The Fourfold Gospel
2:1 Now it came to pass in those days1, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus2, that all the world should be enrolled3.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS.
(At Bethlehem of Judea, B.C. 5.)
- Now it came to pass in those days. The days of the birth of John the Baptist.
- There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus. Octavius, or Augustus, Caesar was the nephew of and successor to Julius Caesar. He took the
name Augustus in compliment to his own greatness; and our month August
is named for him; its old name being Sextilis.
- That all the world should be enrolled. This enrollment or census was the first step in the process of taxation.
2:2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius1 was governor2 of Syria3.
- This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was governor of Syria, A.D. 6-11, and made a census of his
province at that time, as Luke well knew (Acts 5:37). We have no other
record showing either his governorship or a census made by him at the
time of the birth of Christ. But he was held in high favor by the
Emperor, and was, about the time of the birth of Christ, carrying on a
war just north of Syria, in Cilicia, and it is therefore easy for us to
accept Luke's statement that as imperial commissioner or as governor of
Syria he made such a census.
- Was governor. Quirinius was doubtless twice governor of Syria, his first term being about B.C. 5-1. The Greek word "hegemon", which Luke
uses for governor, would be used for either of the Roman titles, viz.:
Propraetor, or senatorial governor; or Quaestor, or imperial
commissioner. Quirinius may have commenced the enrollment as Quaestor
and finished it ten years later as Propraetor. He was well-known
character in that age. Harsh and avaricious as a governor, but an able
and loyal soldier, earning a Roman triumph for successes in Cilicia,
and being honored by a public funeral in A.D. 21.
- Of Syria. A Roman province including all Palestine, and a tract four or five times as large lying to the northeast of Palestine.
2:3 And all went to enrol themselves1, every one to his own city2.
- And all went to enrol themselves. The enrollment may have had no reference to taxation. It was more probably to ascertain the military
strength of the various provinces. The Romans enrolled each person at
the place where he was then residing; but permitted the Jews to thus
return to their ancestral or tribal cities and enroll themselves as
citizens of these cities.
- Every one to his own city. The city where his ancestors had been settled by Joshua when he divided the land. See Joshua 13:1-18:28.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth1, into Judaea, to the city of David2, which is called Bethlehem3, because he was of the house and family of David;
- Nazareth. See Luke 1:26.
- The city of David. After the lapse of ten centuries the name of David still cast its fragrance over the place of his birth
(1 Samuel 17:12).
- Bethlehem. Meaning "house of bread". It was the later or Jewish name for the old Canaanitish village of Ephrath, the Ephrath near which
Rachel died (Genesis 35:19). It was marked by Micah as the birthplace of
Messiah (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5,6).
2:5 to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him1, being great with child2.
- Mary, who was betrothed to him. See Matthew 1:18.
- Being great with child. See Matthew 1:25.
2:6 And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered1.
- And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. The early Christians made no record of
the date of Christ's birth; we find no mention of December 25 earlier
than the fourth century. The Eastern church celebrated Christ's birth
by a feast called Epiphany, which means manifestation. They chose
January 6 as the date for this feast, for they reasoned that if the
first Adam was born on the sixth day of creation, the second Adam must
have been born on the sixth day of the year. The Western church
celebrated Christ's birth on the 25th of December by a feast called
Natalis, which means Nativity. But Pope Julius I (A.D. 337-352)
designated December 25 as the proper day, and the Eastern churches soon
united with the Western churches in observing this day; and the custom
has become universal. We do not observe this day because of the Pope's
decree, but because of the tradition on which the Pope's decree was
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son1; and she wrapped him2 in swaddling clothes3, and laid him in a manger4, because there was no room for them in the inn5.
- And she brought forth her firstborn son. This word in no way implies that the Virgin subsequently has other children. Jesus, the only
begotten, is also called the firstborn (Hebrews 1:6).
- And she wrapped him. Having none to help her, she swathed him in hands with her own hands.
- In swaddling clothes. The new-born Jewish child was washed in water, rubbed with salt, and then wrapped in bands or blankets, which confined
the limbs closely (Ezekiel 16:4).
