The Gospel of Luke
Charles R. Erdman
Professor of Practical Theology
Princeton Theological Seminary,
Princeton, New Jersey
The Westminster Press
FOREWORD INTRODUCTION I. The Preface To the Gospel. Luke 1:1-4 II. The Birth and Childhood of Jesus. Chs. 1:5 to 2:52 A. The Birth of John Foretold. Chs. 1:5-25 B. The Annunciation To Mary. Ch. 1:26-38 C. The "Magnificat." Ch. 1:39-56 D. The Birth of John, and the "Benedictus." Ch. 1:57-80 E. The Birth of Jesus. Ch. 2:1-20 F. The Presentation of Jesus, and the "Nunc Dimittis." Ch. 2:21-40 G. The Boy Jesus At Jerusalem. Ch. 2:41-52 III. The Preparation. Chs. 3:1 to 4:13 A. The Preaching Of John. Ch. 3:1-20 B. The Baptism Of Jesus. Ch. 3:21, 22 C. The Genealogy Of Jesus. Ch. 3:23-38 D. The Temptation Of Jesus. Ch. 4:1-13 IV. The Ministry in Galilee. Chs. 4:14 to 9:50 A. The First Period. Ch. 4:14-44 1. Jesus Preaching at Nazareth. Ch. 4:14-30 2. Jesus Performing Miracles at Capernaum. Ch. 4:31-44 B. The Second Period. Chs. 5:1 to 6:11 1. The Call of the First Disciples. Ch. 5:1-11 2. Jesus Cleansing a Leper. Ch. 5:12-16 3. Jesus Forgiving Sins. Ch. 5:17-26 4. The Call of Levi. Ch. 5:27-32 5. The Question of Fasting. Ch. 5:33-39 6. The Sabbath Controversy. Ch. 6:1-11 C. The Third Period. Chs. 6:12 to 8:56 1. The Choice of the Twelve. Ch. 6:12-19 2. The Great Sermon. Ch. 6:20-49 3. The Centurion of Capernaum. Ch. 7:1-10 4. Jesus Raising the Widow's Son. Ch. 7:11-17 5. Jesus Praising John. Ch. 7:18-35 6. A Sinful Woman Forgiven. Ch. 7:36-50 7. The Ministering Women. Ch. 8:1-3 8. The Parable of the Sower. Ch. 8:4-18 9. Kinship with Jesus. Ch. 8:19-21 10. Jesus Stilling the Storm. Ch. 8:22-25 11. A Demoniac Healed. Ch. 8:26-39 12. The Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with an Issue of Blood. Ch. 8:40-56 D. The Fourth Period. Ch. 9:1-50 1. The Mission of the Twelve. Ch. 9:1-9 2. The Five Thousand Fed. Ch. 9:10-17 3. Jesus Predicting his Death. Ch. 9:18-27 4. The Transfiguration. Ch. 9:28-36 5. The Demoniac Boy. Ch. 9:37-45 6. Jesus Rebuking Pride and Bigotry. Ch. 9:46-50 V. The Journeys Toward Jerusalem. Chs. 9:51 to 19:28 A. The First Stages. Ch. 9:51 to 13:21 1. The Inhospitable Samaritans. Ch. 9:51-56 2. Jesus Rebuking Rashness, Insincerity, and Indecision. Ch. 9:57-62 3. The Mission of the Seventy. Ch. 10:1-24 4. The Good Samaritan. Ch. 10:25-37 5. Martha and Mary. Ch. 10:38-42 6. Jesus' Teaching Concerning Prayer. Ch. 11:1-13 7. Jesus Rebuking Blasphemy and Unbelief. Ch. 11:14-36 8. Pharisaism Exposed and Denounced. Ch. 11:37-54 9. Faithful Testimony Encouraged. Ch. 12:1-12 10. A Warning Against Covetousness. Ch. 12:13-21 11. The Cure of Anxiety. Ch. 12:22-34 12. An Exhortation to Watchfulness. Ch. 12:35-48 13. The Divisive Influence of Christ. Ch. 12:49-59 14. A Call to Repentance. Ch. 13:1-9 15. A Cure on the Sabbath. Ch. 13:10-21 B. The Second Stages. Chs. 13:22 to 17:10 1. The Narrow Door. Ch. 13:22-30 2. The Message to Herod and the Lament Over Jerusalem. Ch. 13:31-35 3. Jesus as a Sabbath Guest. Ch. 14:1-24 4. Counting the Cost. Ch. 14:25-35 5. The Prodigal Son. Ch. 15 6. The Unrighteous Steward. Ch. 16:1-13 7. The Rich Man and Lazarus. Ch. 16:14-31 8. Warnings to the Disciples. Ch. 17:1-10 C. The Last Stages. Chs. 17:11 to 19:28 1. The Samaritan Leper. Ch. 17:11-19 2. The Coming of the Kingdom. Ch. 17:20-37 3. The Unrighteous Judge. Ch. 18:1-8 4. The Pharisee and the Publican. Ch. 18:9-14 5. Jesus Receiving Little Children. Ch. 18:15-17 6. The Rich Ruler. Ch. 18:18-30 7. Jesus Again Foretelling His Death. Ch. 18:31-34 8. The Blind Man at Jericho. Ch. 18:35-43 9. The Conversion of Zacchaeus. Ch. 19:1-10 10. The Parable of the Pounds. Ch. 19:11-28 VI. The Closing Ministry. Chs. 19:29 to 21:38 A. The Triumphal Entry. Ch. 19:29-48 B. The Question As To Authority. Ch. 20:1-8 C. The Parable Of The Husbandmen. Ch. 20:9-18 D. The Question As To Paying Tribute. Ch. 20:19-26 E. The Question As To The Resurrection. Ch. 20:27-40 F. The Question Of Jesus. Ch. 20:41-44 G. The Warning Against The Scribes. Ch. 20:45-47 H. The Widow's Mites. Ch. 21:1-4 I. The Destruction Of Jerusalem And The Coming Of Christ. Ch. 21:5-38 1. The Present Age. Ch. 21:5-19 2. The Destruction of Jerusalem. Ch. 21:20-24 3. The Coming of Christ. Ch. 21:25-28 4. The Encouragement to Hope and Vigilance. Ch. 21:29-36 5. The Historic Statement. Ch. 21:37, 38 VII. The Death and Resurrection. Chs. 22 to 24 A. The Treachery Of Judas. Ch. 22:1-6 B. The Last Supper. Ch. 22:7-38 C. The Agony In Gethsemane. Ch. 22:39-46 D. The Arrest Of Jesus. Ch. 22:47-53 E. Peter's Denial. Ch. 22:54-62 F. Jesus Before The Jewish Rulers. Ch. 22:63-71 G. Jesus Before Pilate. Ch. 23:1-25 H. The Crucifixion. Ch. 23:26-38 I. The Penitent Thief. Ch. 23:39-43 J. The Death And Burial. Ch. 23:44-56 K. The Empty Tomb. Ch. 24:1-12 L. The Walk To Emmaus. Ch. 24:13-35 M. Jesus Appearing To The Apostles. Ch. 24:36-43 N. The Last Words. Ch. 24:44-49 O. The Ascension. Ch. 24:50-53
The Bible text printed in boldface is taken from the American Standard Edition of the Revised Bible, copyright, 1901, by Thomas Nelson & Sons, and is used by permission.
TO THE MEN WHO LONG TO BE LIKE HIM
The Gospel of Luke is the most beautiful book in the world; at least, so it has been called, and those who know it best are not likely to dispute such praise. The purpose of this little volume is to place the book in convenient form, and by an outline and brief comments to aid in focusing the thought of the reader upon the successive scenes of the gospel story. These are familiar scenes, but each review of them more vividly reveals the great central Figure as supreme among men in the matchless loveliness of his divine manhood, himself the perfect, the ideal Man.
