Luke 2

Luke 2:1-7.19

We have had the forerunner of Jesus and the announcement of the birth of Jesus. But now this chapter opens with a providential event which we find nowhere else in the Gospels, and yet which explains a fact that is found in the first Gospel as well as in the third. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His parents were in the habit of living in Galilee. How, then, if the ordinary residence of His parents was at Nazareth, which was at one extremity of the land, could he be born at Bethlehem, which was almost at the other?

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census should be made of all the habitable world.” Caesar Augustine was the then Emperor of Rome, the last human kingdom of Daniel. Even the Holy Land was put in subjection to these imperial powers, and Caesar used his power and marked it in this that he demanded the presence of every man in his own city, as if all belonged to him. It was a testimony to the total subjection of the habitable world” to himself, not to Christ. This, indeed, will in due time be according to God, the fruit of His own power, when Jesus is manifestly exalted and God’s direct power is vested in His hands, Who, being Himself a Divine Person as well as man, will thus exercise all the power as man, yet without derogating in the smallest degree from the rights and authority of God, yea, displaying them gloriously before the world, as He has already established them before God and, to faith, in the cross.

With Caesar Augustine however, it was far different. Even the people of God were placed in servitude; and wonderful to say, the mother of the Messiah was among those, as well as His legal father, who had to pay obedience to the decree of the Roman Emperor. They went up accordingly for the census45 to their own city, the city of David, Bethlehem,44 thus accomplishing the prophecies. And what made it the more remarkable is that, in verse 2, we are told that “the census itself20 first took place when Cyrenius43a was governor of Syria.” It was not effected at the time here in view as proposed, but was sufficiently carried out to call the parents of our Lord from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, which accomplished not man’s census, but God’s prophecy. God took care that it should be just fulfilled enough to carry out His purposes. It was not till some years afterwards that Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Then it was carried into effect fully,45 but meanwhile all went up to be enrolled, each to his own city.

Therefore “Joseph also went up from Galilee,46 out of the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to David’s city, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and family of David), to be enrolled with Mary47 his betrothed wife,21 47a she being great with child.” From the time that a woman among the Jews was espoused, she was considered legally the wife of him to whom she was betrothed. Thus the Lord, while really Son of His mother Mary, was legally of Joseph; and both Joseph and Mary were of the royal line. The Lord Jesus, therefore, represented David on both sides; but as the law required, He was the descendant of Solomon on the legal side. For no matter how unquestionably He might have been the Son of Mary, descended from the Nathan stem, He could not have been according to law the Messiah as long as there was a living representative of the Solomon branch. But the Lord, being the legally-reputed Son of Joseph as well as Mary’s child, was precisely so descended as to be in every required respect “David’s Son,” the Messiah. I say this quite independently of His Divine glory, which was demanded for other and far deeper reasons.

Thus then “while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son48 and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in the22 manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke always loves to present moral features. Accordingly there is an intimation very instructive for us in the circumstance that it was in the manger Jesus was laid, not in the inn. There was no room for them in the inn. The Lord of glory when born into this world was laid in the manger. What a picture of the state of the world! There was no room for Him who was God in the world! The children of men according to their means found their place in the inn as it suited them. Those who had money could command a place proportioned to what they were willing to pay. But the parents of the Lord were in such poverty as to be thoroughly despised at the inn, and the only place where they could find a shelter for the Babe was a manger.

But this did not hinder the outflow of Divine grace any more than it could deny, except to unbelief, the Divine glory of Him who was laid there. Unbelief never receives that the Lord of heaven and earth could be born in such circumstances and of such parents. In fact, to be born at all, to be really a man, to know beyond all other men the bitterness of the world, the scorn and hatred of men, and finally the cross — all this is utterly stumbling to unbelief. But this is just the truth of God, and the only truth that really makes known God and delivers man. And those who receive it are the simple. Grace makes them such, especially the lowly. It can make the proudest simple, no doubt; but it addresses itself in particular as the rule (and Luke marks the fact) to those that are despised on the earth as Christ was.

Luke 2:8-20.