- And laid him in a manger. Justin Martyr, who born about the beginning of the second century and suffered martyrdom A.D. 165, first
tells us the tradition that the stable in which Jesus was born was a
cavern. Caves, however, were never used for stables except when opened
on the sides of hills. The one at Bethlehem is a cellar fourteen feet
under the level surface. Justine must, therefore, be mistaken.
- Because there was no room for them in the inn. Eastern inns had landlords like our own. The inn was full at this time because of the
number who had come to be enrolled. Inns contained rooms for persons
and stalls for animals; there was no room in the former, but there was
in the latter.
2:8 And there were shepherds in the same country1 abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock2.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS PROCLAIMED BY ANGELS TO THE SHEPHERDS.
(Near Bethlehem, B.C. 5.)
- And there were shepherds in the same country. They were in the same fields from which David had been called to tend God's Israel, or flock.
- Abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. When the flock is too far from the village to lead it to the fold at
night, these shepherds still so abide with it in the field, even in the
dead of winter.
2:9 And an angel of the Lord stood by them1, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid3.
- And an angel of the Lord stood by them. He stood upon the earth at their side, and did not float above them in the heavens, as he is
usually pictured. His standing upon the earth shows a fuller fellowship
and sympathy with men. Compare Acts 1:10.
- And the glory of the Lord shone around about them. The Shekinah, or bright cloud, which symbolizes the divine presence (Exodus 24:16; 1 Kings 8:10
Isaiah 6:1-3; Romans 9:4). It was seen by the three apostles upon the mount
of transfiguration (Matthew 17:5), by Stephen (Acts 7:55), and by Paul
- And they were sore afraid. See Luke 1:13.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid1; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people2:
- Be not afraid. See Luke 1:30.
- For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: Christianity is a religion of present joys, and leads
onward to joy eternal.
2:11 for there is born to you1 this day in the city of David a Saviour2, who is Christ the Lord.
- For there is born to you. Born as a gift to us (John 3:16).
- A Saviour. The angel omits the name of Jesus, but gives the meaning of his name. See Matthew 1:21.
- Who is the Christ. Messiah is the Hebrew and Christ is the Greek for our English word meaning "anointed". Prophets, priests, and kings
were anointed. Jesus held all three offices for all our race for all
2:12 And this [is] the sign unto you1: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger2.
- And this [is] the sign unto you. The token by which to identify the child. A babe in a manger was not ordinary sight.
- Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.
"What fearful odds! What a strange contrast! Idolatry on the
throne (in the person of Augustus Caesar), and the founder
of a new religion and a new empire lying in a manger!"
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude1 of the heavenly host2 praising God, and saying,
- And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude. The event was too important to be heralded by any one angel. All heaven was interested in
the departure of its Prince, and marveled at the grace of the Father
who sent him (1 Peter 1:12).
- Of the heavenly host. God's army (1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:20,21). The Deity is called "God of Sabaoth", that is, God of hosts or multitude
(Romans 9:29; James 5:4; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11,12); but at this time God's army
appeared to announce the coming of eternal peace.
2:14 Glory to God in the highest1, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased2.
- God in the highest. In the highest heavens (Job 16:19 Psalms 148:1).
- And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. The angels invoke blessing on God and peace upon man. Peace between God and man,
and ultimately peace between man and man. The love of God is shed
abroad upon all, even the vilest of sinners (Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15); but
his peace comes upon those who have accepted his Son, and in whom he is
therefore especially well pleased (Romans 9:11). Peace is the unfailing
apostolic salutation toward Christians (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2) and
is attainable in the highest degree by Christians only (John 14:27
John 16:33; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7).
2:17 And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child1.
- And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. They were the first evangelists.
Among the heralds of Christ we note one great prophet, John the
Baptist, and one learned Pharisee, Paul; the rest are shepherds,
fishermen, and publicans, yet their gospel has triumphed over the
wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 2 Corinthians 4:7). The shepherds were moved to
publish by the same spirit which actuated the lepers at Samaria
(2 Kings 7:9).
2:18 And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds1.
- And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. The gospel story excites wonder; the more we
ponder it the more wonderful it becomes.
2:19 But Mary kept all these sayings1, pondering them in her heart2.