The surpassing beauty of this book betokens the personal attractiveness of its author and the dignity and importance of its theme. It was written by Luke, "the beloved physician," and it concerns the life and saving work of our Lord. The phrase which describes the writer as "the physician, the beloved one," is full of significance. It was penned by Paul, when a prisoner in Rome, to his friends in distant Colossae. It indicates that Luke was a man of culture and scientific training and that the charm of his character was so conspicuous as to be recognized by the Christian churches of Europe and of Asia. The connection in which this phrase occurs indicates that Luke was not a Jew but a Gentile by birth, and further, that he was a close companion of Paul.
To Luke's authorship is attributed not only this "Third Gospel" but also "The Acts." He was a man of such modesty that he never mentioned his own name even when recording the stirring events in which he played so prominent a part. Nevertheless he revealed himself in every page of his writings and was evidently a man of broad sympathies, an acute observer, a careful historian, and a loyal friend.
The story of his companionship with Paul begins in the record of the apostle's second missionary journey when he was about to sail from Troas on the memorable voyage which resulted in establishing Christianity on a new continent. The two friends journeyed together to Philippi, where a strong church was founded; but while Paul continued his travels through Macedonia and Greece, Luke remained behind, possibly to care for the young converts. Seven years later when Paul was on his third missionary tour he seems to have found Luke at Philippi and to have been accompanied by him on his way to Jerusalem. When Paul was arrested and was confined for two years at Caesarea, Luke was his companion. Later they shared together the perils of the voyage and the shipwreck on the way to Rome, and the imprisonment in the imperial city. Paul appears to have been released and then imprisoned a second time, and when he wrote his last letter, under the shadow of approaching martyrdom, the only friend to remain faithful and to comfort him in his loneliness was Luke.
As might be expected, the narrative composed by such an author is characterized by (1) unusual literary beauty; it is plainly the product of Greek culture. The divine Spirit chose and equipped a rare instrument in the poetic and refined personality of Luke and through him gave to the world that version of the gospel story which is most exquisite in style and most finished in form.
Yet Luke was not only a man of culture, he was also a Christian physician and thus a man of wide and tender sympathies, and his narrative is therefore characterized (2) by its absorbing human interest. It is a story of real life; it is suffused with emotion; it is full of gladness and sorrow, of songs and of tears; it is vocal with praise and with prayer.
It is the gospel of childhood. By its tender stories of the birth of John and of Jesus, it places an unfading halo of glory about the brow of infancy, and it alone preserves the precious picture of the boyhood of our Lord. It is the gospel of womanhood. It sketches for us that immortal group of women associated with the life of Jesus. We see Elisabeth and the virgin mother and the aged Anna, the widow of Nain, the sisters at Bethany, and the repentant sinner, the sufferer bowed down by Satan and the stranger who congratulates Mary, the company that minister to Jesus on his journeys and the "daughters of Jerusalem" weeping on the way to the cross.
It is the gospel of the home. It gives us glimpses of the family life at Nazareth, of the scene in the house of Simon, of the hospitality of Martha and Mary, of the evening meal with the two disciples at Emmaus and the picture in the parables of the importunate friend at midnight, of the woman searching the room for the lost coin and of the prodigal turning back to his father's house.
It is the gospel of the poor and the lowly; it warns against the perils of wealth and expresses sympathy and hope for those who are oppressed by poverty and want. This sympathy is sounded in the song of Mary, in the first sermon of the Saviour, in the first Beatitude, "Blessed are ye poor." Luke also records the parables of the Rich Fool and of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and paints, with Mark, the picture of the widow offering to the Lord her two mites.
It is also the gospel of praise and of prayer, expressions of the deepest convictions and longings of the human heart. The Gospel opens with a scene in the Temple at the hour of incense and with the "Magnificat" of Mary and the songs of Zacharias and of the angels. It closes with the benediction of the ascending Lord and the thanksgiving of his joyful disciples.
Luke, however, was not only a man of culture and a beloved physician; he was also a companion of Paul and had traveled with the apostle over a great portion of the Roman world; therefore he naturally wrote a gospel characterized by (3) universal interest. Here no narrow prejudice divides race from race; a despised Samaritan stands as the supreme example of a neighbor, the angels sing of peace among men, and the aged Simeon declares that Jesus is to be a "light for revelation to the Gentiles" as well as the glory of Israel. Luke alone gives the data which link the sacred story to the secular history of the world. His outlook is unlimited. He regards the good news concerning Christ as a message which is vital to the welfare and redemption of the entire human race.
These aspects of his Gospel blend with the picture of his Lord which Luke portrays. The character of Jesus is so subtle and complex as to defy exact analysis, and yet it is evident that certain of its features, common to all, are emphasized successively by each one of the Gospel writers. Matthew depicts its majesty, Mark its strength, and John its sublimity; but Luke reveals its beauty, and paints a picture of the ideal Man, the Saviour of the world.
As to all the prime elements of perfect manhood, possibly no two persons may agree; yet none would deny that such was the manhood of Jesus, and none would question that there are two or three moral qualities which he exhibited in a superlative degree, qualities upon which Luke lays special stress.
First of all Jesus manifested matchless courage. To some interpreters this fearlessness has formed the very essence of the "manliness of Christ." He was not a weak and nerveless preacher of righteousness, but a man of strength, of dauntless resolve, and of courageous action. The mob was eager to destroy him as he began his work in Nazareth, but his enemies quailed before his majestic presence, as "he passing through the midst of them went his way." He was advised to flee from the realm of Herod but he flung defiance to the king, beginning his message with the words, "Go and say to that fox." The section of ten chapters in this Gospel which describes the last journeys of our Lord opens with a deeply significant phrase, "He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem." Only five chapters devoted to his ministry precede, only five follow. During all the long period described in the chapters between, Jesus plainly foresaw his coming rejection and suffering and death, but fearlessly and with unfaltering step he moved onward to the cross. All the heroisms of history are dwarfed to insignificance by this incomparable courage of Christ.
More obvious still is the boundless and tender sympathy of this ideal Man. He declared in his first address that he had come "to preach good tidings to the poor: ... to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised"; and as we follow in his footsteps we see how his tender heart yearned over all who suffered and were distressed; he dried the tears of sorrow; he showed his pity for the outcast and the impure; he received sinners and was entertained by publicans; he praised Samaritans and comforted the dying thief. This world has no other picture of such perfect compassion, tenderness, and love; and these are essential to true manhood.
More mysterious, but none the less real, was his constant faith. His life was lived in continual fellowship with God. In his first recorded saying he declared, "I must be in my Father's house," and at the last he breathed out his spirit on the cross with the words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." All the intervening days of his life and ministry were filled with ceaseless prayer. On at least seven other occasions it is stated that he was praying: at his baptism, ch. 3:21; after healing the leper, ch. 5:16; before choosing his disciples, ch. 6:12; before Peter's great confession, ch. 9:18; at his transfiguration, ch. 9:29; before teaching his disciples to pray, ch. 11:1; in the first agonies of crucifixion, ch. 23:34. So, too, he taught his disciples to pray with importunity, ch. 11:5-10, with perseverance, ch. 18:1-7, and with penitence, ch. 18:9-14. Such trust in God, such sympathy, such bravery, are surely prominent among the many elements which are blended in this impressive portrayal of the ideal Man.
