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Jesus Living at Nazareth and Visiting Jerusalem in His Twelfth Year.
(Nazareth and Jerusalem, a.d. 7 or 8.)
C Luke II. 40–52.
c 40 And the child grew [This verse contains the history of thirty years. It describes the growth of our Lord as a natural, human growth (compare Luke i. 80); for, though Jesus was truly divine, he was also perfectly man. To try to distinguish between the divine and human in Jesus, is to waste time upon an impracticable mystery which is too subtle for our dull and finite minds], and waxed strong [His life expanded like other human lives. He learned as other boys; he obeyed as other children. As he used means and waited patiently for growth, so must each individual Christian, and so must the church. Though the latter is a mystical body, and animated by the Holy Spirit, it must nevertheless make increase of itself before coming to the perfect man—Eph. iv. 16], filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him [These words describe briefly the life of Christ during the preparatory period at Nazareth. It was a quiet life, but its sinless purity made the Baptist feel his own unworthiness compared to it (Matt. iii. 14), and its sweet reasonableness inspired in Mary, the mother, that confidence which led her to sanction, without reserve, any request or command which Jesus might utter—John ii. 5.] 41 And his parents [Males were required to attend the Passover (Ex. xiii. 7); but women were not. The great rabbi, Hillel (born about b.c. 110; died a.d. 10), recommended that they should do so, and the 57practice was esteemed an act of admirable piety] went every year to Jerusalem [regular attendance upon worship is likewise enjoined upon us—Heb. x. 25] to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover [The Passover, one of the three great Jewish feasts, commemorated the mercy of God in causing his angel to “pass over” the houses in Israel on the night that he slew all the firstborn of Egypt. It took place at the full moon which occurred next after the vernal equinox. At it the firstfruits of the harvest were offered (Lev. xxiii. 10–15). The second feast, Pentecost, occurred fifty days later, and commemorated the giving of the law. At it the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, in the form of bread (Lev. xxiii. 17), were offered. The third feast, or Tabernacles, occurred near the end of September, or beginning of October, and commemorated the days when Israel dwelt in tents in the wilderness. It was observed as a thanksgiving for the blessings of the year. Every adult male Jews dwelling in Judæa was required to attend these three feasts. Josephus tells us that the members assembled at them in Jerusalem often exceeded two millions.] 42 And when he was twelve years old [The incident which Luke here reports is the only one given in the period between the return from Egypt and Jesus' thirtieth year. It shows that Jesus did not attend the school of the rabbis in Jerusalem (Mark vi. 2; John vi. 42; vii. 15). But we learn that he could write (John viii. 6), and there is little doubt but that he spoke both Hebrew and Greek], they went up [the altitude of Jerusalem is higher than that of Nazareth, and the distance between the two places is about seventy miles] after the custom of the feast [the custom was that the feast was celebrated annually in Jerusalem]; 43 and when they had fulfilled the days [eight days in all; one day for killing the passover, and seven for observing the feast of unleavened bread which followed it—Ex. xii. 15; Lev. xxiii. 5, 6], as they were returning, the boy Jesus [Luke narrates something about every stage of Christ's life. He speaks of him as a babe (ii. 16), as a little child (ii. 40), here as a boy, and afterwards as a man] tarried behind in Jerusalem [to take advantage of the opportunity to 58hear the great teachers in the schools]; and his parents knew it not [As vast crowds attended the Passover, it was easy to lose sight of a boy amid the festal throng. Indeed, the incident is often repeated even to this day during the feast seasons at Jerusalem]; 44 but supposing him to be in the company [We see here the confidence of the parents, and the independence of the child. The sinlessness of Jesus was not due to any exceptional care on the part of his parents. Jews going to and from their festivals traveled in caravans for pleasure and safety. In the daytime the young folks mingled freely among the travelers, and sought out whatever companionship they wished. But in the evening, when the camp was formed, and the tents were pitched, the members of each family came together] , they went a day's journey [They probably returned by the way of Jericho to avoid passing through Samaria, because of the hatred existing between Jews and Samaritans. In more moderns times the first day's journey is a short one, and it was probably so then. It was made so in order that the travelers might return to the city whence they had departed, should they discover that they had forgotten anything—should they find that they had forgotten a sack of meal, a blanket, or a child]; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance [those with whom he was most likely to have traveled during the day]: 45 and when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him. [Parents who have temporarily suffered the loss of their children can easily imagine their feelings. Christ, though a divine gift to them, was lost. So may we also lose him, though he be God's gift to us.] 46 And it came to pass, after three days [Each part of a day was reckoned as a day when at the beginning and ending of a series. The parents missed Jesus on the evening of the first day, returned to Jerusalem