Luke 2:39
When Jesus' parents had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
Sermons
The Circumcision and Presentation of JesusR.M. Edgar Luke 2:21-40
First Sunday After EpiphanyJ. A. Seiss, D. D.Luke 2:39-52
Glimpses of the Divine ChildhoodE. Johnson, M. A.Luke 2:39-52
NazarethJ. Stalker, L. A.Luke 2:39-52
The Early Years of Christ T. D. Woolsey, D. D.Luke 2:39-52
The Life of JesusJ. C. Jones.Luke 2:39-52
The Personality of JesusPrincipal Fairbairn, D. D.Luke 2:39-52
The Training of Jesus ChristG. D. Boardman.Luke 2:39-52
From this interesting episode, without which the beautiful story of the infant Savior in the temple would hardly be complete, we learn -

I. THAT THERE IS ROOM IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST FOR THE SERVICE OF WOMAN-HOOD. It was well that the aged Simeon should bear his testimony to the birth of the Savior; it was also well that this aged and honorable prophetess should "likewise give thanks." Woman as well as man was to utter reverent joy on this supreme occasion. Woman, in the person of Anna, might well rejoice; for in the kingdom of Christ there is "neither male nor female;" all distinction of sex is unknown. Woman is as free to enter that kingdom as man; she may reach as high a position, by personal excellency, in it; she is as welcome to render holy service and fruitful testimony; is as certain to reap the reward of fidelity in the kingdom of heaven to which it leads. Women were the most faithful attendants on our Lord during his earthly ministry; they have been, since then, the most regular worshippers and the most devoted workers in his Church (see homily on Luke 8:2, 3).

II. THAT LONG LONELINESS MAY WELL BRING US INTO CLOSE COMMUNION WITH GOD. Anna had a very long widowhood (ver. 36), and in her loss of human fellowship she waited much on God. She "departed not from the temple, but served God... with prayers night and day." When denied one another's society, what can we do better than seek fellowship with our heavenly Father, with our Divine Friend? What, indeed, can we do so well? Communion with the Father of our spirits will bring healing to the wounded soul, will be companionship for the lonely hour, will promote sanctity and submissiveness of will, will remind us of those other children of his who need our sympathy and succor, and will send us forth blessing and blest on the errands of love.

III. THAT A VISION FROM GOD SHOULD RESULT IN PRAISE AND TESTIMONY. Anna "gave thanks unto the Lord, and spake of him [the infant Christ] to all," etc. Inspired of God, she recognized the long looked-for Messiah, and immediately she broke into praise, and forthwith began to communicate the joyful fact to all whom she could reach. This is the true order and the right procedure. When God reveals himself or his truth to us, we must first go to him in gratitude and praise, and must lose no time in passing on to others what he has entrusted to us.

IV. THAT AGE HAS ITS OFFERING TO BRING, as well as youth and prime. It is pleasant to think of the aged Anna, some way past four score, bent and feeble with the weight of years, speaking to "all them that looked," etc., and telling them that he whom they had waited for so long had come at last. A fair sight it is in the eyes of man, and surely in his also who estimates our service according to our ability (ch. 21:3), when those whose strength is well-nigh gone and who have earned their rest by long and faithful labor will not be persuaded to retire from the field, but labor on until the darkness of death arrests them.

V. THAT HOLY EXPECTATION WILL MEET WITH ITS FULFILMENT. There were many looking ("all of them," etc.) for redemption (ver. 38); and as they waited for God and upon him, their hearts' desires were granted. God may delay his answer for a while, even for a long while, but in due time it will come. The seeker will find; the worker will reap. - C.







Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
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.)

Observe, then, just where the real difficulty lies: it lies not in the fact of growth; it lies in the fact of incarnation, or the Divine birth itself. For the distance between the Babe of Bethlehem and the Man of Nazareth is infinitely less than the distance between man and God. But Christ's growth, be it carefully observed, implies no sort of imperfection. It is no sign of imperfection in a peach tree that it does not bear peaches in spring. And this growth does not seem to have been marked by anything striking. Had it been, the presumption is that his biographers would at least have hinted it. The very silence here of the evangelists is thrilling, for it brings the Divine Man within the range of our human sympathies and affections, thoroughly identifying Him with our average humanity. He grew up, as grows His own kingdom, without observation. "Wist ye not that I must be in My Father's house, about My Father's business?" All these years the heavenly Plant has been unfolding, and now appears the first blossom.

