LUKE - CHAPTER 2
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from
Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”
“(And this taxing was first made when Cyrennius was governor of
“And all went to be taxed, every one to his own city.”
is literally “enrolled.” It
was a census which would be used as a basis for tax purposes. The reference to Cyrennius (Quirinius) is believed to have
been because at that time he was military governor of Syria, the most
important of the Roman provinces, and this note would help to pinpoint the
time of the census. Augustus was
the first emperor of the Roman empire, ruling from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.
went back to the city where is ancestral records would be on file, requiring
Joseph, who was of the line of David, to go to Bethlehem, David’s city.
eternity every believer will also have his own city, the heavenly Jerusalem
where his name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.
Unbelievers, having no such title to heaven, will be banished into the
lake of fire to endure eternal torment.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth,
into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: (because he
was of the house and lineage of David:)”
means let him add. It
speaks of increase and blessing. Galilee
means a circuit (as enclosed, or rolled around).
It speaks of protection, and is always associated with the believing
remnant. Nazareth means a
branch: preservation. It is
always associated with Christ, and significantly, in the OT He is referred to
at least six times as a branch. Judaea
means land of Judah, but since Judah means he shall be praised,
it means literally land of praise.
David means beloved, and associated with him is his city
Bethlehem, meaning house of bread.
David is a type of Christ, the true Bread Who came down from heaven. Where Christ is, there is bread for men’s souls.
Joseph was of the house and lineage of David, he had to go to the city of
David to be enrolled in the census. Every
believer is of the house and lineage of the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are members of God’s royal family, and will dwell eternally in His
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
this day of lax morals, little attention is paid to the fact that many a
pregnant woman is unmarried. It
was very different then, and is still very different in God’s sight.
Then it was cause for shame, contempt, and ridicule.
Mary and Joseph paid a high price for their obedience to God’s will.
It must be noted, however, that there is good reason to believe that by
this time they were married, but the stigma of a pregnancy begun before
marriage never left them.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were
accomplished that she should be delivered.”
was all by God’s arrangement, for concerning Christ it had been foretold by
the prophets that He would be born in Bethlehem,
“But thou, Bethlehem house of bread Ephratah ash-heap:
place of fruitfulness, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel;
whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mi 5:2).
See also Mt 2:5-6.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in
swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for
them in the inn.”
different was this Firstborn from all other firstborns!
They represent the flesh, what man is by natural birth, and in
Scripture were always set aside in favor of the secondborn who represents what
men become through the second birth, because the flesh can never be the
channel of blessing. He was
different. Having died
voluntarily to redeem men’s souls, He rose from death, never again to die -
the Firstborn from the dead, Col 1:18, the Firstborn (first in rank) among
many brethren (they, as believers, possessing His life and His nature), Col
swaddling bands were used in embalming, His being wrapped in swaddling clothes
may be a subtle reminder that this Child was born to die. As it was at His birth, so was it at His death.
He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in Joseph’s new tomb.
may be also subtle significance in His having been laid in a manger, for the
manger was the place in the cattle shed, where the animals’ food was placed
to prevent their trampling it. It
was fitting that the place which held the animals’ food and kept it from
contamination, should be the very place in which He would lie Who is the bread
from heaven. He Who lay in that
manger was holy, harmless, and undefiled.
His being laid in the manger may be God’s symbolic way of reminding
us that He Who is the Bread of life, the living Word, could not be
contaminated by sin. In regard to
the written Word, which is the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word, it is
written, “Thy word is very pure” (Ps 119:40), see also Ps 12:6, “The
words of the Lord are pure words.”
there was no room for Christ in the inn, neither is there room for Him today
in the hearts of men. The folly
of rejecting Him, however, will be revealed on that day when it is discovered,
too late for remedy, that there is no room in heaven for those who had no room
for Him in their lives on earth, see Mt 7:13-23, and Mt 25:12
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.”
the same country, but far away from Bethlehem’s busy crowds, were
“shepherds abiding in the field,” and significantly, it wasn’t to any of
the busy throng in the town, but to those shepherds in the field, that the
angelic announcement was made. And
it remains the same today. God’s
truth is revealed to those who separate themselves from the busy multitudes
occupied with the world’s business, cares, pleasures, and religion.
Godly shepherds are still found far removed from the busy activity of
the world, and they are still found “keeping watch over their flock by
night,” for that literal flock represents those who constitute God’s flock
today, i.e., those who are true believers.
