And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.…
Conceiving of Him then, as in a transition from childhood to manhood, as in a process of training for the highest of works, we ask what lessons are to be gathered from His silent years?
I. We shall conclude that GOD QUALIFIED HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMB, MADE UNDER THE LAW, FOR HIS FUTURE OFFICE, BY THE TRAINING OF THE FAMILY STATE. "And was subject to His parents." The family state, we cannot doubt, was most happily devised, according to the original plan of uncorrupt human nature, not only for the preservation and physical welfare of the child, but also for the development of all the higher qualities of man. It is the beginning and the condition of society. He who passes out of its healthy training into the larger circle of fellow-citizens or fellow-men, has a foundation already laid for all social sympathies, for the conception of human brotherhood, for the exercise of good will in every form. It is also the condition of, and the preparation for, all law. The dependent being, trained up in it to listen to higher authority and wisdom, to give up self-will and practice self-control, becomes fitted for the loyal life of the citizen, and for obedience to God. Thus it was meant, according to the primaeval plan, that the infant mind should be disciplined in the family for a life of law and of love — law which should lead the soul up to the great central Lawgiver of the universe, and, love, which should embrace the brotherhood of souls, and God, the Father of all. His soul was fitted for its work by entering into the great relations of humanity.
II. JESUS PASSED THROUGH THE DISCIPLINE OF A LIFE OF HUMBLE INDUSTRY. "Is not this the carpenter?" Here we have two things to notice, the discipline of a life of industry upon the Son of Man, and the influence of the lowly position which He thus assumed among His brethren of mankind. We must conceive, then, that during these years of labour as a carpenter, the Son of Man had time, even amid His work, for noble and holy thoughts. Nor ought we to lay out of account the patience which sedulous manual labour would bring along with it. I may add, that the helpfulness of our Lord in His calling tended to strengthen the principle of helpfulness to mankind, or of unwearied benevolence. But the patient helpfulness of Jesus, as He did His work well in and for the family, inured His holy mind to the hard toils of that glorious life of love, in which we learn, on one occasion, that He had not time so much as to eat bread, and gave Himself up to works of mercy so earnestly that His friends thought Him mad. What other .training could have equally encouraged His unwearied devotion to the hard, slow work of doing good? But the obscurity of the sphere in which Jesus moved, aided the graces of His character, such as meekness and lowliness, and also enlarged His power of usefulness. Here we notice only the last particular, leaving the others for future remark. It is often thought to add to a man's power among men, if he is born in a high place, and commands the respect of mankind as well by his ancestry and station, as by what he is. But the power to act upon men, so far as it depends on feeling with them, and being felt with by them, is generally abridged by position above the major part of mankind. Hence it is, that those monarchs who have risen from the people can know them better, and come closer to their admiration and their hearts, than such as have inherited the throne. Hence, too, those reformers are likely to be most successful, who add to other advantages that of a lively interest in and comprehension of the great mass of men, which their birth and early education has encouraged. The son of the miner, at Eisleben, with his homely, earnest peasant-soul, and his manly courage, was fitter to attract and mingle with his countrymen, was better able, when his mind had become enlarged by study, to spread the Protestant Reformation, than if he had been the son of an Emperor of Germany, or one of the princes of the empire. Such a personage, if he could have understood and preached the gospel, would have found that a gulf was fixed between him and his people.
III. THE SILENT YEARS AT NAZARETH ENABLED HIM TO MEDITATE LONG AND DEEPLY ON THE SCRIPTURES. A striking characteristic of our Lord, from the first moment of His public ministry onward, is His reverence for and familiarity with the Scriptures. Here, then, in this sequestered village, away from the emptiness of Pharisaical learning, and from Sadducean scepticism, He was reared on the Divine Word in its simplicity, was fortified by it against temptation, studied its promises of a coming Messiah, and became ready to apply it to the varying circumstances of practical life. He trained mankind through the Jews; He made His Son a Jew that He might build up on the old foundation the new truths of a religion for the world; and in order that Jesus Himself might be trained up for this work He chose this simple method of placing Him alone with the ancient Scriptures, away from human teachers and comments, that the pure truth of God might fill His mind.
IV. The life of retirement which Jesus led at Nazareth WAS FITTED TO NOURISH SOME OF THOSE MEEK AND UNPRETENDING GRACES OF CHARACTER WHICH SHONE BEYOND COMPARISON IN HIM. I name first patience, or willingness to wait until the right time was come. The same discipline which perfected the patience, perfected also the calmness of Jesus. His obedience grew, through His years of waiting, deeper and heavenlier became His calmness. This discipline of His still years gave strength also to His retiring spirit, or modesty. I only add, that the retirement of Nazareth was fitted to nourish simplicity of feeling and character. It has been made a definition of a wise and pure life to live according to nature. The simplicity and honesty of the man Christ Jesus were, no doubt, nourished and perfected in a simple, godly family, in a simple village, away from much of the gloss and falsehood which abounded in Judea. We might conceive of Divine wisdom taking just the opposite method of calling it forth, that of placing Jesus in close neighbourhood to formal and false Pharisees, so that His education should consist in loathing the characters which He should see around Him. That strength would come from such a discipline we cannot doubt; and yet the other plan, which was in fact chosen, seems the best for a harmonious perfection of the whole character, and especially for the predominance of the gentler virtues,
( T. D. Woolsey, D. D.)
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.