However, Luke has written a version of the gospel and therefore has produced much more than a picture of human perfection or the story of an ideal life. The gospel is the "good news" of salvation secured for us by our Lord; and in the narrative of Luke we behold One who was not only supreme in his manhood but was also the Saviour of the world. It was in accomplishing this redeeming work that he revealed such courage and so steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. The salvation he secured is inseparable from the cross.
It was a salvation provided for all, even as his sympathy knew no bounds but was extended to the last and the lowest of men—to the despised publican, to the outcast sinner, to the hated Samaritan, to the crucified thief.
Then, too, as he ever trusted in his Father, so the salvation he secured to us is conditioned upon faith in himself as Redeemer and Lord, a faith which implies repentance and trust and submission and sacrifice. One must be willing to count the cost, to abandon anything which stands between self and the Master. This salvation, however, is wholly of grace, unmerited, free, provided by the Father for all who yield themselves to the loving care of his Son.
This salvation was to be proclaimed to all the nations. Those to whom it became known, and by whom it was accepted, were to become witnesses to the transforming truth. For such testimony they would require courage and wide sympathy and unfaltering faith, and in their courage and sympathy and faith they would be like their Master who by such qualities was manifested as the ideal Man as he was the divine Saviour of the world.
I. THE PREFACE TO THE GOSPEL. LUKE 1:1-4
1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, 2 even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou wast instructed.
This preface is a perfect gem of Greek art; even in the English Version it loses little, if anything, of its literary charm. As a prologue it is regarded as unsurpassed for brevity, modesty, and dignity. However, its value lies not in its beauty but in its testimony to the veracity of the writer and to the historic worth and absolute credibility of the gospel story. The fact of inspiration should not blind us to the human means by which the Spirit of God secured accuracy in the communication of truth and in the composition of the Holy Scriptures.
Here we are admitted to the study of a great historian. We see about him his tools and his material; we are informed as to his motives and methods in work, and are told of the qualifications he possesses for his great task. First of all, he has before him many written accounts of the ministry of Christ. He does not reject these as inaccurate but regards any one of them as inadequate. By comparing and combining them he secures valuable outlines for his more complete narrative.
Then, too, he intimates that he is living and writing amidst the scenes and in the very atmosphere of the events he is recording; only recently, as he indicates, have these "matters ... been fulfilled." Again, he has access to the testimony of men who were eyewitnesses of these events and who have been public teachers of the gospel.
Further, he assures us of the absolute accuracy with which he has investigated the incidents of the life and ministry of Christ, even from the earliest scenes; he has sifted his material and weighed the evidence and is to record only established facts.
These facts he is to relate "in order," that is, in the sequence of time, and further still, with the system and the careful regard to proportion and to completeness which should characterize a scientific, historical composition.
Then again he dedicates the book to Theophilus whose title, "most excellent," indicates that he is a man of rank and official position, one to whom an author would not venture to present hasty, imperfect, and inaccurate work, especially when the one addressed had been instructed already in reference to the matters related.
Thus this preface shows the supreme purpose of Luke was to confirm the belief of Theophilus, who is apparently his patron and friend, and to deepen his conviction of the truth of the gospel story. Surely, such an introduction must remind every reader that our Christian faith is based upon an impregnable foundation of historic fact.
II. THE BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD OF JESUS. CHS. 1:5 TO 2:52
A. The Birth of John Foretold. Chs. 1:5-25
5 There was in the days of Herod, king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abijah: and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
8 Now it came to pass, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9 according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him. 18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. 20 And behold, thou shalt be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall come to pass, because thou believedst not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21 And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marvelled while he tarried in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: and he continued making signs unto them, and remained dumb. 23 And it came to pass, when the days of his ministration were fulfilled, he departed unto his house.
24 And after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord done unto me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.
Luke is the gospel of gladness, of praise, and of prayer, of tender, human interest, and of heavenly grace. It is fitting, therefore, that the narrative should open with a scene in the Temple at the hour of incense and with a divine promise which fills a heart with rapturous joy. This promise concerns the birth of one who is to prepare the way for the ministry of Christ, and this ministry forms the sum and substance of the gospel story.
The time was "in the days of Herod," called "the Great," a monster of cruelty, a vassal of Rome, who ruled the Jews with savage tyranny. The political slavery of the people was only less pitiful than their spiritual decline, for religion had become an empty form, a mere system of ceremonies and rites. However, God is never without his witnesses and his true worshipers. Among these were "a certain priest named Zacharias" and his wife Elisabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea, south of Jerusalem. They "were both righteous before God," not sinless but without reproach, carefully observing the moral and also the ritual requirements of the law. Yet godliness is no guarantee against sorrow or against the disappointment of human hopes, and these pious souls were saddened because their home was childless. This trial was peculiarly great among a people who regarded childlessness as a sign of divine displeasure and it was even more distressing to the hearts of the faithful who were yearning for the birth of the promised Messiah.
Twice each year Zacharias went to Jerusalem to perform for a week his sacred tasks. Finally there came to him a privilege which a priest could enjoy only once in his lifetime; the "lot" fell upon him, and he thus was chosen to enter the Holy Place at the hour of prayer and there offer incense upon the golden altar just before the veil in the very presence of God. It was the supreme hour of his life. As the cloud of perfume began to rise, true symbol of accepted petitions, an angel appeared and assured the startled priest that his supplications had been heard. For what had Zacharias then been praying—for a son, or for the salvation of his people? Were not both desires included in that supplication? As the representative of a nation, the priest hardly could have confined his petition to what was purely personal and private. Yet, as he pleaded for the coming of the Messiah, there must have been in his soul the secret yearning of the long years or the memory of that abandoned hope which he had always associated in thought with the salvation of Israel. Many a minister of Christ has a similar experience; in the very performance of his public tasks there rests on his soul the conscious shadow of some private grief.
The angel declared that the prayer for national salvation had been heard, and he gradually unfolded the contents of the divine answer; the Messiah was about to appear, and his coming was to be heralded by a son who was to be born to the aged priest. The angel spoke with great definiteness: the child would be named John; many would rejoice at his birth; he would be a Nazirite, and as such would take the vow of total abstinence from wine and of complete dedication to God; as a consequence of this dedication he would be filled with the divine Spirit and thus enabled to lead his people to repentance. He would labor in the spirit and power of Elijah, calling men to lives of natural affection and justice and preparing them for the salvation which Christ would bring.
So surprising a message was too great to be credited at once by the wondering priest. He had ceased to hope that the longing of his heart could be fulfilled. He therefore asked for a sign by which he might be assured that the blessed promise was true. The angel replied with a statement of his own majestic power and the glory of his mission and he granted to Zacharias a sign. This sign was at once a rebuke and a blessing. It rebuked the unbelief of the aged priest, yet it strengthened his faith. He was smitten with dumbness which was to continue until the promise of the angel had been realized. Zacharias would not accept the word of the Lord; he would not praise him for his goodness and his grace. Therefore, his tongue was to be silent and he was to be unable to speak until at last his lips were opened in glad thanksgiving. Unbelief is never joyous; infidelity has no songs.
However, the sign suggests supernatural power. The faith of Zacharias and also of Elisabeth will be strengthened by the very silence in their home. So when the people in the court of the Temple waited for the priest to reappear, when as he came they still waited for the usual benediction, when they found that Zacharias had been stricken with dumbness, they concluded he had seen a vision in the Temple, and he himself was assured that the messenger had come from God. In due time the promise was fulfilled; a new life came into being. Meanwhile, until it would be evident that her "reproach" for childlessness had been taken away, Elisabeth lived in strict retirement. She would not have others, by seeing her, think that she was under divine displeasure at the very time when she secretly knew that she was a special recipient of divine grace. She was jealous for the glory of her God; she delighted in her hidden fellowship with him. From the homes of such priests who can pray, and of such hearts which can trust, there ever have been coming the great prophets of the Lord.
