CHAPTER I (CONTINUE)
THE PREPARATORY PERIOD
4. Infancy of Jesus (References: Matt. 2:1-23; Lk. 2:21-39)
Let us first piece together the narrative from these two Gospels. Luke tells of the circumcision of Jesus when He was eight days old, and of the prophesying of Simeon along with the words of Anna on that occasion. After vs. 38 we must turn back to Matthew where we learn of the visit of the Magi, which occurred somewhat later, and then of Herod’s plot to kill the infant Jesus, of God’s warning to Joseph to flee into Egypt with the child, and of their stay there until Herod’s death. Luke takes up the story again at this point and simply states that they returned to Galilee to their own city of Nazareth. However, Matthew fills in details, how they feared to return to Judea when they heard that Herod’s son had become king, so they turned aside into Galilee and settled down in Nazareth.
A. The Circumcision of Jesus. It is evident that Jesus was born and lived under the dispensation of the Law. On the eighth day His parents brought Him from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for His circumcision and for offering the sacrifice demanded by the law. Paul states this truth in Gal. 4:4: “In the fulness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” It is most important to remember that we today live in an entirely different divine dispensation from that under which Jesus lived and ministered.
B. The Prophecy of Simeon. The important dispensational part of Simeon’s prophecy is, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, and a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The A.V. translation is faulty, as it predicates the failing and rising of the same persons: the fall and rising again of many. The American Revisers give it correctly: the falling and the rising.” The many of that generation fell; the many of a future generation of Israel will rise again.
Paul is the Apostle who announces the fall of Israel and the future rising or fulness of Israel in Rom. 11:11-32. It is of utmost importance to know when the fall of Israel took place and its effect. Many dispensationalists, as well as most non-dispensationalists, suppose that the fall of Israel occurred at the Cross. They therefore begin the new Christian dispensation on the day of Pentecost. But what are the scriptural facts?
Christ prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him; Peter stated that they had done this in ignorance and that God would restore the Kingdom to them if they would repent; and it is plainly stated in Acts 3:26 that it was to Israel first after God had raised up His Son that God had sent Him to bless them. The fall of Israel came after Pentecost and after the Apostolic testimony of the resurrection of Christ. It was because of Israel’s fall that God raised up a new apostle to announce that fall and the beginning of a new dispensation. Paul’s statement is very clear: “through their (Israel’s) fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11). The first Gentile to be saved was in Acts 10 and the door of faith for the Gentiles was not opened until Acts 13 (cf. 14:27). Pentecostalism is the logical outcome of beginning the new dispensation at Pentecost. Scripture plainly indicates it began with Paul at the fall of Israel.
But Christ was also set for the rising of many in Israel. And Paul tells of this also. “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12,15). And he goes on to show that the whole nation of Israel is going to be saved after this gentile dispensation is ended.
C. The Visit of the Magi. It is commonly supposed that the Magi came to Jesus on the night He was born in the manger. The shepherds did come on that glad night. However, it appears that the Magi arrived somewhat later. Jesus was not in a manger when they arrived, but in the house (Matt. 2:11). When Herod plotted to take the life of the infant Jesus, he inquired diligently of the Magi when the star first appeared to them, and then he issued his decree that all children under two years of age in that region should be killed (Matt. 2:16). Why “under two years” if Jesus was but a few days old? Jesus might have been over a year old when Herod acted.
D. Dreams. God dealt with Israel through dreams, visions, and signs. Note that it was in a dream that God told Joseph that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit; it was by a dream that he warned Joseph to flee into Egypt; it was by a dream that he informed Joseph to return to Israel now that Herod was dead (cf. Hos. 11:1); and it was in a dream that he warned Joseph not to go into Judea but return to Galilee. Note God’s promise to Israel: “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts. 2:17).
It is important to note that God does not give people extra-biblical revelation through dreams and visions. Christians who are ignorant of this fact try to interpret their dreams as additional messages from God and end up in confusion and fanaticism. He can speak through dreams, if he chooses, but we must keep in mind that the Bible is complete, having revealed everything we need to know from now to eternity. This is not to say, that God does not work miracles or even speak through dreams today, but anything God says, whether through a dream, vision, impression, or “still voice,” will agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Dreams cannot usurp the authority of Scripture.
E. The King of the Jews. It is significant that the Magi spoke of Jesus as King of the Jews. And, of course, it is significant that these astrologers from an eastern country, perhaps Persia, should have known about the Jewish Messiah. It must be remembered that the Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians and that prophets like Daniel became high government officials in Babylon and Persia. The Jews who returned under Ezra and Nehemiah must have left behind a great deal of knowledge of these prophetic events and apparently the wise men of that area were more diligent than the Jews in studying the prophecies.
