Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
40. And the child grew, and was invigorated in spirit, and was full of wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 41. And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, to the feast of the Passover. 42. And when he arrived 228 at twelve years, as they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, 43. And when the days were finished, while they were returning, the child Jesus remained at Jerusalem, and his parents did not know it. 229 44. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45. And when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46. And it happened, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing and putting questions to them: 47. And all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
40. And the child grew From the infancy of Christ Matthew passes immediately to his manifestation. 230 Luke relates here a single fact, which well deserved to be recorded. In the midst of his boyhood, Christ gave a specimen of his future office, or at least indicated, by a single attempt, what he would afterwards be. The child grew, and was invigorated in spirit These words show, that the endowments of his mind grew with his age. 231 Hence we infer, that this progress, or advancement, relates to his human nature: for the Divine nature could receive no increase.
But a question arises. From the time that he was conceived in his mother’s womb, did he not abound in all fullness of spiritual gifts? for it appears absurd to say, that the Son of God wanted any thing that was necessary to perfection. The reply is easy. If it takes nothing from his glory, that he was altogether, “emptied,” (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, Php 2:6,) neither does it degrade him, that he chose not only to grow in body, but to make progress in mind. And certainly when the Apostle declares, that, “in all things he was made like unto his brethren,”(Heb 2:17,) and “was in all points tempted like as we are, sin excepted,” (Heb 4:15,) he no doubt includes, that his soul was subject to ignorance. There is only this difference between us and him, that the weaknesses which press upon us, by a necessity which we cannot avoid, were undertaken by him voluntarily, and of his own accord. Christ received, in his human nature, according to his age and capacity, an increase of the free gifts of the Spirit, 232 that “out of his fullness” (Joh 1:16) he may pour them out upon us; for we draw grace out of his grace.
Some excessively timid persons restrict what is here said to outward appearance, and make the meaning to be, that Christ appeared to make progress, though, in point of fact, no addition was made to his knowledge. But the words have a quite different meaning, and this mistaken opinion is still more fully refuted by what Luke shortly afterwards adds, that he grew in age and wisdom with God and man, (Lu 2:52.) We are not at liberty to suppose, that knowledge lay concealed in Christ, and made its appearance in him in progress of time. There is no doubt whatever, that it was the design of God to express in plain terms, how truly and completely Christ, in taking upon him our flesh, did all that was necessary to effect his brotherly union with men. 233
And yet we do not in this way suppose a double Christ: 234 for, though God and man are united in one person, it does not follow, that the human nature received what was peculiar to the Divine nature: but, so far as was necessary for our salvation, the Son of God kept his divine power concealed. What Irenaeus says, that his Divine nature was quiescent when he suffered, 235 I understand to refer, not only to bodily death, but to that amazing distress and agony of soul, which drew from him the complaint, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46.) In a word, if we do not choose to deny, that Christ was made a real man, we ought not to be ashamed to acknowledge, that he voluntarily took upon him everything that is inseparable from human nature.
It is a foolish objection, that ignorance does not apply to Christ, because it is the punishment of sin: for the same thing might be said of death. Scripture declares, on the contrary, that he performed the office of Mediator: for all the punishment which we deserved was transferred from us to him. 236 Besides, it is a foolish mistake to say, that ignorance is the punishment of sin. For we must not suppose that Adam, while he remained in innocence, knew all things. Angels also are, to some extent, ignorant, and yet they do not endure the punishment of sin.
A more refined argument is employed by some, that there was no ignorance in Christ, because ignorance is sin. But those persons assume a principle which is altogether false and groundless: otherwise, the angels must either be equal to God, or they must be sinful. 237 There is no doubt a sinful blindness of the human mind, which is justly reckoned a part of original sin: but here we ascribe to Christ no other ignorance than what may fall upon a man who is pure from every taint of sin.
He was invigorated in spirit, and was full of wisdom Luke thus declares, that whatever wisdom exists among men, and receives daily accessions, flows from that single fountain, from the Spirit of God. The following phrase is more general, and the grace of God was upon him: for it includes all the excellence of every description that shone brightly in Christ.
