uneventful years of

life at Nazareth, the poor home, the village carpentry, the natural development

of the sacred Child, had gradually obscured for Mary and Joseph the memories

of the infancy. They had not forgotten them, but time and circumstances had

covered them with a veil. Now they were very gently reminded by the Boy’s

own quiet words of what had happened twelve years before. Scholars hesitate

whether or not to adopt the rendering of the old Syriac Version, “in my Father’s

 house,” instead of the broader and vaguer “about my Father’s business,” as

the Greek will allow either translation. It seems to us the best to retain the old

rendering we love so well, “about my Father’s business.” The whole spirit of

Jesus’ after-teaching leads us irresistibly to this interpretation of the Master’s first

recorded saying.

 

 

The Dawn of Sacred Duty When Young (v. 49)

 

Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” There comes a

time in our history — usually in the days of later youth or early manhood

— when all things begin to wear a more serious aspect to us; when “the

powers of the world to come” arrest us; when we ask ourselves very grave

questions; when we have to confront a new future. It is the dawn of sacred

duty in the human soul.

 

There are various ways in which sacred duty may dawn on the human mind;

the special form which this holy earnestness will take is affected by peculiarities

of mental constitution, of parental training, of personal experience. It may be a

deep sense of:

 

o       The value of the human soul, with its possibilities of nobility on the

one hand and of degradation on the other.

 

o       The nearness and the greatness of the invisible and eternal world.

 

o       The seriousness of human life in view of the glorious and true

success to which it sometimes attains, and also of the pitiable failure

into which it sometimes sinks.

 

o       How much is due to the earthly father, and how wise it is to be

guided by his ripe experience! How serious a thing it is to be setting

an example to those who are younger!

 

o       The attractiveness of JESUS CHRIST  His purity and loveliness,

His worthiness of the full affection and devotion of the human heart.

 

o       The claims of the heavenly Father, of Him from whom we came, in

whom we live, and by whom we are momently sustained (Acts 17:28);

of Him who has loved us with so patient and so ceaseless an affection.

When this solemn and sacred hour dawns upon the mind of the young,

it is a time:

 

§         for profound and prolonged consideration;

§         for earnest prayer;

§         for unreserved consecration; it will then prove to be a time for

§         true and lasting joy (Psalm 108: 1)

 

 

 

                        The Childhood and the Waiting-Time (vs. 39-52)

 

Before the age of twelve, nothing is told. In modern biographies, all kinds

of traits, incidents, forecasts of the man in the child, are mentioned. The

Apocryphal Gospels fall in with this custom. God’s thoughts are not our

thoughts. The child-life of “the Lord’s Christ” is thoroughly simple. A

bright-eyed boy, learning to read the Scriptures at His mother’s knee,

running out and in to shop and cottage, and joining sometimes in the

innocent pastimes of the hillside, taking at night His little quilt from the

ledge surrounding the wall of the house, and laying himself down in peace

and sleeping, such, we may conceive, was the life of the holy Child.

Thoughtful, wise, gentle, yet full of a nameless “grace and truth;” for (v. 40)

“He grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God

was on Him.” The incident which alone breaks the silence is connected with

his twelfth year, the completion of which was an important hour in Jewish

history — the hour of transference from pupilage to a certain measure of

responsibility. At that age Jesus, “a son of the Law,” is taken by Joseph

and Mary to Jerusalem. The journey, the caravans of pilgrims, the incidents

of the way, the three nights’ halting, and then the sight of Jerusalem with

its temple shining in the sun, — we can imagine what all this must have

been to the exquisitely sensitive soul of the Child! And the week’s stay in

the capital — what bursting of thoughts! what tides of inspiration! Let us

dwell on the first recorded word of Jesus — his reply to His mother (v. 49),

when she and Joseph found him among the doctors. Regard it as the

word of sanctified boyhood — as the awakenment to the consciousness of:

 

(1) the supreme relation of the life;

(2) the supreme interest of the life;

(3) the supreme necessity of the life.