And that literal night is but the symbol of the spiritual darkness that
envelopes, not only the world, but sadly, also the majority of those
professing to be believers. The
literal darkness of that night (as always in Scripture) reflected the
spiritual darkness that lay over the world that night, and particularly over
those who professed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel.
is peculiarly appropriate that the announcement of the birth of the Good
Shepherd should have been made first to men who were also shepherds.
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the
Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”
announcements of heaven aren’t heard by ears deafened by the clamor of a
godless busy world, nor is the glory of God revealed to eyes dazzled by the
world’s glitter. These things
are reserved for those who walk with God in separation from the world.
Nor should we fail to note that they were “sore afraid.”
The fear of God has all but disappeared, not only from the world, but
also from the professing church, but it is still true that “The fear of the
Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr 9:10).
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you
good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
is a strange paradox that those who do fear God are they who have least need
to fear Him, for it is the fear of God that preserves men from sin.
Those who don’t fear Him, however, are they who have most cause to
fear, for they may be called suddenly and unexpectedly to stand in His
presence still in their sins.
the man who lives in the fear of God, every communication from Him is one of
good tidings, for in relation to every earthly circumstance there is the
assurance that, “All things work together for good to them that love
God....” Ro 8:28. But that
night there were no adverse circumstances to cloud the glory of the
announcement. Earth’s joy should have been full that night, for the
long-promised Savior had come. No
more joyful tidings could have fallen on human ears. But then, as now, there were few to listen to the
announcements of heaven.
“all people” is also translated “all the people of Israel,” there is
no good reason to reject the usual meaning “all the people of the world.”
That the joy was to be to all people reminds us that God’s
salvation isn’t limited to Israel. It
is offered to all men. None need
perish since Christ has died.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which
is Christ the Lord.”
Savior might have come into the world as had the angel who had brought the
good tidings to the shepherds, but He must be born of a woman, for
God’s promise to Satan had been, The seed of the woman, “shall bruise thy
head,” Ge 3:15. He would enter
the world as had every other man, except Adam who had been created.
He would be like man in everything except sin. And His coming was first to be the world’s Savior, then its
Lord. Christ means the
anointed, or the anointed One.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
should note that in the OT age, God very frequently used signs to confirm the
truth of His announcements, the unique character of the signs being that many
might see them, but without having been instructed by God, would fail to
discern that they were signs. For
example, there were undoubtedly others who at that time saw this baby lying in
the manger, but who remained ignorant of His true identity.
It is the same with Scripture. Every
man may read the literal language, but only the Spiritually instructed discern
the spiritual message. It was
only to the shepherds, that the child’s dress and the place where He lay,
brought the assurance that they were looking on the long-promised Messiah.
Others saw only another baby. And
so is it today. Multitudes see in
Christ only another man.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly
host praising God, and saying,”
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward
is strange that the birth of the Savior should have evoked the worship of the
angels who needed no redemption, and yet should have called forth worship from
only a few of the race of men, all of whom needed to be redeemed.
Nor has anything changed in the two thousand years since then.
Only the few, the redeemed, praise God for the Savior.
in general agree that the first part of verse 14 should be “Glory to God in
the highest heaven”. On
earth, men may be the beneficiaries of God’s good will, and enjoy His peace
which passeth understanding, but glory is reserved for heaven.
“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into
heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem,
and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto
this statement is declared the completeness of the shepherds’ faith. They hadn’t the slightest doubt concerning the truth of the
message brought to them by the angel. Their
concern now was to go and enjoy the sight of this miracle presently believed
by faith. God would have us
emulate their faith, and have us see in their walk from the field to Bethlehem
a picture of our own walk through this world to heaven, where we too will see
with our eyes what we now believe by faith. Who can comprehend the eager expectation with which the
shepherds hurried to Bethlehem! Sadly,
little of that joyous expectation fills our hearts as we plod our weary way to
heaven, as though there were no Savior to see when we get there, no Savior to
welcome us into His home in heaven.
departure of the angels doesn’t appear to have diminished the joy of the
shepherds. It was the message
that encouraged their hearts, and lent wings to their feet as they hurried to
Bethlehem. It is a rebuke of our
faithlessness that we who have had added to that message the glad tidings of
His atoning death and glorious resurrection, should display so little of their
eager joyful anticipation, as we pass through the field of this world on our
way to heaven to see Him, not in a manger, but crowned with glory and honor on
the throne of heaven.
should note also that word now. There
was no delay in their going, nor do we read of any anxious care as to the
safety of their sheep. Those few
shepherds had the good sense to realize that their sheep could be left safely
in the care of the God Who had sent them such joyful tidings.
