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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Luke 2

 

 

Verse 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.

And it came to pass in those days - a general reference to the foregoing transactions, particularly the birth of John, which preceded that of our Lord by about six months (Luke 1:26).

That there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus - the first of the Roman emperors --

That all the world - that is, the Roman empire; so called as being now virtually world-wide.

Should be taxed - or 'enrolled,' or 'register themselves.'


Verse 2

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) - a very perplexing verse, inasmuch as Cyrenius, or Quirinus, appears not to have been governor of Syria for about 10 years after the birth of Christ, and the taxing under his administration was what led to the insurrection alluded to in Acts 5:37 (cf. Josephus, Ant. 18: 1. 1). That Augustus took steps toward introducing uniform taxation throughout the empire, has been proved beyond dispute (by Savigny, the highest authority on the Roman law); and candid critics, even of sceptical tendency, are forced to allow that no such glaring anachronism as the words, on the first blush of them, seem to imply, was likely to be fallen into by a writer so minutely accurate on Roman affairs as our Evangelist shows himself, in the Acts, to be. Some superior scholars would render the words thus: 'This registration was previous to Cyrenius being governor of Syria.' In this case, of course, the difficulty vanishes. But, as this is a very precarious sense of the word [ prootee (Greek #4413)], it is better, with others, to understand the Evangelist to mean; that though the registration was now ordered with a view to the taxation, the taxing itself-an obnoxious measure in Palestine-was not carried out until the time of Quirinus.


Verse 3

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city - i:e., the city of his extraction, according to the Jewish custom; not of his abode, which was the usual Roman method.


Verse 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:)

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David.) The transfer from the one province to the other, and from the one city to the other, is carefully noted.


Verse 5

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife - `betrothed' "wife." She had sometime before this been taken home by Joseph (see the notes at Matthew 1:18-24); but she is so called here, perhaps, for the reason mentioned home by Joseph (see the notes at Matthew 1:18-24); but she is so called here, perhaps, for the reason mentioned in Matthew 1:25.

Being great with child. Not only does Joseph, as being of the royal line, go to Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:1), but Mary too; not from choice, surely, in her tender condition. It is possible that in this they simply followed the Roman method, of the wife accompanying the husband; but the more likely reason would seem to be that she herself was of the family of David.


Verse 6

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Mary had up to this time been living at the wrong place for Messiah's birth. A little longer stay at Nazareth, and the prophecy of His birth at Bethlehem, would have failed. But, lo! with no intention on her part-much less on the part of Caesar Augustus-to fulfill the prophecy, she is brought from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and at that very nick of time her period for delivery arrives.


Verse 7

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And she brought forth her first-born son (see the note at Matthew 1:25), and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him - that is, the mother herself did so. Had she then none to assist her in such circumstances? All we can say is, it would seem so.

In a manger - or crib, in which was placed the horses' food, because there was no room for them in the inn - a square erection, open inside, where travelers put up, and whose back parts were used as stables. The ancient tradition, that our Lord was born in a grotto or cave, is quite consistent with this, the country being rocky. In Mary's condition the Journey would be a slow one, and before they arrived the inn would be preoccupied-affecting anticipation of the reception He was throughout to meet with (John 1:11).

`Wrapped in His swaddling bands, And in His manger laid, The hope and glory of all lands

Is come to the world's aid. No peaceful home upon His cradle smiled, Guests rudely went and came where slept the royal Child. (KEBLE) But some 'guests went and came,' not 'rudely,' but reverently. God sent visitors of His own to pay court to the newborn King.

Remarks:

(1) Caesar Augustus had his own ends to serve in causing steps to be taken for a general census of his kingdom. But God had ends in it too, and infinitely higher. Augustus must bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and bring them just before the time for the Virgin's delivery, that the mark of His Son's birthplace, which He had set up seven centuries before, might not be missed. Even so must Pharaoh dream, that Joseph might be summoned from prison to read it; and dream such a dream as required Joseph's elevation to be governor of all Egypt, in order to the fulfillment of divine predictions (Genesis 40:1-23, etc.); and king Ahasuerus must pass a sleepless night, and beguile the weary hours with the chronicles of the kingdom, and read there of his obligations to Mordecai for the preservation of his life, in order that at the moment when he was to be sacrificed he might be lifted into a position to save his whole people (Esther 6:1-14); and Belshazzar must dream, and his dream must pass from him, and the wise men of Babylon must be required both to tell and to interpret it on pain of death, and all of them fail, in order that Daniel, by doing both, might be promoted along with his companions, for the present good and ultimate deliverance of his people, (Daniel 2:1-49, etc.)

(2) In the Roman edict, which brought the Jews of Palestine to their several tribal towns, we see one of the badges of their lost independence. The splendour of the theocracy was now going fast down: but this was doubtless divinely ordered, that the new glory of Messiah's kingdom, which it dimly shadowed forth, might the more strikingly appear.

(3) Our Evangelist simply records the fact, that the newborn Babe of Bethlehem was laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn; leaving his readers from age to age to their own reflections on so stupendous a dispensation. 'Thou camest,' exclaims Dr. Hall, 'to Thine own, and Thine own received thee not: how can it trouble us to be rejected of the world, which is not ours?'


Verse 8

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field (staying there, probably in huts or tents), keeping watch , [ fulassontes (Greek #5442) fulakas (Greek #5438) tees (Greek #3588) nuktos (Greek #3571)] - rather, 'keeping the night watches,' or taking their turn of watching "by night." From this most critics, since Lightfoot, conclude that the time which, since the fourth century, has been ecclesiastically fixed upon for the celebration of Christ's birth-the 25th of December, or the midst of the rain season-cannot be the true time, as the shepherds drove their flocks about the spring or Passover time out to the fields, and remained out with them all summer, under cover of huts or tents, returning with them late in the autumn. But recent travelers tell us that in the end of December, after the rains, the flowers come again into bloom, and the flocks again issue forth. The nature of the seasons in Palestine could hardly have been unknown to those who fixed upon the present Christmas-period: the difficulty, therefore, is perhaps more imaginary than real.