 

THE SUPREME RELATION. “My Father.”We may infer, from v. 50, that now for

the first time this word had passed from His lips.  And a great, solemn hour it is when

the feeling of a personal, individual relation to the Eternal dawns on the

consciousness. In  earliest years the child-nature is enfolded in others. The first crisis

of the life is when it begins to realize that it cannot merely be led; that it has a place

and calling of its own; that it must think and will, instead of only reflecting the

thought and volition of those who have shaped its path. Here there is a parting of the

ways — one way being towards a self-will, which has “torment” in it for the youth as

for others, and which, unless corrected and disciplined by sharp experience, will bear

the soul into hurtful alliances, will prove “a hewing out of broken cisterns which

hold  no water” (Jeremiah 2:13); the other way being that of Divine grace, the

acceptance of a higher rule and guidance, the learning of the great name Duty

in the greater, the supporting Name of God, the response of the heart to a love

and righteousness which asks its yes, the witness of the eternal Spirit with the

human that the Boy is the Son of God. Who will not anxiously endeavor so to

direct the mind, in the period when it is most susceptible of all right influences,

as that the transition from childhood to youth shall be marked by a new glance

upward, a loving and earnest “My Father”!

 

·   NOTE THE SUPREME INTEREST OF THE LIFE. It matters not whether

      we read “about my Father’s business” or “in my Father’s house;” the idea is

the same — that the irresistible attraction of the Son is the affairs which connect

Him with the Father. At twelve years of age the business was “hearing and

asking questions.” There is nothing forced or forward in

the holy childhood. The “understanding and answers”

are pronounced wonderful. But the Boy is only the “son of the Law;” He is

not yet the Doctor. By-and-by He will be. Later on, He will be called to

drink the bitter cup — to suffer and die. But everything in its right order.

The life will revolve out of the principle that, in all, the Father’s

will is to rule, the Father’s mind is to be read, the Father’s kingdom is to be

promoted.  Here, surely, there is a suggestion as to the idea which should

dominate in the education of the young. At home and at school, all culture,

all training, should be associated with a higher reference; the boy, the girl,

should feel that the life is among the heavenly Father’s things.  Let young

people be taken to their Father’s house; let Church services recognize their

place and part; let them be invited to a share in the hopes and the activities of

Christ’s cause. Plant them in the courts of the Lord, “in their Father’s things.”

 

·   ONCE MORE OBSERVE THE SUPREME NECESSITY OF THE

SPIRIT OF THE LIFE IN THE BOY JESUS. “Why hast thou thus dealt

with us?” asks his mother reproachfully. “How is it that ye sought me?” is

the rejoinder; wist ye not that I must be where and as you find me?” We

note the surprise in the answer. It is the flashing forth of a something, a

secret, in the childhood which the mother had not noticed, so simple, so

obedient, had the Child been. To the Boy, so full of the glories and

solemnities of the Father’s house, it seemed strange that they had not

recognized whose He was — that they had not understood the obligation

inlaid in the life itself. And when the constraint of God’s love is

acknowledged, when the soul awakes to the vision of the Father and the

Father’s business, — the spell of Christ’s “I must is irresistible. We come

on it again and again in the course of the ministry. It was the law of the

spirit of the life. And the same law operates in every one who is of the

truth. In that sweet bondage stands the soul’s perfect freedom: “I must

work the works of him that sent me”(John 9:4); “I must be about my

Father’s business.” Then, in perfect naturalness, yet with marvelous boldness,

comes forth the first self-revelation of the Lord. Joseph and Mary

understood it not. How often is the young heart, aroused and astir in

consequence of a higher call, misunderstood, misjudged! Mary did not

comprehend, but she sympathized; she loved and prayed. Type of the true

mother, “whose eyes are homes of silent prayer.” The sense of the higher

sonship only enforces the obligations of the lower. In the higher love all

other loves endure. “This is love,” says St. John, “that we walk after his

commandments” — after “the first commandment with promise, Honour

thy father and mother.” There is nothing lovelier in the human life of Christ

than the renewed acceptance of the restraints of home. “He went down

with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them” — to them,

with the narrow round of their daily care and concerns; and He with the

great thoughts glowing in His breast, and the kingdom of His Father

opening to His gaze. Mark:

 

Ø      What self-repression belonged to the time in Nazareth! We see the Son

taking the place in the carpenter’s house a few years later than the visit to

the temple; Joseph apparently is removed by death from the headship of the

house. Is it beyond the probabilities of the case that He performed the part

— always a touching one — of the eldest son and brother supporting the

mother to whom He is subject, and guiding the younger members of the

family? Nothing is left undone, and He who thus learned obedience to duty

leaves an example which serves as a beacon-light both to youth and age.