- But Mary kept all these sayings. The silence of Mary contrasts with the talkativeness of the shepherds (Luke 2:17). But is the duty of
Christians both to ponder and to publish.
- Pondering them in her heart. Only Mary could know the fact here stated; and the statement indicates that Luke got the opening parts of
his Gospel from the mother of our Lord. She had much to think about.
The angelic messages to Zacharias, to herself, and to the shepherds
were full of significance, and her mind would search diligently to
comprehend the fullness of their meaning. In her quiet thoughtfulness
the beauty of the Virgin's character shines forth (1 Peter 3:4).
2:20 And the shepherds returned1, glorifying2 and praising God3 for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them4.
- And the shepherds returned. They did not make this glorious occasion an excuse for neglecting their humble duties.
- Glorifying. Because of the greatness of that which had been revealed.
- And praising God. Because of the goodness of that which he revealed.
- Even as it was spoken unto them. Jesus came in exactly the same manner in which his coming had been spoken of or described by the
angels a few hours before; and also just as his coming had been spoken
of or described by the prophets centuries and centuries before. God's
word holds good for eternity as truly as for one day. The shepherds
doubtless passed to their reward during the thirty years which Jesus
spent in seclusion prior to his entering upon his ministry. But the
rest of their commonplace life was now filled with music of praise, and
their night watches lit by the glory of God, which could never entirely
2:21 And when eight days1 were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called JESUS3, which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
CIRCUMCISION, TEMPLE SERVICE, AND NAMING OF JESUS.
(The Temple at Jerusalem, B.C. 4)
- Eight days. See Luke 1:59; Genesis 17:12.
- For the circumcising. The rite was doubtless performed by Joseph. By this rite Jesus was "made like unto his brethren";
that is, he became a member of the covenant nation, and became a
debtor to the law.
- His name was called JESUS. See Galatians 1:31.
2:22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled1, they brought him up to Jerusalem2, to present him to the Lord3
- And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled. Purification took place on the fortieth day
after the nativity in the case of males, and eighty days in the case of
females (Leviticus 12:1-5). Until it was performed the mother was not
permitted to go to the temple, take part in any public service, or even
to leave her house. It seems that the members of the family were also
ceremonially unclean, because they came in daily contact with her.
- They brought him up to Jerusalem. To the temple.
- To present him to the Lord. When God slew the firstborn of Egypt he spared the firstborn of Israel. For this reason all the firstborn of
Israel were regarded as being peculiarly the Lord's (Exodus 12:29,30
Exodus 13:2); and the firstborn male child of each family had to be
redeemed with money (Exodus 13:11-15; Numbers 18:15,16). Originally the
firstborn or eldest son was priest of the household after his father's
death; but God chose the Levites to serve in his sanctuary in the place
of these firstborn or household priests (Numbers 3:11-13; Numbers 8:14-19); but
this choosing did not annul the statute which required the payment of
redemption money. The redemption money for a male was five shekels of
the sanctuary, or about $3.75 (Leviticus 27:6).
2:23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord1, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord),
- As it is written in the law of the Lord. For additional passages, see Exodus 22:29; Exodus 34:19,20.
2:24 and to offer a sacrifice1 according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons3.
- And to offer a sacrifice. By redemption money and sacrifice the life of Jesus was ceremonially redeemed from God the Father, that his
consecration of it to the will of the Father might be perfect. We
likewise are redeemed by the blood of Christ, but are expected
nevertheless to be more consecrated than ever.
- According to . . . the law of the Lord. See Leviticus 12:6-8.
- A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. The required offering was a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon for a sin-
offering. But the law allowed a poor mother to substitute doves or
pigeons for the lamb. We see here an early trace of the poverty of Him
who had not where to lay his head. Knowing the greatness of the child,
Joseph and Mary would never have used the lesser sacrifice if they
could have afforded the regular and more costly one. Poverty is not
dishonorable in God's sight; for Mary was honored of him above all
2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon1; and this man was righteous and devout2, looking3 for the consolation of Israel4: and the Holy Spirit was upon him5.
- There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. The name means "Hearing". Some think that it was Rabbi Simeon, the son of the great
teacher Hillel; but the context forbids such an idea.
