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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Luke 2



Verse 7


‘There was no room for them in the inn.’

Luke 2:7

We repeat the words, and wonder whether they have meaning for us to-day. Think for a moment. In this world of society in which we find ourselves, is not the Christmas tragedy repeated? There is no room for Christ.

I. No room in the money market.—Let us seek out the great exchanges. Room enough and to spare for smart bargaining in ‘futures,’ for the gamblers in rotten stocks; room for the hard, keen fighters for bulls and bears and rings; but for Him Who came to prove that love was the true riches and hard work most blessed wealth, for Him Who came to give, not get, and to live and die, as we should say, not worth a penny, where was there room?

II. No room in the homes of luxury.—Or go to the homes of the great and fashionable, where misery lies in the fact that they find all their luxury and all their wealth gives no rest unto their souls. What room at the splendid feast or the scented rout is there for Him Who said, ‘How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter the kingdom of heaven,’ and Whose meat, the last time men saw Him break His fast, was a little broiled fish and a piece of bread and a bit of honeycomb?

III. No room in industrial centres.—Go now away to the great manufacturing centres; enter into the offices and see, here, a secret commission being bargained for; there, some little arrangement by which the textile fabric made will look like something it is not, and sell at a certain price as the real article which no one could produce at the price. Or enter the sweater’s den, and find at what price of blood the fine ladies of the land are content to be dressed in beaded lace and embroideries, at what price of weariness of finger, and almost foodlessness, the shirt-maker will supply the well-fed gentleman with his fine linen and bravery of show in cuff and collar.

IV. No room in the worldly life.—Or leave the great industrial centres in their hours of work, and go off to the theatre, or to the race-ground, to the rabbit-coursing field, to the football field, to the music-hall, to the liquor saloon. Are we conscious that the air is pure and right and fit for the breathing by those who would follow the Son of Man and be made like unto Him in all things? Is there room for this Saviour Jesus in the play where death is mocked at and conventional morality is made a laughing-stock; at the race-course or the football field where sport is forgotten in the craze for risking a little money on the event; in the rabbit-coursing field where for a drink or the chance of a shilling or two by way of a bet, harmless dumb creatures are torn limb from limb; in the liquor saloon, where, though a wife or a daughter comes with tears to beg the liquor-seller not to supply it to the alcohol-mad father or husband, a relentless and remorseless hand will complete the ruin and degradation it lives by? What room for Christ there?

Christ comes, and He finds there is no room for Him in worlds of restlessness and selfishness that most need His presence.

Yet still in humble hearts of simple and sincere people, who look to heaven as their home, and to Christ as the Truth, the Life, and the Way that leadeth unto the Father; still in such hearts, as in the hearts of the little children who delight to think of that first Christmas morning, there is a welcome and there is room.

Rev. Canon H. D. Rawnsley.


(1) ‘When caravans of traders and of pilgrims became more common, khans were built for their reception, and it was doubtless the sense of the duty of providing for the traveller that prompted their erection, as an act of public benevolence. These khans usually offered merely the protection of their walls, and the shelter of the unfurnished chambers to the traveller, who was obliged to bring with him all he would want, to attend to his own beast, and to prepare his food with his own hand. Inns of this description are still in use in Syria, and consist of an oblong courtyard surrounded by buildings; the entrance is by a spacious vaulted archway, with heavy gates, closed and barred by night. The buildings contain a number of arched recesses, open in front towards the courtyard. The floors are raised about three feet above the level of the court, and in the wall at the back of each recess is a door, giving access to a chamber, where the traveller can sleep. Behind the chambers run ranges of stabling for the beasts. In the centre of each of the three sides is a large vaulted hall, where the travellers can meet together, and through these halls the stables at the back are reached. Stairways lead up to the flat roofs at the angles of the court, and during the hot season the roofs are used as sleeping-places. There is usually a well of water in the middle of the court, and sometimes a stone chamber built over it. Such was probably the Inn of Bethlehem. It is thought by many that from very early times an inn had stood upon this spot, and that the “habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem,” mentioned in Jeremiah 41:17, stood on the same site.’

(2) ‘But if Chimham’s inn was ten times as great as it was, it could not hold any but the first comers. Soon all the courtyard is packed with the beasts of burden. Soon all the raised colonnade round the court is filled with families and their household stuff. But if we had been there when now the eventide was drawing on, and the flame of the fires in the caravanserai was beginning to brighten, we should have seen a man who claimed to be of the house and lineage of David, lead up and help tenderly to dismount a young girl, his espoused wife, being great with child. They have journeyed leisurely to avoid over-fatigue—they must pay the penalty. There is no room for them in the inn. The last possible corner of space was filled three hours ago. The man pleads in earnest. He is of the royal family of David. He has come all the way from Nazareth; his wife is great with child; and I can well believe that there was that about the Virgin’s anxious face which went home to the guard of the khan gate, and he bethinks him of the stable at the back, there in the great limestone cave, where the keeper of the caravanserai has bestowed his own house-folk, and his own beasts of burden, and his own oxen for the night. Thither does he lead them, and glad enough of such chance of rest are the weary travellers. On one day in the week of their sojourn the Lord was born.’



In too many cases there is still ‘no room’ for Him Who was crowded out from the inn at Bethlehem.

I. From some homes.—The house rings with laughter and boisterous revelry, but the name of Christ is never once mentioned. Christ would be an unwelcome guest in that home. There is no room for Him. Again, the pleasures may be all perfectly innocent—but it is purely selfish enjoyment. There is no room for Him in the hearts which are troubled only about making things enjoyable and nothing more.

II. From some hearts.—The Lord comes and seeks shelter in an inn. ‘What a fertility of thought, sentiment, impression, feeling,’ says Dean Gulburn, ‘is there in the heart of a single man! It is like an inn or hostelry—there are every instant fresh arrivals and fresh departures. There are a thousand doors of access to the heart—conversation, books, incidents, means of grace, all the five senses; and passengers are busily thronging in and passing out at every door.’ And hither Christ comes every day in the year. How is it with you? Jesus is here, ready to come in and take up His abode in your heart. Is there room for Him? He comes, ‘a gracious, willing Guest,’ but never to thrust Himself on an unwilling host. He is here to-day just as really, just as truly, as He was in the stable of Bethlehem. Have you room for Him? or is that busy inn of your heart so full of worldly, anxious, unbelieving, covetous, impure thoughts, that by this motley throng Christ is actually crowded out!