B. The Annunciation To Mary. Ch. 1:26-38
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee. 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren. 37 For no word from God shall be void of power. 38 And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
The prediction to Mary of the birth of Jesus is recorded by Luke with marked dignity, delicacy, and reserve. It is an important record. This prediction is the crown of all prophecy and it reveals the supreme mystery of the Christian faith, namely, the nature of our Lord, at once human and divine.
The same angelic being who had spoken to Zacharias speaks again, not now to an aged and distinguished priest amidst the splendors of the Temple in Jerusalem, but to a humble maiden betrothed to a carpenter in an obscure village of Galilee. The angelic salutation, "Hail, thou that art highly favored," has been translated less accurately, "Hail, thou that art full of grace," and it has been misinterpreted to encourage the practice of praying to the virgin as divine. It does not mean, however, that Mary was to be a source but rather a recipient of grace; upon her God was bestowing peculiar favor. She may rightly be regarded as the most blessed among women; but only a woman still.
Mary had been startled by so strange an appearance and greeting; now she was further amazed by the announcement, "Thou shalt ... bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." Before her marriage she was to become a mother, and she was to call her child by that significant name which signifies "Saviour" or "God is Saviour." "He shall be great," continued the angel, both in his person, as "the Son of the Most High," and in his royal power, for "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David." This throne of David does not refer to the Christian Church or to merely heavenly or spiritual influence. It is a rule on earth which here is promised, yet it is not to be limited to one nation nor is it to be confined to one age. It is the Kingdom of the Messiah, which is to bring joy to "the house of Jacob for ever" and also to all the nations of the world—"and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
The exclamation of Mary expressed astonishment but not unbelief: "How shall this be?" Then came the answer which is unsurpassed as a clear and sublime statement of the incarnation, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee;" the creative power of God was to rest upon Mary as the cloud of glory had rested upon the tabernacle of Israel and as a result the child who would be born should be in reality, and should be called, "the Son of God." Of the truth of his promise the angel added a sign and proof in the surprising fact that Elisabeth, the aged kinswoman of Mary, was soon to be blessed with a son. This was in fulfillment of a promise made by the same angel messenger, and the marvel in the case of Elisabeth would assure Mary of the certain accomplishment of the gracious and more surprising promise to her. The reply of Mary is probably unequaled in all history as an expression of perfect faith, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Thus she revealed belief in the word of God and submission to the will of God. There was no doubt in her mind as to the truth of the divine promise with all that it suggested of miracle and of mystery; and there was no shrinking on her part from all that the fulfillment of this promise possibly might involve of suspicion and shame and reproach and suffering and even death. Those who believe most firmly in the promises of God, submit most patiently to his providences; they see the glory which surely will succeed the gloom. Mary was to become the mother of the Messiah, of the Son of Man, of the Saviour of the world.
C. The "Magnificat." Ch. 1:39-56
39 And Mary arose in these days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; 42 and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?
44 For behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believeth; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord. 46 And Mary said,
My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is unto generations and generations On them that fear him. 51 He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. 52 He hath put down princes from their thrones, And hath exalted them of low degree. 53 The hungry he hath filled with good things; And the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath given help to Israel his servant, That he might remember mercy 55 (As he spake unto our fathers) Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned unto her house.
The Magnificat, the lovely lyric which comes from the lips of Mary, has been sung during many centuries as one of the chief canticles of the Christian Church. Its occasion was a visit paid to her kinswoman, Elisabeth, by Mary shortly after she had received the promise of the birth of a son. Elisabeth on hearing the salutation of Mary addressed her in high spiritual ecstasy, declaring her supremely blessed among women because of the Son to be born, and wondering at her own honor in being thus visited by the mother of her Lord, by which phrase she means the mother of the Messiah; it is to be noted that the Bible does not contain the phrase "Mother of God." Elisabeth congratulated Mary upon her faith and assured her that the promise upon which Mary relied was certain to be fulfilled.
The name of the song which Mary then sang, the Magnificat, has come from the first line in its Latin form, Magnificat anima mea Dominum. The model is that of the ancient hymn sung by Hannah when her heart, like that of Mary, was rejoicing in the promised gift of a son. The verses form a perfect mosaic of Old Testament quotations. The hymn was not addressed to Elisabeth or to the Lord; it is rather a meditation upon the mercy and grace of God.
According to the common division the song is composed of four stanzas of four lines each, except the third stanza which contains six lines. The general movement of thought seems to be from the goodness of God to Mary as an individual, to his consequent kindness to Israel as a nation.
The first stanza, or strophe, vs. 46-48, illustrates, as do those which follow, one of the chief features of Hebrew poetry, namely, the expression, in successive lines, of thoughts which are parallel or closely related. In her "soul" or "spirit" or innermost being, Mary praises or magnifies the Lord and rejoices in him as her Saviour. This salvation is not only for her people, but particularly for herself; it is not only political but also spiritual. It is to be wrought out by the gift God is granting to Mary. He has chosen her, an obscure village maiden betrothed to a poor carpenter, and has bestowed upon her such honor that all future generations will call her "blessed." While realizing the honor she dwells most upon her unworthiness while recognizing what it may cost her, she declares her submission as a true "bondmaid" or slave of the Lord. Humility and faith could hardly be more sublime.
The second stanza, vs. 49, 50, centers the thought upon the character of God as revealed in his gracious gift. His power, his holiness, his mercy are praised. In his goodness to Mary he had shown his divine power, yet in accordance with the moral perfection of his revealed nature and in order to bring blessings to countless generations who would trust and reverence him.
In the third stanza, vs. 51-53, is an illustration of another feature of Hebrew poetry; not only is there striking parallelism, but here past tenses are used to describe future events; the results of the coming of the Messiah are stated as though already achieved. In contrast with the blessedness of those that fear the Lord, "the proud," the rebellious, and unbelieving are pictured as "scattered" like the hosts of a defeated army; the oppressed are exalted while tyrants are dethroned; the hungry are filled and the rich are sent away "empty." These results are to be regarded as spiritual as well as physical. Such reversals are certain to occur where Christ is accepted and those who receive blessings from him are the humble who are conscious of their need.
The last strophe, vs. 54, 55, emphasizes the faithfulness of God to his ancient promises which Mary sees fulfilled in the birth of her Son. In this saving help given to Israel, God is showing that he has not forgotten the mercy "toward Abraham and his seed" promised to the "fathers" of old. Only in Christ Jesus can be realized all the promises to Israel, all the hopes of the ages.
D. The Birth of John, and the "Benedictus." Ch. 1:57-80
57 Now Elisabeth's time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her. 59 And it came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66 And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What then shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people, 69 And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David 70 (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old), 71 Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To show mercy towards our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware unto Abraham our father, 74 To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Should serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76 Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people In the remission of their sins, 78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us, 79 To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; To guide our feet into the way of peace.