- And this man was righteous and devout. Right in outward and devout in his inward life. The first prophet to tell the world that its
Messiah had come was a thoroughly good man.
- Looking. Waiting like Jacob (Genesis 49:18), and Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43), he realized the truth of God's promise (Isaiah 49:23).
The Jews waited for a coming Prince, local, carnal, finite, temporal;
we wait for a KING universal, spiritual, infinite, eternal, the Son of
God. Hence the magnitude of our expected consolation is to theirs as an
ocean is to a drop of water.
- For the consolation of Israel. A common name for the era of the Messiah, which was so called because the advent of the Christ would
bring comfort to his people (Isaiah 40:1). Jews swore by the consolation
of Israel, and the phrase, "May I see the consolation of Israel", was
common among them. A prayer for the coming of the Messiah was daily
used by them.
- And the Holy Spirit was upon him. See Luke 1:68.
2:26 And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit1, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ2.
- And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit. Probably in a dream.
- That he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. A remarkable favor, a notable blessing. See Luke 10:23,24.
2:27 And he came in the Spirit1 into the temple2: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law,
- And he came in the Spirit. Moved by the impulses of inspiration (Matthew 22:14; Revelation 1:10).
- Into the temple. Those who go to church perfunctorily see little; those who go in the Spirit--according to the measure in which He is
given them--see and hear much.
2:29 Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord1, According to thy word2, in peace3;
- Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord. This hymn of Simeon is called the "Nunc Dimittis", from the two words with which the Latin
translation of it begins. Simeon regards his death as now near, since
he had seen that for which God had kept him alive. He represents as a
sentinel who, seeing the rising of the day- star which is the signal
that his watch is relieved, knows his weary waiting is at an end.
- According to thy word. God keeps his word, and never disappoints.
- In peace. To the living the Jews said, "Go in peace" ("Leshalom"), as Jethro said to Moses (Exodus 4:18); to the dying they said, "Go in
peace" ("Beshalom"), as the Lord said to Abram (Genesis 15:15).
2:30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation1,
- For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Only the eye which sees Christ is satisfied with seeing (Ecclesiastes 1:18). To one who has Christ in
his arms and salvation before his eyes the world looks poor indeed, and
the loss of it appears gain (Philippians 2:21).
2:31 Which thou hast prepared1 before the face of all people2s;
- Which thou hast prepared. God prepared the gospel in his counsels before Christ came into the world (Acts 2:23), and foretold it by the
prophets (Acts 3:18).
- Before the face of all people. The Jewish Scriptures were then scattered among all nations, and all people were acquainted with the
Hebrew expectations of a Messiah. Simeon saw in the Babe the initial
step of God toward fulfilling all these prophecies.
2:32 A light for revelation to the Gentiles1, And the glory2 of thy people Israel3.
- A light for revelation to the Gentiles. A reference to Isaiah 49:6. Christ's light has revealed the Father to the Gentiles.
That Simeon should prophesy this is an evidence of the large spiritual
knowledge given him, since even the apostles were slow to grasp the
fullness of Christ's world-wide mission. See Psalms 98:2,3; 52:10; 42:6.
- And the glory. See Isaiah 45:25. Israel is doubly glorified in Jesus, in that God chose this people to receive the Word, or divine
Son, in that Jesus, as a Jew, presented to the world the picture of the
perfect manhood. In his divinity and his humanity Jesus glorified
- Of thy people Israel. The Gentiles and Israel are here contrasted. The Gentiles refused the knowledge of God (Romans 1:28), and Israel
abused it (Romans 3:1-9).
2:33 And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him1;
- And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him. Not because they heard anything which was
really new, but because the words caused them to see the truth in a new
way. They were also doubtless surprised to find that an utter stranger
should speak thus about the child. Such manifestations of inspiration
were no more common then than now.
2:34 and Simeon blessed them1, and said unto Mary his mother2, Behold, this [child] is set3 for the falling and the rising of many in Israel4; and for a sign5 which is spoken against6;
- And Simeon blessed them. While blessing the parents, he refrained from blessing the child, lest it might appear that he did it as a
superior. He could bless God in the heavens without fear of being
misunderstood (Luke 2:28); but to bless this little Babe might seem to
- And said unto Mary his mother. Thus distinguishing between Mary the real parent, and Joseph the supposed one.