Oh, make room! Perhaps you will have to give up a great deal—perhaps you will have to sacrifice everything—before there will be room for Him. Well, sacrifice everything. You will never repent it. He will repay you a thousandfold. He will adorn and beautify your life, and make it ‘all glorious within’ with His own sweet Presence, even as He filled with glory the unclean manger in which he lay.

—Rev. J. B. C. Murphy.

Verse 8-9


‘And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.’

Luke 2:8-9 (R.V.)

Let us think about a few things concerning the appearance to the shepherds.

I. Announced by angels.—The coming of the Lord was announced by angels. It was impossible that it should not be accompanied by some trailing clouds of the glory of heaven; the angels, they told His birth—it could not be otherwise; angels, they must accompany their King; angels, they must for one moment say their say to men before they returned and left Him in the home that He had chosen to be His.

II. Upon earth.—The angels did not sing in the mid-space where they were not to be heard by the ears of men, or seen by mortal eyes, but they announced it upon earth, for there was to be the sphere of their Lord’s captivity, and the object of His coming was that He might dwell upon earth.

III. In the night.—Not in the broad glare of day, not where all men might see and gaze astonished for a moment, and then turn upon their paces and be gone. No; in the quietness and stillness of the night, that men might know that the meaning of this great event that had come to pass was not to be caught by the eye of sinners, not to be apprehended by the natural man, not to be seen by every one, but only by those who lent themselves to its meaning.

IV. To shepherds.—Not to the scribe in his study poring over his books; not to the Pharisee, enjoying himself in luxurious ease; not to the great ones of the earth, amidst their schemes and their intrigues for political or other objects; but to the simple ones, to the shepherds intent upon their business, living a toilsome life, and spending that life in the discharge of duty. The angels appeared not to mankind universally—they would not have listened to them—but they appeared to individuals.

(a) The Gospel message is an individual message.

(b) The Gospel message is an appeal to faith, just as the message of the angels was an appeal to the faith of the shepherds.

Bishop Creighton.

Verse 10-11


‘And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’

Luke 2:10-11.

Let us be more careful that we catch the right emphasis of each word in this song from heaven.

I. ‘Unto you.’—It begins with that without which it would be of little worth—those two sweet words of appropriation—‘Unto you.’ We all know the difference of a gift which is general to all and the gift which is specially to ourselves. God give us the faith to make it ours—our very own. Who were these privileged ones? Shepherds! Poor shepherds! Men of no high birth or lofty attainment; men carrying on their humble work, attending to their sheep in the darkness and coldness of the hills of Bethlehem. And that whole picture is an allegory.

II. ‘Is born.’—And there is much comfort and importance in the fact that He was ‘born.’ Christ might have come in the fullness of His manhood; but in that He was ‘born’ an infant, there was a thoroughness given to His work which otherwise there could not have been. He took the fullness of our human nature, and He is in sympathy with our whole life at every stage from the cradle to the grave.

III. ‘A Saviour.’—Let us take care that we attach to that word its true meaning. Perhaps the old Saxon word will help us to do it better. Salvation is safety. A Saviour makes safe; He makes safe. Christ was ‘born to make us safe.’

IV. Christ the Lord.—He was born ‘Christ,’ Christ ‘the anointed!’ Anointed for the three offices which required the holy oil. The prophet—to reveal God’s truth to man; the priest—to offer the atoning sacrifice; the King—an absolute monarch. ‘A Saviour which is Christ’—the anointed—‘Christ the Lord.’


‘With no thought of fulfilling a prophecy did Joseph and Mary undertake that long journey of eighty miles to Bethlehem. Like other citizens they obeyed the Imperial edict that every one should go up to be taxed “into his own city.” It is a marked characteristic of the Scripture prophecies that there is no trace of human intention, no seeking on the part of the friends of Revelation to put themselves in accord with the Divine purposes. The immediate agents knew no more of the ends they were furthering than does the clay while being fashioned by the potter.’

Verse 11


‘Born this day.’

Luke 2:11

The birthday of Christ: what are its lessons?

I. The lesson of reverence.—Think of the Divine majesty of the love which for us surrendered all, for us accepted all.

II. The lesson of purity.—Amid what innocence and with what purity and holiness did our Saviour come!

III. The lesson of humility.—Christ came, the youngest, the weakest, the purest of all, to show what God thinks of human pride, ambition, and loftiness.

IV. The lesson of not trusting the arm of flesh.—Contrast the manner of His coming with the natural expectations of human experience.

V. The lesson of gladness and joy.—Christ brought ‘joy unspeakable.’

—Dean Church.


‘We do not put sufficient joyousness into our religion. Why is religion always so solemnly grave? Why are religious people almost always looking so sad? Cultivate joy. Pray for joy. Encourage joy in your own heart. What cannot joy do? Do we not all do things best when we are happy? Do we not work best, pray best, live best, when we are happy? And if holiness makes heaven, heaven makes holiness.’

Verse 13


‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.’

Luke 2:13

I. The heavenly host.—In making the great announcement one angel does not suffice. The soothing words of the herald angel being uttered, ‘Fear not,’ the assurance being given that he was a bearer to the shepherds of good tidings; the joy of the heavenly choirs can be no longer restrained, and the firmament rings with the glad announcement: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.’ Of this supplementary announcement by the collective body of angels, we see the design. It was that they might do homage to their liege Lord in the first stage of His wonderful abasement. For the next thirty years no nobler employment could they have than to wait upon Him until His Ascension.

II. The conduct of the shepherds on hearing this announcement. They said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ They required no other reason. A message from heaven had told them what they must do, and which if they would do, they should of a certainty find the Lord’s Christ. They obeyed the vision, and ‘they made known abroad the saying which had been told them concerning this child.’ Far be it from them to keep back such an inestimable discovery. Every friend, every neighbour shall be told of it. In the same spirit as Philip (John 1:45), of the woman of Samaria (John 4:29), these shepherds sought out those dear to them.

III. How many such messages have been sent to each one of us! Have we found Christ as truly as these shepherds found Him? Oh, it is a sad thing, spending Christmas without Christ! Such a Christmas is a Christmas of sad tidings. It is no birthday anniversary, but the anniversary of a despised and wasted birthright. Its festive gatherings are a profane banquet; its songs the mocking carols of death.

—Rev. Prebendary Daniel Moore.


