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2. Birth and Childhood of Jesus
1Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. 2This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; 5to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child. 6And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: 11for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
15And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them. 21And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called JESUS, which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up 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), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law, 28then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord,
According to thy word, in peace;
30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples;
32A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of thy people Israel.
33And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him; 34and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; 35yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. 36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 37and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. 41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up after the custom of the feast; 43and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not; 44but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance: 45and when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him. 46And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions: 47and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing. 49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be in my Father's house? 50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and he was subject unto them: and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Christ Presented in the Temple.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, 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, 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;) 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.
Our Lord Jesus, being made of a woman, was made under the law, Gal. iv. 4. He was not only, as the son of a daughter of Adam, made under the law of nature, but as the son of a daughter of Abraham was made under the law of Moses; he put his neck under that yoke, though it was a heavy yoke, and a shadow of good things to come. Though its institutions were beggarly elements, and rudiments of this world, as the apostle calls them, Christ submitted to it, that he might with the better grace cancel it, and set it aside for us.
Now here we have two instances of his being made under that law, and submitting to it.
I. He was circumcised on the very day that the law appointed (v. 21): When eight days were accomplished, that day seven-night that he was born, they circumcised him. 1. Though it was a painful operation (Surely a bloody husband thou has been, said Zipporah to Moses, because of the circumcision, Exod. iv. 25), yet Christ would undergo it for us; nay, therefore he submitted to it, to give an instance of his early obedience, his obedience unto blood. Then he shed his blood by drops, which afterwards he poured out in purple streams. 2. Though it supposed him a stranger, that was by that ceremony to be admitted into covenant with God, whereas he had always been his beloved Son; nay, though it supposed him a sinner, that needed to have his filthiness taken away, whereas he had no impurity or superfluity of naughtiness to be cut off, yet he submitted to it; nay, therefore he submitted to it, because he would be made in the likeness, not only of flesh, but of sinful flesh, Rom. viii. 3. 3. Though thereby he made himself a debtor to the whole law (Gal. v. 3), yet he submitted to it; nay, therefore he submitted to it, because he would take upon him the form of a servant, though he was free-born. Christ was circumcised, (1.) That he might own himself of the seed of Abraham, and of that nation of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and who was to take on him the seed of Abraham, Heb. ii. 16. (2.) That he might own himself a surety for our sins, and an undertaker for our safety. Circumcision (saith Dr. Goodwin) was our bond, whereby we acknowledged ourselves debtors to the law; and Christ, by being circumcised, did as it were set his hand to it, being made sin for us. The ceremonial law consisted much in sacrifices; Christ hereby obliged himself to offer, not the blood of bulls or goats, but his own blood, which none that ever were circumcised before could oblige themselves to. (3.) That he might justify, and put an honour upon, the dedication of the infant seed of the church to God, by that ordinance which is the instituted seal of the covenant, and of the righteousness which is by faith, as circumcision was (Rom. iv. 11), and baptism is. And certainly his being circumcised at eight days old doth make much more for the dedicating of the seed of the faithful by baptism in their infancy than his being baptized at thirty years old doth for the deferring of it till they are grown up. The change of the ceremony alters not the substance.
At his circumcision, according to the custom, he had his name given him; he was called Jesus or Joshua, for he was so named of the angel to his mother Mary before he was conceived in the womb (Luke i. 31), and to his supposed father Joseph after, Matt. i. 21. [1.] It was a common name among the Jews, as John was (Col. iv. 11), and in this he would be made like unto his brethren. [2.] It was the name of two eminent types of him in the Old Testament, Joshua, the success or of Moses, who was commander of Israel, and conqueror of Canaan; and Joshua, the high priest, who was therefore purposely crowned, that he might prefigure Christ as a priest upon his throne, Zech. vi. 11, 13. [3.] It was very significant of his undertaking. Jesus signifies a Saviour. He would be denominated, not from the glories of his divine nature, but from his gracious designs as Mediator; he brings salvation.
II. He was presented in the temple. This was done with an eye to the law, and at the time appointed by the law, when he was forty days old, when the days of her purification were accomplished, v. 22. Many copies, and authentic ones, read auton for autes, the days of their purification, the purification both of the mother and of the child, for so it was intended to be by the law; and our Lord Jesus, though he had no impurity to be cleansed from, yet submitted to it, as he did to circumcision, because he was made sin for us; and that, as by the circumcision of Christ we might be circumcised, in the virtue of our union and communion with him, with a spiritual circumcision made without hands (Col. ii. 11), so in the purification of Christ we might be spiritually purified from the filthiness and corruption which we brought into the world with us. Now, according to the law,
1. The child Jesus, being a first-born son, was presented to the Lord, in one of the courts of the temple. The law is here recited (v. 23): Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, because by a special writ of protection the first-born of the Egyptians were slain by the destroying angel; so that Christ, as first-born, was a priest by a title surer than that of Aaron's house. Christ was the first-born among many brethren, and was called holy to the Lord, so as never any other was; yet he was presented to the Lord as other first-born were, and no otherwise. Though he was newly come out of the bosom of the Father, yet he was presented to him by the hands of a priest, as if he had been a stranger, that needed one to introduce him. His being presented to the Lord now signified his presenting himself to the Lord as Mediator, when he was caused to draw near and approach unto him, Jer. xxx. 21. But, according to the law, he was redeemed, Num. xviii. 15. The first-born of many shalt thou redeem, and five shekels was the value, Lev. xxvii. 6; Num. xviii. 16. But probably in case of poverty the priest was allowed to take less, or perhaps nothing; for no mention is made of it here. Christ was presented to the Lord, not to be brought back, for his ear was bored to God's door-post to serve him for ever; and though he is not left in the temple as Samuel was, to minister there, yet like him he is given to the Lord as long as he lives, and ministers to him in the true temple not made with hands.
2. The mother brought her offering, v. 24. When she had presented that son of hers unto the Lord who was to be the great sacrifice, she might have been excused from offering any other; but so it is said in the law of the Lord, that law which was yet in force, and therefore so it must be done, she must offer a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons; had she been of ability, she must have brought a lamb for a burnt-offering, and a dove for a sin-offering; but, being poor, and not able to reach the price of a lamb, she brings two doves, one for a burnt-offering and the other for a sin-offering (see Lev. xii. 6, 8), to teach us in every address to God, and particularly in those upon special occasions, both to give thanks to God for his mercies to us and to acknowledge with sorrow and shame our sins against him; in both we must give glory to him, nor do we ever want matter for both. Christ was not conceived and born in sin, as others are, so that there was not that occasion in his case which there is in others; yet, because he was made under the law, he complied with it. Thus it became him to fulfil all righteousness. Much more doth it become the best of men to join in confessions of sin; for who can say, I have made my heart clean?