- Behold, this [child] is set. Either as a stone of stumbling (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:32,33; 1 Corinthians 1:23), or a precious cornerstone
(1 Peter 2:7,8; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus is the cornerstone of true
religion. Those who reject him fall over him and are broken; those who
accept him, build upon him, and are lifted up and edified.
- For the falling and the rising of many in Israel. Jesus has always wrought changes which were like fallings and risings. In his own early
lifetime Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Nazarenes, Gadarenes, etc.,
sank down before his example and teaching; while fishermen, publicans
and outcasts were elevated and encouraged by his sympathy. In the
ecclesiastical field Jesus has brought down the powers of superstition
and priestcraft, and exalted the common worshiper, giving him liberty
of conscience. In the political field, Jesus has brought down the pride
of kings and lifted up the common people, and given them sovereign
In the spiritual realm this work of Jesus is most clearly displayed.
Not only did he bring down the pride of Judah and lift up the despised
Gentiles (Romans 9:25); but he has worked a leveling and a lifting work
in the life of each of his followers. Those proud of their manhood, he
has made as children, that they might become truly men (Matthew 18:3);
those wise in their own conceit, he approaches with the foolishness of
preaching, that they might be instructed in true learning
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31); those strong in self-confidence, he makes weak, that
he may fill them with the divine power (2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:13). Like
Paul, we fall and rise in Christ (Acts 9:4-6).
- And for a sign. Something which challenges attention and is full of significant meaning. Signs were intended to allay controversy, and
to exclude contradiction, but Jesus provoked both. When he was thus
first in the temple, opposition was prophesied; when he was last there
it was fully realized (Matthew 23:38).
- Which is spoken against. During his earthly lifetime Jesus was called "deceiver", "Samaritan," "demoniac," etc., and subsequently his
followers were abused (Acts 28:22); later the Jews wrote of him as "the
deceiver", "that man," and "the hung". Early Christians were charged by
the pagans with committing cannibalism, incest, and every conceivable
atrocity, and in this day "Christian" is--after Jew--the most stringing
term of reproach known to the Eastern tongue.
2:35 yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul1; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed2.
- A sword shall pierce through thine own soul. Simeon had read and understood the prophecies which told of the suffering Messiah
(Isaiah 42:14-43:12). Hence, to prepare the soul of Mary, he touches
this minor chord. By as much as the prophecies and annunciations
concerning Jesus, led Mary to expect honor, and glory for her son; by
so much did the rejection, persecution and cruel death of Jesus
overwhelm her with piercing anguish and disappointment. It is also
probable that at the time of the crucifixion Mary shared with the
apostles the doubts as to the mission of Jesus, and these doubts must
have been unspeakably bitter to her.
- That thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. The Greek word "dialogismos" here translated "thoughts" is generally used to signify
bad or evil thoughts See definition 1261|. Jesus often revealed such
(John 9:16); but the context shows that Simeon had in mind the evil
thoughts which were revealed by the sufferings inflicted on Christ. The
human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); but its wickedness
was never more manifest than when it chose a murderer and crucified its
Creator (Acts 3:14,15). Men are still revealed by their attitude
toward Christ, the sincere being drawn to him, and the hypocrites being
repelled from him. But at the judgment he shall shine forth as the
perfect revealer of all thoughts and actions (Matthew 10:26).
2:36 And there was one Anna1, a prophetess2, the daughter of Phanuel3, of the tribe of Asher4 (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity,
- And there was one Anna. The same name as Hannah, meaning "He was gracious" (1 Samuel 1:20).
- A prophetess. Like Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Chronicles 34:22).
- The daughter of Phanuel. The same as Peniel, meaning "Face of God" (Genesis 32:30).
- Of the tribe of Asher. Asher was the second son of Jacob and Zilpah (Genesis 30:12,13). The name means "happy". Though the ten tribes were
lost and scattered, many individuals belonging to them remained in
Judah (Acts 26:7; James 1:1).
2:37 and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years1), who departed not from the temple2, worshipping with fastings and supplications3 night and day4.