‘There is a Christmas booklet—The Birthday of Hope—which contains some most beautiful thoughts about those words: “If I had not come …” The author dreamed a dream. Christ had never come. There was no Christmas. There were no Christmas hymns or bells or gifts or cards or charities or gatherings. The world went on its dull way. The prison was there, but there was no Church. There was no hospital or orphanage. There was no Cross with its cleansing blood, no Good Shepherd to give His life for the sheep, no grave in which sin could be buried, no New Testament—the most beautiful pages of the poets were gone, the world of music was like the world of poetry, ever so much poorer, there was no comfort for the dying, and no consolation for the mourners—‘Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ That was all. And the author awoke and it was a dream.’

Verse 14


‘On earth peace’.

Luke 2:14

No one would dream of disturbing words consecrated by long usage, yet in all probability the text does not represent what Luke actually wrote. His real meaning seems to have been ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of His good will’; or, as the Revised Version has it, ‘among men in whom He is well pleased.’ The question between those two versions turns on a very minute point, on the insertion or omission of a single letter in the Greek text. But there is a real difference of meaning between them.

I. Two views.—They represent two different views—a wider and narrower view, an ideal and a practical view, as to the effect of Christ’s coming in bringing peace on earth. The one view regards His coming as the beginning of a universal reign of peace; the other is less ideal, in closer correspondence with the facts of history. It limits the extent of this reign of peace. The coming of Christ brought peace indeed, but the sphere of its influence was restricted to the true servants of God who had found favour in His sight—to men of His good will. Christ on that view did not bring peace to the world at large. How, indeed, could the peace of God dwell in hearts that were at enmity with God? The legacy of peace which Jesus left behind Him on earth was left only to His own disciples. We cannot say that one of those views is true and the other false. In a sense both are true, and each has to take account of the other. It is true in a sense that Christ brought peace to the whole world. The coming of Christianity has opened up new possibilities of peace on earth. Christianity supplies an ideal conception of peace which is open to the whole world, and towards which we may hope that the whole world is slowly tending. But that is not the aspect of His coming on which our Lord Himself preferred to dwell. He did not wish His followers to live under any sentimental illusions. He foresaw that discord was inevitable—discord between the Church and the world, discord even between Christians themselves. But His attitude towards those two forms of discord was very different. Persecution from the world He welcomed for His followers. His promise to them was that in the world they should have tribulation. But He shrank from the thought that there should be dissensions within the Church. His last prayer for future generations of unknown followers was ‘that they all may be one.’ That prayer still remains unfulfilled.

II. Seek peace.—There have been times, indeed, in the history of the Church when it might almost be questioned whether Christianity was doing anything to promote the peace of Christendom, whether it was not in the main a mere source of strife and dissension. The hatreds of theology had become a byword. ‘See how these Christians love one another’ was the bitter pagan comment, and certainly nothing could be less edifying that the record of the cruel persecutions, of the stern, unloving fanaticisms of the acrimonious controversies which have characterised more than one epoch of Church history and more than one Christian body. How could people, they asked, have the peace of Christ in their hearts and yet not be at peace one with another? Let us seek peace and ensue it. We have to be on our guard against party lines becoming hardened and accentuated. Each party is within its rights in deciding what it must insist on, but it is the bounden duty of each party also to consider what concessions it can make without an absolute surrender of principle. Even peace may under some circumstances be purchased too dearly. But the teaching of Jesus certainly suggests that we should be willing to concede too much rather than too little. Let us long for the time when we shall be able to say of all controversy ‘Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’

—Rev. Dr. H. G. Woods.


‘The Church has had her triumphs of peace-making as well as her responsibilities for strife. What a great institution, for instance, was the Truce of God in the eleventh and twelve centuries. That was a noble protest on the part of the Church against the constant state of warfare which had grown up out of the feudal system. Those petty wars between feudal lords could not, indeed, be entirely stopped, but the decrees of the Church did much to limit them and to protect peaceable folk. From Wednesday evening to Monday morning in every week, from the beginning of Advent to the octave of the Epiphany, and throughout Lent, the Truce of God was in force. No doubt that still left a good deal of time in the year for fighting, though only for two or three days together. But the principle involved was more important than the actual result. It was a magnificent thing that the Church should make that public declaration on behalf of peace.’



The Song of the Angels was the first public preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I. On earth peace.—That was what the angels saw of special significance to mankind in the ‘glad tidings.’ Men smile and say, Look at history; look at distracted souls; look at the world alienated from God. But is it only the conflict between good and ill which disturbs peace? We cannot untangle the skein of sin and mistakes, but we can see that in our hearts and consciences we seek the Gospel ideal of peace. ‘Follow peace,’ says the Apostle, ‘and holiness.’

II. Peace and purity.—These are the two capital points upon which the Gospel was an innovation in the world. The ancient ideal looked upon the world as the battlefield for the trial of strength between nations; the Gospel gave a new ideal.

III. Christianity a religion of peace, but Christians have sometimes made it a religion of quarrels. We may deplore it. But more than that is needed. We have to decide whether we will associate ourselves with what we know to be God’s will, or whether we will ignore it, choosing ideals of our own. We shall have to give account of every action of ours in every department of our life which has endangered peace.

IV. Peace belongs to those who will have it. ‘Whence come wars and fightings among you?’ But the fruit of the Spirit, ‘peace,’ is within the attainment of all.

Dean Church.


‘What have we now? True, England is at peace with the whole world, and we accept it gratefully, but who can see the vast armaments which fill the Continent, and the tremendous power of the instruments of war, increasing everywhere, and call it “Peace”? Or, if you go into an inner circle, where is the household without a jar? where is the family of which every member is in perfect unison? Who has not some one with whom he is not quite on terms of love? How many are there who are at “perfect peace” with themselves? How many with God? Peace on earth—where is it? Is it “peace” only in the angel’s song, in the far vision of celestial intelligences, and the womb of the future?’

Verse 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.’

Luke 2:15

The birth of Jesus Christ is the turning-point in the world’s history.

I. He rules the life of men.—Whether you accept His claims and obey His words, or—which God forbid—you disbelieve the one and reject the other, this is certain: that He rules the life of men to-day. For the civilised nations of the world the years are reckoned from His Advent. The events of ancient history are recorded by the historian as having taking place so many years ‘before Christ’; and the years of our modern life are ‘years of our Lord.’ Anno Domini, we say; but we rarely think of how far-reaching a theory of history and of conduct is here suggested to us.

II. How great is this deeper influence which Jesus of Nazareth has exercised over the wills and passions of mankind! It is often said that Christendom is not really Christian; but it is quite certain that the difference between Christian and non-Christian countries as regards all that makes life pure and lovely and of good report is wide indeed.