“And there were shepherds in that country49 abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And lo,23 an angel of [the] LORD stood by49a them and the glory of [the] LORD50 shone around them, and they were sore afraid.” Nevertheless, there was no reason. Man, because he is a sinner, is afraid of God, but in truth “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that every one that believeth on Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. The angel in the spirit of this says, “Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be” — but not exactly “to all people.” For although Luke does finally proclaim the saving grace that goes out to all men, he begins within the strict limits of Israel. and shows God faithful to His people and willing to accomplish all His promises if they would receive Jesus. But they would not; and therefore God was morally justified in turning from the despising Jews to the Gentiles. The true way of understanding this clause is “(which shall be) to all the people,” meaning the people of Israel. This is confirmed in the next verse: “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ [the] Lord.”“ It was the Anointed of God, whom their fathers had long waited and looked for. The Child51a was now born, the Son given, and unto them, as said the prophet. Isa. 9:6.

“And this is the sign unto you: ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.”24A babe” it should be. And so it was: a most significant sign — a Messiah, not in power and glory as the Jews expected, but a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, who in grace was subject to all the realities of the circumstances of a human birth and infancy, and who was found in fact, as to external position, lying in a manger.

But if such was the place of obscurity that He entered, all the world being really out of course and God unwilling to allow such a thought as a sanction by His Son of the state of men in sin; if He gives Him, therefore, a place, as it were, outside, on the other hand there was suddenly “with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men.”25 This is comprising in a few words the whole scope of Divine purpose. The manifestation of the Son, now man, leads to this, not exactly the moral ground of it, or the means by which it will be brought about, but the result as illustrating to their unjealous eyes God’s good pleasure in men (not angels). First of all there is, “Glory to God in the highest.” Up to the birth of Jesus all had been disappointment in man. The creature had broken down under the best circumstances, and every attempt by any other means to correct it had brought either destruction to men or rebellion against God, growing worse and worse. The deluge had not mended the world, but simply destroyed men. The law had only aggravated the condition of man, provoking their sin into open transgression and sealing them up in condemnation.

But the birth of the Lord Jesus is at once the signal for the angels to sing, “Glory to God in the highest.” It would not be merely “Glory to God below,” but “in the highest,” throughout the whole universe of God, and expressly in its highest places — glory to God at length, everywhere. On earth, where nothing but war had been against God, and with man, confusion, misery, and rebellion — “on earth, peace.” Nothing less than this would ensue from the birth of the Messiah, though not all at once; but the heavenly host take in the magnificent issues of His birth who is Father of the age to come. (Isa. 9:6). That birth, too, was the expression that God’s complacency is in men.52 There could not be a greater proof of God’s good pleasure than this; for the Son of God did not become an angel but a man. He was God from all eternity, but He became man. This bore witness, irrefragable and evident to every one who reflects, to what an object of love men were to God. The heavenly host therefore only sing of these great outlines. They did not enter into detail; perhaps they did not know how any one was to be brought about. But the great fact was there before them; the Lord from heaven was this Babe, the object of contempt to man, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, perhaps as no other babe was. No wonder it drew out the loudest songs of the angels. They see God’s glory in it; they see men thus the object of His infinite love and condescension; they anticipate peace for the earth, spite of all appearances, spite of Caesar Augustine or his decrees, spite of the Roman armies, those massive iron hammers that battered down the nations, the beast that trampled what it could not devour (Dan. 7:7) — spite of all this, “peace on earth.” They looked at things as the scene for displaying in man (because the Son was now man) God’s glory and grace; and they were right.

When the unwonted vision passed away, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us make our way53 now as far as Bethlehem and let us see this thing that is come to pass, which the LORD has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen [it], they made known about the country26 the thing which had been said to them concerning this child. And all who heard [it] wondered at the things said to them by the shepherds.”