- And she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years. She had been married seven years, and was now 84 years old. Her long
widowhood is mentioned, because young widows who did not remarry were
held in especial honor. Anna was about 24 years old when Jerusalem was
conquered by Pompey, and came under the power of Rome.
- Who departed not from the temple. This may simply mean that she was unusually assiduous in her attendance at all the temple services
(Acts 2:46); or it may be taken literally, in which case we may
suppose that her prophetic talents had secured for her the right of
living in one of the temple chambers. Those who patiently frequent
God's house will sooner or later obtain a blessing.
- Worshipping with fastings and supplications. Moses appointed one yearly fast, viz.: that on the day of Atonement; but the Pharisees
introduced the custom of fasting twice a week to commemorate the days
when Moses was supposed to have ascended and descended Mt. Sinai, viz.:
on Monday and Thursday. They had also otherwise multiplied the fasts
- Night and day. In Hebrew idiom, night is mentioned before day, following the example of Moses (Genesis 1:5). The Hebrew theory that
"God made the world in six days and seven nights", may have given birth
to this idiom. For instances of this idiom, see Acts 26:7; 1 Timothy 5:5.
There were probably night services of sacred music held in the temple,
at which priests sung anthems (Psalms 134:1,2; Psalms 119:62).
2:38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him1 to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
- And spake of him. Of Jesus.
2:39 And when they1 had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee2, to their own city Nazareth3.
THE CHILD JESUS BROUGHT FROM EGYPT TO NAZARETH.
(Egypt and Nazareth, B.C. 4.)
Matthew 2:19-23; Luke 2:39
- And when they. The parents of Jesus.
- They returned into Galilee. Luke omits to tell that Jesus returned to Nazareth by way of Bethlehem and Egypt. Such omissions are common in
all biographies, and this one is paralleled by Luke himself in his life
of Paul. Compare Acts 9:19-26; Galatians 1:17,18.
- To their own city Nazareth. This town lies on a hillside, girt in by fifteen higher hills. It is a secluded nook. Here Jesus grew up in
obscurity till he reached his thirtieth year. Here he spent about nine-
tenths of his earthly life. Sweet humility! Lowliness is as rare and
precious a virtue as pride is a plentiful and repugnant vice.
2:40 And the child grew1, and waxed strong2, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him3.
JESUS LIVING AT NAZARETH AND VISITING JERUSALEM IN HIS TWELFTH YEAR.
(Nazareth and Jerusalem, A.D. 7 or 8.)
- And the child grew. This verse contains the history of thirty years. It describes the growth of our Lord as a natural, human growth;
see Luke 1:80. For, though Jesus was truly divine, he was also perfectly
man. To try to distinguish between the divine and human in Jesus, is to
waste time upon an impracticable mystery which is too subtle for our
dull and finite minds.
- And waxed strong. His life expanded like other human lives. He learned as other boys; he obeyed as other children. As he used means
and waited patiently for growth, so must each individual Christian, and
so must the church. Though the latter is a mystical body, and animated
by the Holy Spirit, it must nevertheless make increase of itself before
coming to the perfect man (Ephesians 4:16).
- Filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. These words describe briefly the life of Christ during the preparatory period at
Nazareth. It was a quiet life, but its sinless purity made the Baptist
feel his own unworthiness compared to it (Matthew 3:14), and its sweet
reasonableness inspired in Mary, the mother, that confidence which led
her to sanction, without reserve, any request or command which Jesus
might utter (John 2:5).
2:41 And his parents1 went every year to Jerusalem2 at the feast of the passover3.
- And his parents. Males were required to attend the Passover (Exodus 13:7); but women were not. The great rabbi, Hillel (born about
B.C. 110; died A.D. 10), recommended that they should do so, and the
practice was esteemed an act of admirable piety.
- Went every year to Jerusalem. Regular attendance upon worship is likewise enjoined upon us (Hebrews 10:25).