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
When the aged priest, Zacharias, had received from an angel the promise that he was to be given a son who would be called John and who would be the herald of Christ, and when he had asked for a sign to attest the truth of the prediction, he was smitten with dumbness as a rebuke for his unbelief and as a stimulus for his faith. Even when at last the promise was fulfilled, the sign was not removed and he was not able to speak until he had given a written expression of his confidence in God. This interesting incident occurred on the eighth day after the birth of John, when in the presence of their rejoicing friends the parents were about to name the child. Many supposed that the name of the father would be selected. The mother, however, intimated that the name might be "John." When Zacharias, the father, was consulted, "he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, ... His name is John." There was no hesitation, no uncertainty, no question in his mind, for this name had been predicted by the angel, and Zacharias showed by his decision and firmness that he believed absolutely in the fulfillment of all that the angel had promised concerning the career of the son who was to be regarded by his fellow men as a gift of divine grace and a prophet of divine appointment. It usually happens that a public confession of faith results in new joy and in wider testimony. It was surely so in the case of Zacharias: "His mouth was opened immediately, ... and he spake, blessing God." His thanksgiving was voiced in a hymn which, for hundreds of years, has been sung daily in Christian worship. It is indeed a Christian hymn and a hymn of the nativity; for while its occasion was the birth of John, only one stanza refers to that event; the whole burden of the thanksgiving refers to the approaching birth of Jesus and to the salvation which he is to bring.
This hymn is named the Benedictus from the first word in the Latin version. It is an ecstatic expression of gratitude to God for his boundless goodness. The poem possibly may be divided into five stanzas of four lines each; but there is a definite pause after the third of these stanzas when the thought turns from the work of Christ to the specific mission of John.
The first strophe, vs. 68, 69, speaks of the redemption of Israel as already accomplished in the gift of the Christ who is about to be born and who is described as "a horn of salvation," that is, a manifestation of saving power. He is to appear as a son and heir of David the king.
The second stanza, or strophe, vs. 70-72, indicates that the salvation from all enemies is in fulfillment of the promises made through the prophets and cherished by the ancient fathers and embodied in the holy covenant made with Israel of old.
The third stanza, vs. 73-75, describes the nature of this salvation which was assured by the oath to Abraham; it is to be such a deliverance from political oppression as to make possible for Israel a true, priestly service of God, as a nation holy and righteous before him.
In the fourth stanza, vs. 76, 77, the singer turns to address his own son whose birth has given occasion to the song. He declares that John is to be recognized as a prophet of God whose divine mission will be to announce and to define the promised salvation as in its essence not a political but a spiritual redemption consisting in the remission of sin. John was not to be a revolutionist but a reformer. He was to call a nation to repentance that those who obeyed his message might be ready to receive the salvation of Christ.
This mission of John is linked with that of Christ as the description of the latter reaches its climax in the closing strophe. Vs. 78, 79. The source of all the blessings Christ will bring is found in "the tender mercy of our God;" the essence is a visitation of "the dayspring from on high," when the Sun of righteousness arises upon the helpless, terrified wanderers of the night who are seated "in darkness and the shadow of death;" the result will be "to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Such is the hymn of Zacharias, a hymn of faith, of hope, of gratitude, a song of the salvation provided by the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
E. The Birth of Jesus. Ch. 2:1-20
1 Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; 5 to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him, being great with child. 6 And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9 And an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: 11 for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
15 And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18 And all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto them.
The story of the birth of Jesus as related by Matthew is in striking contrast with that of Luke. Matthew depicts Jesus as a King and at his birth the reigning Herod trembles on his throne and the Magi adore him, offering regal gifts. Luke represents Jesus as the ideal Man, and the story is full of human interest. It describes two obscure peasants journeying from their northern home in Nazareth to Bethlehem and there, excluded from the inn, placing in a manger their newborn babe, while the first to visit them are humble shepherds from the neighboring plain. Human interests, however, are not merely earthly interests; the story is vocal with heavenly melodies and inwoven with messages of divine meaning and grace.
Only the most recent scholarship has vindicated the historic accuracy of Luke in connecting the event with the decree of Augustus and with the enrollment under Quirinius. However, these facts are mentioned by Luke not so much to fix the date of the birth of Christ as to explain how this occurred in Bethlehem when the home of his parents was in Nazareth. Only a legal necessity would have made them willing to take such a journey at such a time, but thus it appears that the emperor of the world was concerned unconsciously in the fulfillment of divine prophecy concerning the Saviour of the world. According to the imperial decree, Joseph left Nazareth and with Mary, to whom according to Matthew he was not only "betrothed" but married, journeyed to Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem, to be enrolled in his ancestral city. There is born their promised Son. Their exclusion from the inn was not due to any lack of hospitality; much less did it express hostility to Jesus; it was due simply to the crowded condition of the town. However, it is suggestive of the obscurity and discomfort and poverty of Joseph and Mary.
In view of his evident appreciation of the supreme importance of the birth of Jesus, the account of Luke is almost startling in its brevity and simplicity. However, with consummate art, after his own short statement of fact, he allows divine messengers to give the interpretation and to express the significance of the event. These messengers were angels. They appeared to a group of shepherds who were "abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock." Out of a blaze of heavenly glory came the tidings of great joy to Israel, "There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord." The angel did not then disclose the larger truth, that this Christ was to be the redeemer of all men or that he was a divine Lord. However, a sign was given whereby the shepherds might be able to distinguish the child and to be assured that he was the Christ: "Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger." A strange sign it was; yet for us it has become a symbol full of meaning; a Redeemer who was cradled in a manger has known what it is to endure poverty and suffering and neglect, and now he can sympathize with the lowly and distressed even as he is abundantly able to save.
When the good news had been given, there suddenly swelled forth an angel chorus, singing that great hymn of the nativity which, as subsequently expanded by Christian worshipers, is named from its Latin version, the Gloria in Excelsis. As sung by the angels it is composed of two verses, each containing three corresponding notes, "glory" and "peace," "in the highest" (heaven) and "on earth," "God," and "men." This is a hymn of praise to God who in the gift of a Saviour manifests in heaven his excellence and on earth reveals his grace to men, the recipients of his favor. The result of this, however, is declared to be "peace;" in Christ alone can peace be secured—peace with God, peace for the human heart, peace between men, peace for the world.
The astonished shepherds hastened to verify the good news and they became in a real sense the first witnesses for Christ as "they made known concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child." It is not strange that all who heard wondered, or that Mary treasured in her heart the heavenly messages, or that the shepherds returned to their tasks with gratitude and praise, for there lingered in their memories a song which expresses still the hope of all mankind.
F. The Presentation of Jesus, and the "Nunc Dimittis." Ch. 2:21-40
21 And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, his name was called JESUS, who was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord), 24 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. 25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Now lettest thou thy servant depart, O Lord, According to thy word, in peace; 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; 32 A light for revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him; 34 and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; 35 yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
The incidents of the infancy of Jesus recorded by Luke not only add human interest to the story but they interpret the future career and the saving work of our Lord. Thus when on the eighth day he was named "Jesus," a name often given to Jewish boys, it was because he was destined to fulfill all that the name implies, for he was to be the "Salvation of the Lord."
So, too, when five weeks later he was presented in the Temple, when his mother offered for herself a sacrifice which indicated lack of wealth but not abject poverty, the real significance of the scene is set forth in the prophetic utterances of the saintly Simeon and Anna. The first of these utterances was the song of Simeon, called from the Latin form of its opening words the Nunc Dimittis ("Now Lettest Thou Depart"). To this devout soul it had been revealed that he should not die until he had seen the Messiah, "the Lord's Christ." Led by the Spirit to the Temple while the parents of Jesus are there presenting their Son before the Lord, he took the little babe in his arms and sang the sweetest and most solemn song of the nativity, which, unlike the Magnificat or the Benedictus, promises redemption not only to Israel but to all the world.
"Now lettest thou thy servant depart ... in peace;" the figure of speech is full of beauty; it is the word of a faithful watchman who welcomes with joy the hour of his dismissal, for he has caught the vision of the coming One; now he is about to be sent away in the peace of an accomplished task, in the peace of fulfilled hope; for his eyes have seen the Saviour according to the promise of the Lord. The redemption which the Messiah brings, as the song continues to declare, is for all peoples; it is a light to reveal the way of salvation to the Gentiles; it is to be the true glory of the favored people, Israel.
