And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
I. THE PARENTAL CARE EXERCISED OVER JESUS. The pious pair, Joseph and Mary, went, as we are told, every year to Jerusalem to the Passover. And they had given the holy Child committed to their charge such advantages as Nazareth afforded. The home school especially, not to speak of synagogue services, to which he was doubtless regularly taken, evidenced their interest in the welfare of the Child. No sooner, therefore, has he reached the age of twelve, at which time little ones were deemed able to become "children of the Law," than he is taken up by them to see the Passover at Jerusalem. Their pious, consistent life was an excellent preparation for the solemnities of the great feast. Jesus came face to face with the ceremonies after experiencing most tender home care. And the history before us affords ample evidence of the parental consideration. If it was not perfect parental care, this is only to allow that neither Joseph nor Mary was sinless. Indeed, one of the German preachers bases an admirable discourse on parental duty upon this history, finding in it six separate hints upon it. But let us pause a moment over the care with which they must have explained to him all the ritual. Doubtless he saw more in it than they did, but he must have received gratefully their help in the circumstances. To them the Passover spoke of a great deliverance afforded to their fathers; to him it spoke of a great sacrifice yet to come. His insight must have been a deeper thing than they could then appreciate. And now let us pass to the oversight of which the parents were guilty. Their care was great, but it was not absolutely perfect. In the bustle of preparation for the home-going, the parents started with the caravan under the impression that he must be in the company of the boys who were in considerable numbers attached to the procession. They' should have made sure, and not left such a Child to the chances of travelling. We have no right to impute the separation of Jesus from his parents to any lack of dutifulness on his part, but solely to an oversight on theirs. What were all their bits of baggage and their acquaintances in comparison with the safe custody of "the holy Child"? And in consistency with this view, it has been suggested that underneath Mary's apparent expostulation and reproof there is a latent confession of her fault, which she and Joseph tried to atone for in their diligent search for the missing Boy.
II. THE LONELY BOY TURNED INSTINCTIVELY TO THE TEMPLE. The seven days of the Passover Feast had been a rare feast to Jesus. The priests and ritual and all the varied life which thronged the temple court must have been a revelation to him. He brought the consciousness of a Jew instructed in the Law to bear upon the temple and its services. We must look into his mind through the Old Testament. We there find the idea of God's Fatherhood in relation to his people several times referred to (Deuteronomy 14:1, 2; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:9, 20; Psalm 103:13, etc.). To the little thoughtful Boy, therefore, the temple was regarded as the home of him who was a Father to all who trusted in him. And this general idea of fatherhood became specialized in his deep, reverential musings, and he could not but feel towards God as no Jew had ever felt before. Whether he had as a Child the further revelation yet made to him of his peculiar relation to God as the Only Begotten, or reached this in the progress of the years, is what we cannot be certain of. At all events, the temple was the Father's house. To it the lonely Lad turned. He felt drawn to God irresistibly, now that his earthly guardians had gone away. "When father and mother forsake me," he could say, "the Lord will take me up." The orphan Child, so to speak, turned to the temple, as to his real home.
III. HE BECAME A HOLY LEARNER THERE. Not only was the temple the scene of the sacrifices; it was also the place of learning for those interested in the Law. Schools were established within the sacred precincts where the scribes discoursed to such pupils as chose to sit at their feet. The method seems to have been by dialogue - the question and answer which once were so prized. Here the Boy believed he would get light about the will of the great Father who dwelt there, and who had given his people the Law. As a faithful Son, he wished to get all possible light about his Father's business, and so he frequented the schools. He was a "model catechumen," as a suggestive writer on this whole passage calls him. Although he must have seen through the shallowness of some of his teachers, and had doubtless deeper insight than any, he was content to sit at their feet and get all the good from them he could. It was an instance, surely, of great diligence in embracing every opportunity of improvement which came his way. He wanted to learn all he could while he had the chance. And most naturally did his answers and questions astonish the doctors. They had never had such an apt scholar before. His insight led them along lines they never had traveled hitherto. And as for the Father's business, it at least embraces such elements as these:
1. The understanding of the terms of access to his presence. The significance of the ritual which was celebrated in the temple, the meaning of sacrifice, of bloodshedding, of incense, and of approach by the appointed priests into the Divine presence, - all this belonged to the Father's business.
2. The understanding of the meaning of his commandments. The Law as the expression of the Father's will, and read consequently in the light of love.
3. How far the knowledge of the Father was to be extended. The kingdom of God in its universal range, as distinct from a narrow nationality, - this was part of the Father's business. Hence the lingering of the holy Learner about the temple schools. His apt answers would procure him lodging and food during the season of separation his parents. Having put God first, all these things were added unto him (Matthew from Matthew 6:33).
IV. HIS RECOVERY BY THE ANXIOUS MOTHER. Joseph and Mary, on discovering at the end of the first day's march the absence of the Child, set out for Jerusalem to find him. They doubtless inquire all the way back, and then they go hither and thither through the city, and at last think of the temple. There, in the midst of the doctors, he is found and recovered by Mary. Her words are apparent rebuke, but really confession upon her part of the oversight. She had never before had any reason for fault-finding; it comes all the more surprisingly upon her now. Jesus defends himself on the ground that he was looking after his Father's business. In other words, he insists on putting God first, before Mary or Joseph. We get an insight into what godliness is. It means making God's business supreme. God claims first place, and this is what the Boy Jesus gave him. The Revised Version translates the words," Wist ye not that I must be in my Father's house?" This would simply refer to their folly in not first seeking him there. The Authorized Version is as near the Greek, and of wider import. But Mary and Joseph did not understand his meaning. These are the first recorded words of Jesus; and how they harmonize with the last, when on the cross he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"!