1. There was the school of home. I do not refer here to the lessons consciously taught by parents so much as to the lessons unconsciously taught by the home institution itself. We are trained for the celestial home in the school of the terrestrial, learning the heavenly sonhood in the exercise of an earthly, the universal brotherhood in the sphere of a personal. Home — that is to say, true home — is the best soil for the germination and growth of large, solid, abiding character. Christ's stay of thirty years beneath His mother's roof is an eternal glorification of the home institution.

2. There was the school of subordination. Loyalty is the mother of royalty.

3. There was the school of toil. There is no reason for supposing that Joseph and Mary were especially poor, and therefore that Jesus was brought up in absolute poverty. Ah, how this educates Him for sympathy with what must ever be the preponderating class of humanity, the working-class.

4. There was the school of society. No desert education was His, like that of His forerunner, John the Baptizer. He must feel the quickening, broadening, rounding power of society.

5. There was the school of isolation. What though He was brought up in society? Society comprehended Him not. Even His brothers, sons of His own mother, did not believe on Him. For the foundations of character are laid in moral solitude. Man's grandest victories are, and ever must be, won single-handed.

6. There was the school of the synagogue. Every day in the week, and three times every Saturday or the Jewish Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue, where He saw a model of the ark of the covenant, and the scrolls of the sacred books, and joined in the prescribed prayers, and listened to the reading of the two lessons — the one from the law, the other from the prophets.

7. There was the school of providence. Daily providence was His daily teacher.

8. There was the school of nature.

9. There was the school of routine. Doubtless it was the same unbroken, monotonous routine of family and workshop and synagogue, week after week, month after month, year after year. The frequent and tedious drill is the best preparation for the battle paean.

10. There was the school of delay. During those long thirty years Jesus doubtless often yearned to enter at once upon His glorious mission as the Christ of God and the Saviour of men. Not that enterprise and courage and energy are not praiseworthy. They are most noble traits. But there is such a thing as prematurity, and prematurity is apt to mean failure. This lesson of patience is especially needed in our times and land. It is an age of swift things, morally as well as physically. Young man, patiently abide your time. There is no heroism like the heroism of patience, no majesty like the majesty of self-confluence.

11. There was the school of temptation. And temptation is not only essential to character-disclosing, temptation is also essential to character-building.

12. There was the school of experience. For there is no education like the education of personal experience. Nothing can take the place of it: neither wealth, nor genius, nor splendid opportunities, nor indomitable will. And as in nature, so in morals: the slower the crystallization, the more perfect and abiding. And all this was as true for the Christ as it is for you and me. Such is the story of the home-life of the Divine Man. As that Greater than Solomon was rearing that temple nobler than Moriah's, no stroke of hammer, or axe, or any tool of iron was heard.

"No workman's steel, no ponderous axes rung,

Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung,"

The great lesson, then, of the home-life at Nazareth is this: Every-day life our training-school for heaven.

(G. D. Boardman.)

But let us now direct our attention more particularly to the youthful Saviour's visit to the Temple, as narrated in this day's Gospel.

1. It appears from this record, that his parents were punctual and regular in their attendance upon the appointed services of religion. They were poor. They also lived very far away. By actual experiment, I found it two days and a half hard riding, upon active horses, from Nazareth to Jerusalem. But they found no excuse in these things for failing to be present in the holy city when the feast of the Passover came round.

2. It appears that, as soon as Jesus had reached His twelfth year, these pious parents took Him with them on their annual visit to the sacred city and Temple. At any rate, they took Him with them, an example which it would be well for all parents to note and follow.

3. It appears that this visit of the young Saviour to the holy city and Temple was the means of an enlarged and astonishing spiritual awakening to Him. Mind left to itself stagnates and fails of proper fruitfulness. The quickening spark needs to be applied to kindle it into living flame and power. New subjects were thrown in upon His human intellect. A new world opened to His soul and seized upon His heart, already in holy and peaceful harmony with the deepest underlying Spirit of all. It was not a conversion, for He needed no converting. It was not the implantation of the new life; for He never was dead to holy things. But it was the opening of His human faculties, the quickening of their activities, to grasp the objects which were to fill and enlist His powers, which marked the commencement of that higher consciousness and ampler realization of the truth, in meek and zealous obedience to which He from that time forward went forth, and which was the active principle of all His subsequent life and deeds as the Redeemer el the world. Brethren, will any one look these facts in the face and say, that there is no use for children to come to the temple of God! I know of a boy, who, at fourteen years of age, walked a series of miles from his home, to a strange place, to see a synodical convention. He started out in the morning, and returned at night, without partaking of a meal during his absence, and repeated the same on the day following. And from what he saw and heard during those two days, there was formed in his heart the purpose to devote himself to the gospel ministry. That purpose he also carried into effect, against the dissuasion of his bishop, the disapprobation of his father, and all the disadvantages of the absence of pecuniary resources. That contact with the assembled ministers of the Church, brought about by no particular object save to gratify a general desire for information, and without having spoken a word to any of them, touched a cord, and awoke a feeling, which gave shape and direction to his whole after life. And that boy is your preacher to-day! Nor can you know what living seeds of transforming power, and fruitfulness in virtue and grace, may be planted by a single visit of a youth to the temple of God! See to it, then, that your children are early brought into connection with all the ministrations of the sanctuary.

