The Hidden Years

Matthew 2:23

MATTHEW covers our Lord’s childhood and youth with one rich sentence (2:23): “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”

This prophecy undoubtedly involves a play on the word “netzer” or “rod” of Isaiah. 11:1. It is good to know that our Lord was content to grow up in a humdrum and despised village from whence nothing good was expected (John 1:46). He knew the daily grind of the commonplace and the problems of the common people. No wonder they heard Him gladly.

Luke goes more into detail and gives us one rich incident from these hidden years in chapter 2:40-52. This account begins and ends with verses which form a beautiful frame for the picture: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Thus His complete development, physical, mental, spiritual and social, is declared.

Many questions arise concerning these silent years. Thirty years of simple living, next to nature and amidst humanity, and busy at work with time to read and pray—it is a life this feverish age does not know. It shows its flavor in the many references to sparrows, lilies, the sower, the fields; it is colored with the atmosphere of the field, the fisherman’s boat and net, the sea, the shop, the soil. If we had planned the life of the Son of God we would have put Him through universities, made Him a world traveler, put Him into society, into places of earthly position and power. Never would we have selected thirty years at Nazareth as the ideal course! Truly His ways are not ours!

The solitary incident in the temple reveals that He knew who His real Father was and what His own work was. Mary tells Him: “Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” He replies: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” He knew His true Father and His primary obligation. That they understood not what He spoke shows that He referred to His lifework as Messiah and Savior, and not merely to worship, which they would have understood.

But immediately follows what appeals more to me than His wisdom in the temple. You and I might have grown vain over our success in the temple, but the Son of God is willing to go back to the shop at Nazareth for many more years of its daily grind. To me He is even greater turning back toward Nazareth than in the temple.

Notice, too, how the Holy Spirit guards against any inference that He repudiated parental authority by what He said about His Father’s business, for “He was subject unto them.” No boy prodigy would have turned from such glory as Jerusalem to the grind at Nazareth. The hidden years at Nazareth carry rich lessons for us. If we would truly be of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), we would do well to get into our lives more of the simplicity, the patience, the willingness to tread the common path, the quiet waiting of the Nazarene.

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