Thus, in their artless way, they acted upon what was made known to them, upon the report of the angels; and when they had proved its truth, they spread the news. They were anticipating thus far the way of grace. Tidings of such great goodness and joy could not be, ought not to be, confined to the breasts of those to whom it was first communicated. They made it known wherever they could. “But Mary kept all these things, pondering [them] in her heart.”53a A deeper feeling, no doubt, wrought in her mind. The time was not come for the propagation of the Gospel which was in store: the basis for it was not even laid. But she who must needs have been intimately interested in the wonders that surrounded her — she weighed all, and treasured it all up in her heart. The shepherds, too, simple men, favoured as they had been of God, returned, glorifying and praising Him “for all things that they had heard and seen, as it had been said to them.”

Luke 2:21-40.

We now see the Lord Jesus under the law of Moses, as in the earlier verses, born of woman. For “when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him,27 his name was called Jesus, which was the name given by the angel before he had been conceived in the womb.” This name refers both to His being Jehovah and a Saviour, as we are told in Matthew 1:21. Here the fact simply is mentioned. Nevertheless we have here beyond what we have in Matthew — the Jewish evidence of the poverty of the holy family, as we had before the contempt of man proved in the lowly circumstances in which the Lord was born (verse 7). “And when the days were fulfilled for their28 purifying according to the law of Moses,54 they brought him to Jerusalem55 to present [him] 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, (Ex. 13:2, 12) and to offer a sacrifice, according to what is said in the law of the LORD, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.” (Lev. 5:11). Now, we know from the Pentateuch that this sacrifice was a provision where the parents were extremely poor. Thus Luke preserves the two traits that we have noticed as the characteristics of his Gospel. First, there is the Evangelist showing that the Lord met Israel thoroughly according to the Divine ordinances that He was presented in the strictest compliance with the law “to the Jew first.”54 The next feature is the display of moral principles manifested in all that surrounded the Lord on His coming into the world, as well as His ways in it. To the poor the Gospel is preached; and the Lord did not preach the Gospel to the poor as One who was a rich and mighty and distinguished Patron, though entitled even as man to the highest place on earth. But though He was rich, the Lord Jesus tasted what it is to be poor (2 Cor. 8:9) and despised in all its reality. It was not as a benefactor, which is the way of the world; their great ones are called benefactors, when they spare of their bounty for the destitute. As it is said, “They that exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But ye [shall] not [be] thus.” (Luke 22:25f.) And as we are commanded not to act thus, on the other hand Jesus was surely not so, but the very reverse. Infinitely above all, He nevertheless took His place with the least, with the most obscure and overlooked in the land: and this, as we see, from the very beginning of His earthly course.

But if there was no natural éclat but evident humiliation in the facts of our Lord’s infancy, what was there not of moral glory! This again it was most suitable for Luke to notice, and he alone does so. “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was just and pious, awaiting the consolation of Israel,56 and [the] Holy Spirit was upon him.” The consolation of Israel was come; the Person who brought it in, and who would make it good in due time, was here. But, further, it was revealed to Simeon “by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he should see [the] LORD’S Christ.”57 These and the like revelations were vouchsafed before the canon of Scripture was complete. “And he came in the Spirit into the temple.” It was a part of that same goodness of God, Who would give suitable witnesses, that this godly man came in at the very time when the parents brought in the infant Jesus to do for Him “according to the custom of the law.” But he sees that there was in that babe One altogether above the law. In grace He might become subject to it, and His parents were, of course, right in paying every deference to its ordinances. But Simeon “received him into his arms, and blessed God, saying, Lord,22a now thou lettest thy bondman go according to thy word, in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”57a The law of Moses never could give a sinful man to depart in peace — so to speak, it never ought. Peace must be, in order to be real and righteous, from the God who gave the law present in grace, present as man in this world, and present to suffer for sins, the Just for the unjust. And so He was, for such was Jesus. No wonder, then, that he whose eyes were touched with a better eyesalve than that of earth could see God and His salvation in the Babe — could say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” It was not imagination, but sober faith; it was “according to thy word.” It was not a mere craving desire, nor a sanguine hope. There is nothing so sure as the testimonies of God and His Word; and he had an intimation that he should not see death until he had seen the Anointed of Jehovah. But to depart in peace according to the Lord’s Word was a matter of broader interest; it was for others who might not see the Babe. To him, however, it was pledged and performed. “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” This was what kings and prophets had desired to see, and now Simeon saw it in the person of Jesus. And so, as it was grace of the most marked character in the favour shown to the aged Simeon, he enters more or less into the dealings of grace by the power of the Spirit of God. Thus he pursues it: (“Mine eyes have seen thy salvation), which thou hast prepared before the face of” — not now “all the (Jewish) people,” but “all peoples.” Again, it is “a light” not exactly “to lighten the Gentiles,” but “for revelation of [the] Gentiles, and [the] glory of thy people Israel.”58 To this godly man there was an intimation of the momentous change that was at hand. The salvation of God could not be restricted to one people; if God’s salvation was upon earth it must at least in result be before all the nations; as St. Paul said, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11). That goes farther, no doubt, because it supposes the work done, as well as the person manifested; nevertheless the principle is the same, and it is here.