But leaving this question undecided, another of some interest may be asked-Were these shepherds chosen to have the first sight of the blessed Babe without any respect to their own state of mind? That, at least, is not God's way. No doubt, as Olshausen remarks, they were, like Simeon (Luke 2:25), among the waiters for the Consolation of Israel; and if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Saviour, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. Thus was Nathanael engaged, all alone but not unseen, under the fig tree, in unconscious preparation for his first interview with Jesus. (See the note at John 1:48.) So was the rapt seer on his lonely rock "in the spirit on the Lord's day," little thinking that this was his preparation for hearing behind him the trumpet-voice of the Son of Man, (Revelation 1:10, etc.) But if the shepherds in his immediate neighbourhood had the first, the sages from afar had t he next sight of the newborn King. Even so still, simplicity first, science next, finds its way to Christ. Whom,

`In quiet ever and in shade Shepherd and Sage may find; They who have bowed untaught to Nature's sway, And they who follow Truth along her star-pav'd way.' (KEBLE)


Verse 9

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord - `the brightness or glory which is represented as encompassing all heavenly visions,' to use the words of Olshausen,

And they were sore afraid. See the note at Luke 1:12.


Verse 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.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not (see the note at Luke 1:13); for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people , [ panti (Greek #3956) too (Greek #3588) laoo (Greek #2992)] - or rather, 'to the whole people;' meaning the chosen people of Israel, but only to be by them afterward extended to the whole world, as a message of "good will to men" (Luke 2:14).


Verse 11

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ; the Lord. Every word here contains transporting intelligence from heaven. For whom provided? "To you" - shepherds, Israel, mankind. Who is provided? "A SAVIOUR." What is He? "CHRIST THE LORD." How introduced into the world? He "is born" - as said the prophet, "Unto us a child is born" (Isaiah 9:6); "the Word was made flesh" (John 1:14). When? "This Day." Where? "In the city of David." In the predicted line, and at the predicted spot, where prophecy bade us look for Him and faith accordingly expected Him. How dear to us should be these historical mornings of our faith, with the loss of which all historical Christianity vanishes! By means of them how many have been kept from making shipwreck, and have attained to a certain admiration of Christ, before yet they have fully "beheld His glory"! Nor does the angel say that One is born who shall be a Saviour, but He "is born a Saviour;" adding, "which is CHRIST THE LORD." 'Magnificent appellation!' exclaims devout Bengel. Alford notices that these words come together nowhere else, and sees no way of understanding this "Lord" but as corresponding to the Hebrew Yahweh (Hebrew #3068).


Verse 12

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And this shall be a sign, [ to (G3588) seemeion (G4592), 'the sign,'] unto you; Ye shall find the babe , [ brefos (Greek #1025)] - 'a Babe.' Pity that our translators so often insert the definite article where it is emphatically wanting in the original, and omit it where in the original it is emphatically inserted.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Here the article, though existing in the received text, ought not to be there, having but weak authority: our translators, therefore, are right here. The sign, it seems, was to consist solely in the over-powering contrast between the lofty things just said of Him and the lowly condition in which they would find Him. 'Him whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, ye shall find a Babe: Whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain ye shall find "wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger!"' Thus, early were those amazing contrasts, which are His chosen style, held forth. (See 2 Corinthians 8:9.)


Verse 13

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

And suddenly - as if eager to break in as soon as the last words of the wonderful tidings had dropped from their fellow's lips,

There was with the angel - not in place of him; because he does not retires, and is only joined by others, come to seal and to celebrate the tidings which he was honoured first to announce,

A multitude of heavenly host - or, 'army;' 'An army,' as Bengel quaintly remarks, 'celebrating peace!' come down to let it be known here how this great event is regarded in heaven: "praising God and saying,"


Verse 14

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men - brief but transporting hymn, not only in articulate human speech for our behoof, but in tunable measure in, the fore of a Hebrew parallelism of two complete members, and a third one, as we take it, only explaining and amplifying the second, and so without the connecting "and." The "glory to God" which the newborn Saviour was to bring is the first note of this exalted hymn, and was sounded forth probably by one detachment of the choir. To this answers the "peace on earth," of which He was to be the Prince (Isaiah 9:6), probably sung responsively by a second detachment of the celestial choir; while quick follows the glad echo of this note - "good will to men" - by a third detachment, we may suppose, of these angelic choristers. Thus:

First division of the celestial choir --

"GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST"

Second --

"AND ON EARTH PEACE"

Third --

"GOOD WILL TO MEN"

Peace with God is the grand necessity of a fallen world. To bring in this, in whose train comes all other peace worthy of the name, was the prime errand of the Saviour to this earth. This effected, Heaven's whole "good will to men" or the divine complacency [ eudokia (Greek #2107), cf. Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:9; Philippians 2:13, etc.] descends now on a new footing to rest upon men, even as upon the Son Himself, "in "whom God is well pleased" [ eudokeesa (Greek #2106), Matthew 3:17]. Bengel notices that they say not 'glory to God in heaven,'-but using a rare expression - "in the highest" heavens [ en (Greek #1722) hupsistois (Greek #5310)], where angels do not aspire (Hebrews 1:3-4). [The reading, 'to men of good will' - en (Greek #1722) anthroopois (Greek #444) eudokias (Greek #2107) - is introduced into the text by Tischendorf and Tregelles, after Lachmann-on the authority of the Alexandrian and Beza manuscripts (A and D); but chiefly on the strength of the Latin versions, and from the difficulty of accounting for so uncommon a reading occurring at all if not genuine. In this case the sense will still be agreeable to Scripture doctrine-`to men of (His, that is, God's) good will,' or the objects of the divine complacency; not as the Romish Church, after the Vulgate, take it to mean, 'to men of good disposition.' But the great preponderance of manuscripts and versions is in favour of the received reading; nor will the objections to it, as spoiling the rhythm, appear of the least force in the view we have given of it above, but just the reverse. DeWette, Meyer Alford, and Van Osterzee, are decidedly in favour of the received reading.]