III. The secret of that mighty influence.—Christmas is not only the festival of the birth of a great Master, not only the commemoration of the entrance of a great spiritual force into the world; it is the memorial of the Visitation of God. It was God Who became man, Who was born on this day—the Word Who became flesh; that is the centre of the Christian creeds.

Dean J. H. Bernard.

Verse 16


‘They came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.’

Luke 2:16

We will look for a moment at each particular figure, and gather the central lesson which lies there.

I. Jesus lying in the manger.—What is the first and central revelation of the Incarnation? It is the dignity of utter, boundless dependence upon God. You cannot, cannot be too dependent upon God. The secret of all sin is to be independent of God; the secret of all real rectification of our human nature is to put it back into God’s hand in utter dependence upon God and His law. And if you will be utterly dependent upon God and His law, then you will be full of that majestic dignity wherewith Jesus of Nazareth marched through human life. Why was He so utterly free? Because He was so utterly dependent, obedient; because every stage of His human life was only one more stage in which He learned something more of the secret of the mysterious word—to obey.

II. What is the secret of Mary?—It is, after all, the same thing in another form. Eve’s disobedience, what did it mean? She would be as God, independent of God. Mary reverses the disobedience of Eve. Look at it—‘Be it unto me according to Thy word.’ That is just the summing up of all the true attitude of human life expressed in that supreme act—‘Be it unto me according to Thy word?’ Whatever it is that God asks of us, that it is which makes possible our self-surrender, our correspondence with God. It was only because Mary would correspond to the Divine claim that God could use her for His transcendent purposes, only because she would correspond to His claim. God needs us, God has things for us to do, work for us to do, and His power to do it through us depends on that will.

III. The glory of Joseph.—We do not think enough about the glory of Joseph, that he yielded himself so obediently, with such dignity, with quiet dignity, with the strange claim of God upon his wife. He was to be protector and foster-father, the protector of Mary and her Divine Child. So it was that he becomes typically the protector of the supernatural interests of religion, even though they make a great claim upon him. It does not come upon ordinary fathers to exercise that altogether supernatural self-abnegation which was required of Joseph, but there is work for all of us, an ordinary thing which does lay upon men something of the same sort as was laid upon Joseph. The supernatural is only, as it were, the extension and deepening of the natural. So there is laid upon all of us men that which was laid upon Joseph—the requirement that we should be the protectors of religion, even though it costs us much.

—Bishop Gore.



It is wonderful to think Who and What it was these shepherds saw! the most astounding fact the world ever beheld. This fact teaches us certain lessons.

I. Never despise small things in religion.—Never despise small beginnings only because they look small, either in ourselves or among other people. In that cradle lay the beginnings of Christianity, the beginning of God’s work for the redemption of the world.

II. It is never too soon to begin to be good, and holy, and Christlike. Among men of the world there is nothing more common than to despise the very idea of religion in childhood. Men sneer at it as if it was an absurdity. They can imagine grown-up persons being religious, but not children. But here you see an infant Who yet was God.

III. We learn humility.—Beginners must begin at the beginning, whatever they have to do, and we all our lives are but beginners, ever learning, ever beginning. And beginners, if they are ever to succeed, must be teachable and humble. Remember that this Babe was God.

Verses 18-20


‘And all they that heard it wondered.… But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.’

Luke 2:18-20

These three verses may suggest to us in what spirit we ought to look back to the birth of Christ.

I. Wonder.—‘All they that heard it wondered.’ It was a strange tale to which they listened. And our wonder may be deeper still; for we know more clearly than they did Who Jesus was. To them this Babe was ‘Christ, the Saviour’; to us this Christ is the Incarnate Son of God. And who can fathom this mysterious union of the Divine and human natures in the Bethlehem Child?

II. Thoughtful pondering.—‘Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart’; and we may be sure that this pondering would bear its good fruits in the developing and maturing of her own spiritual character. Such pondering becomes us also, as we look back to the birth of Jesus. The celebration of Christmas is apt to degenerate into a thing of mere sentiment. Ponder, then, the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation, and its relation to your own spiritual needs, so that you may be led into faith which has made its basis, not in mere sentiment, but in earnest conviction. We all need such a faith.

III. Joyful praise.—‘The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.’ And these same feelings of gladness and gratitude ought to fill our hearts also, as we think of what Christ has done for our own souls and for human society.


‘“The real and fundamental difficulty in regard of the Lord’s virgin birth is,” says Bishop Ellicott, “that it involved a miracle—something unprecedented in the whole history of the human race, something that every birth into the world showed plainly to be contradictory to all experience. If this be the real basis of the denial of the virgin birth, how much more emphatic must be a denial of all that the Evangelist tells us immediately followed it—the appearance of an angel from heaven telling humble shepherds, as they were watching over their flocks, that there was born that night in the neighbouring village of Bethlehem a Saviour, the long-promised Messiah and Lord; and furthermore, that the holy message will be verified to them, and to all who might inquire of them, by an unwonted sign, a babe lying in a manger. We cannot wonder, then, that the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel is regarded by most of those who deny the virgin birth of our Lord fully as doubtful and unhistorical as the first chapter. But on this point it is not necessary for us to dwell, as it is enough for us that the early Church did plainly accept the narratives in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke as authentic and true, and that no doubt as to their canonical authority has ever been entertained in the Church.”’

Verse 21


‘And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called Jesus.’

Luke 2:21

The passage narrates how our Lord was circumcised and received His name.

I. The name and the rite.—Circumcision (Genesis 17:12-13) the sign of the covenant. The covenant introduced Abraham and his descendants into a nearer and more intimate relation with God, The new name a mark and reminder of this relation. In Abraham’s case it was the introduction of an aspirate, a breathing, into his old name. He became father of a multitude through the inspiration, in-breathing, of God. So with our Lord, a reminder of promises and responsibilities; a sign of sacrifice, but of sacrifice which should ensure rejoicing. Our baptismal names have the same suggestive significance. They remind us of God’s promises, and of the duties to be fulfilled if we would gain them. Tokens of self-surrender, through which we may be enabled to receive the blessing.

II. What the name implies.—The name ‘Jesus’ given by God’s direction; but why this name rather than another?

(a) The name was not uncommon. It was already honourable through association with those by whom it had been previously borne; e.g. the son of Nun, the great captain of Israel; the son of Josedech, high priest, friend of Haggai and Zechariah; the son of Sirach, and his grandfather, whose works he edited (cf. Ecclesiasticus). As now given it might intimate that the bearer should be greater as a captain than the first, as a priest than the second; whilst He was also that Divine wisdom after which the son of Sirach hungered.