 

Ø      How this time consecrates labor and poverty! He wrought at the

common things; in them He could see His Father’s things, and do all as part

of His Father’s business. The truth receives a new radiance that “work is

the girdle of manliness.” Faber sings truly —

 

“Labor is sweet, for thou hast toiled;

And care is light, for thou hast cared.

Let not our works with self be soiled,

Nor in unsimple ways ensnared.”

 

Ø      How emphatic is the lesson on the fruitfulness of silence suggested by

this time! Between twelve years of age and thirty the Son of God was

content to wait. The public life lasted for three years; He waited for thirty

years. A great disproportion, we might say; but God’s ways are not our

ways. All the while He was growing in wisdom. As His bodily strength was

compacted and matured, so was His mental; for in all things He was made

like to his brethren, He studied His Father’s Word and His Father’s works.

Nature disclosed to Him her hidden meanings and beauties:

 

o       He thought,

o       He prayed.,

o       He lived,

 

by the Father. The results of the long silence were evidenced in the

exquisite parables of later years, in the wisdom which none could resist,

in the authority which separated His doctrine from that of the scribes.

The accumulated capital was great; when he went forth in the

power of the Spirit He only drew the interest. Are we not, in these days,

in too great haste both to be wise and to be rich? Do we not speak too

soon as well as speak too much? Carlyle only apprehends the significance

of Nazareth when he reminds us that in silence all great thought and work

are done. We need more than “flashes of silence.” Think, think of Jesus

silent so long. Stier exclaims, “Oh what gracious words may have issued

from His lips during those eighteen years which are not recorded! But the

words which, by the Father’s ordination, He was to testify to the world

were sealed up till His hour was come. Then, one after another, bursts

forth each as it were a deeper stream from the long pent-up fountains of

eternal wisdom and truth!”

 

50 “And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.

51 And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth,” –  Christ recognizes

His mother’s call as a part of the will of His Father in heaven and a part of His

Father’s business.  He has to wait as well as work.  Hence without a murmur Jesus

Goes away with them and is “subject unto them.  The question of  Mary, and the

quiet grave answer of the Child Jesus, were all that seems to have  taken place. It served,

no doubt, to bring back to Mary’s mind what had long passed,  and the memory of which

for her was beginning somewhat to fade. This was, no doubt, one of the uses of the temple

scene, but it had other and deeper purposes to serve. It was then, perhaps, as we have

already reverently surmised, in the gradual development and growth of the Redeemer,

that consciousness who He really was first dawned upon “the Child Jesus” - “and was

subject unto them:” – This recital of the temple scene, the meeting with the great rabbis

there, the few words of surprise addressed by the Boy to Mary and Joseph when they

sought him “sorrowing” — this recital alone breaks the deep silence which shrouds the

first thirty years of “the Life.” For some eighteen years after that visit to Jerusalem Jesus

appears to have lived and toiled as a carpenter at Nazareth, with Joseph and Mary

while they both lived, with Mary and his half-sisters and brothers when

Joseph was dead. Justin Martyr, living a century and a half later, speaks of

the ploughs and yokes the Master’s own hands had fashioned during that

long quiet pause in His life. Joseph is never again mentioned in the gospel story;

the probability is that he died some time in that period of eighteen years -“but

His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” As twelve years before, Mary —

pondering in her heart — had treasured up the rough adoration of the shepherds

and their strange story of what the angels said to them about her Child (v.19), as

doubtless she had done too when the Magi laid their costly gifts before the Babe at

Bethlehem, and when Simeon and Anna in the temple spoke their prophetic

utterances over the Infant; so now the mother, in quiet humble faith, stored

up again her Son’s sayings in her heart, waiting with brave and constant

patience for the hour when her God should grant her to see face to face the

mysterious things she had hitherto seen only “in a glass darkly.”  (I Corinthians

13:12).