- At the feast of the passover. The Passover, one of the three great Jewish feasts, commemorated the mercy of God in causing his angel to
"pass over" the houses in Israel on the night that he slew all the
firstborn of Egypt. It took place at the full moon which occurred next
after the vernal equinox. At it the firstfruits of the harvest were
offered (Leviticus 23:10-15). The second feast, Pentecost, occurred fifty
days later, and commemorated the giving of the law. At it the
firstfruits of the wheat harvest, in the form of bread were offered
(Leviticus 23:17). The third feast, or Tabernacles, occurred near the end
of September, or beginning of October, and commemorated the days when
Israel dwelt in tents in the wilderness. It was observed as a
thanksgiving for the blessings of the year. Every adult male Jews
dwelling in Judea was required to attend these three feasts. Josephus
tells us that the members assembled at them in Jerusalem often exceeded
2:42 And when he was twelve years old1, they went up2 after the custom of the feast3;
- And when he was twelve years old. The incident which Luke here reports is the only one given in the period between the return from
Egypt and Jesus' thirtieth year. It shows that Jesus did not attend the
school of the rabbis in Jerusalem (Mark 6:2; John 6:42; John 7:15). But we
learn that he could write (John 8:6), and there is little doubt but
that he spoke both Hebrew and Greek.
- They went up. The altitude of Jerusalem is higher than that of Nazareth, and the distance between the two places is about seventy
- After the custom of the feast. The custom was that the feast was celebrated annually in Jerusalem.
2:43 and when they had fulfilled the days1, as they were returning, the boy Jesus2 tarried behind in Jerusalem3; and his parents knew it not4;
- And when they had fulfilled the days. Eight days in all; one day for killing the passover, and seven for observing the feast of
unleavened bread which followed it (Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 23:6).
- The boy Jesus. Luke narrates something about every stage of Christ's life. He speaks of him as a babe (Luke 2:16), as a little child
(Luke 2:40), here as a boy, afterwards as a man.
- Tarried behind in Jerusalem. To take advantage of the opportunity to hear the great teachers in the schools.
- And his parents knew it not. As vast crowds attended the Passover, it was easy to lose sight of a boy amid the festal throng. Indeed, the
incident is often repeated even to this day during the feast seasons at
2:44 but supposing him to be in the company1, they went a day's journey2; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance3:
- But supposing him to be in the company. We see here the confidence of the parents, and the independence of the child. The sinlessness of
Jesus was not due to any exceptional care on the part of his parents.
Jews going to and from their festivals traveled in caravans for
pleasure and safety. In the daytime the young folks mingled freely
among the travelers, and sought out whatever companionship they wished.
But in the evening, when the camp was formed, and the tents were
pitched, the members of each family came together.
- They went a day's journey. They probably returned by the way of Jericho to avoid passing through Samaria, because of the hatred
existing between Jews and Samaritans. In more moderns times the first
day's journey is a short one, and it was probably so then. It was made
so in order that the travelers might return to the city whence they had
departed, should they discover that they had forgotten anything--should
they find that they had forgotten a sack of meal, a blanket, or a
- And they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. Those with whom he was most likely to have traveled during the day.
2:45 and when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him1.
- And when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him. Parents who have temporarily suffered the loss of their children
can easily imagine their feelings. Christ, though a divine gift to
them, was lost. So may we also lose him, though he be God's gift to us.
2:46 And it came to pass, after three days1 they found him in the temple2, sitting3 in the midst4 of the teachers5, both hearing them, and asking them questions6:
- And it came to pass, after three days. Each part of a day was reckoned as a day when at the beginning and ending of a series. The
parents missed Jesus on the evening of the first day, returned to
Jerusalem and sought for him on the second day, and probably found him
on the morning of the third day. The disciples of Jesus also lost him
in the grave for part of one day, and all of the next, and found him
resurrected on the morning of the third day (Luke 24:21).
- They found him in the temple. Probably in one of the many chambers which tradition says were built against the walls of the temple and its
enclosures, and opened upon the temple courts. The sacred secret which
they knew concerning the child should have sent them at once to the
temple to seek for him.
- Sitting. Jewish scholars sat upon the ground at the feet of their teachers.
- In the midst. The teachers sat on semi-circular benches and thus partially surrounded by their scholars.
- Of the teachers. These teachers had schools in which they taught for the fees of their pupils, and are not to be confounded with the
scribes, who were mere copyists.