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, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds [ hoi (Greek #3588) anthroopoi (Greek #444) hoi (Greek #3588) poimenes (Greek #4166)] - 'the men, the shepherd,' in contract with the angelic party,

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. Lovely simplicity of devoutness and faith this! They say not, Let us go and see if this be true-for they have no misgivings-but, "Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." Does not this confirm the view we have given (at Luke 1:8) of the previous character of these humble shepherds? Nor are they taken up with the angels, the glory that invested them, and the lofty strains with which they filled the air. It is the Wonder itself, the Babe of Bethlehem, that absorbs these devout shepherds.


Verse 16

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And they came with haste (see the notes at Luke 1:39; Matthew 28:8), and found Mary - `mysteriously guided,' says Olshausen, 'to the right place through the obscurity of the night,'

And Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger - [ en (Greek #1722) tee (Greek #3588) fatnee (Greek #5336)] 'the manger', of which the angel had told them.


Verse 17

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child - that is, as is evident from Luke 2:20, before they left the neighbourhood. And so they were, as Bengel remarks, the first evangelists; having, indeed, no commission, but feeling with Peter and John, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."


Verse 18

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.


Verse 19

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [or 'revolved'] them in her heart - seeking to gather from them, in combination, what light she could as to the future of this wondrous Babe of hers.


Verse 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.

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 word for "praising" [ ainountes (Greek #134)] - used of the song of the angels (Luke 2:13), and in Luke 19:37; Luke 24:53 - would lead us to suppose that theirs was a song too, and perhaps some canticle from the Psalter; meet vehicle for the swelling emotions of their simple hearts at what "they had seen and heard."

Remarks:

(1) Not in the busy hum of day, but in the profound stillness of night, came these heavenly visitants to the shepherds of Bethlehem. So came the Lord to Abraham (Genesis 15:1-21); and once and again to Jacob, (Genesis 28:1-22; Genesis 32:1-32; Genesis 46:2, etc.) It was in the night season that Jesus Himself was transfigured on the mount. And who can tell what visits of Heaven were paid Him when He spent whole nights alone in prayers? See Psalms 4:4; Psalms 63:6; Psalms 119:55; Psalms 119:62; Psalms 119:147-148; Isaiah 26:9; Job 35:10.

`Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear, It is not night if Thou be near: O may no earth-born cloud arise To hide Thee from thy servant's eyes.

`Abide with me from morn till eve, For without Thee I cannot live: Abide with me when night is nigh,

For without Thee I cannot die.' (-KEBLE)

(2) What a view of heaven is here disclosed to us! As it teems with angels (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 68:17; Psalms 103:20-21; Psalms 148:2; Daniel 7:10; Matthew 26:53; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 5:11), all orderly, harmonious, and vocal, so their uniting principle, the soul of all their harmony, the Object of their chiefest wonder and transport, is the Word made flesh, the Saviour born in the city of David, Christ the Lord. Accordingly, as Moses and Elias, when they appeared in glory on the mount of transfiguration and talked with Him, "spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31); so we are told that "these things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12); and among the wonders of the Incarnation, this is said to be one, that He "was seen of angels" (1 Timothy 3:16). Is this our element upon earth? Would our sudden transportation to heaven bring us to "our own company" (Acts 4:23), and "our own place" - as Judas went to his? (Acts 1:25). By this may all men know whether they be traveling there.

(3) If we would thoroughly sympathize with heaven in its views of Salvation, and be prepared at once to unite in its music, we must take the elements of which salvation consists as heaven here presents them to us. Since the "peace on earth" of which they sing-expounded by that "good will to men" which is its abiding result-means God's own peace, or His "reconciling the world unto Himself by Jesus Christ," we must regard this as the proper spring of all peace between man and man that is thoroughly solid and lasting. And even in experiencing, exemplifying, and diffusing this, let that "glory to God in the highest" which is due on account of the birth into our world of the Prince of peace, and for all that He has done to unite earth to heaven and man to man, be uppermost and first in all our thoughts, affections, and praises.

(4) What wondrous contrasts are those shepherds of Bethlehem invited to contemplate-the Lord of glory, a Babe; Christ the Lord, born; the Son of the Highest, wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger! Yet what was this but a foretaste of like overpowering contrasts of Infinite and finite, divine and human, Fulness and want, Life and death, throughout all His later history upon earth? "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Nor is the Church which He hath purchased with His own blood and erected upon earth a stranger to analogous contrasts.

(5) When the Evangelist says, "It came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven," we are reminded that this was but a momentary visit-sweet but short. Like their Master, they "ascended up where they were before," even as the shepherds returned to their flocks. But the time is coming when they and we shall dwell together. And so shall we all and ever be with the Lord.

(6) Our Evangelist tells us that the shepherds "found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger." But he does not tell us what passed between the visitors and the visited in that rude birthplace of the Son of God. apocryphal gospels would probably manufacture information enough on such topics, and gaping readers would greedily enough drink it in. But the silences of Scripture are as grand and reverend as its disclosures. In this light, when we merely read in the next verse, "And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying that was told them concerning this Child," we feel that there is a Wisdom presiding over these incomparable Narratives, alike in the dropping as in the drawing of the veil, which fills the soul with evergrowing satisfaction.