But further note, “a light for revelation of [the] Gentiles.” This is an unusual expression and to be weighed. The Gentiles during God’s dealings with Israel were in the dark. Those were the times of ignorance, and God winked at their ways. But now, says the apostle, He commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30). There is no excuse for ignorance longer. The Light shines, the true Light. Christ was that Light, and He is a Light for revelation of the Gentiles. This is the time during which Israel is blinded, and the long hidden Gentiles are revealed, brought out of the degradation in which they had hitherto lain.”‘ But when God has accomplished His work among the Gentiles, that which is added here will be made true, “and the glory of thy people Israel.”58a This verse is very important as showing what was to ensue when Israel would reject the Messiah, and before they shall be brought in by and by. This is not the order that we find in the prophets. There the Lord, wherever He is presented as the Glory of Israel, is also seen as blessing the Gentiles subordinately to the chosen people. Here the reversed order is, I think, significant: “a light for revelation of [the] Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” The predicted and regular state of things will follow this exceptional period during which the Gentiles have been revealed. Nevertheless once God has brought the Gentiles into light, He never puts them back into darkness. But this will not hinder Him from bringing Israel to the highest pitch of earthly glory above all the Gentiles. Thus God’s wisdom will secure that His goodness to the Gentiles shall never pass away, but at the same time He will accomplish His ancient and special promises to Israel. During the present dispensation these two things are necessarily separated. The Gentiles are being revealed now, and though hereafter they shall not cease to be revealed, Christ will be the glory of His people Israel. Now He is, as it were, their shame, or rather they are His; because they crucified Him, and they have not yet repented of their sin, but added to it their contempt of the Spirit’s message of forgiveness on faith in the Gospel.

“And his father29 and mother wondered at the things which were said concerning him. And Simeon blessed them.” Now, too, he is given to supply the key to the fact that the glory of the people Israel should be postponed. He “said to Mary his mother, Lo, this [child] is set for the fall and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign spoken against (and even a sword shall go through thine own soul), so that [the] thoughts may be revealed from many hearts.” 58b The personal sorrow of Mary is alluded to, who is to be a witness of the crucifixion of her own Son. Luke always brings out these touches of human affection and sorrow. This is a part of his province, because he particularly portrays the Lord Jesus as a man; and in accordance with which he brings out the feelings of those so nearly connected with Him as His mother. The moral object and effect is added with equal propriety “that [the] thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Such is the issue of the rejection of Jesus. If men’s hearts are set upon present glory and ease, the cross of Jesus scandalises them. If their hearts, on the contrary, are taught of God to feel the need of redemption through the blood of the Saviour, then the Cross of Christ is most welcome and sweet. If Divine love has value in our eyes, if the alienation of the world from God is strongly felt by our hearts, then the death of Christ will have its just place more or less. On the other hand, to self-righteousness, or self-will, or worldliness the Cross of Christ is just hateful and repulsive in the measure in which it is understood. Where there is the sense of need, where there is the teaching of God, where there is entrance into Divine love, where the world’s position in His sight or the Place of faithful testimony for God is appreciated, there the Cross rises in its value before our hearts. Thus the thoughts of many hearts are revealed, and by the Cross above all other tests.

