And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.…
I. JESUS CHRIST IN HOME LIFE. "And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them."
1. We see Him settling down to the relationships of home. But Jesus Christ was perfectly content in the home circle. He did not complain of its narrowness and confinement. For He did not judge life by its magnitude, but by the principle which animates it; He did not judge life by its conspicuousness; but by the spirit which inspires it. The tiny speck on the lady-bird's wing is as round a circle as that of the world. The sphere which a tear makes is as mathematically perfect as that of yonder sun. It makes not the slightest difference in the real merit of a book whether it is printed in large or small type; in either case the meaning is precisely the same. Some people seriously object to the privacy of home — the type is too small to please their fancy; they must act their part on the public stage, in the corners of the streets, and in the synagogues — they dearly love a large type. But the Saviour spent thirty years in the privacy of home, and never once complained of its narrowness and obscurity.
2. We are further taught that He faithfully discharged the duties of home — the duties which devolved on Him as a son in the family. Each member of the family has its respective services to perform, and harmony always depends upon the right adjustment, the proper balancing, of distinct interests. "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." He might have been wiser than they; but superior knowledge does not justify insubordination.
3. And the context shows that in all this He was doing His Father's work. "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's work?" And if home life were not an integral department of that work, it would have been utterly impossible for Jesus Christ to have submitted to it. But home life is a Divine life, a type, possibly, of the inner life of the Godhead. The Bible represents God as a Father, it describes Him as having a family, it sets Him forth as having a home. Home life is a Divine life, and by serving it we do God's work.
II. JESUS CHRIST IN SOCIAL LIFE.
1. Here we see Him settling down to the relationships of society, and that the most corrupt society in the whole world. Nazareth would have ranked among the choicest towns of Palestine; but its inhabitants were notorious far and near for their impiety, recklessness, and heathenism. "Every prospect pleases, and only map is vile." Strange that God should choose depraved Nazareth to be the dwelling-place of His Son for thirty years 1 We would have imagined that a select and secluded spot would have been chosen where He would have been kept from all contact with sin, and where He would have been partitioned off from other children, and thus secured against the contagion of evil. But that was not God's idea of holiness. Glass-house virtue He did not covet. For the dove to keep her wing pure and unsullied amid the free air of heaven is not so very difficult — indeed the difficulty is to soil it; but to keep it white and clean among the pots is quite another matter, and harder far to accomplish. From early infancy Jesus Christ had to face vice; from the outset He had to grapple with sin. His virtue must be sinewy, manly, tried, and triumphant. Earthly parents may here learn a very precious lesson: not to put too much confidence in glasshouse virtue — it generally withers on its first exposure to the rude winds of the world. Children may be ruined in one of two ways: either by being permitted to visit all kinds of wicked places and witness all manner of obscene spectacles without let or hindrance; or by being kept too strictly aloof from all society and guarded too narrowly against the approach of other children, for when the protection is withdrawn, as withdrawn it surely must be, and they are left to fight for themselves, they will almost necessarily succumb to the first assault of temptation. And conservatory children may be very pleasing to look at so long as they are under shelter; but the first storm will make a sad havoc among their branches. Let children learn from the first how to defend themselves against physical and moral foes alike.
2. We further learn that He discharged with the utmost fidelity the duties of society, the duties that devolved upon Him as a citizen of Nazareth. "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth," and there, adds the evangelist very significantly, "He grew in favour with God and men." I confess to a strong liking for the phrase that "He grew in favour with men." He knew what it was to luxuriate in the golden opinions of His neighbours. And let none of you, young people, despise the favour of men; to please society is not altogether an unworthy aim. Favour with God must precede favour with men. "He grew in favour with men." This supposes that He was studious of the little proprieties of every-day life. There are men who cling with indomitable tenacity to the fundamental verities; rather than relax their hold of them, they will go cheer. fully to the stake to die. But they are culpably regardless of the little politenesses of social intercourse — they never grow in favour with men. They remind one of a rugged granite rock, firm, solid, and white under the meridian light; but no flower grows in its clefts, no snowdrop or foxglove, no primrose or daisy, softens the untarnished hardness. They are men of strong principles, but of ungracious disposition; they never grow in favour with men.
3. And in leading the life of a citizen the context shows He was doing the work of God. "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" If there is a must in it, it is evident He cannot leave it; and that in going down to Nazareth He continued to be about it. The truth is, society is a Divine institution; and in serving it we do God's work. Jesus Christ lived in Nazareth to realize the Divine idea of a citizen, to reduce to actuality, to embody in a life, the thought as it existed in the Divine mind. Men had to see the perfect life acted out before their eyes. He was not of the world — not of it in its way of thinking, not of it in its way of feeling, not of it in its way of living; not of it, yet in it. Anti as He was, so are we — placed in the midst of society, and yet of a Divine citizenship. The highest ideal of Christian life is city life. "Ye are a city set on a hill." The life of innocent humanity was a garden or rural life. "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and put man there." It was a free, simple, country life. "But ye are come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem," and your life henceforth must be city life.
III. JESUS CHRIST IN INDUSTRIAL LIFE. "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth."
1. By thus entering into industrial life He shows that work may be made sacred.
2. He further shows that work is not incompatible with the highest religious attainments.
3. By following a trade, He further showed that the highest purpose of work is not fortune but discipline. I suppose we cannot all get on in this world of ours, and my text reminds us of another who worked very hard, who followed His trade diligently, but did not get on very well except towards Gethsemane, Calvary, and the grave. He can sympathize with you; He stands by your side, ready to share your burden; He stoops, He bends; may you have the grace to roll it on His shoulders! What is Christianity? God bending beneath and bearing aloft the burden of the world. If work does not better your earthly condition, it will improve your heart; if it does not add to your fortune, it will considerably augment your manhood; if it will not bring you affluence in this life, it will help to qualify you for a more abundant entrance on the rich, profound life on yonder side the grave.
IV. JESUS CHRIST IN HIS RELIGIOUS OR TEMPLE LIFE.
1. The context shows us that He was in His Father's house, and that whilst there the blessed and glorious truth of His Sonship dawned upon Him. All rich natures, all deep and fertile natures, feel an attraction towards God's temple. There is so much mystery appealing powerfully to the worshipful faculty, so much solemn grandeur subduing the heart and carrying it captive, such sublimity and loftiness in the service of the temple, though outwardly it be but a barn, that it gives ample scope for the imagination. Hence all rich, poetical natures find their proper food and their appropriate atmosphere in the service of God's house.
2. He was in the Temple, asking and answering questions. His mind thirsted for knowledge. But as Christ was free from sin, His insight was quicker, clearer, deeper than ours. An intellect twelve years old free from sin will astonish intellects fifty years old tainted by the disease. The water-lily, growing in the midst of water, opens its leaves, expands its petals, at the first pattering of the shower, whilst other flowers in the same neighbourhood are quite insensible to the descent of the raindrops. Why? Because reared in water, it has quicker sympathy with rain. And so with the Lily of our Humanity: His soul, planted, as it were, in the midst of the ocean of omniscience, rejoiced in knowledge with a quicker and more refined sympathy than has ever been witnessed before or since in the history of our race.
3. Observe, further, His total absorption in His Father's work. "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" Literally, "in My Father's business." Not about it, but in it.
(J. C. Jones.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.