It would be well with us if that same confident lack of care governed
us relative to all things earthly. How
much unnecessary care we give ourselves over things in regard to which He has
told us to have no care! How
little care, on the other hand, we give to those things in regard to which we
ought to be careful! Too often we
choose to be like Martha, careful about many things, but unlike Mary of whom
the Lord said that she, in sitting at His feet, had chosen the better part.
had to go to Bethlehem to see the miracle.
We have only to go to what Bethlehem represents to see the same
miracle. Bethlehem means house
of bread. The Bible is that
“house,” and the local church should also be the house of bread,
but sadly it has become all too often a house stricken by famine, due to the
carelessness of those who ought to be preparing food for God’s sheep.
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe
lying in a manger.”
coming with haste leaves no question that their foremost desire was to see
this Child, reminding us of those Greeks who came to Philip, saying, “Sir,
we would see Jesus,” Jn 12:21. This
remains the hallmark of faith: the desire to see Jesus revealed in the written
Word. He who reads that Word
looking only for practical instruction, robs himself of the better half of
God’s word to men. God would
have us see Jesus in all the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, see Lk
24:27. To enjoy that revelation,
however, requires that the reader be willing to learn God’s symbolic
language, and sadly, few are willing to give to that study the time and energy
needed, hence the abysmal spiritual ignorance of the vast majority of
search was rewarded. They saw Him
Whom they sought, reminding us of God’s promise, “Ask, and it shall be
given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,”
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which
was told them concerning this child.”
is God’s pattern for every believer: once we have “seen Jesus” i.e.,
have been born again, we are to become His witnesses.
He who professes to be a believer, and yet refuses to proclaim the
Gospel, raises a serious question as to whether he has ever had a new birth.
should note too, that their witness was about Jesus.
The Gospel is not the announcement of a philosophy, nor is it a
theological discussion: it is the presentation of Jesus Christ as Savior and
“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told
them by the shepherds.”
hearers wondered. The biblical
gospel, presented in the power of the Holy Spirit, must always evoke some
as the shepherds were uneducated men, God would have us learn, that contrary
to what is taught and believed in Christendom today, His servants require no
other education than that which is given by the Holy Spirit through the
Scriptures. The idea of a
theological education is completely contrary to the teaching of God’s Word.
We should remember that Peter and John confounded the wisdom of the
doctors of the law, yet both of them were “unlearned and ignorant men,”
but “they had been with Jesus,” Ac 4:13, and that made the difference.
Time spent with the Lord Jesus Christ is more profitable spiritually
than all the years a man might spend in an institution of higher learning, so
called. No academic degree can
substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit.
“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
literally treasured up, and thought often upon what the shepherds had said.
At the very time when it was most needed, God encouraged Mary and
confirmed her faith through the words of the shepherds.
The Church would be in a far better state if her members also treasured
up, and thought often upon what is said about the Lord Jesus Christ by godly
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the
things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
returned to tending their sheep, but now they had additional reason to glorify
and praise God. On the way to
Bethlehem they were impelled by what they had heard from the angel, but on the
return journey they carried in their hearts, not only the angel’s words, but
also the sight of the One Whose birth the angel had announced.
It is only as we see Christ in the Scriptures that we will have the
desire to glorify and praise God. A
mere intellectual knowledge of Christ may produce morality, but it will never
produce worship, for worship involves the heart as well as the head.
worshiping as they returned to their ordinary occupation would teach us that
worship and witness are not the exclusive prerogatives of those in “full
time” service. These things are
the privilege of every believer no matter what his secular employment.
The believing peasant is no less a royal priest than is the believing
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the
child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he
was conceived in the womb.”
speaks of the cutting off of the flesh, i.e., putting away the deeds of the
old nature, prompting the question, Why then should the Lord Jesus Christ have
been circumcised, since He did not possess the old Adamic nature, and would
never have any evil deeds to put away? His
circumcision pointed to His death, when He would die (be “cut off”), not
for any sin of His own, but for that of all other men.
as circumcision was to be on the eighth day (the scriptural number of a new
beginning), we learn that it is not moral reformation, but the new birth that
effectively cuts off the deeds of the old nature, God requiring not literal
circumcision, but that which is spiritual, the circumcising of the heart, see
Ro 2:25-29, “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if
thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law,
shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law,
judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that
circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one
inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the
letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
means Savior, and the mention of His name in connection with His circumcision
may be an oblique reminder that it was only by dying and rising again that He
could be man’s Savior.