God, however, brings in, besides Simeon, another witness, Anna the prophetess, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

As Simeon was said to be just and pious, so the Spirit loves to record a blessed account of this believing woman, Anna. If he, too, had the spirit of prophecy, so had she. “She was a widow up to30 eighty-four years,59 who did not depart from the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.” The subjection of these godly ones in Israel to ordinances, or their submission to God according to the law, is carefully noted here. “And she coming up the same hour, gave praise to the LORD,31 and spoke of him to all those who waited for redemption in3259a Jerusalem.” The present guidance of God is equally conspicuous in her case as in that of Simeon. There was then, as ever, a remnant according to the election of grace; and God took care that the testimony should reach those whose hearts were prepared for Jesus. Grace might and would in due time go out to the very vilest; but God first of all makes Him known to those whose hearts were already touched, waiting for Jesus. The moral wisdom of such ways seems to me equally apparent and admirable.

Such is the presentation of the Lord as yet in Jewish circumstances, given by our Evangelist, though not without hints and predictions which look out to a larger vista of Divine goodness.

There was the full recognition of the law of the LORD, while the person of Jesus is brought before us with all evidence as the great manifestation of God’s grace. This surprises some. They are apt to set law and grace in contradiction to each other. Now for this there is no just reason. It is true neither of the person of Christ nor of His work, any more than of those that are Christ’s. In no case does law suffer through the grace of God, but on the contrary, it never receives so important a testimony either to its authority or to its use as through grace. Indeed, it is grace alone which accomplishes the law. Other people talk about it and employ it for their own importance; but in point of fact they weaken it, and even teach or allow in their doctrine that God mitigates it under the Gospel, instead of maintaining all its real authority. This is very strikingly shown in our Lord’s case, but it is equally true both in the Cross and in Christianity. Hence in Romans 3 we read that through faith “we establish the law,” because the believer rests upon the mighty work of Christ on the cross, which gave the most solemn sanction to the law that it over received or could have. Faith beholds Jesus suffering the curse in all its depth and its bitterness; whereas, in the view I am opposing, God is conceived to depart from the rigour of the law in order to show mercy. The doctrine of the apostle shows, on the contrary, that Jesus underwent the extreme judgment of God for sin and bore all that God could display against our evil when imputed to Him. Therefore nothing but grace remains, so to speak, and becomes the portion of those who believe. Thus faith establishes the law, as legalism undermines it in order to let off the guilty. It is the same principle with the people of God. In Romans 8 it is written, “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:3). It is not merely fulfilled in Him, but in the Christian;, it was established in the Cross and it is fulfilled in us “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” The reason is because the new nature in the believer always loves the law of God and is subject to it, as nothing else is. This displays itself in the ways of the believer, in holiness, obedience, and love. For he who loves has fulfilled the law; as the apostle says elsewhere, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10). Hence we find that in the case of Christ, who was the proper manifestation of God’s grace, there was the fullest homage paid to the law; though personally His own title was above law, yet was He in grace made under law as truly as He was made of a woman, and this fittingly and righteously to accomplish redemption.

“And when they had completed all things according to the law of [the] LORD, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.”60 The law was owned in Jerusalem; grace takes its place among the insignificant and despised and outcast and good-for-nothing in the eyes of men: indeed, not only in Galilee but in a place proverbially obscure even there — Nazareth. What a wonderful witness of the way of Divine grace! People when they choose a place are apt to consider what pleases them most and will answer their interests best. What pleased God most and answered the interests of grace best was Nazareth. There His Son spent His earliest days. “And the child grew and waxed strong [in spirit],33 filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” How entirely independent of human culture,61 of anything that man could bring from without — this Child the Son of God, filled with wisdom; but as it is written, “the grace of God was upon him.”