(7) The shepherds, not lifted off their feet, "returned" - "glorifying and praising God," indeed, but still returned-to their proper business. So Jesus Himself, at twelve years of age, after sitting in the temple among the doctors, and filling all with astonishment at His understanding and His answers, "went down with His parents, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51). Thus should it ever be; and O what a heaven upon earth would this hallowing of earthly occupations and interests and joys and sorrows by heavenly conversations make!


Verse 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.

And when eight days were accomplished (see the note at Luke 1:59) for the circumcising of the child - `for circumcising Him' is the better supported reading,

His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived ... Circumcision was a symbolical and bloody removal of the body of sin (Colossians 2:11; Colossians 2:13; cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:29). But as if to proclaim, in the very act of performing this rite, that there was no body of sin to be removed in His case, but rather that He was the destined Remover of it from others, the name JESUS, in obedience to express command from heaven, was given Him at His circumcision, and given Him "because," as said the angel, "He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). So significant was this, that His circumciser, had he been fully aware of what he was doing, might have said to Him, as John afterward did, "I have need to be circumcised of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" and the answer, in this case as in that, would doubtless have been, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:14-15). Still, the circumcision of Christ had a profound bearing on His own work. For since he that is "circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law" (Galatians 5:3), the circumcised Saviour thus bore about with Him, in His very flesh, the seal of a voluntary obligation to do the whole law-by Him only possible in the flesh, since the fall. But further, as it was only to "redeem (from its curse) them that were under the law," that He submitted at all to be "made under the law" (Galatians 4:4-5; Galatians 3:13), the obedience to which Jesus was bound over was purely a redeeming obedience, or the obedience of a "Saviour." Once more, as it was only by being made a curse for us that Christ could redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13), the circumcision of Christ is to be regarded as a virtual pledge to die; a pledge not only to yield obedience in general, but to be "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).

`Like sacrificial wine Pour'd on a victim's head Are those few precious drops of thine Now first to offering led.' (-KEBLE)


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;

And when the days of her purification. This reading [ autees (Greek #846)] has hardly any support at all. All the best and most ancient manuscripts and versions read 'their purification' [ autoon (Greek #846)] - which some late transcribers had been afraid to write. But whether this is to be understood of mother and Babe together, or of Joseph and Mary, as the parents, the great fact that "we are shapen in iniquity, and in sin by our mothers conceived," which the Levitical rite was designed to proclaim, had no real place, and so could only be symbolically taught, in the present case; since "that which was conceived in the Virgin was of the Holy Spirit," and Joseph was only the Babe's legal father.

According to the law of Moses were accomplished. The days of purification, in the case of a male child, were forty in all (Leviticus 12:2; Leviticus 12:4).

They brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. All the first-born males had been claimed as "holy to the Lord," or set apart to sacred uses, in memory of the deliverance of the first-born of Israel from destruction in Egypt, through the sprinkling of blood (Exodus 13:2). In lieu of these, however, one whole tribe, that of Levi, was accepted, and set apart to occupations exclusively sacred (Numbers 3:11-38); and whereas there were fewer Levites than first-born of all Israel on the first reckoning, each of these supernumerary first-born was to be redeemed by the payment of five shekels but not without being "presented [publicly] unto the Lord," in token of His rightful claim to them and their service. (Numbers 3:44-47; Numbers 18:15-16). It was in obedience to this "law of Moses," that the Virgin presented her Babe unto the Lord, 'in the east gate of the court called Nicanor's Gate, where herself would be sprinkled by the priest with the blood of her sacrifice' [Lightfoot]. By that Babe, in due time, we were to be redeemed, "not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19); and the consuming of the mother's burnt offering, and the sprinkling of her with the blood of her sin offering, were to find their abiding realization in the "living sacrifice" of the Christian mother herself, in the fullness of a "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience" by "the blood which cleanseth from all sin."


Verse 23

(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)


Verse 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.

And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons. The proper sacrifice was a lamb for a burnt offering, and a turtle-dove or young pigeon for a sin offering. But if a lamb could not be afforded, the mother was to bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons; and if even this was beyond the family means, then a portion of fine flour, but without the usual fragrant accompaniments of oil and frankincense, because it represented a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6-8; Leviticus 5:7-11). From this we gather that our Lord's parents were in poor circumstances (2 Corinthians 8:9), and yet not in abject poverty; as they neither brought the lamb, nor availed themselves of the provision for the poorest, but presented the intermediate offering of "a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons."

Remarks:

(1) We have here the first example of that double aspect of Christ's conformity to the law which characterized it throughout. Viewed simply in the light of obedience-an obedience in the highest sense voluntary, and faultlessly perfect-it is for men the model-obedience: He hath left us an example that we should follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21). But as He was made under the law only to redeem them that were under the law, His obedience was more than voluntary-it was strictly self-imposed obedience; and since it is by the obedience of this One that the many are made righteous (Romans 5:19), it had throughout, and in every part of it, a substitutionary character, which made it altogether unique. Since it was human obedience, it is our glorious exemplar: but as it is mediatorial obedience-strictly self-imposed and vicarious-a stranger doth not intermeddle with it. Thus, Christ is at once imitable and inimitable; and-paradoxical though it may sound-it is just the inimitable character of Christ's obedience that puts us in a condition to look at it in its imitable character, with the humble but confident assurance that we shall be able to follow His steps.