(b) It was appropriate to the character of the bearer. Sometimes the covenant name, as in the case of Judas (praise) must have been a reproach to an unworthy character. In this case it is a revelation and expression of the nature. Look through the name, and it shows us the nature of the bearer. Thus: Jesus is Jehovah; Jesus is salvation.

(c) Jehovah and salvation unite in Jesus. We are saved from sin that we may serve God, and it is God Himself Who saves us.

III. How the name should be treated.—Everything depends upon the way in which it is regarded. If as a mere name, it may easily be made a vehicle for superstition. If more than a mere name, we can look through it, and see behind our God and Saviour. Seeing Christ through the name the utmost reverence is only natural (cf. Canon 18). The outward sign of reverence may properly testify to the inward feeling.

Verse 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.’

Luke 2:22

Let us meditate on this profoundly interesting subject in relation to Mary and Jesus.

I. Of the manifested excellences of the Virgin mother, let us think of

(a) Her knowledge. Little or no information is given of the early years of Mary. Parentage, birth, and childhood are wrapt in mystery. We know her only in her maidenhood and lowliness. But that she was thoroughly familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures cannot be doubted in the light of her own sublime hymn. She was a type of those Bible-loving women of whom we have further examples in the mother and grandmother of Timothy.

(b) Her faith. This sprang from her scriptural knowledge, and the new life quickened in her soul in early days by the Holy Ghost. She implicitly believed the promise given to Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. This was the grand distinction in her character, and the crown of her life.

(c) Her humility. In her noble hymn of praise she speaks of her ‘low estate’ and ‘low degree,’ referring, doubtless, to her outward condition, which, in the eye of the world, or in contrast with the throne of her father David, was one of meanness and poverty. The descendant of a line of kings, she was reduced to be the bride of a poor carpenter, and her village was so obscure that none imagined she would become the mother of the God-promised King of Israel. But she believed she should.

II. The ceremony in the Temple was indeed beautiful.—The presentation of Christ in that hallowed fane was the complement of the Epiphany. Instead of ‘Wise men from the East,’ there were present Simeon and Anna, with Joseph and Mary.

(a) The presentation was a joint action. It is said by Luke that ‘they’—His reputed father and real mother—‘brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord.’ Arrived at the Temple, Joseph takes part with Mary in His presentation. This guileless man accompanied Mary from the mean stable to the sacred shrine, and, while she carried in her arms the Divine Infant, he bore in his hands the pair of turtle doves. Verily, they were well matched! The faith and obedience of Joseph rank next to the faith and obedience of Mary.

(b) This joint action was typical. The turtle doves were intended for ‘a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord,’ and as such they were typical, not only of the perfect innocence of the Lamb of God, but also of His efficacious sacrifice; and just as they were accepted by the priest in the Temple, so was Jesus accepted by His Father in heaven.



The Law of Moses was here obeyed to the very letter by Christ and His mother. That Law was meant for sinners. Now Christ alone of all men was born without spot of sin. Yet this Law was obeyed to the utmost in the only case which ever happened of a perfectly sinless birth. This incident teaches us many lessons.

I. Men should never think themselves so good, or so confirmed in goodness, that they can dispense with observing the rules of a careful and even scrupulous life. The people who are really firm in goodness are so busy in going straight forward on the path of life that they never think of breaking through. They keep all the rules of a careful, sober, godly life, both in church and out of church, in their prayers and in their business, and in all that they do and think of, just as the Blessed Virgin obeyed the Law of Moses, and as our Lord, Who knew no sin, was yet brought to circumcision and offered to the Lord in His temple like any other child of any other Jewish mother.

II. Children are God’s gift.—If they are to be a blessing they must be regarded as such. This was what was meant by God’s claiming the first-born as His peculiar property. It was by way of reminding parents that all children were not theirs, but His, and that if they wished them to be a blessing, the only way was to offer them to Him. What does offering them to God mean? What did offering them to God in their earliest babyhood mean? It meant that it was the parent’s duty from the very first to treat their children as God’s children, and to bring them up accordingly.

III. ‘All of Thee.’—It is not children only that are God’s gifts to men and women. All that we are and have is His gift. Our energies, our talents, our advantages, our positions in society, our gifts of knowledge, or powers of pleasing, or of gaining influence or of making money—all these are His gifts and must be ‘presented’ to Him.


‘It is said that at least half a dozen festivals in commemoration of the leading events in the life of the Blessed Virgin have been celebrated in the early history of the Christian Church. Be this as it may, the English Church now celebrates only those of the Annunciation and the Purification; and these chiefly because they belong, in the higher sense, to the Christ of God. Bishop Sparrow speaks of the latter feast as “the double feast, partly in memory of the Virgin’s Purification, but principally in memory of her Son’s presentation in the Temple, which the Gospel commemorates.” The institution of this double festival was, according to Justinian, a.d. 541, and the popular name given to it was Candlemas Day, because “in the mediæval Church,” says Dean Hook, “this day was remarkable for the number of lighted candles which were borne in processions, and placed in churches, in memory of Him Who, in the beautiful words of Simeon’s song, came “to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel.”’

Verse 25


‘Simeon … waiting for the consolation of Israel.’

Luke 2:25

A very precious title of our Lord. Simeon, who was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel,’ was satisfied in receiving Christ.

I. What is consolation?—It is the comfort whereby we are held up against spiritual evil. It is faith (Luke 1:47). This was St. Paul’s comfort (2 Timothy 1:12). It is hope (Romans 15:13). This was Abraham’s comfort (Romans 4:18). It is love (Philippians 1:9). This was St. Peter’s comfort (John 21:17). It is joy and peace in believing, and this is the comfort of all the faithful (Romans 5:1; Romans 5:11). It is, in fact, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

II. Is the Lord Jesus Christ all this to the soul?—Yes, indeed He is (Psalms 4:6-7; Philippians 4:19). He brings all that is precious to the souls of His people. Every spiritual blessing is wrapt up in Him (Ephesians 1:3). Is sin a burden? (Romans 7:24-25). Is pardon needed? (Romans 8:1). Is righteousness required? (Jeremiah 23:6). Are we longing for acceptance with God? (Ephesians 1:6). Is Satan tempting? (Luke 22:32). Christ meets every want. He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Our hope (Colossians 1:27).

III. Is this true for every one?—I fear there are many who find no consolation in Christ now (Proverbs 1:24-25; Isaiah 48:18; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40) who will find none in Him hereafter (Revelation 6:16). But He is still the consolation of every one that believeth (John 5:24; John 3:16; Isaiah 55:1-2; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:14-17).