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem34 every year at the feast of the passover.” It is this, their yearly visit to Jerusalem, which accounts for their being at Bethlehem when the Magi came up from the East. Certainly the arrival was not immediately after the Babe was born. It can hardly be doubted that it must have been on one of their regular subsequent visits, when they not only went up to Jerusalem, but, as we can understand, they turned aside to Bethlehem, which had now more than ever the deepest interest in their eyes, as the birthplace of the Child that had been given them — the Messiah. On the occasion of this visit, at least a year after His birth, the Magi came up and found the young Child with Mary His mother, and presented unto Him their gifts. And this accounts for the fact that, when Herod found it out, he ordered the children to be killed from two Years and under. He would scarcely have done this, cruel man as he was, had the Child been just born; but because at least a year had passed or more, to make sure of his purpose, he orders all to be killed from two years old and under “according to the time which he had accurately inquired from the Magi.” This causes at first sight a difficulty, because the Child is again seen in Bethlehem, whereas we are told that they lived at Nazareth. But there is really nothing to perplex the weakest believer. Luke supplies the link by telling us of the annual return to Jerusalem, while Matthew gives us the additional scene of the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem according to prophecy.62 Nothing would have been easier than, when they were at Jerusalem, to have turned southward to Bethany — nothing more natural than that they should revisit the scene of the most important event in their lives. Indeed, never had anything in interest approached the birth of Jesus since the world began. It was to be eclipsed, or at the least outshone, by the greater and altogether incomparable work of His cross. But this was not yet come.

We are next given to see that, when He was twelve years old, a remarkable illustration of His youthful days takes place.63 “When they had completed the days64 as they returned, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem; and his parents35 knew not [of it]. . . . And not having found him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.36 And it came to pass, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and hearing them, and asking them questions” (verses 43, 45f). A more attractive sight morally there is nowhere even in God’s Word. Just at the age when there is apt to be neither the simplicity of the child nor the exercised good sense of the man, we find Jesus thus engaged. Others of like age were, no doubt, bent upon their play, or the indulgence of curiosity in such a city, frittering away the most valuable time, that never can return, before the bustle of human life begins and the great struggle in which so many lose themselves continually. But Jesus was found lowly, and at the same time filled with wisdom, using the golden opportunity, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them (a proof of His humility), and asking them questions, a proof of His interest in the Scriptures. It was not enough that the Lord wakened His ear morning by morning to hear as the learned: it was not enough that He gave Him the tongue of the learned that He might know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4). But here it is the ear and tongue of the learner in the use of the means at the command of any child in Israel. However taught of God He might be immediately, here He was none the less sitting in the midst of the doctors of Jerusalem, both hearing them and asking them questions. It was not teaching them, though perfectly competent and personally entitled to do so as the Son of God.

No doubt His very questions were very instructive, such as never had been heard in this world before. Still, this beautiful picture displays the perfect propriety of the child Jesus. For though He was God, He was man; and not only man, but in this special stage of His manhood, as a youth, He shows all deference to those who were older than Himself. Had He acted upon right, He was the Lord of that temple, He might have taken up the word of Malachi, which bore witness to His coming there in power and glory. He might have claimed as Jehovah “suddenly [to] come to his temple: and who shall endure the day of his coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? . . . He shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver; and he will purify the children of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they shall offer unto Jehovah an oblation in righteousness.” Mal. 3:1, 3. But no; He, the Master, is found there as the disciple of the Word of God, as one Who does not for Himself dispense with, but on the contrary, would seek the profit of that Word which was on the lips of these doctors. It was, after all, His Father’s Word: so he hears them and asks them questions. “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding, and answers.” Thus His questions led to the manifestation of Divine truth; so yet more His answers, as is evident from this that they also put questions to Him.65

And when His parents “saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Child, why hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee distressed. And he said to them,66 Why [is it] that ye have sought me? Did ye not know that I ought to be [occupied] in my Father’s business?”66a Thus from early youth our Lord had the consciousness of being the Son of God above all earthly claims. But exactly as grace acknowledges the law, so the eternal Son acknowledges His human place as the child of Mary. He asserted and proved that He was really the Son of the Father in His own consciousness and that consequently He must be about His Father’s business. It was not open to, or possible for, Him to set aside His Father’s will. This was the first object before His heart. But spite of all this devotedness as Son of God, spite of His parents not understanding what He said, He comes down with them “to Nazareth and was in subjection to them,” while His mother keeps all these37 sayings, little understood, in her heart.

