Luke 2:49
And he said to them, How is it that you sought me? knew you not that I must be about my Father's business?
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(49) Wist ye not . . .?—This is, as it were, the holy Child’s defence against the implied reproach in. His mother’s question. Had they reflected, there need have been no seeking; they would have known what He was doing and where He was.

About my Father’s business.—Literally, in the things that are My Father’si.e., in His work, the vague width of the words covering also, perhaps, the meaning “in My Father’s house,” the rendering adopted in the old Syriac version. The words are the first recorded utterance of the Son of Man, and they are a prophecy of that consciousness of direct Sonship, closer and more ineffable than that of any other of the sons of men, which is afterwards the dominant idea of which His whole life is a manifestation. We find in a Gospel in other respects very unlike St. John’s, the germ of what there comes out so fully in such words as, My Father worketh hitherto, and I also work” (John 5:17), “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30). The words are obviously emphasised as an answer to Mary’s words, “Thy father.” Subject unto His parents as He had been before and was afterwards, there was a higher Fatherhood for Him than that of any earthly adoption.



Luke 2:49

A number of spurious gospels have come down to us, which are full of stories, most of them absurd and some of them worse, about the infancy of Jesus Christ. Their puerilities bring out more distinctly the simplicity, the nobleness, the worthiness of this one solitary incident of His early days, which has been preserved for us. How has it been preserved? If you will look over the narratives there will be very little difficulty, I think, in answering that question. Observing the prominence that is given to the parents, and how the story enlarges upon what they thought and felt, we shall not have much doubt in accepting the hypothesis that it was none other than Mary from whom Luke received such intimate details. Notice, for instance, ‘Joseph and His mother knew not of it.’ ‘They supposed Him to have been in the company.’ ‘And when they,’ i.e. Joseph and Mary, ‘saw Him, they were astonished’; and then that final touch, ‘He was subject to them,’ as if His mother would not have Luke or us think that this one act of independence meant that He had shaken off parental authority. And is it not a mother’s voice that says, ‘His mother kept all these things in her heart,’ and pondered all the traits of boyhood? Now it seems to me that, in these words of the twelve-year-old boy, there are two or three points full of interest and of teaching for us. There is-

I. That consciousness of Sonship.

I am not going to plunge into a subject on which certainly a great deal has been very confidently affirmed, and about which the less is dogmatised by us, who must know next to nothing about it, the better; viz. the inter-connection of the human and the divine elements in the person of Jesus Christ. But the context leads us straight to this thought-that there was in Jesus distinct growth in wisdom as well as in stature, and in favour with God and man. And now, suppose the peasant boy brought up to Jerusalem, seeing it for the first time, and for the first time entering the sacred courts of the Temple. Remember, that to a Jewish boy, his reaching the age of twelve made an epoch, because he then became ‘a son of the Law,’ and took upon himself the religious responsibilities which had hitherto devolved upon his parents. If we will take that into account, and remember that it was a true manhood which was growing up in the boy Jesus, then we shall not feel it to be irreverent if we venture to say, not that here and then, there began His consciousness of His Divine Sonship, but that that visit made an epoch and a stage in the development of that consciousness, just because it furthered the growth of His manhood.

Further, our Lord in these words, in the gentlest possible way, and yet most decisively, does what He did in all His intercourse with Mary, so far as it is recorded for us in Scripture-relegated her back within limits beyond which she tended to advance. For she said, ‘Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing,’ no doubt thus preserving what had been the usual form of speech in the household for all the previous years; and there is an emphasis that would fall upon her heart, as it fell upon none other, when He answered: ‘Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’ We are not warranted in affirming that the Child meant all which the Man afterwards meant by the claim to be the Son of God; nor are we any more warranted in denying that He did. We know too little about the mysteries of His growth to venture on definite statements of either kind. Our sounding-lines are not long enough to touch bottom in this great word from the lips of a boy of twelve; but this is clear, that as He grew into self-consciousness, there came with it the growing consciousness of His Sonship to His Father in heaven.