Why, then, should you and I not go to Him boldly, and ask Him ‘mercifully to look upon our infirmities’? He is qualified to help and defend us in everything (Matthew 7:16-17; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:1-2). He is given by God to be our comfort (Ephesians 2:14; Acts 10:36). Let us not be deluded by the passing comfort which Satan can supply (Luke 6:24; Luke 16:25). Jesus only is the true consolation of His people.

—Bishop Rowley Hill.

Verse 32


‘A Light to lighten the Gentiles.’

Luke 2:32

God’s people, in the days of the old dispensation, lived and moved in dim twilight. We have GOD’s blessed sunshine flooding us with light.

I. If we would walk in the Light we must look for it. The secret was told to Simeon, but if he had not listened and obeyed and waited and watched in the Temple day by day it would never have been his honour and joy to hold the True Light in his arms. The Wise Men saw the star, but if they had not forsaken home and friends, and risked health and life to follow its leading they would never have knelt at the young Child’s feet. The whisper came to the holy man in the Temple courts, the strange star bore its silent message to the three, but the blessing was theirs because they obeyed and came to the Light. It would never have been theirs otherwise.

II. The message rings in our ears continually.—For us there is far more than the pale light of a star shining in the darkness. The rising day floods our path and makes all things plain. But so many are careless and listless and take no heed. And many are more than careless and listless. They shut their eyes to the light, and walk blind in the very Presence of their Lord. And yet we know how He hates lukewarmness, and how great shall be the condemnation of those who in the midst of broad day walk on still in darkness.

III. ‘Arise and Christ shall give thee light.’—‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ He must be hopelessly ill who can always be sad and weak in fresh air and under the cheerful sunshine. Let us rise from our sloth and quit our narrow thoughts and dark ways and foolish imaginings, and walk in the bright track of the Sun of Righteousness, hastening on to His Presence, and then our weakness will become strength, and our foolishness wisdom, and our earthliness spirituality, and as the years go by our joys will increase and our peace deepen, and our vision become more sure, because we have the promise that the Sun of Righteousness shall never go down.

Verse 34


‘This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.’

Luke 2:34

The expression is somewhat figurative. It suggests a stone or step in a man’s pathway, which becomes to him, according as he treats it, either a stumbling-block over which he falls, or a means of elevation by which he rises to a higher plane, but so placed before him that the man cannot avoid it. We see this destiny fulfilled—

I. During our Lord’s earthly lifetime.—As He passed along through Judæa and Galilee He caused men to rise and fall. By His exposure of the hypocrisy and falsehood of the Pharisees and scribes, and by the malice and hatred, instead of penitence and humility, which the exposure produced, these fell from their proud position of assured sanctity. By His words of mercy and gentleness towards the sinful ones, who counted themselves lost and hopeless, He raised them out of their misery and shame, and gave them a place in His Kingdom. By His life and teachings and miracles He separated men into two classes—He drew and He repelled. He caused some to stumble; He made others to rise up and stand.

II. In the history of nations.—With many nations their actions towards Christ and Christ’s Gospel has determined their history. To one nation the Gospel has been a message of strength and freedom and progress; to another it has proved a source of weakness and decay.

III. In the souls and lives of men to-day.—We cannot separate ourselves from Christ. He stands before us in such a position that we cannot avoid Him, must take some action towards Him. Our characters take an impression, our lives receive a direction from Him; He gives us an impluse towards one destiny or the other. It is fixed and certain, and cannot be escaped.

Verses 42-51


‘When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem.… And He went down with them, … and was subject unto them.’

Luke 2:42-51

In this passage we learn something of Christ when He was young. We read the only circumstance recorded of His early years (cf. Isaiah 53:2). We hear His first words, ‘Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’—words that involve the principle for all our lives. Where could we find such a picture of early piety on earth? We may see it in four things:—

I. In His fulfilling the law.—The law said all males were to attend the three great feasts at Jerusalem. They were not be afraid of leaving home (Exodus 34:24; Deuteronomy 16:16). He had been circumcised, and now, at twelve years, keeps the Passover. Thus early does He show obedience to His heavenly Father (1 Samuel 15:22; Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:14; Psalms 119:35).

II. In His loving God’s house and teaching.—After the caravan has gone one day’s journey, Christ is missing (Luke 2:44-45). Where is He found? (Luke 2:46; Psalms 27:4; Psalms 63:1-2; Psalms 84:10). We often lose sight of Him in the world, and find Him in the sanctuary (see Illustration). But what is He doing there? (Luke 2:46). ‘Hearing and asking’ (2 Timothy 2:15). Thus early does He show a thirst for heavenly things.

III. In His obeying His parents (Luke 2:51).—‘He went down with them, and was subject unto them’ (Ephesians 5:21; Ephesians 6:1-2). He seems to have followed Joseph’s trade (Mark 6:3). ‘A son honoureth his father’ (Malachi 1:6). What does the Bible teach us about this? (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3; Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 4:20-22; Proverbs 23:22; Colossians 3:20). From His earliest years was Jesus obedient to His parents.

IV. In His advancing in grace.—We must not forget that our Lord was ‘perfect man’; and so, as His mind unfolded itself, He increased in wisdom (Proverbs 4:1-13). But further, in favour with God (Colossians 1:10; 2 Peter 3:18). That is the chief point (2 Corinthians 5:9). In favour with man—that will follow (Acts 7:9-10; Romans 14:18).

What an example is there here! His teachableness (Isaiah 50:4). His obedience (John 4:34). His love (John 13:34). Jesus says, ‘Follow Me.’

—Bishop Rowley Hill.


‘Perhaps some have felt that, amid all the questions and controversies of the day, the personal love of the Lord Jesus seems to have slipped away from them altogether. Now if this be the case, remember, again, the perplexity of Joseph and His mother. They lost Him, and they were greatly upset; but they found Him. Was He among their kinsfolk and acquaintance? No. Many of us may go to those whom we know by relationship and ask questions about religion and get chilled. Let us go back to the old blessings of communion with the Saviour. If you want to get back to a personal love of your Saviour and to a knowledge that He is near you and dear to you, and you are dear to Him, go back to Jerusalem, and get into the Temple, and you will find Him there. A very celebrated and learned scientist said: “I have given up religion now for nearly thirty years, but somehow or other when I kneel down and say prayers that my mother taught me I feel at home with God.” Get back to the Temple—to Jerusalem. Give yourselves a chance amid the associations that are replete with God. Let the old music of the Psalms, which the Lord must have heard, call you back to your true home and to your true love—your Saviour.’