“And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men.” Thus we have this fresh notice of the Lord’s growth outwardly as well as inwardly. How can we reconcile such intimations with His being God Himself, though man? Most evidently He was always perfect, but then He was the perfect Babe, and the perfect Youth, as we shall also find Him to be in due time the perfect Man. At any given moment He was absolutely perfect, and yet He grew. He advanced from a Babe to a Youth and from a Youth to a Man. And so it was, that, as He grew up, the perfection was in exact harmony with His growth, and proved itself to be so both to God and man. If the immaculate and holy Babe was precious in the sight of God, yet more as youth, and most of all the developed maturity of a man.

It is thus therefore that, while all was perfect and always so, still, that perfection admitted of progress; “and Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour67 with God and men.” But all this, we may observe, is in precise accordance with the spirit and design of our Evangelist, and, in fact, found in this Gospel alone.

19 Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 247-256.

20 “The census itself” ( αὐτή): so ACL Δ and later uncials, with most cursives. — Edd.: “This ( αὕτη) was the first census,” after BD.

21 “Wife”: so A Δ and later uncials, nearly all cursives (including 33, 69) and Amiat. — Edd. omit, after BCpm DL, etc. Syrsin simply “wife” (Mrs. Lewis in Expositor: “under full legal protection of Joseph”).

22 “The”: so Δ and later uncials. Edd. omit, after ABDL Ξ.

23 “Lo”: so AD and the later uncials, all cursives, Old Lat. Vulg. Memph. Syrr.; but omitted by Edd., following BL Ξ.

24 “And lying in a manger”: so most Edd., after BL Ξ, 1, 33. Tisch., with D, omits “and lying.”

25 “Good pleasure in men”: so corr L Δ and all later uncials, cursives. Syrrpesch hcl (sin.: “good will to”), Copt. Arm. Aeth., with Basil, Gregory, Naz., etc.; but Revv. with Edd. adopt “peace to men of good pleasure” after pm Bpm AD, Old Lat. Vulg. Goth., with Iren. Origen (Jer.), Hill, etc. See, further, note 52 in Appendix.

26 Edd. read simply “made known,” after BDL Ξ, etc. AE, etc., have made known about the country ( διεγνώρισαν).”

27 “Him so Edd. with ABL, etc., about 100 cursives (as 1), Old Lat. Amiat. Goth. Memph. “The child” is found in DE, etc., Syrr. Aeth.

28 “Their”: so Edd. after ABL and later uncials, most cursives, Syrr (except sin.) and versions in general, with Orig. “Her” (Lev. 12:4) of T.R., with Syrsin, has scarcely any MS. support.

29 “His father”: so Edd., with BDL Syrsin Amiat. Memph. Aeth. Arm. “Joseph” is in AE, etc., 33, 69, the other Syrr. most Old Lat. Goth.

30 “Up to”: so Edd., following ABL Ξ, 33, Amiat. Memph. “About” has the support of later uncials (EX Δ, etc.), as of most cursives, and Syrr (sin.: simply 84).

31 “The Lord”: so A and later uncials, with most cursives, nearly all Old Lat. Amiat. Syrr. Aeth. Arm. Edd. adopt “God,” from BDL, etc., Memph.

32 “In”: so AD, etc.; but Edd. omit, after B Ξ, 1, Syrsin (“of”).

33 [“In spirit”]: so A and later uncials, most cursives (1, 33, 69) and Syrr. Aeth. Edd. omit, as BDL Syrsin, most Old Lat., Amiat., etc.

34 “To Jerusalem” is in AC and later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat., Amiat. Goth. Arm. Aeth. Edd. omit, after BDL, Syrr. Memph.

35 Edd. adopt “His parents,” following BDL, 1, 33, Syrsin, Memph., etc. AC and later uncials, most cursives and Old Lat., the other Syrr. and Goth. have “Joseph and His mother.”

36 “Seeking Him”: so A, later uncials, and the cursives. Edd. adopt “seeking Him diligently,” after BCDL.

37 So Weiss, with corr ACL, etc., Syrcorr, but Revv., as W.H., follow pm: “the.”