(2) That He who was rich should for ourselves have become, in the very circumstances of His birth, so poor that His parents should not have been able to afford a lamb for a burnt offering on His presentation in the temple-is singularly affecting; but that this poverty was not so abject as to awaken the emotion of pity-is one of those marks of Wisdom in the arrangement even of the comparatively trivial circumstances of His history, which bespeak the divine presence in it all, stamp the Evangelical Record with the seal of truth, and call forth devout admiration.


Verse 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.

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon. The attempts that have been made to identify this Simeon with a famous man of the same name, but who died long before, and with the father of Gamaliel, who bore that name, are quite precarious. The name was a common one.

And the same man was just (upright in his moral character), and devout (of a religious frame of spirit), waiting for the consolation of Israel - or, for the Messiah; a beautiful and pregnant title of the promised Saviour:

And the Holy Spirit was upon him - supernaturally. Thus was the Spirit, after a dreary absence of nearly four hundred years, returning to the Church, to quicken expectation and prepare for coming events.


Verse 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.

And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Bengel notices the 'sweet antithesis' here between the two sights-his "seeing the Lord's Christ" before he should "see death." How would the one sight gild the gloom of the other! He was probably by this time advanced in years.


Verse 27

And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

And he came by the Spirit into the temple - the Spirit guiding him, all unconsciously, to the temple at the very moment when the Virgin was about to present the Infant to the Lord. Let it here be observed, once for all, that whenever the priests are said to go, or come, into "the temple," as in Luke 1:9, the word always used [ ho (Greek #3588) naos (Greek #3485)] is that which denotes the temple proper, into which none might enter except the priests; and never is this word used when our Lord, or any not of the priestly family, is said to go into the temple; in such case the word used [ to (Greek #3588) hieron (Greek #2411)] is one of wider signification, denoting any place within the sacred precincts. So here of Simeon.

And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,


Verse 28

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

Then took he him up in his arms - the same Spirit that drew him there revealing to him at once the glory of that blessed Babe. Now, since all that he uttered might as well have been simply pronounced over the Child, there is to be seen in this act of taking Him into his arms a most affecting, personal, and, so to speak, palpable appropriation of this newborn, unconscious, helpless Babe, as "all his salvation and all his desire," which it were a pity we should miss.

And blessed God, and said,


Verse 29

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

Lord. The word is 'Master' [ Despota (Greek #1203)], a word but rarely used in the New Testament, and never but to mark emphatically the sovereign rights of Him who is so called, as Proprietor of the persons or things meant. Here it is selected with special propriety, when the aged saint, feeling that his last object in wishing to live had now been attained, only awaited his Master's word of command to "depart."

Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. Most reader probably take this to be a prayer for permission to depart, not observing that "lettest Thou" is just 'Thou art letting,' or 'permitting thy servant to depart.' It had been clearer as well as more literal thus - "Lord, now art Thou releasing Thy servant" - a placid, reverential intimation that having now "seen the Lord's Christ," his time, divinely indicated, because "seeing death" had arrived, and he was ready to go.


Verse 30

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. How many saw this Child, nay the full-grown "Man, Christ Jesus," who never saw in Him "God's Salvation!" This estimate of Simeon's was an act of pure faith. While gazing upon that infant, borne in his own arms, he "beheld His glory." In another view it was prior faith rewarded by present sight.


Verse 31

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people , [ pantoon (Greek #3956) toon (Greek #3588) laoon (Greek #2992)] - 'of all the peoples,' or mankind at large.


Verse 32

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

A light to lighten the Gentiles (then in thick darkness), and the glory of thy people of Israel - already Thine, and now, in the believing portion of it, to be more gloriously so than ever. It will be observed that this 'swan-like song, bidding an eternal farewell to this terrestrial life,' to use the words of Olshausen, takes a more comprehensive view of the kingdom of Christ than that of Zacharias (cf. Luke 1:68-79), though the kingdom they sing of is one.


Verse 33

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

And Joseph and his mother - or, according to what is probably the true reading here, 'And his father and mother,'

Marvelled at those things which were spoken of him - each successive recognition of the glory of this Babe filling them with fresh wonder.


Verse 34

And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

And Simeon blessed them - the parents, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set , [ keitai (Greek #2749)] - 'lieth,' or, 'is appointed:' compare Isaiah 28:16, "Behold, I lay in Zion," etc. Perhaps, this Infant's lying in his own arms at that moment suggested this sublime allusion.

For the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against. If the latter of these two expressions refer to the determined rejecters of Christ, perhaps the former refers, not to two classes-one "falling" from a higher to a lower, the other "rising" from a lower to a higher state-but to one and the same class of persons who after "falling," through inability to discern the glory of Christ in the days of His flesh, "rose again" when, after the effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost, a new light dawned upon their minds. The like treatment do the claims of Christ experience from age to age.


Verse 35

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also. 'Blessed though thou art among women, thou shalt have thine own deep share of the struggles and sufferings which this Babe is to occasion'-pointing not only to the obloquy to which He would be exposed through life, to those agonies of His on the cross which she was to witness, and to her own desolate condition thereafter, but perhaps also to dreadful alternations of faith and unbelief, of hope and fear regarding Him which she should have to lease through.

That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed - for men's views and decisions regarding Christ are a mirror in which the very thoughts of their hearts are seen.


Verse 36

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

And there was one Anna - or Hannah, a prophetess - another sign that "the last times" in which God was to "pour out His Spirit upon all flesh" were at the door,

The daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser - one of the ten tribes, of whom many were not carried captive, and not a few, particularly of this very tribe, re-united themselves to Judah after the return from Babylon (2 Chronicles 30:11). The distinction of tribes, though practically destroyed by the captivity, was well enough known up to their final dispersion (Romans 11:1; Hebrews 7:14); nor even now is it entirely lost.