might note incidentally, that it was the Jewish custom to name the child at
the time of his circumcision, and it is this that appears to have given rise
to the error of Christendom which equates circumcision with baptism (two very
different things), and has resulted in the completely unscriptural practice of
“Christening” - baptizing babies at the time of giving them their names.
is an ordinance appointed by God for believers only, through which they give
symbolic witness to the truth that they have been crucified with Christ, but
now live with Him as new creatures possessing His life and His nature.
It is the symbolic announcement that in Christ’s vicarious death, we,
as to the flesh, have been “cut off,” i.e., we have died, His death being
imputed to us. That is what is
portrayed in our going under the water. But
as He has been raised up out of literal death, never again to die, so have we
been raised up out of spiritual death, being now forever beyond the power of
death. That is what is portrayed
in our coming up out of the water. Clearly,
then, baptism is not for infants, for no infant is capable of the mental
activity which prompts and accompanies baptism.
The teaching of Christendom, that parents have their children baptized
in anticipation of conversion, originated in man’s corrupt mind, and is
without a shred of scriptural warrant. The
idea of its having anything to do with the giving of a name is equally without
is the Greek form of Joshua, and has the same meaning, Savior.
It is the name associated with His first advent, as Wonderful,
Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, are
with His coming in power and glory to reign.
He must come as the Lamb of God to bear away the sin of the world
before He comes as the Lion of Judah to reign over the creation He has
redeemed with His blood.
giving of the name before His conception, declares that God had His plan of
redemption in mind from before time began.
“And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses
were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the
“(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 that which is said in the law
of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
law of a mother’s cleansing is recorded in Le 12:1-8, and the fact that
Joseph and Mary apparently offered only the prescribed birds, but not the
lamb, has been taken to mean that they were too poor to afford a lamb. This, however, may be conjecture, for it isn’t clear beyond
doubt that they didn’t bring a lamb also.
13:2,12 declares that every firstborn male among the children of Israel was to
be redeemed, the need of that redemption being connected with the fact that
the firstborn represents what man is by natural birth: he is unclean, and
under sentence of death. Jesus
Christ, of course was not unclean or under sentence of death, for He did not
possess Adam’s fallen corrupt nature. The
performance of the redemption ritual therefore, like His baptism in the
Jordan, portrayed His willingness to assume responsibility for man’s sin,
and His willingness to be the Substitute Who would die in man’s stead.
“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon;
and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel:
and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”
meaning lay, or set ye, double peace, is a biblical symbol of
the human heart. As there will be
no peace in Jerusalem until the Prince of Peace reigns there, neither is there
peace in a man’s heart until Christ reigns in the life.
Simeon means hearkening. He
represents obedience, and his dwelling in Jerusalem reminds us that only those
who are obedient enjoy God’s peace. Its
being said that he was just and devout, i.e., justified by faith, and devoted
to the things that pertain to the kingdom of God, ought to remind us that
essential to the enjoyment of God’s peace, is a life devoted to God.
waiting for, or looking for the coming of the Messiah, Christ, would teach us
that the man who would enjoy God’s peace, must live every moment governed by
the same expectation. In
Simeon’s case, however, his expectation was of Christ’s coming to make
atonement for sin; ours is the expectation of His coming to rapture us home to
Holy Spirit’s being “upon him” reminds us that in past ages the Holy
Spirit came upon men, but in this age of grace He indwells every believer, the
believer’s body being described as the temple or dwelling place of the Holy
Spirit. It behooves us therefore,
to ensure that there is nothing in our lives that would be displeasing to Him.
“And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not
see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
it was not by natural understanding, but by the enlightenment of the Holy
Spirit, that Simeon became possessed of this knowledge, so is it today also
that all spiritual knowledge comes only through the ministry of an unquenched
and ungrieved Holy Spirit enabling the obedient believer to understand the
written Word. The natural man
cannot acquire this knowledge, nor can the carnal believer: his disobedience
cuts him off from all such revelation. The
appalling spiritual ignorance of so many professing believers today is due
entirely to disobedience.
“And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents
brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,”
“Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,”
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy
Simeon enjoyed the leading of the Holy Spirit, so does every obedient
believer. It is to be noted,
however, that that leading brought him face to face with the Lord Jesus
Christ. He saw the Lord with his own eyes. This is the ultimate purpose of the Spirit’s leading.
