Monday, July 15, 2013

Jesus' Years at Nazareth, Part 2

Morgan's The Hidden Years at Nazareth is a little devotional gem that is no longer available. I have a copy passed down to me from my grandmother. The copyright date is 1898.

Morgan (1863-1945) was a contemporary of many great Christian thinkers: George MacDonald (1824-1905), G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), and Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), to name but a few. He lived during a time of evangelistic fervor. As a boy he listened to Dwight L. Moody and as an adult he knew the great evangelical preachers John Stott (1921-2011) and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was instrumental in bringing Lloyd-Jones to Westminster in 1939 to share the pulpit and become his successor.

Segment 1 of G. Campbell Morgan's The Hidden Years at Nazareth is here. What follows is segment 2.

What of those eighteen years? Where was He? What was He doing? As one whom He has ordained to preach His gospel in this public ministry, I am intensely interested in the way He spoke to men and acted among them in His public years; but the majority will feel that they would be better served by a revelation of how He acted amid the commonplace surroundings of everyday life.

Let us, then, try and see Him in those eighteen hidden years. The two verses that I have read are the only two that give us any definite or detailed account of what Jesus was doing from the time He was twelve until He was about thirty. Take the two statements and fix them on your minds for a moment: "Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  "Is not this the carpenter?"  These two passages supply the story of the eighteen years. Jesus was a carpenter pleasing God.

But is it fair to put them together like that? I think you will see that it is. Upon what occasion did that divine voice speak? On the occasion of the baptism. Jesus had left behind all the doings of those long and weary years, and He was just at the diving-line between private and public life. He was leaving behind Him the unknown years, and coming out into the fierce light that beats ever upon a public teacher. And there, at the parting of the ways, God lit up all the years that had gone with the sweet words of approval, "Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

It could not have been a pronouncement upon the temptation of the wilderness; that was as yet an untried pathway. It could not have been a declaration of the divine pleasure with Gethsemane's garden and Calvary's cross; they were still to be reached. No; it must have been a reference to the past, so that, whatever else I know, or do not know, about the hidden years of the life of Jesus, this one thing is certain, that through them all He pleased God; for God put His seal upon them when they were closing behind Him and the new years were opening before Him, saying: "I am well pleased."

You remember how, after that pronouncement, He went to the wilderness and was tempted, and after that temptation He went to Galilee, in the power of the Spirit, and began His public ministry; and you find Him going at the early part thereof down to Nazareth, the place where He has been brought up. It was a small town, a kind of hamlet on the hillside, of perhaps three thousand inhabitants.

This young man comes back to His boyhood's home, and every one knows Him. He goes to the synagogue, as was His custom, on the Sabbath day, and reads out of the book, and then He talks to the assembled people; and they look at Him, and listen, wonder the while being depicted on their faces. Cannot you see the picture? - that little synagogue, the old Jewish people, the keen faces looking at the speaker, and then turning to each other, saying: "Whence hath this man these things? We know Him perfectly well; He is the carpenter." Yes; they know Him. They have watched Him toiling day after day, month after month, in the workshop, bending over the bench with the tools of His craft in His hand. They cannot account for Him as a teacher because they did not account for Him as a toiler.

Mark, then, what these people said about Him. Other men made the blunder of saying He was the son of the carpenter; but these men, by a sudden flash, light up for us the eighteen years by saying, "Is not this the carpenter?"

I have now two facts concerning this period. I have the testimony of the men who knew Him best, and the testimony of God, who knew Him better than they did. Let us first take the human declaration, "Is not this the carpenter?" and hold it in the light of the divine, "In whom I am well pleased"; and then let us take the divine revelation, "Thou art My beloved son," and hold it in the light of the human, "Is not this the carpenter?"

I do not want to hide the majesty of this sweet word the "carpenter" by any multiplication of words of mine. If any of you paint pictures, have you not sometimes been annoyed at the way in which men have framed them? You invite your friends' attention to a work of art, and they exclaim, "What a lovely frame!" and do not seem to see the picture. We sometimes frame the picture of God's words in like manner. Let us express ourselves so that the picture is seen and not the frame. "Is not this the carpenter?"

For the greater part, then, of the life of Jesus, He worked with His own hands for His own living. That brings the Son of God, in living, pulsating life, close to every man who works.

To be continued...

Part 3 is here.

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