She was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity.


Verse 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.

And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years. If this mean that she had been 84 years in a state of widowhood, then, since her married life extended to seven years, she could not now have been lees than 103 years old, even though she had married at the age of twelve, the earliest marriageable age of Jewish females. But probably the meaning is that her whole present age was 84, of which there had been but seven years of a married life.

Which departed not from the temple - that is, at any of the stated hours of day-service, and was found there even during the night-services of the temple-watchmen (see Psalms 134:1-2);

But served God - the word here used denotes religious services, with fastings and prayers night and day.

It is this statement about Anna that appears to have suggested to the apostle his description of the "widow indeed and desolate," that she "trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day" (1 Timothy 5:5).


Verse 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.

And she coming in that instant , [ epistasa (Greek #2186)] - rather, 'standing by' or 'presenting herself;' for she had been there already. When Simeon's testimony to the blessed Babe was dying away, she was ready to take it up.

Gave thanks likewise unto the Lord , [ anthoomologeito (Greek #437)] - rather, 'gave thanks in turn,' or responsively to Simeon,

And spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. The reading, adopted by recent critics, 'the redemption of Jerusalem,' has not, as we think, sufficient authority. The meaning appears to be, 'She spake of Him to all them in Jerusalem that were looking for redemption,' meaning, the expectants of Messiah who were then in the city. Saying in effect-In that Babe are wrapt up all your expectations. If this took place at the hour of prayer, it would account, as Alford remarks, for her having such an audience as the words imply.


Verse 39

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord they returned into Galilee And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. Are we to conclude from this that the parents of Jesus went straight back to Nazareth from these temple scenes, and that the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, and the return thence, recorded by Matthew (Matthew 2:1-23), all took place before the presentation of the Babe in the temple? So some think, but in our judgment very unnaturally. To us it seems far more natural to suppose that the presentation in the temple took place during the residence of the parents at Bethlehem, where they appear at first to have thought it their duty henceforth to reside (see the note at Matthew 2:22). In this case all that is recorded by Luke in the preceding verses was over before the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. Nor is there any difficulty in Luke's saying here, that "when they had performed all they returned to Galilee." If, indeed, we had no account of any intermediate transactions, we should of course conclude that they went straight from Jerusalem to Nazareth. But if we have reason to believe that the whole transactions of Matthew 2:1-23 occurred in the interval, we have only to conclude that our Evangelist, having no information to communicate to his readers between those events, just passes them by. A precisely similar, and at least equally important, omission by Matthew himself occurs at Luke 4:12 (on which see note).


Verse 40

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit - His mental development keeping pace with His bodily:

Filled with wisdom - yet a fullness ever enlarging with His capacity to receive it;

And the grace of God - the divine favour,

Was upon him - resting upon Him, manifestly and increasingly. Compare Luke 2:52. [Tischendorf and Tregelles omit pneumati (Greek #4151) - "in spirit," but, as we think, on insufficient authority.]

Remarks:

(1) Now began to be fulfilled that beautiful prediction-uttered as an encouragement to rebuild the temple after the captivity - "I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord Hosts: the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Haggai 2:7; Haggai 2:9). The special glory of the first temple was wholly wanting in the second. "The ark of the covenant, overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant, and over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat" - all these had been lost, and the impossibility of recovering them was keenly felt. By what other "glory" was the second temple to eclipse the first? Not certainly by its architectural and ornamental beauty; and if not, what greater glory had it than the first, except this only, that the Lord of the temple in human flesh came into it, bringing peace?

(2) By what glorious premonitions of future greatness was the Infancy of Christ distinguished-fitted to arrest the attention, to quicken the expectation, and to direct the views of all who were waiting for the Consolation of Israel!

(3) To be prepared to welcome death as the peaceful release of a servant by his divine Master, in the (3) To be prepared to welcome death as the peaceful release of a servant by his divine Master, in the conscious enjoyment of His salvation, is the frame of all others most befitting the aged saint.

(4) The reception or rejection of Christ is in every age the great test of real character.

(5) How richly rewarded was Anna for the assiduousness with which she attended all the temple-services! Not only was she privileged in consequence to behold the Infant Saviour, and to give public thanks to the Lord for so precious a gift, but she got an audience of devout worshippers to hear her, to whom, as expectants of the coming Redemption, she spake of Him, proclaiming Him the Hope and Consolation of Israel.

(6) How beautiful is age when mellowed, as in Simeon and Anna, by a devout and heavenly spirit, and gladdened with the joy of God's salvation!

(7) Those whose hearts are full of Christ will hardly be able to refrain, whether they be male or female, from speaking of Him to others, as did Anna here.

After following with rapt interest the minute details of the Redeemer's Birth and Infancy, one is loath see the curtain suddenly drop, to be but once raised, and disclose but one brief scene, before His 30th year. How curiosity yearns for more, may be seen by the puerile and degrading information regarding the boyhood of Jesus, with which some of the apocryphal gospels pandered to the vicious taste of that class of Christians for which they were written. What a contrast to these are our Four Gospels, whose historical chastity, as Olshausen well says, chiefly discovers their divine character. As all great and heroic characters, whether of ancient or of modern times, have furnished glimpses in early life of their commanding future, so it was meet, perhaps, that something of this nature should distinguish the Youth of Jesus. One incident is given: one, to show what budding glory, the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, lay concealed for nearly thirty years under a lowly Nazarene roof; and but one, that the life of secret preparation and patient waiting for public work might not draw off that attention which should be engrossed with the work itself, and that edification might be imparted rather than curiosity fed. In this view of it, let us reverently approach that most wonderful scene, of our Lord's first visit to Jerusalem, since the time that He was carried there a Babe hanging upon His mother's breast.