 

52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor

with God and man. Another of these little word-paintings of Luke in

which the work and progress of long years is depicted. The purpose of this

brief statement is clear. The evangelist would teach us that, with Jesus,

bodily development proceeded in the same orderly fashion as it does with

other men, while wisdom — deepening with the years — passed into His

soul as it passes into the souls of other men, by the ordinary channels of

instruction, study, and thought. On the last words, “in favor with God and

man,” The Boy grew into youth, and the young Man into manhood, and His

purity and lowliness and unselfish sympathy drew even then the hearts of all men.

In that highest instance, as in all lower analogies, men admired holiness till it

Became aggressive, and then it roused them to an antagonism bitter in

Proportion to their previous admiration.  (There seems to be a parallel

in our time with the hatred of the national media towards fundamental Christianity!

Why?  No Wonder!  For the same reason that Cain murdered his brother Abel!

“Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous”  (I John

3:12).   The Greek word προέκοπτεν -  proekopten – increased;  proceed further;

advanced; progressed - in this verse translated “increased” would be more literally

rendered “kept advancing.” The word is used for pioneers hewing down trees and

brushwood which obstruct the path of an advancing army. The word in the original,

Anglicized by “stature” some scholars translate by “age;” either rendering is

permissible, but the word used in the English Version is better fitted for the context

of the passage.

 

 

                        Growth, Our Lord’s and Our Own (vs. 51-52)

 

The growth of Jesus Christ and His subjection to Hhis parents teach us some

things respecting Him, and they suggest some things for our own guidance.

 

·   THE GROWTH OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

Ø      The fullness of His condescension. We find this in His stooping so far as:

     

o       to make it becoming that He should “be subject to” His parents

            and

o       to make it possible that He should grow.

 

How the Infinite One could so bereave Himself of His infinitude as to be

able to increase in wisdom, we cannot understand. But we cannot

understand infinitude at all, and we act wisely when we do not draw hard

and fast deductions from it. We stand on far firmer ground when we take

the statement of the historian in its natural sense, and open our mind to the

fact that Jesus Christ, “our Lord and our God,” did stoop so far that it

was possible for Him to increase in knowledge and in favor with God and

with man. We do not question the reality of His growth in body; why

should we doubt, or receive with any reserve, the affirmation that He

grew also in mind?

 

Ø      The harmoniousness of His growth. He grew”

 

o       in bodily stature, and, of course, in all bodily strength and skill;

o       in mental equipment — in technical knowledge, or in the

      “education” of His time, in appreciation of nature, in knowledge

      of mankind, in apprehension of Divine truth, in general

      intellectual enlargement;

o       in spiritual beauty and nobility“in favor with God and

      man.”

 

Not that He was at any time faulty or lacking in any excellency which it

behoved Him at that time to show, but that, as His faculties expanded

and His opportunities of manifesting character were multiplied, He

developed all that was admirable in the sight of man and of God.

There is a far greater possibility of spiritual beauty and nobility in a

young man with matured faculty and widening relationships than in

the very little child, restricted, as he must be, in powers and in

surroundings. So, as Jesus increased in years and grew in wisdom,

there was in Him an unfolding of moral and spiritual worth which

attracted the eyes of men and which satisfied the Spirit of the

Holy One Himself.

 

·   OUR HUMAN GROWTH.

 

Ø      Unlike our Lord, there is no element of condescension implied in our

      growth. We did not stoop to infancy; our course had then its

commencement. However, Christ took our form and was made like

unto us.  As He grew “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in

favor with God and man.”  (v. 52).  Therefore, this passage tells us that

Christ grew:

 

o       Intellectually “in wisdom”

o       Physically “in stature” (height)

o       Spiritually “in favor with God”

o       Socially “in favor with man.”

