Luke 2:41-52 and Waldenstrom’s CommentaryGospel Lesson for the First Sunday after Christmas
Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Peter Waldenström based his comments on a Greek New Testament text which he translated into Swedish. Tommy Carlson has translated both the Biblical text and Waldenström’s comments from the Swedish text of his Second Edition, 1892.
Verse 4—And his parents travelled1 yearly to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. (see Exodus 23: 15, 17; 34:23) 1. According to the law of Moses, every male Israelite (if possible) should celebrate the three high festivals- the feast of Unleavened Bread, the feast of Weeks, and the feast of Tabernacles - in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16). [Waldenström writes: Easter, Pentecost, and feast of the Tabernacles. Easter clearly was not one of the Jewish festivals.] Many pious women followed voluntarily with the men to these festivals.
Verse 42—And when he was twelve years old1 they travelled up according to the custom,
- In his twelfth year, a Jewish boy began to be taught the law, to participate in the festivals, and so forth. He was called from that time a “son of the law.”
Verse 43—and they had completed the days.1 So it was that when they returned, the boy Jesus was still in Jerusalem and his parents did not know it.2
- The seven days of the festival.
- Jesus was no longer a little child who had to be watched constantly. Surely he was accustomed to taking care of himself. One sees even today  how Jewish children travel around the world on their own. In addition, the company was very large, so that Jesus could very well be there without his parents seeing him. Therefore, they were not concerned.
Verse 44—But they believed that he was among the travelling companions.1 When they had travelled one day’s journey,2 they searched3 for him among their friends and acquaintances.
- When visitors to the festivals returned from Jerusalem to their home towns, they formed large caravans that stretched a long way on the narrow roads. This company was such a caravan.
- They travelled with the caravan a whole day.
- With the coming of evening, the caravan drew together to settle in for the night. Because they had travelled with the caravan for a whole day, they began to look for Jesus.
Verse 45—And when they did not find him, they returned to. Jerusalem looking for him.
Verse 46—And it happened that after three days,1 they found him in the temple2 sitting3 among4 the teachers, listening to them and questioning5 them.
- The number of days could be counted from the time when they first missed him after leaving Jerusalem. In that case they had travelled one day’s journey from Jerusalem, needed one day to return there again, and found him the day after their return there. Or, it could be the number of days from the time they returned to Jerusalem. They returned in the evening (the first day), searched for him that evening, all of the next day, and found him first thing the day after.
- Temple here means in the temple place, the existing synagogue, where instructions in the law and the prophets were taught.
- As a disciple at the feet of the elders (see Acts 22:3).
- His questions and answers had caught the attention of the teachers, so they had joined around him.
- During the lessons, disciples usually asked questions of the teachers when there was something for which they wanted further explanation.
Verse 47—But everyone who heard him was astonished1 at his understanding and answers.
- They knew that here was something exceptional. This word is used in Mark 2:12 as well.
Verse 48—And when they1 saw him, they were astonished,2 and his mother said to him: “Child, what have you done to us? See, your father3 and I have worried in looking for you.”
- Jesus’ parents.
- The original text uses a different word here from the one in the preceding verse (compare Mark 1:22).
- As we saw in verse 33, even a stepfather is called father.
Verse 49—And he said to them: “Why (is it) that you look for me? Did you not know that, in that which belongs to my father1 I have to be?”2
- This can mean either IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE or IN MY FATHER’S AFFAIRS. The former is the likely meaning because his father’s affairs could be found outside the temple. The meaning is: Why do you look for me? Could you not understand that I must be in my father’s house?
- In these words, a definite consciousness in Jesus that he is God’s son is described. Further, he is not portraying himself as a son in the same way that every pious Jew could call himself God’s son but as one with a special relationship with God. This is shown by the fact that the parents did not understand his words (compare John 5:17, 18; Matt. 26:63).
Verse 50—And they did not understand the words he spoke to them1 (see Luke 9:45, 18:34).
- This shows that Mary had not talked to Jesus about his supernatural birth. For if she had done that, she would not have been surprised at what he said. Mary had left it to God to reveal it directly to Jesus just as she had previously done regarding the revelation to Joseph. Therefore, she did not know at this moment what she should believe about what Jesus spoke.
Verse 51—And he travelled with them to Nazareth and was obedient1 to them. And his mother kept all the words carefully2 in her heart.
- For children to obey their parents is to be like Christ.
- Verbatim: completely concealed. See comments to Matthew 3: 12, 14. The apostolic story about the event is not based on a “story,” but rather on the description by Mary who had carefully concealed everything.
Verse 52—And Jesus developed in wisdom and stature1 and in favour from God2 and people.
- The word in the original text can mean either age (Matt. 6:27) or physical growth (Luke 19:3). The latter is meant here. For to talk about Jesus’ aging is not necessary. Everybody does that. But the evangelist would like to call our attention to the fact that Jesus grew up to be a complete fine figure of a man. Even is this regard, Jesus was the perfect man. Thus the description of Christ in Isaiah 53:2 does not mean his bodily appearance but rather his humiliating suffering as the following verses in the same chapter show.
- See verse 40. He became more and more pleasing to God. Jesus developed throughout his whole life in obedience, in moral perfection (Heb. 5:8), just as our first parents should have become had they not fallen into sin. Where their development was broken off, there Jesus took over; and in him the development continued unaltered to that perfection whereby he became the new progenitor for a new holy family—for all who through a spiritual birth in faith can come into fellowship with him and, through him, with God. His continual growth and development correspond with a growing delight on God’s part.
- Those people who learned to know him and believed in him took more and more delight in him the more perfect he became.