He would have us see Christ in all the Scriptures, and in all the
events of our lives. In a word, He would have Christ fill our vision.
That should be the desire of every redeemed one, the foremost desire of
his life being expressed in the words of the Greeks who came to Philip saying,
“Sir, we would see Jesus.” If He is constantly before our eyes, our lives will be
transformed, as every circumstance is transmuted to blessing.
seen Christ, all else paled into insignificance for Simeon.
Earth had nothing more to offer. He
was ready to go home to heaven. The
Simeon’s are few and far apart today, the vast majority of professing
Christians being more anxious to see the sights of an ungodly world than they
are to catch a glimpse of the Savior Who died to save them from hell and fit
them for heaven, the inhabitants of which find their joy in simply beholding
took he him up in his arms....” Simeon
wasn’t content just to observe from a distance.
He wanted to touch the Lord, to hold Him as though He were His own
Child, to feast his eyes on every feature.
This is how the spiritual man scrutinizes Scripture.
Where the carnal Christian or the unbeliever sees only words, the
spiritual man discerns the lineaments of Christ.
seen the Child, having held Him in his arms, Simeon worshiped. If the revelation of Christ given us in Scripture doesn’t
produce worship, nothing will.
2:30. “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,”
is a Person, not a church, or a creed, or a lifestyle.
isn’t necessarily those who are in a church, or a denomination, that are
saved, but those who are in Christ.
“Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people:”
before the face of all people” is literally, “in full view of all the
nations,” and there is a deeper significance to this than is at first
apparent. It wasn’t at His
birth that the nations were aware of Christ: it was at His death.
It is to be remembered that that event occurred at Passover when Jews
from all over the world of that day were assembled in Jerusalem, as they were
later on the day of Pentecost, when they heard, every one in his own language,
the good news of the Gospel. The
Jews assembled in Jerusalem for that Passover were the representatives of
virtually all nations, and in witnessing the crucifixion of Christ, they were
seeing God’s salvation, for there is no salvation apart from faith in Him
crucified and risen again.
“A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people
enlightenment is at the very heart of the Gospel, for until a man is
enlightened as to his ruined state, he cannot be saved, as it is written,
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in
our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face
of Jesus Christ” (2 Co 4:6). This
reference to the light shining out of the darkness reminds us that in His
renovation of the ruined earth as described in Genesis chapter 1, God would
have us see a symbolic picture of the steps by which He recovers ruined men.
question arises in connection with this verse, Why is it emphasized that
Christ is to be a light to the Gentiles, but He is to be the glory of Israel?
The matter has to be viewed from the perspective of the truth that at
His first advent Christ was offering the millennial kingdom to Israel.
Had she, as a nation, accepted Him, she could have had the
long-promised kingdom right then, with the result that she would have been set
in glory over all nations, and the Gentiles would have also enjoyed millennial
blessing, but in a position of subjection to Israel.
In rejecting the King, she forfeited the kingdom, and her own glory, so
that when the Millennium does come, and she does rule over the nations on the
millennial earth, she herself will be subject to the Church ruling with Christ
from the heavenly Jerusalem. That
Church is a Gentile, not a Jewish entity.
“And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken
is instructive that while Mary is described as the Lord’s mother, Joseph is
not said to be His father. God is
careful to guard the truth that Christ was not begotten by human generation,
but by the Holy Spirit. His
nature was Divine; that of other men, Adamic, and therefore corrupt.
We learn too, incidentally, that Joseph and Mary had many things to
learn about this child of whom Mary was the human mother.
We too, will never be able to say that we know all there is to know
about Christ. Finite minds cannot
fully comprehend the Infinite.
“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this
child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign
which shall be spoken against;”
first blessed God: he worshiped, and only then did he bless Joseph and Mary by
instructing them relative to Christ. This
is always God’s pattern. First
worship, then service. It is
folly to think that we can render God any service if we fail to come together
with other believers to worship on the first day of each week.
No matter how seeming worthy the cause, if it requires us to be absent
from the Lord’s table, it is nothing less than disobedience, as it is
written, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of
rams,” 1 Sa 15:22. The Lord
Himself commands us, “Do this in remembrance of me,” Lk 22:19.
regard to the words, “this child is set for the fall and rising again of
many in Israel” we should note that this is the pattern by which the Gospel
operates. It must first cut a man
down before God can lift him up to walk in newness of life.