Verse 46


‘They found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and askimg them questions.’

Luke 2:46

Though but one incident in the early life of Jesus is recorded, that one is particularly charming and valuable, and deserves to be studied with a special interest and assiduity especially by the young.

I. His attachment to the house of God.—The Temple was the dwelling-place of the Most High. Here Jesus delighted to resort, finding true pleasure in the precincts of His Father’s house.

II. His delight in the society of God’s people.—He was found in the company of the learned, wise, and pious.

III. His disposition to converse upon high and sacred themes.—It is not upon record what was the subject of conversation between Jesus and the doctors, but there can be no doubt they held discourse concerning Scripture characters and history.

IV. His delight in the service of God.—His Father’s work and business engaged the thoughts and occupied the activities of Jesus, and this even when he was but twelve years old.


‘It was at twelve years old that Jewish boys came personally under the obligations of the law of Moses. Up to that age they had been treated as children, taught by their parents at home, but not yet expected to obey the harder precepts, such as fasting, or attending at Jerusalem at the three great feasts of the year. But at twelve years old they were called “Sons of the Law” or “Sons of the Precept”; and this signified that they now entered upon the second stage of life, and were no longer mere children. Henceforth they were old enough to have knowledge of their own, and to obey for themselves.’

Verse 49


‘Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’

Luke 2:49

The lessons to be drawn from this incident are sufficiently obvious. Work is a condition of life. It is in itself one of its most ennobling conditions, raising us as it does into closest union with God, Who is ever still and yet ever active.

I. The work that God has given us.—The first thing we must be absolutely sure about is that our work is the work God has sent us into the world to do. Christ makes no difference between sacred and secular. The broad line often drawn between the two is misleading and fictitious. So it is as necessary for you as it is for me and my brother clergy to be quite sure that the work we are engaged in is the Father’s work. This truth should help us in our choice of work, and, may I add, in our choice of work for our sons and our daughters. It ought to help us also in our choice of partners for life. For man God has provided a helpmeet; but how shall a Christian woman be a helpmeet in work which is not the Father’s?

II. To be done in the Father’s way.—We must be trying to do the work in the Father’s way, as did our Lord in obedience to His will, with diligence and sustained effort. Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, and it is the deadliest of all deadly sins because it is the mother of all the rest, and a very prolific mother too. Self-control, punctuality, obedience to the rules of the establishment we are in, consideration for others, promptness in the performance of our duty, doing the best for those who are set over us because we are trying to do the best for Him Who is over us and them: thus and thus alone can we look up to the Father’s face.

III. Work with disinterestedness.—Our work must be done with disinterestedness. The terrible moral defect of commercial dishonesty pervades all conditions of life, and it strikes at the very root of doing the Father’s work in His own way, and for the greater glory of God. If only on each morning as we go to our various works we would realise that we are bent upon the Father’s work, that we have to do it in His way and for His glory, how much will the example of even one among us be able to do towards the purifying of what, I fear, is a very trough of iniquity!

IV. Work for eternity.—We need to remember that we are working for eternity. Obstacles will appear, difficulties will manifest themselves; but if only we are assured that we are doing God’s work and trying to do it in His way, for His glory, then we may be quite sure these difficulties will be overruled for our good, and we shall be enabled to persevere.

—Rev. Canon C. E. Brooke.


‘Weak and imperfect men shall, notwithstanding their frailties and defects, be received, as having pleased God, if they have done their utmost to please Him. The rewards of charity, piety, and humility will be given to those whose lives have been a careful labour to exercise these virtues in as high a degree as they could. We cannot offer to God the service of angels; we cannot obey Him as man in a state of perfection could; but fallen men can do their best, and this is the perfection that is required of us; it is only the perfection of our best endeavours, a careful labour to be as perfect as we can. But if we stop short of this, for aught we know, we stop short of the mercy of God, and leave ourselves nothing to plead from the terms of the Gospel. For God has there made no promises of mercy to the slothful and negligent. His mercy is only offered to our frail and imperfect, but best endeavours, to practise all manner of righteousness.’



The first recorded utterance of our Lord is precious, because it tells so much about the after life of Him Who spake it.

I. It strikes the keynote of His life.—It foretells what He had come to do, and how He would do it. It is a revelation of character as well as a promise of future conduct. He came not to be idle, but to work.

II. It tells of the dignity of the life He was to live. It was His Father’s business, and His work was not only His duty but His delight. To please His Father must needs be His one aim and endeavour.

III. It tells the spirit in which He lived and worked.—‘I must.’ He was determined, brave, resolute. He must do it, whatever the cost might be.

IV. We may learn the true purpose of life for which God has intended us. Each has a work to do for God for which we must give account. There is a niche for each of us to fill. If we leave the work undone it will not be done at all.

Bishop C. J. Ridgeway.


(1) ‘To do our “Father’s business” here

In humble reverence and fear,

Meekly upon His will to wait

In little things as well as great,

Contented in our lot to rest,

’Tis thus the Christian serves Him best.’

(2) ‘Always be about your Heavenly Father’s business. Remember that you are a Christian, whatever you are about; and in your most common actions you can be improving in the great concern of your soul. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”’

Verse 51-52


‘And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.… And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’

Luke 2:51-52

In this glorious life of the Lord let us trace some lessons which may enable us the better to ‘fight the good fight.’ See three things—submission, work, growth.

I. Submission.—He was ‘subject’—obedient—‘unto them.’ The characteristic virtue of childhood, its natural and necessary condition. The Apocryphal Gospels are full of marvels said to have been done by the Child Jesus at work or at play. Of such things Holy Scripture knows nothing. They would have been out of keeping with the laws of childhood, and ‘it became Him,’ Who took our nature upon Him, ‘to fulfil all righteousness.’ Every life has its times of Nazareth, its call for daily, hourly submission to the wills, the ‘ways’ of others. The happiness or misery of life depends largely on the use of such opportunities. Since family life is an essential part of human probation, the Lord has left us herein an example that we should follow His steps.

II. Work.—We know that the Lord shared the daily toil of the carpenter. Doing each day’s work in its appointed time—be the work what it may—fitted Him for the future when the work was different. Surely the lesson is not what do you do, but how do you do it?