While this salvation is provided for all, it will not be accepted by all. To the wondering mother, Simeon uttered a dark word of prophecy. The ministry of Jesus will be the occasion for the fall and the rise of many. Their attitude toward him will be a revelation of character; some will reject him and thus condemn themselves; some will speak against him, even though he is the very token and instrument of divine salvation; this opposition will reach its climax at the cross, when bitter anguish like a sword will pierce the soul of Mary. Jesus is to be the touchstone of character; wherever he is known, by accepting or by rejecting him, men will disclose their true nature; "the thoughts out of many hearts" will be "revealed."
While Mary and Joseph were still wondering at these sublime words there appeared an aged prophetess whose long years of widowhood had been spent in continual worship; she, too, praised God for the salvation to be accomplished by the Child of Mary and she went forth to speak of him to all who like her "were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Mary and Joseph, however, returned to their home in Nazareth where Jesus was to spend his infancy and early childhood. During those years of obscurity his development was normal, but unique in its symmetry and its perfection; he "grew, and waxed strong" in body, but there was just as true a growth in mind and spirit; he was "filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." The Saviour of the world was to be the ideal Man.
G. The Boy Jesus At Jerusalem. Ch. 2:41-52
41 And his parents went every year to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up after the custom of the feast; 43 and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not; 44 but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day's journey; and they sought for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance; 45 and when they found him not, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking for him. 46 And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions: 47 and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were astonished; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be in my Father's house? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and he was subject unto them; and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
It has been said that the boyhood of Jesus is like a walled garden from which we have been given but a single flower, but this is so fragrant as to fill our hearts with a longing to enter within the secret inclosure. We have but a single incident of his boyhood days; it is recorded for us only by Luke, a visit to Jerusalem paid by Jesus when he was twelve years old. At about this age a young Jew became a "son of the law" and began to observe its requirements, among which were the pilgrimages to the holy city to observe the sacred feasts. On this first visit to Jerusalem, Jesus was unintentionally left behind by his parents as they started on their return journey to Nazareth. At the end of the first day they failed to find him in the long caravan which was moving northward toward Galilee. The day following, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem, and on the third day they discovered Jesus in the Temple in the midst of the teachers who were surprised at his knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. There was an implied rebuke in the words of Mary, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I sought thee sorrowing?" In the reply of Jesus there was something of surprise and also of reproof, yet there were deep undertones of love, of spiritual vision, and of solemn resolve: "How is it that ye sought me? knew ye not that I must be in my Father's house?"
These are the first recorded words of Jesus and they are an index and an explanation of his entire career; for their preservation this story was recorded by Luke. If they contained a rebuke for Mary, it must have been conveyed in accents of reverence and affection; and was there not involved a delicate compliment? Jesus does not reprove his parents for seeking him, but for not seeking him in the Temple first of all; and does he not seem to have implied that his parents had taught him to love the house of God and to delight in the law of God? He was saying in effect: "Why thus did you seek me? Why did you not remember that the Temple is the very place where I should be found?"
These words are thus a revelation of the life in the home at Nazareth. It was not by a miracle or due to some divine attribute, but because of the training he had received from his pious parents, that Jesus at the age of twelve was a master of the Scriptures, and had learned to reverence and adore all that was related to them and to the worship of God. Is it not possible for parents to-day to awaken in the hearts of their children a love for the house and the Word and the will of God?
These words, further, were a revelation of the consciousness of divine sonship. Jesus already realized that in a unique sense God was his own Father, the true source of his being. He instantly corrected the words of Mary, "thy father," which referred to Joseph, with his own words "my Father," which referred to God. Luke depicts Jesus as the ideal Man, but always as one conscious that he was the Son of God.
Our children should learn to regard God as their Father, not in the unique sense employed by Jesus as the eternal Son, nor yet in the sense which can apply to all created beings, but as denoting that intimate relationship with God made possible for believers through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Most important of all, these words are the revelation of a firm resolve, of a great molding purpose; Jesus perceived that it was his duty to be in the house of his Father—not merely in the literal Temple, but in the sphere of life and activity of which the Temple was the great expression and symbol and sign. He had determined, that is, to devote all his thoughts and energies and powers to the definite service of God. At the age of twelve are not most children sufficiently mature to form a somewhat similar purpose and to recognize in the service of God the supreme and comprehensive duty of every life?
With this definite ideal in mind Jesus returned to Nazareth and continued to live in submission to his parents, toiling for eighteen years as a carpenter and in the quiet retirement of an obscure village receiving a training for his public career which would have been impossible amidst the formalism and the distractions of Jerusalem. His development was as natural as it was perfect; he "advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men;" his bodily and mental growth were no more marked than his increasing charm and spiritual power. Such development is possible in the humblest sphere for those whose lives are yielded to the will of God.
III. THE PREPARATION. CHS. 3:1 TO 4:13
A. The Preaching Of John. Ch. 3:1-20
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins; 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, And every mountain and hill shall be brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
7 He said therefore to the multitudes that went out to be baptized of him, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the multitudes asked him, saying, What then must we do? 11 And he answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath food, let him do likewise. 12 And there came also publicans to be baptized, and they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? 13 And he said unto them, Extort no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence, neither accuse any one wrongfully; and be content with your wages.
15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether haply he were the Christ; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire: 17 whose fan is in his hand, thoroughly to cleanse his threshing-floor, and to gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.
18 With many other exhortations therefore preached he good tidings unto the people; 19 but Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done, 20 added this also to them all, that he shut up John in prison.
John the Baptist was the first inspired prophet to break the silence of the centuries which had elapsed since the days of Malachi. The importance of his ministry is indicated by Luke in the minute exactness with which he fixes its date. By naming the civil and religious rulers he gives a sixfold designation of the time; then, too, it accords with the universal aspect of his Gospel, and with the genius of Luke as a historian, to link his story with secular events. Naturally he mentions first the reigning emperor, Tiberius Caesar; he next names Pilate, the governor of Judea who attained an immortality of shame for condemning Jesus to the cross; Herod Antipas, a seducer and murderer, son of Herod the Great, is designated as ruler of Galilee; Philip and Lysanias are said to be governing neighboring provinces; as ecclesiastical rulers, Annas and Caiaphas are mentioned; while the former had been deposed some years before, he continued to share with his son-in-law the actual duties of the high priesthood, and he also shared the infamy in which their names are united. Such a list of leading spirits indicates the absolute moral and religious degeneracy of the times and the need of some one to call Israel back to the service and worship of God.
Such a messenger appeared in the person of John the Baptist who after his long discipline in the wilderness came with a definite message from God and drew out great throngs to the Jordan Valley to attend his preaching and to accept his baptism as a sign and seal of their repentance. The nature of his ministry is declared to have been a fulfillment of the prediction of Isaiah who described "one crying in the wilderness," one sent of God to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. This preparation is pictured in terms of Oriental imagery. When a monarch was about to make a journey, a servant was sent before him to prepare the highway. Valleys needed to be filled, hills lowered, crooked places made straight, rough ways made smooth. Thus, before men would be ready to receive Christ, moral obstacles must be removed; men must repent of their sins and turn from them. Luke closes his quotation from Isaiah with the line, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God," which is in accord with the universal character of his Gospel.