and sought for him on the second day, and probably found him on the morning of the third day. The disciples of Jesus also lost him in the grave for part of one day, and all of the next, and found him resurrected on the morning of the third day—Luke xxiv. 21] they found him 59in the temple [Probably in one of the many chambers which tradition says were built against the walls of the temple and its enclosures, and opened upon the temple courts. The sacred secret which they knew concerning the child should have sent them at once to the temple to seek for him]; sitting [Jewish scholars sat upon the ground at the feet of their teachers] in the midst [the teachers sat on semi-circular benches and thus partially surrounded by their scholars] of the teachers [these teachers had schools in which they taught for the fees of their pupils, and are not to be confounded with the scribes, who were mere copyists], both hearing them, and asking them questions [He was not teaching: the God of order does not expect childhood to teach. He was among them as a modest scholar, and not as a forward child. The rabbinical method of instruction was to state cases, or problems, bearing upon the interpretation or application of the law, which cases or problems were to be solved by the pupils. For typical problems see Matt. xxii. 15–46]: 47 and all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they [his parents] saw him, they were astonished [Mary and Joseph stood as much in awe of these renowned national teachers as peasants do of kings, and were therefore astonished that their youthful son presumed to speak to them]; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? [Her language implies that Jesus had been fully instructed as to the time when his parents and their caravan would depart for Galilee, and that he was expected to depart with them. Obedience to his higher duties constrained him to appear disobedient to his parents] behold, thy father [As legal father of Jesus, this expression would necessarily have to be used when speaking of Joseph. But Jesus does not accept Joseph as his father, as we see by his answer] and I sought thee sorrowing. [Because they thought him lost.] 49 And he said unto them [What follows are the first recorded words of Jesus; he here speaks of the same being—the Father—to whom he commended his spirit in his last words upon the cross (Luke xxiii. 46). His last 60recorded words on earth are found at Acts i. 7, 8; his last recorded words in heaven are found in Rev. xxii. 10–20, but these last words are spoken through the medium of an angel], How is it that ye sought me? [Mary, knowing all that had been divinely revealed to her concerning Jesus, should have expected to find him in the temple] knew ye not that I must [In this oft-repeated phrase, “I must,” Jesus sets forth that devotion (John iv. 34) to the will of the Father by which his whole life was directed] be in my Father's [Literally “the Father of me.” Jesus invariably used the article in speaking of himself, and said “the Father of me,” and invariably omitted the article, and said, “Father of you,” when speaking of his disciples. His relationship to the Father differed from ours, and God, not Joseph, was his father] house? [See John ii. 16, 17; viii. 35.] 50 And they understood not [It may seem strange that Mary, knowing all that she did concerning the birth of Jesus, etc., did not grasp the meaning of his words, but we are all slow to grasp great truths; and failure to be understood was therefore a matter of daily occurrence with Jesus. (Luke ix. 45; xviii. 34; Mark ix. 32; John x. 6.) Christ spoke plainly, but human ears were slow to comprehend his wonderful sayings. We need to be watchful lest our ears be censured for a like slowness] the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them [Jerusalem was among the mountains, Nazareth among the hills], and came to Nazareth [A beautiful and healthful town, but so lacking in piety and learning as to form the “dry ground” out of which it was prophetically predicted that the glorious and fruitful life of Jesus would spring. Here Christ rose above all times and schools and revealed to man that “life more abundant” than all kings, lawgivers or sages ever discovered. His character, like the New Jerusalem, descended from God out of heaven, and no education obtained in Nazareth will explain it. The struggle of self-made men with their early environment is noticeable to the last, but it is not so with him. The discourses of Jesus are the outpourings of divine knowledge, and not the result of study or self-culture]; and he was subject [Our 61example in all things, he here set before us that pattern of obedience which children should observe toward their parents. In these years Jesus learned the trade of his supposed father (Mark vi. 3). Christ was a laborer, and thereby sanctified labor, and showed that dignity and glory belong to inward and not to outward conditions] unto them [His parents, Joseph and Mary. We find no mention of Joseph after this, and the probability is that he soon died]: and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. [She had many treasured sayings of angels, shepherds, wise men, and prophets. She now began to add to these the sayings of Christ himself.] 52 And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. [He did not literally grow in favor with God. This is a phenomenal expression. The favor of God and man kept company for quite awhile; but the favor of God abode with Jesus when man's good will was utterly withdrawn. Men admire holiness until it becomes aggressive, and then they feel an antagonism against it as great, or intense, as their previous admiration.] 62
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