39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
1901 ASV Translation:
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.
I. These Verses in Their Setting.
A. In 2:22-24 he had presented Joseph and Mary as following the prescriptions of the Law.
B. In 2:39a he returns to that thesis.
C. In 1:26 he had presented Joseph and Mary as being from Nazareth in Galilee.
D. In 2:39b he returns to that thesis.
E. In 2:40 he characterizes what happened for the next 12 years.
1. His next particular record is set at the point in time when Jesus is twelve years old.
2. He ignores everything else that could have been said about Jesus' life.
F. This summary seems to make 2:39 the conclusion to the extended record of 2:1-38 and 2:40 an introduction to 2:41-52.
II. Luke's Return to the Legal Issues.
A. There is little doubt that Luke is returning to his prior thesis that Joseph and Mary had a commitment to obedience to the Law of the Lord (2:23).
1. That it is the Law of the "Lord" is probably significant under the thesis of the Law of Yahweh, Whose laws spring out of His being, Whose name refers to "Being", and Whose characteristics all flow into Life.
2. Life is automatic to the execution of the laws of the Living God.
a. Even the execution of the laws from flawed motives is a life-preserving reality in the sense that the downward spiral is not as fast when there is a veneer of obedience in comparison to the speed of the spiral when lawlessness is rampant.
b. Man's incapacity to execute these laws consistently and from the heart is a major problem, but that incapacity does not negate the force of law on life.
B. There can be no doubt that Luke intends to record the fact that Joseph and Mary were living under the authority of the Law of the Lord.
1. This is not likely to be a statement about the level of their personal godliness in light of the focus upon grace which Luke has both introduced (John) and emphasized (Anna).
a. There is a huge problem with everyone's life "under the Law" or John would not have been "filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb". If it were possible for any man to live "acceptably" on his own under the Law, whence would be the necessity of John's special empowerment?
1) This is a puzzle of sorts in that Luke presents Zacharias as a Law-abiding priest and Joseph and Mary as Law-abiding people.
2) Even Paul, Luke's mentor, made the personal claim that he had lived blamelessly under the Law as an unbeliever (Philippians 3:6).
3) The theological resolution of this tension seems to rest upon the fact that men, for reasons of personal pride, can adhere to the external issues of the Law in order to build their own reputations.
a) That it is rooted in pride subverts it as any kind of true godliness.
b) That it is actually possible to follow the legal protocol for pride reasons makes man excuseless -- if he can do it for pride, he is without excuse that he refuses to do it for love.
b. The external conformity/internal cesspool reality is not erased by justification.
1) The Old Testament records the primary thesis of justification by faith (Genesis 15:6) and Paul insists that the methodology of faith is absolutely contrary to and distinct from the methodology of Law-works. This makes justification by faith the foundation of all Old Testament descriptions of the "just".
2) The New Testament record, coupled to the Old Testament record, of the essential necessity of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the desire of God for a harmony between the internal realities and the external productions makes all Old Testament saints who were not empowered by that Spirit subject to a sub-godly life that was much like the disciples in their obedience to Jesus' instruction while in competition with one another for the glory of being the greatest.
3) The conclusion we are forced to draw is that "justification" does not significantly address the internal problem of Sin's dominion because it does not, of itself, carry the promise of the Holy Spirit as an indwelling reality. In that old era it was possible to be "justified" but not "empowered".
2. It is far more probable that it was Luke's intention to make sure we understand that Jesus was blameless in respect to the requirements of the Law.
a. It is an imperative of the Gospel that Jesus be "sinless".
b. It is a clear aspect of Luke's record that Jesus was "guiltless".
1) He made sure we understand that He had no connection through any man to the First Man by means of the virgin birth.
2) He made sure we understand that He was not subject to any "parental errors" in respect to the Law that would have had even an impact upon His state of purity.
c. It is a theological necessity that those who believe in the Gospel have a Savior Who was "without sin" of any kind at any time.
II. Luke's Return to the Nazareth Thesis.
A. It was his point in the original setting (chapter one) that Mary was a "nobody" from "nowhere".
B. It is clear now that Jesus was to be raised in obscurity, far from the center of the religion of His day.
1. John was presented as "in the deserts" until the time of his ministry to Israel.
2. Now Jesus is presented as "in the Galilean backwash" until He matures.
C. The questions arise...
a. John was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb, so what difference would it have made if he had been raised in the center of Jerusalem?
b. Jesus was the Son of God, separate from the sinful connections with Adam, so what difference would it have made if He had been raised in the center of Jerusalem?
2. What is the point?
a. It has to do with the fact of God's completely different standard of measure.
1) God's values do not place any priority upon status-settings; none, whatsoever.
2) There is no reason for man's desire to be a citizen of the "popular" places except for the way that such a setting serves his lusts.
b. It also may have something to do with the necessity of a potent initial exposure along with a limited length of exposure in order to be able to achieve the kind of initial response that man's depravity would disallow by "familiarity".
1) The depravity of man has a penchant for reducing the significant into insignificance over time and exposure. This is the reality of the mystery of iniquity.
a) The Gospel has never carried an extended impact over time in any setting.
i. The Gospel is not about "saving mankind" as much as it is about "building Christ's Church" -- i.e., it is about saving individuals for a future of blessed experience of righteousness, peace and joy.
ii. In the midst of the cycles of sin in this fallen world, God is at work to give His Son His Bride, not to salvage this creation. This creation is slated to be destroyed by fire once the work of God is finished. It is a stop along the way in the program of God -- a necessary, albeit very painful, stop along the way.
b) Dispensational theology clearly has an edge on this reality as it trumpets the inevitability of the disintegration of all of the good works of God over time in a fallen world. Even Messiah's earthly reign is revealed to end in a massive rebellion by men. The indisputable fact is that the thesis of man's corruption of the Garden is a repeated thesis throughout the Bible even including the human corruption of the "new" Garden of Messiah's reign... though with Messiah on the throne it does take 1,000 years for the corruption to come to a head.
2) Both John and Jesus were going to "explode" upon the scene like a meteor of great brilliance and fade just about as fast through the murderous opposition of the adversaries.