Verse 41

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

Now has parents went , [ eporeuonto (Greek #4198)] - 'were wont' or, 'used to go'

To Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. Though the males only were required to go up to Jerusalem at the three annual festivals (Exodus 23:14-17), devout women, when family duties permitted, went also. So did Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7), and, as here appears, the mother of Jesus.


Verse 42

And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. At the age of twelve every Jewish boy was called 'a son of the law;' being then put under a course of instruction, and trained to fasting and attendance on public worship, besides being set to learn a trade. About this age the young of both sexes have been in use to appear before the bishop for confirmation, where this rite is practiced; and at this age, in Scotland, they were regarded as examinable by the minister for the first time-so uniform has been the view of the Church, both Jewish and Christian, that about the age of twelve the mind is capable of a higher discipline than before. At this age, then, our Lord is taken up for the first time to Jerusalem, at the Passover-season, the chief of the three annual festivals. But, O, with what thoughts and feelings must this Youth have gone up! Long before He beheld it, He had doubtless "loved the habitation of God's house, and the place where His honour dwelt" (Psalms 26:8); a love nourished, we may be sure, by that "word hid in His heart," with which in after life He showed so perfect a familiarity.

As the time for His first visit approached, one's ear could have caught the breathings of His young soul. He might have heard Him whispering, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem"! (Psalms 42:1; Psalms 87:2; Psalms 122:1-2). On catching the first view of "the city of their solemnities," and high above all in it, "the place of God's rest," we hear Him saying to Himself, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined" (Psalms 48:2; Psalms 50:2). Of His feelings or actions during all the seven days of the feast, not a word is said. As a devout Child, in company with His parents, He would go through the services, keeping His thoughts to Himself; but methinks I hear Him, after the sublime services of that feast, saying to Himself, "He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste" (Song of Solomon 2:3-4).


Verse 43

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

And when they had fulfilled the days (the seven days of the festival); as they returned. Yes, they had to return. For if the duties of life must give place to worship, worship in its turn must give place to them. Jerusalem is good; but Nazareth is good too. Let him then who neglects the one, on pretext of attending to the other, ponder this scene. Work and Worship serve to relieve each other, and beautifully alternate.

The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. Accustomed to the discretion and obedience of the lad, as Olshausen says, they might be thrown off their guard.


Verse 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.

But they, supposing him to have been in the company [ en (G1722) tee (G3588) sunodia (G4923), 'the traveling-company,'] went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. On these sacred journeys whole villages and districts traveled in groups together, partly for protection, partly for company; and as the well-disposed would beguile the tediousness of the way by good discourse, to which the Child Jesus would be no silent listener, they expect to find Him in such a group.


Verse 45

And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.


Verse 46

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple. Do you inquire how he subsisted all this time? I do not. This is one of those impertinences which we should avoid indulging. The spurious gospels, we daresay, would tell their readers all that: how everybody vied with his neighbour who should have Him to keep, and how angels came and fed Him with nectar, or how He needed neither food nor sleep, and so on. But where God has dropt the veil, let us not seek to raise it. Well, they found Him. Where? Not gazing on the architecture of the sacred metropolis, or studying its forms of busy life, but "in the temple" - not of course in the "sanctuary" [ too (Greek #3588) naoo (Greek #3485)], as in Luke 1:9, to which only the priests had access (see the note at Luke 2:27), but in some one of the en-closures around it, where the rabbis, or "doctors," taught their scholars.

Sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. The method of question and answer was the customary form of rabbinical teaching; teacher and learner becoming by turns questioner and answerer, as may be seen from their extant works. This would give full scope for all that "astonished them in His understanding and answers." Not that He assumed the office of teaching - "His hour" for that "was not yet come," and His furniture for that was not complete; because He had yet to "increase in wisdom" as well as "stature" (Luke 2:52). In fact, the beauty of Christ's example lies very much in His never at one stage of His life anticipating the duties of another. All would be in the style and manner of a learner, "opening His mouth and panting-His soul breaking for the longing that it had unto God's judgments at all times," and now more than ever before, when finding Himself for the first time in His Father's house. Still there would be in His questions far more than in their answers; and, if we may take the frivolous interrogatories with which they afterward plied Him-about the woman that had seven husbands and such like-as a specimen of their present drivelling questions, perhaps we shall not greatly err, if we suppose that the "questions," which He now "asked them" in return, were just the germs of these pregnant questions with which He astonished and silenced them in after years: "What think ye of Christ?-Whose Son is He? If David call him Lord, how is he then his son?" - "Which is the first and great commandment?" - "Who is my neighbour?"


Verse 47

And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. This confirms what we have said above, that while His "answers" to their questions made His attitude appear throughout to be that of a learner, "His understanding" peered forth to the amazement of all.


Verse 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.

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. Probably this was said, not before the group, but in private.


Verse 49

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist (knew) ye not that I must be about my Father's business , [ en (Greek #1722) tois (Greek #3588) tou (Greek #3588) Patros (Greek #3962) mou (Greek #3450)]. These, as THE FIRST RECORDED WORDS OF CHRIST, have a special interest, over and above their intrinsic preciousness. They are somewhat elliptical. The meaning may be, as our translators have taken it, 'about my Father's affairs' or 'business' [sc. pragmasin (Greek #4229)]. So Calvin, Beza, Maldonat, de Wette, Alford, Stier, Van Osterzee, etc. Or the sense may be, 'in my Father's house' [sc. oikeemasin (Greek #3612), or doomasin (Greek #1430)]. This latter shade of meaning, besides being the primary one, includes the former. So most of the fathers and of the moderns, Erasmus, Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Meyer, Trench, Webster, and Wilkinson. In His Father's house Jesus felt Himself at home, breathing His own proper air, and His words convey a gentle rebuke of their obtuseness in requiring Him to explain this. 'Once here, thought ye I should so readily hasten away? Let ordinary worshippers be content to keep the feast and be gone; but is this all ye have learnt of Me? Methinks we are here let into the holy privacies of Nazareth; for sure what He says they should have known He must have given them ground to know. She tells Him of the sorrow with which His father and she had sought Him. He speaks of no father but one, saying, in effect, 'My Father has not been seeking Me; I have been with Him all this time; the King hath brought me into His chambers: His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace Me (Song of Solomon 1:4; Song of Solomon 2:6). How is it that ye do not understand (Mark 8:21)?'