 

Ø      As with our Lord, our growth should be harmonious. All the  elements

      in our compound nature should undergo simultaneous and proportionate

      development. (Else our life, personality, etc will be LOPSIDED

      CY – 2012)

 

o       Training of the body is to be nurtured so that it shall be

            continually advancing in strength and skill and symmetry.

o       The mind is to receive instruction and to be exercised, so that

 it will be ever increasing in knowledge and culture both

religiously and secularly.

o       The character is to be guided and formed so that it shall be:

 

§         attractivene in the sight of man, and

§         worthy in the judgment of God.

 

It is, indeed, true that we may not give pleasure to men in proportion as we

grow in moral and spiritual worth, for, as with our Master, our purity and

devotion may be an offense unto them. It is also to be remembered that we

may gain God’s distinct approval long before we have reached the point of

irreproachableness; for that which He delights to see in His children is an

earnest effort after, and a constant growth towards, that which is true and

pure and generous.

 

 

            The Visit of Jesus to Jerusalem when a Boy (vs. 41-52)

 

We now proceed to the solitary circumstance in the Child-life of Jesus

which is given in the Gospels. He had been growing for twelve years in

strength and in spirit, and the Lord loved Him. The Child in Nazareth

redeemed in God’s eyes all the world. It was the one absorbing interest in

the Divine outlook upon our race. And now He is taken by His pious

parents to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. It is His second visit to the

temple; this time He comes Himself; the first time, as we have seen, He was

presented. The following points deserve attention in this narrative.

 

·   THE PARENTAL CARE EXERCISED OVER JESUS. The pious pair,

Joseph and Mary, went, as we are told, every year to Jerusalem to the

Passover. And they had given the holy Child committed to their charge

such advantages as Nazareth afforded. The home school especially, not to

speak of synagogue services, to which He was doubtless regularly taken,

evidenced their interest in the welfare of the Child. No sooner, therefore,

has He reached the age of twelve, at which time little ones were deemed

able to become “children of the Law,” than He is taken up by them to see

the Passover at Jerusalem. Their pious, consistent life was an excellent

preparation for the solemnities of the great feast. Jesus came face to face

with the ceremonies after experiencing most tender home care. And the

history before us affords ample evidence of the parental consideration. If it

was not perfect parental care, this is only to allow that neither Joseph nor

Mary was sinless.  Let us pause a moment over the care with which they must

have explained to Him all the ritual. Doubtless He saw more in it than they

did, but He must have received gratefully their help in the circumstances.

To them the Passover spoke of a great deliverance afforded to their

fathers; to Him it spoke of a great sacrifice yet to come. His insight must

have been a deeper thing than they could then appreciate. And now let us

pass to the oversight of which the parents were guilty. Their care was

great, but it was not absolutely perfect. In the bustle of preparation for the

home-going, the parents started with the caravan under the impression that

He must be in the company of the boys who were in considerable numbers

attached to the procession. They’ should have made sure, and not left such

a Child to the chances of traveling. We have no right to impute the

separation of Jesus from His parents to any lack of dutifulness on His part,

but solely to an oversight on theirs. What were all their bits of baggage and

their acquaintances in comparison with the safe custody of “the holy

Child”? And in consistency with this view, it has been suggested that

underneath Mary’s apparent expostulation and reproof there is a latent

confession of her fault, which she and Joseph tried to atone for in their

diligent search for the missing Boy.

 

·   THE LONELY BOY TURNED INSTINCTIVELY TO THE

TEMPLE. The seven days of the Passover Feast had been a rare feast to

Jesus. The priests and ritual and all the varied life which thronged the

temple court must have been a revelation to Him. He brought the

consciousness of a Jew instructed in the Law to bear upon the temple and

its services. We must look into His mind through the Old Testament. We

there find the idea of God’s Fatherhood in relation to His people several

times referred to (Deuteronomy 14:1- 2; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:9, 20;

Psalm 103:13, etc.). To the little thoughtful Boy, therefore,

the temple was regarded as the home of Him who was a Father to all who

trusted in Him. And this general idea of fatherhood became specialized in

His deep, reverential musings, and He could not but feel towards God as no

Jew had ever felt before. Whether He had as a Child the further revelation

yet made to Him of His peculiar relation to God as the Only Begotten, or

reached this in the progress of the years, is what we cannot be certain of.