A man must learn that he is a sinner on his way to hell, before he can
become a saint whose eternal dwelling place is heaven.
for a sign which shall be spoken against.”
Unbelieving Israel, asking for a sign, were told by the Lord that the
only sign that would be given them was that of Jonah the prophet, for as he
was three days and nights in the belly of the fish, so would the Son of Man be
three days and nights in the heart of the earth. When that sign was fulfilled in the Lord’s crucifixion and
resurrection, Israel rejected the sign and the Lord, and continued to speak
against Him, as they had during His earthly life.
(“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the
thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
sword metaphorically passed through Mary’s soul at the time of the
crucifixion as she beheld the awful suffering of this Son Whom she had borne;
but the word also implies the passing of a sword through the soul of
another besides Mary, and the reference is clearly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In these few brief words, Simeon speaking under the control
of the Holy Spirit, was foretelling the agony of soul that Christ would have
to endure in the course of making atonement for sin, His own declaration of
that agony being announced in His words spoken in Gethsemane’s garden on the
night of His betrayal, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,”
that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” is generally understood to
mean that the state of a man’s heart is disclosed by his reaction to the
Lord’s death. The man who sees
that death as being the death of his Substitute, is saved.
The man who doesn’t, is lost.
“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of
the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven
years from her virginity;”
means she was gracious, and Phanuel means face of God: turn ye to
God. Aser is simply the Greek
form of Asher, which means happy.
This woman also, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, worshiped God, and
testified to others; nor should we miss the fact that here again thanksgiving
to God preceded testimony to others. Worship
must precede service. It is only
as we are occupied with Christ, that love will impel our service.
Apart from that love, service is a worthless thing.
An obvious practical truth, of course, is that the woman, no less than
the man, may worship and testify, the one no less than the other being
governed by God’s order for each, relative to worship and testimony.
meanings of her own name, and that of her parent, may be intended to remind us
of the need to be gracious, that spirit imbuing us only to the extent that we
“behold the face of God,” i.e., see Him in the Scriptures, remembering
that He never ceases to behold us, comprehending even our thoughts and
motives. Her being an Asherite
ought to remind us that of all the people on earth, believers are they who
have most reason to be happy. (We
should note, incidentally, that with the completion of the canon of Scripture,
the prophetic office ceased).
reference to her having “lived with an husband seven years from her
virginity” are generally understood to mean that she had been widowed after
only seven years of marriage, i.e., while she was still young, yet she had
continued to be outstandingly faithful to God.
This is in marked contrast with what Paul has written in 1 Tim 5
relative to young widows. Anna
had always been a remarkably faithful Christian woman, her youthful zeal for
the things of God having continued into old age, and undoubtedly this has been
recorded, not only for the encouragement of widows, but for all Christian
“And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which
departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night
the eighty-four years refer to her age, or to the years of her widowhood, is
unclear, and unimportant. The
emphasis is on the “fourscore and four,” the prominent factor of which is
four, the number of testing. A
lifetime of testing had revealed the reality of her faith, a distinction of
which few prove themselves worthy.
being said that she “departed not from the temple,” doesn’t mean that
she lived in the temple, but that she spent much time there, which is another
way of saying that she spent much time in the presence of God.
This was the secret of her godly life, as it must be of all who would
hope to merit the commendation given her.
which was for the OT age only, was the symbolic announcement of refusal to
gratify fleshly lusts. It was a
favorite tool of the religious hypocrite, by which he paraded his
self-righteousness. Like a
related OT ritual, circumcision, it has no place in the life of the believer
today. God looks for the reality, not the symbol, in the life of
every believer, Ro 2:28-29.
praying night and day doesn’t mean that she did nothing except pray, but
that she devoted a great deal of time to prayer, reminding us of the need to
do the same.
“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord,
and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
we should note the order: first, she gave thanks to God, and then she
testified to others. God
continues to remind us that worship must precede service.
He who finds that his “service” requires him to be absent from the
Lord’s table, would be well advised to reconsider this so-called service.
should note too, that those to whom she testified were “them that looked for
redemption in Jerusalem,” i.e., they appear to have been men and women of
faith. She cheered their hearts
by assuring them that the long-sought Redeemer had come.
The hearts of believers need cheering today, not only by our reminding
them that the Savior has come, but that He is coming again, and that that
coming is near.
“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the
Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”
emphasis continues to be upon attending first to the things of God.