Verse 50

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. Probably He had never said so much to them, and so they were confounded; though it was but the true interpretation of many things which they had seen and heard from Him at home. We have an example of this way of speaking in John 14:4-5, where the disciples are presumed to know more than had been told them in so many words.


Verse 51

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them ... This is added lest it should be thought that He now threw off the filial yoke, and became henceforth His own master, and theirs too. The marvel of such condescension as this verse records lies in its coming after such a scene, and such an assertion of His higher Sonship; and the words are evidently meant to convey this.

But his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. After this it will be observed that Joseph entirely disappears from the Sacred Narrative. Henceforth, it is always "His mother and His brethren." From this it is inferred, that before the next appearance of our Lord in the History Joseph had died. Having now served it, he double end of being the protector of our Lord's Virgin-mother, and affording Himself the opportunity of presenting a matchless pattern of subjection to both parents, he is silently withdrawn from the stage.


Verse 52

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature. So our translators have rendered the word [ heelikia (Greek #2244)], with Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Meyer. But it may be rendered 'age'; and so the Vulgate, Erasmus, Calvin, DeWette, Olshausen, Alford, Webster and Wilkinson, Van Osterzee, and the best interpreters. Probably this latter idea is the one intended; as filling up, by a general expression, the long interval until the age at which He emerged from this mysterious privacy.

And in favour with God and man. (See the note at Luke 2:40.) This is all the record we have of the next 18 years of that wondrous life.

Remarks:

(1) Those who love the habitation of God's house and the place where His honour dwelleth, will not be ready to take advantage of permitted absence from it, but, like the mother of Jesus, be found there at all stated seasons when necessary duties allow.

(2) The children of Christian parents are the children of the Church; they should be early taught to feel this, and-like the Child Jesus-trained to early attendance on its public ordinances and more private arrangements for instruction and edification.

(3) One of the most decisive marks of early piety is a delight in the gates of Zion. And if we cannot attain to all that was in the mind of Jesus, when in language so remarkable He gently rebuked His earthly parents for their anxiety on His account (Luke 2:49) let us imbibe and, manifest the spirit of His words.

(4) Let us realize the glorious identity with ourselves of the Infant Saviour, the Child, the Youth, the Man, Christ Jesus.

(5) What an overpowering Example of filial obedience have we here! That the Child Jesus, so long as He was a Child, should be subject to His parents, though He was Lord of all, is not so wonderful; but that after, His glory broke forth so amazingly in his Father's house, He still "went down with them to Nazareth, and was subject unto them;" continuing so, as we cannot doubt, until, at the appointed time, He emerged into public life-this is that marvel of filial obedience which even angels cannot but desire to look into.

(6) Is it asked how "that holy thing," which was born of the Virgin, the sinless Seed of the woman, could increase "in wisdom, and in favour with God and man"? This is but to ask how He could become an Infant of days at all, and go through the successive stages of human life, up to full-grown manhood. But a simple illustration my perhaps aid our conceptions. Suppose a number of golden vessels, from the smallest conceivable size up to the largest, all filled to the brim with pure water, clear as crystal, so full that the least drop added to anyone of them would make it to run over. Of all these vessels alike it may be said that they are quite full; and yet there is, in point of fact, less in the smallest than the largest, and each of them has less in it than in the next larger one. Such was Jesus. The golden vessels of all different sizes are His human nature at each successive period of His life up to the age of thirty, when He came to full maturity; and the crystal-clear water in them is the holy excellences and graces with which He was filled. He was never otherwise than full of these to the whole measure of His capacity. His understanding was ever as full as it could hold of intelligence and wisdom; His heart ever as full as it could hold of grace. But as it could hold more and more the further He advanced, so He might be said to become more and more lovely, more and more attractive, as He advanced, and so to "increase in favour with God and man." True, the favour of men was afterward turned into frown and rage, when His fidelity irritated their corruption and dashed their expectations. But at this early period, there being nothing in Him to prejudice them against Him, His ever-unfolding loveliness could not fail to be increasingly attractive to all who observed it.

(7) See the patience of Jesus, who, though doubtless conscious of His high destination, yet waited thirty years, not only for the entire development and maturity of all His powers and graces, but for the appointed time of His public appearance. Not so Moses, who, burning with the consciousness of his divine destination to deliver Israel, waited not his full time and the manifest call to act, but took this into his own hand, and was punished for it by having forty years longer to wait, far from the scene of his future work. Yet such patient waiting has unspeakable reliefs and consolations. The conviction that the best things ever take the longest to come to maturity would doubtless minister quiet satisfaction. But besides this, what seasons of tranquil meditation over the lively oracles, and holy fellowship with His Father; what inlettings, on the one hand, of light, and love, and power from on high, and on the other, what outgoings of filial supplication, freedom, love, joy, and what glad consecration to the work before Him, would these last 18 years of His private life embrace! And would they not "seem but a few days" when thus spent, however ardently He might long to be more directly "about His Father's business."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 2:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-2.html. 1871-8.

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