The burden of the message preached by John was that which in all ages has awakened a response in the hearts of men: he preached sin and judgment, repentance and pardon. The tone of his message as recorded by Luke, however, was particularly severe; here he is said to have addressed the multitudes as the "offspring of vipers" and to have asked them why they were pretending to have heard a warning of wrath to come. The reason for such severity was that, while wishing to escape the impending judgment, the people were unwilling to forsake their sins. They regarded the baptism of John as a magical rite which could make impenitent men safe in the hour of judgment. John bade them show their repentance by their works and not to trust in their descent from Abraham as securing their salvation. He declared that judgment was upon them; the ax was already lying at the root of the trees and every fruitless tree was about to be "hewn down, and cast into the fire."
To the question of the people John made it perfectly plain that by repentance he meant no mere form or ceremony, nor was the word merely an abstract theological term; the thing he demanded was plain and practical, that each man should turn from his besetting sin and should show love to his fellow man. Clothing and food were to be given to those in need, for repentance meant to turn from the sin of selfishness. Publicans or taxgatherers, who were everywhere detested because of their dishonesty and greed, were told to demand no more tribute than was appointed and lawful. Soldiers, or more exactly "men on military service," possibly acting as local police, were told to extort no money by violence and to seek for none by false charges, and to be content with their wages. All who are to receive Christ in any age must turn from their sins. Repentance is not a mystical experience; it is plain and simple and practical. It consists in turning from greed and dishonesty and unkindness and violence and discontent, and from all that is contrary to the revealed will of God.
The coming of Christ was very definitely predicted by John. While some imagined that the prophet himself was the Messiah, John declared that the mission of Christ was so much greater than his own that he would be unworthy as a slave, to loose the latchet of his shoes. While John baptized with water, Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Water was a material element, and merely symbolized an inward change; Jesus would bring them into fellowship with a divine Person, and would exert upon their souls cleansing and transforming power. He would come, however, to punish the impenitent; he would separate the wheat from the chaff; the former he would gather into his garner, but the chaff he would burn with unquenchable fire.
The close of the career of John is introduced by Luke at this point of his narrative to prepare the way for his account of the ministry of Christ. It was actually some time after Jesus had begun his work that Herod the tetrarch arrested John and cast him into prison because he had rebuked the profligate king for his impurity and his sin. John had been a faithful messenger of God, but the world does not reverence its prophets; they are usually imprisoned, beheaded, burned, or crucified.
B. The Baptism Of Jesus. Ch. 3:21, 22
21 Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
Why did the ideal Man, the Son of God, submit to the baptism of John, a baptism of repentance? Surely not to confess any sin of his own; but first of all to set his seal of approval upon the work of John and to attest the message which declared that repentance and confession of sin are absolutely necessary for all who are to share the salvation of Christ.
Then again by his baptism Jesus identified himself with his people, not as being sinful, but as doing what they were commanded to do and as sympathizing with them in their hatred of sin, in their distress for its burden, and in their hope and expectation of relief. Only those who sympathize can serve and save.
Then again baptism indicated that the penitent had broken with the past to begin a life of new holiness and obedience. So in his baptism Jesus was ending his quiet years of preparation in Nazareth and was about to enter upon the ministry of service and sacrifice which was to be performed in obedience to the will of his Father. It is for this reason that Luke, with the art of a skilled historian, first completed the story of John, the great forerunner, before mentioning that which in reality was the supreme incident in the career of John—his baptism of Jesus. That incident introduced Jesus to his public ministry and that ministry was to form the very substance of the gospel.
That the incident is merely introductory to his narrative, is evident also from the way in which Luke records the baptism. He does not describe the event. He merely mentions it to designate the time when Jesus saw the descending Spirit and heard the voice from heaven. The former was a symbolic indication of the power by which the work of Jesus was to be performed; the latter was a declaration that he was the Christ, upon whom rested the approval of God.
We are not to suppose that Jesus before had lacked the presence of the Holy Spirit, nor that he now assumed any new relation to his Father, but, as in baptism he had yielded himself to his appointed service, so now he was empowered for his task; as in humility he had identified himself with the sons of men, so now he was assured anew that he was the Son of God; as he had shown his sympathy with penitent sinners, he now was declared to be the sinless One in whom God was well pleased.
Thus with the followers of Christ, while all enjoy the abiding presence of his Spirit, yet, as they yield themselves anew to his service, they are filled anew with his power, they are strengthened for their tasks, and are cheered by a new assurance of their sonship and their acceptance with God. Luke alone mentions that this experience came when Jesus was in prayer. He realized that it was a time of crisis. Prayer is usually the condition of those heavenly visions and spiritual experiences which prepare us for our tasks in life.
C. The Genealogy Of Jesus. Ch. 3:23-38
23 And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Jesus, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Symeon, the son of Judas, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
The genealogy of Jesus given by Luke contains marked differences from that recorded by Matthew. Possibly some of these differences can be explained and may be found of real significance.
1. First of all, the genealogy is found in a different part of the Gospel. In Matthew it opens the story; in Luke it closes the third chapter. This is of course by no mere chance. The purpose of Matthew is to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, who, as the King of Israel, fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies. It is of the utmost importance that Jesus should be shown to be the Son of David and of Abraham and that the official genealogy containing this record should open the story and even precede the account of the nativity.
Luke, however, has given the significant account of the birth and infancy and career of the great forerunner, John, because of the light these throw upon the ministry of Christ. Therefore, when the career of John has been related, when the ministry of Jesus is about to be recorded, Luke gives his genealogy to emphasize the fact that the narrative concerning John has closed and the story of the ministry of Jesus is about to begin. The genealogy is thus an artistic interlude, or an important introduction. It suggests the real purpose of the writer and marks the transition from the ministry which called men to repentance to the saving work which secures salvation from sin. The gospel is not good advice but good news. We are not followers of John but of Jesus.
2. Then again, the genealogy in Matthew follows the order of descent; Luke ascends the family line from son to father. The former is the order of an official record; individuals are registered only as they are born; the latter is that of a private document compiled from the public records with a view to fixing the attention upon the particular person whose name stands at the head of the list. This is quite in accord with the literary art of Luke, who desires at this point in the narrative to center the thought upon the supreme importance of Jesus, the Saviour, of whose redeeming work he is now to write.
3. In the third place, while the names given by Luke, from Abraham to David, correspond with those given by Matthew, the names from David to Jesus differ. Some have attempted to explain the differences on the ground that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, while Luke gives that of Mary. It is probably wiser to conclude that both give the genealogy of Joseph, but Matthew traces the line of royal succession showing Jesus to be the heir of David; while Luke gives the line of actual descent. This surely accords with the purpose of Matthew who ever depicts Christ as the King, and also with the purpose of Luke who is painting for us Christ as the true, the ideal Man.
4. Then, too, the genealogy in Matthew begins with Abraham, while Luke traces the line back to Adam. The former proves Jesus to be a Jew, the true son of Abraham, in whom the covenant was fulfilled. The latter reminds us that Jesus belongs to the whole human race. It makes us look beyond all national lines and remember that this ideal Man on whom Luke is fixing our thoughts is the Saviour of mankind.
5. When the genealogy closes with the statement that Adam was "the son of God," it does indicate that Jesus was reckoned as one in the great brotherhood of man, and like all his brothers, owed his origin to God; but it does not mean to deny that he also sustained to God a relationship that is absolutely unique. The genealogy opens with the statement that Jesus was the reputed Son of Joseph; he was the legal heir of Joseph and so the promised Son of David because of the marriage of Joseph to Mary; but he was not really the son of Joseph; he was the "only begotten Son" of God.