Now, dear brethren, whilst all that is unique, and parts Him off from us, do not let us forget that that same sense of Sonship and Fatherhood must be the very deepest thing in us, if we are Christian people after Christ’s pattern. We, too, can be sons through Him, and only through Him. I believe with all my heart in what we hear so much about now-’the universal Fatherhood of God.’ But I believe that there is also a special relation of Fatherhood and Sonship, which is constituted only, according to Scripture teaching in my apprehension, through faith in Jesus Christ, and the reception of His life as a supernatural life into our souls. God is Father of all men-thank God for it! And that means, that He gives life to all men; that in a very deep and precious sense the life which He gives to every man is not only derived from, but is kindred with, His own; and it means that His love reaches to all men, and that His authority extends over them. But there is an inner sanctuary, there is a better life than the life of nature, and the Fatherhood into which Christ introduces us means, that through faith in Him, and the entrance into our spirits of the Spirit of adoption, we receive a life derived from, and kindred with, the life of the Giver, and that we are bound to Him not only by the cords of love, but to obey the parental authority. Sonship is the deepest thought about the Christian life.

It was an entirely new thought when Jesus spoke to His disciples of their Father in heaven. It was a thrilling novelty when Paul bade servile worshippers realise that they were no longer slaves, but sons, and as such, heirs of God. It was the rapture of pointing to a new star flaming out, as it were, that swelled in John’s exclamation: ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God!’ For even though in the Old Testament there are a few occasional references to Israel’s King or to Israel itself as being ‘God’s son,’ as far as I remember, there is only one reference in all the Old Testament to parental love towards each of us on the part of God, and that is the great saying in the Psalm 103:13 : ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.’ For the most part the idea connected in the Old Testament with the Fatherhood of God is authority: ‘If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?’ says the last of the prophets. But when we pass into the New, on the very threshold, here we get the germ, in these words, of the blessed thought that, as His disciples, we, too, may claim sonship to God through Him, and penetrate beyond the awe of Divine Majesty into the love of our Father God. Brethren, notwithstanding all that was unique in the Sonship of Jesus Christ, He welcomes us to a place beside Himself, and if we are the children of God by faith in Him, then are we ‘heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.’

Now the second thought that I would suggest from these words is-

II. The sweet ‘must’ of filial duty.

‘How is it that ye sought Me?’ That means: ‘Did you not know where I should be sure to be? What need was there to go up and down Jerusalem looking for Me? You might have known there was only one place where you would find Me. Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’ Now, the last words of this question are in the Greek literally, as the margin of the Revised Version tells us, ‘in the things of My Father’; and that idiomatic form of speech may either be taken to mean, as the Authorised Version does, ‘about My Father’s business,’ or, with the Revised Version, ‘in My Father’s house.’ The latter seems the rendering most relevant in this connection, where the folly of seeking is emphasised-the certainty of His place is more to the point than that of His occupation. But the locality carried the occupation with it, for why must He be in the Father’s house but to be about the Father’s business, ‘to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple’?

Do people know where to find us? Is it unnecessary to go hunting for us? Is there a place where it is certain that we shall be? It was so with this child Jesus, and it should be so with all of us who profess to be His followers.

All through Christ’s life there runs, and occasionally there comes into utterance, that sense of a divine necessity laid upon Him; and here is its beginning, the very first time that the word occurs on His lips, ‘I must.’ There is as divine and as real a necessity shaping our lives because it lies upon and moulds our wills, if we have the child’s heart, and stand in the child’s position. In Jesus Christ the ‘must’ was not an external one, but He ‘must be about His Father’s business,’ because His whole inclination and will were submitted to the Father’s authority. And that is what will make any life sweet, calm, noble. ‘The love of Christ constraineth us.’ There is a necessity which presses upon men like iron fetters; there is a necessity which wells up within a man as a fountain of life, and does not so much drive as sweetly incline the will, so that it is impossible for him to be other than a loving, obedient child.

Dear friend, have we felt the joyful grip of that necessity? Is it impossible for me not to be doing God’s will? Do I feel myself laid hold of by a strong, loving hand that propels me, not unwillingly, along the path? Does inclination coincide with obligation? If it does, then no words can tell the freedom, the enlargement, the calmness, the deep blessedness of such a life. But when these pull in two different ways, as, alas! they often do, and I have to say, ‘I must be about my Father’s business, and I had rather be about my own if I durst,’ which is the condition of a great many so-called Christian people-then the necessity is miserable; and slavery, not freedom, is the characteristic of such Christianity. And there is a great deal of such to-day.