V. HIS OBEDIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT. He has got all the doctors can meanwhile give to him. It would not have been profitable for him to have remained longer in their schools, and to have merely witnessed their powers of disputation. He is to have collision with them soon enough. Besides, he will be safer out of their reach in the quiet of the northern home. And so he recognizes in his mother's call the voice of his Father in heaven, and in the privacy of Nazareth his Father's business. He has to wait as well as work. Hence without a murmur he goes away with them and is subject unto them. But this subjection and reverence did not hinder, but really helped, his development. "He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." As a person under parental authority, he found his reward in wisdom, and became beloved of all around him as well as of the Lord above. It was a beautiful example to set us of being subject under God to parents and superiors. His growth in wisdom was also so considerate. He would take wisdom as others have to get it, gradually, and pass from the known to the knowledge of the unknown. And God's favor will rest as well as man's favor upon all who follow in the footsteps of his Divine Son in this beautiful subjection. There is no truth more important at the present time than this of realizing our development in due subjection. - R.M.E.
After three days they found Him in the Temple.I. A lesson to boys and young men — THE MANLINESS OF OBEDIENCE AND SUBJECTION TO A MOTHER.
II. Teachers may learn THE BEST METHOD OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE, by asking and answering questions.
III. Mothers are by this incident reminded that THEIR CHILDREN HAVE OTHER INTERESTS THAN THOSE OF THIS WORLD.
IV. A lesson for all: JESUS, LOST IN THE BUSTLE AND EXCITEMENT OF THE CROWD, IS ALWAYS TO BE FOUND AGAIN IN THE TEMPLE.
I. WE MUST KNOW OF OUR LOSS We often lose Him, at first, without knowing it, just as His parents did; we, like them, sooner or later find out our loss.
1. We must know of our loss if we would seek to regain it; we should not seek Jesus Christ if we did not know that we had lost Him. The beginning of salvation is the knowledge of sin. He who does not know that he sins, is not willing to suffer correction.
2. We must know of our loss, or we can never render God fitting honour and glory for our recovery from it.
II. OUR WAY MUST BE BETRODDEN. We must look back, by examination of conscience, over that past life during which we have lived without Jesus Christ.
1. Sweep all sin away by our detestation of it (Luke 15:8).
2. Cover all our defilements in the robe of grace, that we may be meet for Jesus Christ (Song of Solomon 3:2).
III. THE LOSS MUST BE MOURNED FOR. Contrition follows examination.
1. Undo, as far as possible, the dishonour done to God.
2. Punish sin in ourselves. The heart being the fount of sin, we afflict it with sorrow and remorse.
IV. WE RETAIN OUR RECOVERED TREASURE.
1. NO gain to have found Jesus Christ with sorrow and hurt, if He be lost again.
2. A second time we may not be able to find Him.
(M. Faber.)Hebrews 8:5). When He saw the Temple services for the first time, they struck a chord in His memory, which vibrated sweetly and solemnly. The priests and Levites, offering their sacrifices and their incense, and singing their psalms, reminded Him of the blessed angels paying their homage to God and chanting His praises in heaven. He had never been the like upon earth before; and it is quite probable that, in a world of sin and sorrow, the blessed Jesus (even as a child) felt out of place, and away from His true home. Can you not imagine a person who had passed his early childhood in a southern clime, where there were birds of rich plumage, lovely stars at night, being suddenly banished to the North Pole, where his eye rests upon nothing but ice and snow, and all the beauties of nature seem to be locked up by a perpetual winter? Suddenly a bunch of bright flowers, or a bird of beautiful plumage, is brought to him as a gift from the south. It reminds him of his native country, and brings back in a moment the flowers, birds, and landscapes of that happy land. Something of this sort may have been our blessed Lord's memories, on seeing in early childhood the services of the Temple. He would feel that the Temple gave a true idea of His Father's house in heaven — was His Father's house on earth. Now a Father house is a home; and what dutiful child is there who does not love home; who is not drawn towards home, when away from it; who does not feel it to be a place of shelter, security, happiness, and peace, and cling to it accordingly?
(H. C. Trumbull.)
1. He showed a thirst for the knowledge of God's law, when but twelve years old; and how are we to judge of what is wrong in us, but by taking Him as our model, and asking what there is in us, which does not watch with His example? As a ruler applied to a line which we have drawn with our hand, shows that it is not straight, so our Lord's example, applied to any particular piece of human conduct, shows at once how far it is from being what it ought to be.
2. Our Lord submitted to learn of the appointed teachers of His nation. It is not surely very much that He should require of us submission to all in authority over us.
3. We see also that quite the best way of learning is for the pupil to ask questions of the teacher. Only let them be thoughtful questions. Nothing will more open the mind of the taught than the explanation of a difficulty which has been raised in the mind by something the teacher has said. Very often the question will be useful to the teacher as well, leading him into some new and interesting train of thought upon an old and well-worn subject. Questions force people to think.
(Dean Goulburn.)I. Christ gives a clear answer about the spiritual world.
II. Another cry of the soul is answered by Jesus when He tells us, that God is the heavenly Father of mankind.
III. The Lord Jesus answered another question of humanity by showing that our heavenly Father knows the secret inner life of every man.
IV. Jesus answers the cry of the soul by telling us, that our Father's business is the highest work of humanity.
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