Galilee, means a
circuit (as enclosed, or rolled around), and speaks of
God’s encircling care. It is
significant that it is the place invariably associated with the godly remnant
in Israel. It is only as the
things of God are given first place in our lives, that we will dwell
spiritually at “Galilee.” Those
who belong to God, and who are obedient, need have anxious care about nothing.
They are enclosed continually by His watchful care, every event of
their lives being ordered or permitted by Him, for their ultimate blessing and
means a branch: preservation, and at least six times in the OT the Lord
Jesus Christ is referred to under the figure of a branch, see Isa 4:2; 11:1;
Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12, so it is not just by chance that Nazareth is
the place uniquely associated with Him, as it is written, “And he came and
dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Mt 2:23).
should not be confused with a similar, but very different word, Nazarite.
Nazarene simply describes an inhabitant of the town of Nazareth, but
Nazarite describes one who had made a special vow to the Lord, (see Nu 6 for
details). The Lord was a
Nazarene: i.e., He lived in Nazareth; but He was not a literal Nazarite
(though He certainly was one spiritually), for His hair was short, He drank
wine, and He touched at least one dead body, the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:22).
connection with the OT references to Christ under the figure of a Branch, it
is instructive to note how perfectly they correspond to the four Gospels: Jer
23:5, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a
righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute
judgment and justice in the earth,” and Jer 33:15, “In those days, and at
that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and
he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land,” and Isa 11:1,
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
shall grow out of his roots.” These
correspond to Matthew, the Gospel of the King.
Zech 3:8, “Behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH,”
corresponds to Mark, the Gospel which presents Him as God’s perfect Servant.
Zech 6:12, “Behold the man whose name is
The BRANCH,” corresponds to Luke which presents Him as the perfect
Man; and Isa 4:2, “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and
glorious,” corresponds to John which presents Him as the Eternal Word, God
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:
and the grace of God was upon him”
Lord’s physical development appears to have been just the same as that of
any other child, though it seems equally clear that His spiritual development
was anything but ordinary.
is usually defined as being the bestowal of undeserved blessing, and in
relation to all except the Lord Jesus Christ, that definition is correct, but
no spiritual mind will fail to see that in His case, the Father’s blessing
was the recompense of a perfect obedience which no other man has ever
“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the
may be asked why they should have done this, since He who is the true Passover
Lamb had already come. The
answer, of course, is that the OT order remained in force, not only until the
OT types were fulfilled in the Lord’s death and resurrection, but also until
AD 70 when Jewish autonomy was brought to an end. The perfection of the
Lord’s life manifested that He was God’s Lamb “foreordained from before
the foundation of the world,” but just as the literal living Passover lamb
could bring no redemption, neither could Christ until He had died to make
atonement for man’s sin.
“And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after
the custom of the feast.”
instructions for this are found in Ex 23:14-15.
At the age of twelve a Jewish boy is officially received into the
congregation, becoming “a son of the law,” though there doesn’t appear
to be any Scriptural instruction concerning this.
The spiritual significance, however, is important, for since twelve is
the number of Divine government on display, the ritual would declare
symbolically that the boy was now responsible to demonstrate by his life that
he was under God’s government
“And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child
Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of
“days” were the seven from the fourteenth through the twenty-first of the
month, see Exodus 12:18.
explanation for His parent’s failing to know that He was missing, is that
families and friends traveled in large groups to and from the three great
annual feasts, undoubtedly for protection and company, and His parents
probably supposed that He was just with other members of the group.
we should note how careful the Holy Spirit has been not to call Joseph the
practical lesson we shouldn’t miss is that it is very possible for us to go
“a day’s journey” without being aware that the Lord isn’t with us. Sin in any form, but especially that of being too much
occupied by earthly things, will bring about this separation. When it occurs, the remedy is to repent, confess the sin, and
“But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s
journey; and they sought him among their kinfolk and acquaintance.”
others in the group were equally ignorant of His absence, reminding us that
we, as individuals, may be aware that He isn’t with us personally, without
our being also aware that He has gone from us as a local church.
One way to ensure that this doesn’t happen, is to be careful that I
personally maintain contact with Him throughout the day, by prayer, study,
meditation, and constant awareness that He discerns, not only my deeds and
words, but also my thoughts. An
ungrieved, unquenched Holy Spirit guarantees His presence, so that while He
may not be with some personally, He will at least be found in fellowship with
those of the assembly who walk in obedience.