III. Growth.—Here we tread on more difficult ground. Two things seem clear amid the darkness:—

(a) We must remember when we speak of growth that it does not necessarily imply imperfection. The child is not to blame because he is not a man all at once. It is the law of his being to grow. He lives by growth. Up to his measure he may be perfectly developed; but that measure, that capacity is continually expanding. And since all true growth, according to His own Divine law, must always be pleasing to God, it is but natural to read of the increase of Divine favour that accompanied the increase in wisdom as in bodily stature.

(b) Nothing can be more plain than this, that the Lord’s humanity was real indeed. Every line of the Gospels tell us this.

Verse 52


‘Jesus increased in wisdom.’

Luke 2:52

The Gospels do not give us, nor do they attempt to give us, a detailed history of our Lord’s wondrous life. A few stories of the infancy, one lovely little narrative of the Child among the doctors, an outline sketch of the brief activities of the last three years—this, strangely enough, is absolutely all that our authorities supply. By far the greater portion of the life of our blessed Lord is a simple blank.

And yet, after all, can we say nothing of those hidden years? May we not, at least with a reasonable probability, conjecture somewhat of the blossoming and unfolding of Christ’s perfect life? Is it not possible from His later words and actions to divine just a little of what went before?

In following this path, we must tread with caution. We cannot believe that the mind of the Man, Who is also God, can have opened, enlarged, matured in precisely the way that merely human minds mature. We cannot admit that, even in the days of His flesh, the inner experience of Christ was exactly the same as ours. Surely from the very beginning He must have had some special, some Divine endowment—some consciousness at least of His unique relation to His heavenly Father—which it is not given to mere man to harbour. And yet, however carefully we may guard the statement, the indubitable fact remains that Jesus grew. There was nothing portentous about Him. Sin only excepted, He was perfectly human. Hallowing all the stages of our human progress, the Lord Incarnate, with the ripening of His years, ‘increased in wisdom.’

‘Jesus increased in wisdom.’

I. Through intercourse with books.—He was not what the people of the period would have called a scholar. He never was sent to a rabbinic college, or sat, like St. Paul, as a regular pupil in ‘the House of the Midrash.’ He was only a poor countryman. Yet you must not conceive the fancy that our Saviour was untaught. The Jews of His day were exceedingly zealous in the cause of education. Some kind of instruction, therefore, Jesus surely had. And, moreover, He studied. He was thoroughly acquainted with the history, the law, the poetry of His people; He was not unversed even in the curious learning of the scribal schools. At a later time, indeed, men said to one another, in astonishment at His wisdom, ‘Is not this the Carpenter? Whence hath this Man these things?’ But let us go still further. Research can point out for our edification what were the very books the Master studied while he lived on earth. The beginning of His training was, undoubtedly, the law, and the first text that He ever learned was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. As a very little child, almost as soon as He could speak, He was taught by His mother to repeat by heart that solemn affirmation of the unity of God and the absolute devotion that His people owe Him. ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ That was our Lord’s first text. As He grew older He mastered other passages, and from the age of twelve He was accustomed, like every other pious Jew, to recite each morning and evening a portion of nineteen verses, selected from the Books of Deuteronomy and Numbers. But the books ascribed to Moses were not the only ones that Jesus knew. He must have been familiar with the earlier histories of the Bible and with several of the prophets—with Jeremiah and Hosea, with Jonah and Zechariah and Malachi. But the favourites of all—the books which our Lord pre-eminently studied and most dearly loved—appear to have been three. The first was the hymn-book of the synagogue, the Psalms. And the second was Isaiah, particularly that part which tells of that innocent Servant of Jehovah Who ‘hath borne our griefs,’ Who ‘was bruised for our iniquities,’ and by Whose ‘stripes we are healed.’ The third was the prophet Daniel. These three—so far as it is possible to form a judgment—were the chosen books of Jesus.

II. Through intercourse with nature.—His eyes were continually open to the glories of nature round Him, and His mind was peculiarly sensitive to the truths that nature taught. The wholesome air of the hills and fields of Galilee breathes ever in His utterance. Nor shall we wonder at it when we recall the fact that Nazareth itself, no doubt, was a mean enough place, yet spreading all round were lands of such rich fertility that an old-time traveller likened them to Paradise. Here were green gardens and luxuriant cornfields. Here was abundance of olives and fig-trees and vines. Here, too, were streams, and variegated flowers, and herbs of sweet perfume. Above and behind the town there rose a hill, which Jesus in His youth must many a time have climbed. And from its summit one might gaze on a magnificent panorama of plain and vine-clad valley, of mountain-peaks and river gorge, and the blue of a distant sea. For thirty years it was the prospect of our Lord.

III. Through intercourse with men and women.—Our Lord was not denied such means of self-education as companionship affords. He never was a solitary. He loved, indeed, the quietness of the deserts and the hills, but He also loved the breathing crowds, the eager populations of the villages and towns, the busy life of the streets. He was bred, you must remember, in a country town. At fountain and in market-place He mingled with the people, and with searching, questioning gaze He studied them. The farmer, the slave, the officer of justice, the dealer in pearls on the sea, the long-robed Pharisee and the anxious housewife, the labourer waiting to be hired, and the criminal dragging along his heavy cross—all the types He knew. And was it not fitting that He Who became pre-eminently the Friend of man should first Himself have gained experience of man? Was it not right that He Who became, as no other may become, man’s Teacher, should first have taught Himself by accurate observation what man’s spirit is? For thirty years Jesus sat patiently with open eyes and watched the world pass by. ‘He needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.’

IV. Other influences.—Let us notice two of the most important of these human influences on the growing life of Jesus.

(a) The home. May we not imagine that the beautiful allusions which our Saviour later made to family life and family affection were tinged with the colour of a tender reminiscence? and, further, that His doctrine of service, of mutual subjection and subordination in love, embalmed some experiences of those early years, when He Himself was subject to His ‘parents,’ and was glad to do their will?

(b) The synagogue. Here ruled the Pharisees. Sabbath by Sabbath Jesus would listen to their skilled disputes, mark their fantastic explanations of the law, hear them expound, with deep yet childish wisdom, their favourite dogmas of a resurrection, predestination, of the coming Messiah and the triumph of Jehovah. And as He listened to those earthly teachers, what trains of Divine ideas must have swept with an awful grandeur through the temple of His soul! Yet still He waited quietly for thirty years—listened, and learned, and pondered while the doctors taught. Then, at the very last, He went His way, sweeping aside the chaff and dust of Rabbinism, bursting the fetters of its forms outworn, and pouring from the depths of His immeasurable consciousness a doctrine fresh as the light, sublime as the heaven, Divine as God.

Rev. F. Homes Dudden.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 2:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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