41. And his parents went every year to Jerusalem It is mentioned in commendation of the piety of Mary and Joseph, that they gave diligent attendance to the outward worship of God. It was not of their own accord, but by a divine command, that they undertook this annual journey. The law enjoins the, males “only to, appear before the Lord,” (Ex 23:17.) This arrangement does not entirely exclude females, but spares them by an exercise of kindness. This mark distinguishes the true religion from vain and wicked superstitions. The former confines itself within the limits of obedience to God, and of compliance with the enactments of his law. The latter wander, at their own pleasure, beyond the limits of God’s word, without any fixed rule. The worship of the temple was, no doubt, infected with many corruptions, the priesthood was sold for money, and doctrine was involved in many errors. Yet, as legal ceremonies were still in force, and the outward rite of sacrifice was observed as it is laid down in the law, believers were bound to perform such exercises in testimony of their faith. The name father is here given to Joseph, not with strict accuracy, but according to the opinion generally entertained respecting him.
44. And thinking that he was in the company Many passages of Scripture show plainly, that those who came from a distance, at the festivals, to worship in the temple, were accustomed to travel in companies. There is no reason, therefore, to wonder that, on the first day, Joseph and Mary were less anxious about the child; and their subsequent conduct shows that this was not owing to indolence or carelessness.
46. Sitting in the midst of the doctors Rays of divine brightness must have evidently shone in this child: otherwise those haughty men would not have permitted him to sit along with them. Though it is probable that he occupied a lower seat, and not the rank of the doctors, yet such disdainful men would not have condescended to give him an audience in a public assembly, if some divine power had not constrained them. This was a sort of prelude to his public calling, the full time of which had not yet arrived. In this way, however, he intended to give nothing more than a taste, which would immediately have faded from the recollection of men, had not Mary kept it for us laid up in her heart, (Luke 2:19, 51,) to bring it out afterwards, along with other treasures, for the use of all the godly.
47. And all who heard him Two things here claim our attention. All who heard him were astonished: for they reckoned it a miracle, that a child should frame his questions with such correctness and propriety. Again, they heard Christ, and thus acted the part rather of scholars than of teachers. He had not yet been called by the Father, to avow himself a public teacher of the Church, and therefore satisfied himself with putting modest questions to the doctors. Yet there is no room to doubt that, in this first attempt, he already began to tax their perverse way of teaching: for what Luke afterwards says about answers, I consider as denoting, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, any kind of discourse.
“Quum factus esset.” — “Luy donc estant venu en l'aage de douze ans;” — “he then being come to the age of twelve years.”
“Laquelle chose son pere et sa mere ne s'apperceurent point;” — “which thing his father and his mother did not perceive.”
“Au temps de sa manifestation;” — “to the time of his manifestation.”
“Avec l'aage les dons et graces d'Esprit croissoyent aussi et aug-mentoyent en luy.” — “With age, the gifts and graces of the Spirit grew also and increased in him.”.
“En dons et graces de l'Esprit;” — “in gifts and graces of the Spirit.”
“Avoit vrayement et entierement prins tout ce qui estoit possible et propre pour accomplir de tous points la conjonction fraternelle de luy avec les hommes.” — “Had truly and entirely taken all that was possible and fitted to complete, at all points, the brotherly union between him and men.”
“Deux Christs, ou un double Christ;” — “two Christs, or a double Christ.”
“Qu'il a souffert, sa Divinite ne demonstrant point sa vertu.” — “That he suffered, his Divinity not demonstrating power.”
“Pource qu'il a prins sur soy toutes les peines que nous avions meritees, afind nous en discharger.” — “Because he took upon himself all the punishment which we had deserved, in order to discharge us from it."
“Autrement il faudra que les Anges soyent pareils a Dieu, et qu'ils sachent tout: ou selon le dire de ces gensci, ils seront vicieux.” — “Otherwise, the Angels must be equal to God, and know everything: or, according to the statement of these people, they must be sinful.”