- Both hearing them, and asking them questions. He was not teaching. The God of order foes not expect childhood to teach. He was among them
as a modest scholar, and not as a forward child. The rabbinical method
of instruction was to state cases, or problems, bearing upon the
interpretation or application of the law, which cases or problems were
to be solved by the pupils. For typical problems, see (Matthew 22:15-46).
2:48 And when they saw him1, they were astonished2; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us3? behold, thy father4 and I sought thee sorrowing5.
- And when they saw him. His parents.
- They were astonished. Mary and Joseph stood as much in awe of these renowned national teachers as peasants do of kings, and were therefore
astonished that their youthful son presumed to speak to them.
- And his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Her language implies that Jesus had been fully instructed as to the
time when his parents and their caravan would depart for Galilee, and
that he was expected to depart with them. Obedience to his higher
duties constrained him to appear disobedient to his parents.
- Behold, thy father. As legal father of Jesus, this expression would necessarily have to be used when speaking of Joseph. But Jesus does not
accept Joseph as his father, as we see by his answer.
- And I sought thee sorrowing. Because they thought him lost.
2:49 And he said unto them1, How is it that ye sought me2? knew ye not that I must3 be in my Father's4 house5?
- And he said unto them. What follows are the first recorded words of Jesus; he here speaks of the same being--the Father--to whom he
commended his spirit in his last words upon the cross (Luke 23:46).
His last recorded words on earth are found at Acts 1:7,8; his last
recorded words in heaven are found in Revelation 22:10-20, but these last
words are spoken through the medium of an angel.
- How is it that ye sought me? Mary, knowing all that had been divinely revealed to her concerning Jesus, should have expected to find
him in the temple.
- Knew ye not that I must. In this oft-repeated phrase, "I must", Jesus sets forth that devotion to the will of the Father by which his
whole life was directed.
- Be in my Father's. Literally "the father of me", and invariably omitted the article, and said, "Father of you", when
speaking of his disciples. His relationship to the Father differed from
ours, and God, not Joseph, was his father.
- House. See John 2:16,17; John 8:35.
2:50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them1.
- And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. It may seem strange that Mary, knowing all that she did concerning the birth
of Jesus, etc., did not grasp the meaning of his words, but we are all
slow to grasp great truths; and failure to be understood was therefore
a matter of daily occurrence with Jesus (Luke 9:45; Luke 18:34; Mark 9:32
comprehend his wonderful sayings. We need to be watchful lest our ears
be censured for a like slowness.
2:51 And he went down with them1, and came to Nazareth2; and he was subject unto them4: and his mother kept all [these] sayings in her heart5.
- And he went down with them. Jerusalem was among the mountains, Nazareth among the hills.
- And came to Nazareth. A beautiful and healthful town, but so lacking in piety and learning as to form the "dry ground" out of which it was
prophetically predicted that the glorious and fruitful life of Jesus
would spring. Here Christ rose above all times and schools and revealed
to man that "life more abundant" than all kings, lawgivers, or sages
ever discovered. His character, like the New Jerusalem, descended from
God out of heaven, and no education obtained in Nazareth will explain
it. The struggle of self-made men with their early environment is
noticeable to the last, but it is not so with him. The discourses of
Jesus are the outpourings of divine knowledge, and not the result of
study or self-culture.
- And was subject. Our example in all things, he here set before us that pattern of obedience which children should observe toward their
parents. In these years Jesus learned the trade of his supposed father
(Mark 6:3). Christ was a laborer, and thereby sanctified labor, and
showed that dignity and glory belong to inward and not to outward
- Unto them. His parents, Joseph and Mary. We find no mention of Joseph after this, and the probability is that he soon died.
- And his mother kept all [these] sayings in her heart. She had many treasured sayings of angels, shepherds, wise men, and prophets. She now
began to add to these the sayings of Christ himself.
2:52 And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men1.
- And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. He did not "literally" grow in favor with God. This is a
phenomenal expression. The favor of God and man kept company for quite
awhile; but the favor of God abode with Jesus when man's good will was
utterly withdrawn. Men admire holiness until it becomes aggressive, and
then they fell an antagonism against it as great, or intense, as their