And now one last word. On this sweet ‘must,’ and blessed compulsion to be about the Father’s business, there follows:

III. The meek acceptance of the lowliest duties.

‘He went down to Nazareth, and was subject to them.’ That is all that is told us about eighteen years, by far the largest part of the earthly life of Christ. Legend comes in, and for once not inappropriately, and tells us, what is probably quite true, that during these years, Jesus worked in the carpenter’s shop, and as one story says, ‘made yokes,’ or as another tells, made light implements of husbandry for the peasants round Nazareth. Be that as it may, ‘He was subject unto them,’ and that was doing the Father’s will, and being ‘about the Father’s business,’ quite as much as when He was amongst the doctors, and learning by asking questions as well as by hearkening to their instructions. Everything depends on the motive. The commonest duty may be ‘the Father’s business,’ when we are doing manfully the work of daily life. Only we do not turn common duty into the Father’s business, unless we remember Him in the doing of it. But if we carry the hallowing and quickening influence of that great ‘must’ into all the pettinesses, and paltrinesses, and wearinesses, and sorrows of our daily trivial lives, then we shall find, as Jesus Christ found, that the carpenter’s shop is as sacred as the courts of the Temple, and that to obey Mary was to do the will of the Father in heaven.

What a blessed transformation that would make of all lives! The psalmist long ago said: ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.’ We may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives. We may be in one or other of the many mansions of the Father’s house where-ever we go, and may be doing the will of the Father in heaven in all that we do. Then we shall be at rest; then we shall be strong; then we shall be pure; then we shall have deep in our hearts the joyous consciousness, undisturbed by rebellious wills, that now ‘we are the sons of God,’ and the still more joyous hope, undimmed by doubts or mists, that ‘it doth not yet appear what we shall be’; but that wherever we go, it will be but passing from one room of the great home into another more glorious still. ‘I must be about my Father’s business’; let us make that the motto for earth, and He will say to us in His own good time ‘Come home from the field, and sit down beside Me in My house,’ and so we ‘shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’2:41-52 It is for the honour of Christ that children should attend on public worship. His parents did not return till they had stayed all the seven days of the feast. It is well to stay to the end of an ordinance, as becomes those who say, It is good to be here. Those that have lost their comforts in Christ, and the evidences of their having a part in him, must bethink themselves where, and when, and how they lost them, and must turn back again. Those that would recover their lost acquaintance with Christ, must go to the place in which he has put his name; there they may hope to meet him. They found him in some part of the temple, where the doctors of the law kept their schools; he was sitting there, hearkening to their instructions, proposing questions, and answering inquiries, with such wisdom, that those who heard were delighted with him. Young persons should seek the knowledge of Divine truth, attend the ministry of the gospel, and ask such questions of their elders and teachers as may tend to increase their knowledge. Those who seek Christ in sorrow, shall find him with the greater joy. Know ye not that I ought to be in my Father's house; at my Father's work; I must be about my Father's business. Herein is an example; for it becomes the children of God, in conformity to Christ, to attend their heavenly Father's business, and make all other concerns give way to it. Though he was the Son of God, yet he was subject to his earthly parents; how then will the foolish and weak sons of men answer it, who are disobedient to their parents? However we may neglect men's sayings, because they are obscure, yet we must not think so of God's sayings. That which at first is dark, may afterwards become plain and easy. The greatest and wisest, those most eminent, may learn of this admirable and Divine Child, that it is the truest greatness of soul to know our own place and office; to deny ourselves amusements and pleasures not consistent with our state and calling.How is it ... - "Why" have ye sought me with so much anxiety? "Mary" should have known that the Son of God was safe; that his heavenly Father would take care of him, and that he could do nothing amiss.

Wist ye not - "Know ye not." You had reason to know. You knew my design in coming into the world, and that design was "superior" to the duty of obeying earthly parents, and they should be willing always to give me up to the proper business for which Ilive.

My Father's business - Some think that this should be translated "in my Father's house" - that is, in the temple. Jesus reminded them here that he came down from heaven; that he had a higher Father than an earthly parent; and that, even in early life, it was proper that he should be engaged in the work for which he came. He did not enter, indeed, upon his public work for eighteen years after this; yet still the work of God was "his" work, and always, even in childhood, it was proper for him to be engaged in the great business for which he came down from heaven.