At all events, the temple was the Father’s house. To it the lonely Lad

turned. He felt drawn to God irresistibly, now that His earthly guardians

had gone away. “When father and mother forsake me,” He could say, “the

Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) .  The orphan Child, so to speak,

turned to the temple, as to His real home.

 

·   HE BECAME A HOLY LEARNER THERE. Not only was the

temple the scene of the sacrifices; it was also the place of learning for those

interested in the Law. Schools were established within the sacred precincts

where the scribes discoursed to such pupils as chose to sit at their feet. The

method seems to have been by dialogue — the question and answer which

once were so prized. Here the Boy believed he would get light about the

will of the great Father who dwelt there, and who had given His people the

Law. As a faithful Son, He wished to get all possible light about His

Father’s business, and so He frequented the schools.

Although he must have seen through the shallowness of some of His

teachers, and had doubtless deeper insight than any, He was content to sit

at their feet and get all the good from them He could. It was an instance,

surely, of great diligence in embracing every opportunity of improvement

which came His way. He wanted to learn all He could while He had the

chance. And most naturally did His answers and questions astonish the

doctors. They had never had such an apt scholar before. His insight led

them along lines they never had traveled hitherto. And as for the Father’s

business, it at least embraces such elements as these:

 

Ø      The understanding of the terms of access to His presence.

     

o       The significance of the ritual which was celebrated in the temple,

o       the  meaning of sacrifice, of bloodshedding,

o       of incense, and

o       of approach by the appointed priests into the Divine presence,

      all this belonged to the Father’s business.

 

Ø      The understanding of the meaning of His commandments. The Law as

the expression of the Father’s will, and read consequently in the light of

love.

 

Ø      How far the knowledge of the Father was to be extended. The kingdom

of God in its universal range, as distinct from a narrow nationality, this

was part of the Father’s business. Hence the lingering of the holy

Learner about the temple schools. His apt answers would procure Him

lodging and food during the season of separation His parents. Having

put God first, all these things were added unto Him (Matthew from 6:33).

 

·   HIS RECOVERY BY THE ANXIOUS MOTHER. Joseph and Mary,

on discovering at the end of the first day’s march the absence of the Child,

set out for Jerusalem to find Him. They doubtless inquire all the way back,

and then they go hither and thither through the city, and at last think of the

temple. There, in the midst of the doctors, He is found and recovered by

Mary. Her words are apparent rebuke, but really confession upon her part

of the oversight. She had never before had any reason for fault-finding; it

comes all the more surprisingly upon her now. Jesus defends Himself on the

ground that He was looking after His Father’s business. In other words, He

insists on putting God first, before Mary or Joseph. We get an insight into

what godliness is. It means making God’s business supreme. God claims

first place, and this is what the Boy Jesus gave him. The Revised Version

translates the words,  Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?”

This would simply refer to their folly in not first seeking Him there. The

Authorized Version is as near the Greek, and of wider import. But Mary

and Joseph did not understand His meaning. These are the first recorded

words of Jesus; and how they harmonize with the last, when on the cross

he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”!

 

·   HIS OBEDIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT. He has got all the doctors

can meanwhile give to Him. It would not have been profitable for Him to

have remained longer in their schools, and to have merely witnessed their

powers of disputation. He is to have collision with them soon enough.

Besides, He will be safer out of their reach in the quiet of the northern

home. And so He recognizes in His mother’s call the voice of His Father in

heaven, and in the privacy of Nazareth His Father’s business. He has to wait

as well as work. Hence without a murmur He goes away with them and is

subject unto them. But this subjection and reverence did not hinder, but

really helped, His development. “He increased in wisdom and in stature,

and in favor with God and man.” As a person under parental authority, He

found His reward in wisdom, and became beloved of all around Him as well

as of the Lord above. It was a beautiful example to set us of being subject

under God to parents and superiors. His growth in wisdom was also so

considerate. He would take wisdom as others have to get it, gradually, and

pass from the known to the knowledge of the unknown.  And God’s

favor will rest as well as man’s favor upon all who follow in the footsteps

of His Divine Son in this beautiful subjection.   There is no truth more

important at the present time than this of realizing our development in due

subjection.

 

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.