4. It also appears from this record, that even the pious Joseph and Mary expected much less from this carrying of the youthful Jesus to the temple, than actually occurred. Ah yes, there is often more going on in the hearts of children than their parents, who know them best, suppose or believe. The purest waters are those that run deepest under ground, before they show themselves; and there may be much more in our children, and in the very line of our most anxious desires, than we would for a moment think of ascribing to them.

5. Finally, it appears from this record, what that was which from earliest youth most powerfully absorbed Christ's feelings and attention, and what in His view is the proper thing supremely to enlist and engage the young. "How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" He had relations in heaven paramount to all relations of kindred and blood on earth.

(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

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.)

The Man in germ, the personality in the making, we see but once, yet the once is almost enough. The Child has come with His parents to Jerusalem. The city, the solemnities, the Temple, the priests, the sacrifices, the people, have stirred multitudinous new thoughts in the Boy. tie becomes for a moment forgetful of His kin, conscious of higher and Diviner relations, and seeks light and sympathy where they were most likely to he found — in the Temple and with the doctors. It is an eminently natural and truthful incident. The Ideal Child, wise in His innocent simplicity, seeks the society of simple but learned age, feels at home in it, wonders only, when sought and found, that it could be in His mother's mind other than it was in His own. The light that streams from the question, "Wist ye not that I must be among My Father's matters," in His house, in search of His truth, mindful of His purposes? illumines the Youth and makes Him foreshadow the Man. For He, who as Boy, was anxious to be absorbed in His Father and His Father's affairs, became as Man the conscious abode of God. Here, indeed, emerges the sublimest and most distinctive feature of His personality. In Him, as in no other, God lived; He lived as no other ever did in God. Their communion was a union which authorized the sayings, "I and the Father are one"; "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." His consciousness was full of God, was consciousness of God.

(Principal Fairbairn, D. D.)

This beautiful and only glimpse of the Boyhood of our Saviour is full of interest. It enables us to behold Jesus on this memorable occasion through the medium of others' feelings. We can often more vividly represent to ourselves a scene, and take in its meaning, when we are told what thoughts and feelings it stirred in the minds of actual spectators. By simple and natural touches the story before us fixes our thought upon Mary and others, but especially upon the mother, and the changing feelings of her heart during these few days. By the side of Mary, then, let us first approach, and study the behaviour of the Divine Child, so perplexing at the time to her, so charged with significance in the reflection of after-days, and now so full of light and holy beauty to all disciples of Jesus and students of His life.

1. The story opens with a powerful stroke of pathos. A child is lost! A mother's heart is thrown into agony. Several details left to be filled up by the imagination. Caravan had set out early in morning. A large group of relatives and friends of Joseph and Mary's house amidst the throng. Taken for granted that Jesus was among them until night began to fall, and it was time for Him to come to His parents' tent to rest. Nightfall made the discovery all the more terrible. Let us picture to ourselves the state of His mother's mind during those three weary days that followed — perhaps not to the Temple that Joseph and Mary first bent their steps. Narrative seems to hint that they were quite at a loss to imagine where the Child was. At length, however, in the course of their search, their steps are directed to the Temple. There were connected with the sacred edifice a number of halls or class-rooms, where the Rabbis met and instructed their scholars. Amongst these Rabbis there arose from time to time true and weighty moral teachers, who directed attention to something more important than the curious mystical speculations and interpretations which form so large a part of the Talmud. Of these the most famous was Hillel, whose memory was quite fresh, and whose influence was still great in the Temple schools. There is little doubt that our Lord recognized a true spirit in this eminent Rabbi; and it has been shown that there are striking points of resemblance between their teachings. To that school Jesus went, and taking His seat among the scholars, proceeded to put His questions, and to listen to the teacher's answers; for this was the customary mode of instruction in the Jewish schools; and a great part of the rabbinical books consists of the answers to such questions.