49. about my Father's business—literally, "in" or "at My Fathers," that is, either "about My Father's affairs," or "in My Father's courts"—where He dwells and is to be found—about His hand, so to speak. This latter shade of meaning, which includes the former, is perhaps the true one, Here He felt Himself at home, breathing His own proper air. His words convey a gentle rebuke of their obtuseness in requiring Him to explain this. "Once here, thought ye I should so readily hasten away? Let ordinary worshippers be content to keep the feast and be gone; but is this all ye have learnt of Me?" Methinks we are here let into the holy privacies of Nazareth; for what He says they should have known, He must have given them ground to know. She tells Him of the sorrow with which His father and she had sought Him. He speaks of no Father but one, saying, in effect, My Father has not been seeking Me; I have been with Him all this time; "the King hath brought me into His chambers … His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me" (So 1:4; 2:6). How is it that ye do not understand? (Mr 8:21).Ver. 49,50. Some read it—that I must be in my Father’s house? Then the sense must be, why did you seek me in any other place than the temple, that is, my Father’s house, there lieth my business. But the phrase seemeth rather to signify as we translate it. He doth here signify that God was his Father: that Mary might have known, not only from the revelation of the angel, but because she had not known man; but she did not yet fully understand his Divine office as Mediator, and the great Prophet promised, that should reveal the will of God to people; much less did she yet fully and distinctly understand, that he was by nature the eternal Son of God: she believed so much as was revealed to her clearly concerning Christ.

It is said,

they understood not the saying which he spake unto them; they had not a clear and distinct understanding of it. In the mean time, from these words of our Saviour, and this fact of his, we may learn, that inferiors are not in all things under the power of their most natural superiors; particularly not in such things wherein they cannot yield obedience to them without a disobedience unto God. There are some cases wherein, instead of obeying, we are bound to hate both father and mother by our Saviour’s precept. And he said unto them, how is it that ye sought me?.... That is, with so much uneasiness and distress of mind, not trusting in the power and providence of God, to take care of him; and in other places, besides the temple, where they had been inquiring for him:

wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? or "in my Father's house", as the Syriac and Persic versions render it; where, as soon as you missed me, you might, at once, have concluded I was, and not have put yourselves to so much trouble and pains in seeking for me. Christ seems to tax them with ignorance, or, at least, forgetfulness of his having a Father in heaven, whose business he came to do on earth; and which they should have thought in their own minds he was now about, and so have made themselves easy. The business that Christ came about was to preach the Gospel, and which he afterwards performed with great clearness and fulness, with much power, majesty, and authority, with great constancy and diligence, with much concern for the souls of men, arid with great awfulness; and in which he took great delight, though he went through many dangers and risks of life; as also to work miracles in proof of his deity and Messiahship, and for the good of the bodies of men, and in which he was very assiduous, going about every where doing good this way: but the main, and principal part of his business was, to work out salvation for his people, by fulfilling the law, making reconciliation and atonement for their sins, and obtaining eternal redemption: this was a business which neither angels nor men could do; was very toilsome and laborious, and yet he delighted in it; nor did he desist from it until it was accomplished: and this is called his Father's business, because he contrived and assigned it to him; he called him to it, and sent him to perform; he enjoined it to him as man and mediator, and the glory of his perfections was concerned in it, and secured by it: and it was a business that Christ must be about, be concerned in, and perform, because he engaged to do it from all eternity; and because it was the will of his Father, which must be done, and was necessary in order to show himself dutiful and obedient; and because it was foretold in prophecy again and again and promised that it should be done; and because it could not be done by another. Now our Lord's conversing with the doctors, and which was a branch of his prophetic office, and was, no doubt, with a view to the good of the souls of men, and nothing less than miraculous, was a show, a prelude of, and a sort of an entrance upon the business he came about.

And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
Luke 2:49. ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μον, in the things of my Father (“about my Father’s business,” A. V[36]); therefore in the place or house of my Father (R. V[37]); the former may be the verbal translation, but the latter is the real meaning Jesus wished to suggest. In this latter rendering patristic and modern interpreters in the main concur. Note the new name for God compared with the “Highest” and the “Despotes” in the foregoing narrative. The dawn of a new era is here.

[36] Authorised Version.