D. The Temptation Of Jesus. Ch. 4:1-13
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness 2 during forty days, being tempted of the devil. And he did eat nothing in those days: and when they were completed, he hungered. 3 And the devil said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread. 4 And Jesus answered unto him, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. 5 And he led him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship before me, it shall all be thine. 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 9 And he led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: 10 for it is written,
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee:
On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God. 13 And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him for a season.
The temptation of Jesus was the last step in the preparation for his public ministry, and for many of his followers the final discipline for service consists in such a trial as results in a new determination to live not for self but for God.
The time of the temptation was significant. It was just after Jesus had been filled with the Holy Spirit and had been assured anew of his divine sonship. Under the influence of the Spirit he was brought to the place of trial, and the temptation consisted, in large part, of the suggestion to use for selfish ends the divine powers of which he was conscious, and to forget his filial relation to his Father. While God never tempts us, in the sense of enticing us to sin, it does seem to be a part of his gracious purpose to allow us to be tested; these experiences come while we are guided by his Spirit, and the essence of these temptations usually consists in some inclination to please self in forgetfulness of our true relation to God. The place of temptation was the wilderness, and there is a sense in which the experience of moral struggle is always one of intense loneliness. On the other hand, to live in a literal desert does not free one from solicitation to sin. Wherever one may be, he can be certain of the presence and sympathy of Christ; and victory is possible through faith in him. This seems to be the supreme message of the story.
In both Matthew and Luke, three temptations are mentioned. They are probably intended to be symbolic and inclusive; and under one or the other of these enticements to evil can be grouped all the moral trials of mankind. It is to be noted, however, that the order of the temptations given by Luke differs from that of Matthew. In both accounts the first temptation is to make bread of stone; but Luke mentions as the second temptation that which is last in the account of Matthew, the temptation which offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. This was a fitting climax to the testing of the King. Luke, however, mentions last the temptation of Jesus to cast himself from the pinnacle of the Temple and thus to test God. It is the temptation in the sphere of intellectual desire and comes in the subtle form of presumptuous trust. It forms a true climax in the testing of the ideal Man. The order given by Matthew is suggested by the apostle John who mentions "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life." The order of Luke takes us back to the story of Eden and to the first human sin, which was due to a love for that which was "good for food" and "a delight to the eyes" and "to be desired to make one wise." As in Eden also, the first temptation is to doubt the goodness of God, the second to doubt his power, and the third to distrust his wisdom. The victory of Jesus, however, was secured by the triumph of his faith, and faith is still "the victory which overcomes the world."
The first temptation, then, was in the sphere of bodily appetite; Jesus was urged by Satan to transform a stone into bread. Why not? His appetite was innocent; he possessed the ability to gratify it. The sin, however, would lie in his using divine power to satisfy his human needs. If this should have been his way of life, there would have been for him no hunger, no pain, no sorrow, no cross. He would have defeated the very purpose for which he came into the world; and anyone who makes the gratification of appetite his supreme purpose is wasting his life. The essence of the temptation, however, was to doubt the goodness of God, as Jesus showed by his reply, "Man shall not live by bread alone." He was quoting from the Old Testament; he was declaring that as by a miracle God preserved his people of old, so now he would sustain the life of his Son. Jesus would not be driven into a panic of fear. He believed that God would supply his need and that, however strong the demand of appetite might be, the way and the will of God are certain to secure satisfaction and the truest enjoyment in life.
The second temptation was in the sphere of earthly ambition. It consisted in an offer of unlimited human power. Satan would give to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world on the condition that Jesus should bow down and worship him. The force of the temptation consisted in the fact that Jesus expected some day to rule the world. The Tempter suggested that he himself possessed such power, and that if Jesus would submit to him he would attain the desired goal of universal rule. It was a temptation to doubt the power of God and to be disloyal to him, as is shown by the reply of Jesus, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
This is a familiar form of temptation to-day. The Devil does not ask us to give up our purposes of ultimate helpfulness to others and service to the world; he only asks us to compromise with the evil to attain our goal; he insists that the end will justify the means; he intimates that in the world of commerce, or society, or politics, evil methods are so much in vogue that success can be attained only by complicity with evil. He tells us that this is his world and that we can rule only in so far as we make terms with him. For Christ the issue was clearly drawn. It was submission to Satan or loyalty to God. The latter would involve opposition to the ruler of this world and therefore would mean conflict and toil and tears and a cross; but the ultimate issue would be universal rule. The same choice opens for the followers of Christ. Unswerving loyalty is the way of the cross, but this is the way of the crown.
The last temptation was in the sphere of intellectual curiosity. It suggested to Jesus that he should see for himself what would be the experience of one who should cast himself from a great height and then, by angel hands, be kept from harm. This is the temptation to place oneself needlessly in a situation of moral peril and then to expect to be delivered by God's miraculous power. This is not faith, but presumption. Satan still seeks by this device to destroy human souls. He urges men to see for themselves, to increase their knowledge by experiences which needlessly endanger their credit, their health, and their honor, to place themselves in moral peril, to live beyond their means, to undertake tasks beyond their strength. Jesus replied, "Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God." In the path of actual duty one need not fear the most threatening danger; but one who puts himself in unnecessary peril need not expect divine help. In his own time and way, and in the path of our appointed service, God will open our eyes and give us such knowledge as we need. To seek in presumption for such knowledge while endangering our souls is to doubt the wisdom of God. Real trust preserves us from sinful presumption.
The story closes with the statement that when Jesus had secured his victory the Devil "departed from him for a season." The life of faith is a life of repeated moral conflicts, but victory is assured to those who trust in the goodness and power and wisdom of God.
IV. THE MINISTRY IN GALILEE. CHS. 4:14 TO 9:50
A. The First Period. Ch. 4:14-44
1. Jesus Preaching at Nazareth. Ch. 4:14-30
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son? 23 And he said unto them, Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in thine own country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. 28 And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up, and cast him forth out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way.
After his baptism and temptation Jesus remained for a time in Jerusalem and in Judea and then returned to Galilee where he began that ministry to which Luke devotes the next six chapters of his Gospel. Of this ministry he mentions three features: First, it was wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit; secondly, its fame extended through the entire country; and thirdly, its essence consisted in the most arresting and impressive public teaching.
The first recorded sermon of Jesus was preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, the town in which he had spent his youth and early manhood. Luke places this sermon at the very opening of his record of the public ministry of Jesus, probably because he regarded it as containing the program of that ministry, or as forming the proclamation of the saving work of our Lord.
It was a Sabbath Day. The place of worship was crowded with the relatives and friends and townsmen of Jesus. All were eager to hear one whom they knew so well, and who had attained so sudden a renown. Either at his request, or providentially, Jesus was handed the book of Isaiah to lead in the reading of the Scripture. He found the place in the prophecy where, in terms of the joy of Jubilee, the writer is describing the gladness of those who are to return from their long captivity in Babylon. When Jesus had finished the lesson he sat down, thereby taking the attitude of a public teacher. As all gazed upon him intently, he undertook to show that the prophecy was to be fulfilled by himself, claiming thereby to be the promised Messiah. The very phrase with which the prophecy begins, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," indicates, when applied to himself, that he had been anointed, not with oil as a prophet or a priest or a king, but with the Holy Spirit as the Anointed One, or the Christ of God. As such he was "to preach good tidings to the poor," that is, to those in spiritual as well as in physical poverty. He was to proclaim deliverance for those enslaved by sin and to establish those principles which will result in political freedom for mankind. He was "to set at liberty them that are bruised," that is, to remove the consequences and the cruelties of selfishness and of crime. He was to proclaim the era of universal blessedness which will result from his perfected reign. Thus in these words, which combine the figures of deliverance from captivity with those of the joy of jubilee, Jesus expressed the gracious and beneficent character of his ministry.