There is little hope for the local church where the Lord is not to be
found in the company of at least some of those comprising that corporate body.
“And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem,
would have been better had they ensured that He was with them when they set
out from Jerusalem: it would have saved them from anxiety, and wasted time.
But to have discovered His absence at the end of one day was better
than to have gone all the way to Nazareth before finding that He was absent.
A practical lesson we shouldn’t miss is the need of keeping short
accounts with God by being careful to be on constant guard against sin, and
repenting and confessing immediately we find ourselves guilty.
practical lesson we shouldn’t miss is one repeatedly presented in Scripture:
there can be no spiritual progress if the Lord isn’t with us. As they had to go back to Jerusalem, where they had become
separated from Him, so does every erring saint have to return to the point of
departure. After his disastrous
sojourn in Egypt, Abraham had to return to “Bethel, unto the place where his
tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai,” Ge 13:3.
A sorrowing Naomi, bereft of husband and sons, had to return to the
point of departure (Ruth 1:1,19). Since
the time between departure and return is always wasted, it behooves us to keep
that time as short as possible.
“And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the
temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking
is easier to lose the Lord than to find Him again.
In their case it took three days, and this is significant, for since
three is the number of resurrection, the lesson God would teach us relative to
departure is that all such departure is sin, and sin brings death.
As far as the Bema is concerned, the time spent in sin is time in which
we might as well have been actually dead.
Restoration is the virtual equivalent of a resurrection.
usual form of Rabbinical teaching is said to have been by the question and
answer method, designed on the one hand to make the hearer think, and on the
other, to disclose his ignorance so that now with curiosity aroused, he would
be the more likely to retain the knowledge imparted in the form of the
teacher’s answer. It is very
possible therefore, that as suggested in the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Commentary, the questions the Lord asked were designed to make the doctors of
the law think, for example, about such things as how Christ could be David’s
son, and also David’s Lord; which is the first and greatest commandment? who
is my neighbor?
“And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and
would appear that even at this early age He was marked by that spirit which
caused the multitudes to declare years later, “Never man spake like this
man,” Jn 7:46.
“And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto
him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have
sought thee sorrowing.”
surprise seems to have been, not in their having found Him, but in that they
had found Him in the temple discussing spiritual things with the doctors of
the law, and surprising those same doctors with His knowledge.
it was Mary who addressed Him, it may be perhaps inferred that His parents had
decided to search in different quarters simultaneously, and that Joseph
wasn’t there at that moment. Be
that as it may, we might note incidentally that this is the last mention of
Joseph, it being widely believed that he died before the Lord began His public
ministry. We should note also
that Mary, in referring to Joseph as “thy father,” was using the term, not
in the sense that he was Christ’s biological, but adopted father, see 3:23.
“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that
I must be about my Father’s business?”
are the Lord’s first recorded words, and it is generally agreed that an
equally valid translation is “Knew ye not that I must be in my Father’s
house?” In grace beyond
comprehension He might stoop to dwell in the midst of a human family, and be
subject to a human father, but only for a little while, until He had done His
Father’s work - His heart must have longed continually to be back in His
“And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.”
possessed as we are of the full canon of Scripture, it is difficult to
understand why Joseph and Mary, having the Lord Himself living in their home,
didn’t understand His words, but the explanation appears to be that the
revelation of the Holy Spirit was much more restricted then than now.
We should never cease to give thanks for His enlightenment, but neither
should we ever forget that responsibility is also in direct proportion to
“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject
unto them: and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”
can’t even begin to measure the grace that led the Lord of all creation to
live in subjection to the creatures He Himself had made. A greater wonder, however, is that He should have permitted
His creatures to crucify Him, so that their sins might be forgiven, and they
fitted to dwell with Him in heaven for ever.
are told nothing of Mary’s reaction to all the things that must have puzzled
and amazed her during those thirty years when He lived with her as His mother,
so conjecture is unwise, as it is in regard to anything about which the
enlightenment of the Holy Spirit has not been given.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
miracle we can’t understand is that the Lord’s development should have
been the same as that of any other child: growth in wisdom came gradually with
the passage of time. He didn’t
come into the world endowed with all wisdom.
He was just as perfectly human as He was Divine.
Very clearly He was no child prodigy.
have pointed out that He experienced four areas of growth: “in wisdom” He
grew mentally; “and stature” He grew physically; “in favor with God,”
He grew spiritually; and “with men,” He grew socially - Liberty Bible