[37] Revised Version.49. about my Father’s business] Rather, in my Father’s house. See Excursus I. These words are very memorable as being the first recorded words of Jesus. They bear with them the stamp of authenticity in their half-vexed astonishment, and perfect mixture of dignity and humility. It is remarkable too, that He does not accept the phrase “Thy father” which Mary had employed. “Did ye not know?” recalls their fading memory of Who He was; and the “I must” lays down the law of devotion to His Father by which He was to walk even to the Cross. Psalm 40:7-9. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work,” John 4:34. For His last recorded words, see Acts 1:7-8.

my Father’s] it is remarkable that Christ always says ὁ πατήρ μου (with the article) but teaches us to say πατὴρ ἡμῶν (without the article): e. g. in John 20:17 it is, “I ascend unto the Father of me and Father of you.” God is His Father in a different way from that in which He is ours. He is our Father only because He is His Father. See Pearson On the Creed, Art. i.Luke 2:49. Εἶπε, He said) In a kind tone, without any agitation.—τί, what,[33] why) This is the first recorded word of Jesus, [and contains a summary of all His actions.—V. g.] With it may be compared His last words, as well before His death, as also before His ascension, Acts 1:7-8. He did not blame them, because they lost Him; but because they thought it necessary to seek for Him; and He intimates both that He was not lost, and that He could have been found anywhere else but in the temple.—οὐκ ᾔδειτε, did ye not know) They ought to have known by the so many proofs which had been given. To know what is needful, tends to produce tranquillity of mind.—τοῖς) Comp. John 16:32 [“Ye shall be scattered every man to his own;” where the Margin of Engl. Bible has “to his own home”], ΤᾺ ἼΔΙΑ.—ΤΟῦ ΠΑΤΡΌς ΜΟΥ, of my Father) Whose claim on Jesus is of [infinitely] older standing than that of Joseph and Mary, [and Whom He had known from His tender years, without requiring any instruction in that respect on the part of His parents, who, we may take it for granted, were not aware of the fact.—V. g.] By that very fact, He declares Himself Lord of the temple: He afterwards avowed this more openly, John 2:16; Matthew 21:12-13. [Moreover the same Being, whom He looked to (had regard to) in His first words as recorded by the Evangelist, He looked to also in His last, namely, His Father, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).—Harm., p. 59.]—δεῖ, it is necessary) He thus informs them that He has not violated the obedience due to them; and yet He thereby, in some measure, declares Himself emancipated from their control, and whets the attention of His parents; Luke 2:51.—εἶναί με, that I be) Comp. Hebrews 3:6.

[33] What reason was there that ye sought me: as she had asked τί; so His reply begins with the same word.—ED.Verse 49. - How is it that ye sought me? To the gently veiled reproach of Mary, Jesus replies, apparently with wonderment, with another question. It had come upon him so quietly and yet with such irresistible force that the temple of God was his real earthly home, that he marvelled at his mother's slowness of comprehension. Why should she have been surprised at his still lingering in the sacred courts? Did she not know who he was, and whence he came? Then he added, Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? There was an expression of Mary's which evidently distressed the Child Jesus. Godet even thinks that he discerns a kind of shudder in his quick reply to Mary's "thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing." "In my Father's house, where my Father's work is being done, there ought I to be busied. Didn't you know this?" But the twelve silent uneventful years of life at Nazareth, the poor home, the village carpentry, the natural development of the sacred Child, had gradually obscured for Mary and Joseph the memories of the infancy. They had not forgotten them, but time and circumstances had covered them with a veil. Now they were very gently reminded by the Boy's own quiet words of what had happened twelve years before. Scholars hesitate whether or not to adopt the rendering of the old Syriac Version, "in my Father's house," instead of the broader and vaguer "about my Father's business," as the Greek will allow either translation. It seems to us the best to retain the old rendering we love so well, "about my Father's business." The whole spirit of Jesus' after-teaching leads us irresistibly to this interpretation of the Master's first recorded saying. And he said

The first saying of Jesus which is preserved to us.

Must (δεῖ)

Lit., it is necessary, or it behoves. A word often used by Jesus concerning his own appointed work, and expressing both the inevitable fulfilment of the divine counsels and the absolute constraint of the principle of duty upon himself. See Matthew 16:21; Matthew 26:54; Mark 8:31; Luke 4:43; Luke 9:22; Luke 13:33; Luke 24:7, Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46; John 3:14; John 4:4; John 12:34.

About my Father's business (ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός)

Lit., in the things of my Father. The words will bear this rendering; but the Rev. is better, in my Father's house. Mary's question was not as to what her son had been doing, but as to where he had been. Jesus, in effect, answers, "Where is a child to be found but in his Father's house?"

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