Much speculation has been made about the star they saw: was it a nova, a conjunction of two or more planets, or something miraculous. We believe it was not a natural phenomenon, for it is difficult to understand how such a heavenly body which rises and sets every night, tracing the same course across the heavens, could have been a means of guiding the Magi, and especially of pinpointing the very house in which the child lay. It seems more likely that it was a manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God which appeared as a point of light similar to that of a very bright star but which must have been at a much lower elevation, so that it would stand over the very house where Jesus was. The miraculous Light had appeared before, as the glory cloud to give light to Israel when they came out of Egypt, in the most holy place of the tabernacle and temple, from which it departed in the days of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:4-19). Now the One had come who was the embodiment of the Shekinah glory (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-6).
5. The Childhood of Jesus (References: Matt. 2:23; Lk. 2:40-52)
This period covers approximately ten to twelve years in the life of Jesus which is passed over in silence except for one event when Jesus was twelve years of age. It is recorded by Luke that Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year to attend the feast of Passover, but there is no record that Jesus went with them except on the occasion when He was twelve years old. After the feast when the family started their journey home, they didn’t notice that Jesus was not in the company until the end of the first day. Discovering His absence, they retraced their steps and searched everywhere in Jerusalem without success, everywhere except in the Temple. They surely wouldn’t expect to find a twelve year old boy in the Temple. It was the last place they looked after three days of frantic searching, and to their amazement there He was answering and questioning the great theologians of the day. Even the doctors of the Law were astonished at His knowledge. His mother remonstrated with Him, “Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” But He answered them: “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He meant. After that Jesus submitted Himself to His earthly parents, went home with them, and was subject to them until the time that He should be revealed to Israel.
A. The Humanity of Jesus Christ. Luke’s gospel emphasizes the humanity of Christ. Christians are sometimes afraid to speak of the humanity of Christ, for fear they will be accused of denying His Deity. But He was the God-man and we must give equal emphasis to His humanity and His Deity. The fact of the Incarnation is stated in Scripture, but the how of it is not. How the eternal Son of God could become a human body, helpless in His mother’s arms, how the One who existed in the form of God from all eternity could grow, and wax strong in spirit (vs. 40), how He could increase in wisdom and stature is a mystery we can never fathom. His conception by the Holy Spirit was miraculous, but from there on as far as His humanity was concerned, everything was natural. The nine-month period of gestation was normal, as with any pregnancy. His birth was normal and natural. There was no halo about His head as He lay in the manger. He looked like any other Jewish child of His day. He no doubt had to learn to walk and to talk like any other child. His body grew and became larger and stronger. His human mind increased in wisdom and knowledge. But, we ask, how could this be if He was the eternal Son of God? We cannot explain the how, but we can understand from the Word the necessity of His taking upon Himself a true human nature and a body of flesh and blood, so that as a Man He might die for our sins and shed His human blood, and so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and become the One Mediator between God and man.
Very early in the Christian era heresies arose over the Person of Christ. There were those who taught that Jesus was just a man but that the Christ spirit came upon Him at His baptism and then left Him at His death. Others taught that Jesus was not a true human being, but that He was a sort of apparition, appearing as a man but without an actual human body. Still others thought that Jesus was a kind of mixture of human and divine, half God and half man. Yet others held that the Divine Spirit took the place of the human spirit in Jesus. These controversies raged for four hundred years until finally in 451 A.D. at the Church Council of Chalcedon the orthodox statement was formulated from Scripture, holding that in the one Person of Jesus Christ there are two natures, a human nature and a divine nature, each in its completeness and integrity, and that these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby. We must not divide His Person or confound His Natures. Jesus Christ is unique. There is no other person with whom to compare Him. We must simply believe what God has told us about Him in His infallible Word. To rationalize and try to explain Him is futile. We might as well try to put the whole ocean in a bucket. If we could explain Jesus Christ, He would be but a finite being unworthy of our adoration and worship.
B. Jesus Called a Nazarene. Matthew simply tells us that Jesus came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Strangely enough, there is no recorded statement in the prophets that the Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. Matthew does not say it was written in the prophets, but spoken by the prophets, so it may be that the prophets had announced this orally but had never written it. Others take it to mean that Nazareth was despised by most Jews, on the basis of John 1:46, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?,” and therefore a Nazarene means a despised one, and the prophets predicted Messiah would be despised and rejected of men.
6. The Eighteen Silent Years at Nazareth Until the Age of 30 (Reference: Lk. 2:51; 3:23)
The Gospels are completely silent concerning this period in the life of Jesus from the age of 12 to 30 years. We know that Joseph was a carpenter by trade, for the people asked: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt. 13:55). And it is evident that Jesus Himself worked in the carpenter’s shop, for in Mk. 6:3 the question is asked: “Is not this the carpenter?” referring to Jesus. If the Gospels were mere human productions they would no doubt contain much about the youthful life of Jesus. God’s design, however, was not to tell of the work His earthly (legal) father gave Him to do, but the work His heavenly Father sent Him to do. Hence His years up to the age of 30 are passed over in silence, except for the visit to the temple at the age of twelve.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)