2. Here, then, a scene opens before us in the Temple school which is impressed upon us as a very remarkable one. We are invited to look upon it through the eyes of the bystanders, who, we are told, were filled with wonder and astonishment. But what was so astonishing 7 What was it that made this Child the focus of every gaze — that drew upon Him the profound attention of bearded sages, of venerable brows, that awakened the curiosity of young and old? Not, probably, the fact that a Boy of twelve was to be found in such a place and occupation; for at that age He would be regarded by the Jews as "a son of the law." It was the extraordinary intelligence of His remarks and replies, His "understanding," i.e., His mental grasp, His insight into things.

3. Joseph and Mary coming in were likewise "amazed" at the scene. In their case the wonder seems more difficult of explanation; and it is instructive to ponder the fact for a moment. Is it not often so, that parents or relatives are blind to that which is most significant in their children? Joseph and Mary must have been aware of the great destiny promised to Jesus; they could not possibly have forgotten all the Divine marks that were attached to His birth and infancy. And yet they were astonished when His destiny began to unfold itself before their eyes. Must we not all reproach ourselves with some such fault? Our eye rests so strongly on the outward, the circumstantial side of life that our interest is drawn away from the real and spiritual.

4. The contrast of the calmness of the Child with the astonishment of those around Him deepens our impression of the meaning of the scene. "Why did ye seek Me? Did ye not know that I must be about My Father's business?" or, "in My Father's house?" "Where should you have expected to find Me, but in this chosen and beloved spot?" This sense seems to us natural, suggestive, appropriate. If we take the phrase in the wider sense, a meaning is yielded only less suggestive. But either way a profound devotion to God and to His kingdom is expressed in the language of the Divine Child — an absorption in these high thoughts as all-commanding and supreme over ordinary relations and affections. His words were not understood, we are told, by those nearest to Him in earthly relation. There was in their idea of life no key to unlock the enigma of this mysterious Child. But the words were deeply treasured and pondered over in the mother's heart, till Divine Providence, gradually unclosing this bud of Heavenly growth grafted on an earthly stock, into a flower of immortal beauty, brought the long-hidden meaning of the scene to light.

5. Thus early, then, we behold our Saviour in His Divine and native relations to His Father, and to the kingdom of spirit; thus early we trace the signs of His indelible consecration to the service in which He was to spend His days and to shed His blood, and through which He was to rise to be spiritual and universal Lord. But what a completeness it gives to the picture, and how are we touched on the side of our human affections when we read that "Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them." Supremacy of His relations to His heavenly Father did not mean the forgetting or ignoring of lower relations.

6. Turn a parting glance at the scene, and read it, no longer by the light of other's eyes, but by the light which the Holy Spirit has given us through the word of the gospel. Let us be thankful for the ministry of children. All that is simple and innocent, inquiring and truth-loving in them, should remind us of the Divine Child and of His ministry to our souls. When tempted to lose ourselves in the materialism of the age, or in the busy cares or pleasures of the present world, let us think of Him as, in the Temple, He seems with uplifted finger to be saying, "I was born to other things!" And so may grace be given us to follow Him, that we may be brought in the fellowship of the Spirit into childhood to God, and to dwell in the heavenly Temple of our Father, to go no more out for ever.

(E. Johnson, M. A.)

Travellers tell us that the spot where Jesus grew up is one of the most beautiful on the face of the earth. Nazareth is situated in a secluded, cup-like valley amid the mountains of Zebulon, just where they dip down into the plain of Esdraelon, with which it is connected by a steep and rocky path. Its white houses, with vines clinging to their walls, are embowered amidst gardens and groves of olive, fig, orange, and pomegranate trees. The fields are divided by hedges of cactus, and enamelled with innumerable flowers of every hue. Behind the village rises a hill five hundred feet in height, from whose summit there is seen one of the most wonderful views in the world — the mountains of Galilee, with snowy Hermon towering above them to the north; the ridge of Carmel, the coast of Tyre, and the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean to the west; a few miles to the east, the wooded, cone like bulk of Tabor; and to the south the plain of Esdraelon, with the mountains of Ephraim beyond. The preaching of Jesus shows how deeply He had drunk into the essence of natural beauty and revelled in the changing aspects of the seasons. It was when wandering as a lad in these fields that He gathered the images of beauty which He poured out in His parables and addresses. It was on that hill that He acquired the habit of His after-life of retreating to the mountain-tops to spend the night in solitary prayer. The doctrines of His preaching were not thought out on the spur of the moment. They were poured out in a living stream when the occasion came, but the water had been gathering into the hidden well for many years before. In the fields and on the mountain-side He had thought them out during the years of happy and undisturbed meditation and prayer.

(J. Stalker, L. A.)

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