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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

LUKE 2:48-52

Luke 2:48-52

48. And when they saw him, they wondered; and his mother said to him, Son, why hast thou done thus to us? Lo, thy father and I grieving were seeking for thee. 49. And he saith to them, Why is it that ye were seeking me? Did ye not know that I must be in those things which belong to my Father? 50. And they did not understand the discourse which he spoke to them. 51. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. And he was subject to them: but his mother kept all these words in her heart. 52. And Jesus made progress in wisdom and age, and in favor with God and men.


48. And his mother said to him Those who think that the holy virgin spake in this manner, for the purpose of showing her authority, are, in my opinion, mistaken. It is even possible, that it was not till they were apart, and the witnesses had withdrawn, that she began to expostulate with her son, after they had left the assembly. However that may be, this complaint was not the result of ambition, but was the expression of grief, which had lasted three days.  238 Yet the manner of her complaint, as if she had received an injury, shows how ready we are by nature to defend our own rights, even without paying regard to God. The holy virgin would a thousand times  239 rather have died, than deliberately preferred herself to God: but, in the indulgence of a mother’s grief, she falls into it through inadvertency. And undoubtedly this example warns us, how jealous we ought to be of all the affections of the flesh, and what care we ought to exercise, lest, by being too tenacious of our rights, and following our own desires, we defraud God of his honor.

49. Did ye not know? Our Lord justly blames his mother, though he does it in a gentle and indirect manner. The amount of what he says is, that the duty which he owes to God his Father, ought to be immeasurably preferred to all human duties; and that, consequently, earthly parents do wrong in taking it amiss, that they have been neglected in comparison of God. And hence we may infer the general doctrine, that whatever we owe to men must yield to the first table of the law, that God’s authority over us may remain untouched.  240 Thus we ought to obey kings, and parents, and masters,  241 but only in subjection to God: that is, we must not, for the sake of men, lessen or take away any thing from God. And, indeed, a regard to the superior claims of God does not imply a violation of the duties which we owe to men.

In those things which belong to my Father This expression intimates, that there is something about him greater than man. It points out also the chief design of his being sent into the world, which was, that he might discharge the office enjoined upon him by his heavenly Father. But is it not astonishing, that Joseph and Mary did not understand this answer, who had been instructed by many proofs, that Jesus is the Son of God? I reply: Though they were not wholly unacquainted with Christ’s heavenly origin, yet they did not comprehend, in every respect, how he was intent on executing his heavenly Father’s commands: for his calling had not yet been expressly revealed to them. Mary kept in her heart those things which she did not fully understand. Let us learn from this, to receive with reverence, and to lay up in our minds, (like the seed, which is allowed to remain for some time under grounds) those mysteries of God which exceed our capacity.

51. And he was subject to them It was for our salvation that Christ took upon him this low estate, — that the Lord and head of angels voluntarily became subject to mortal creatures. Such was the purpose of God, that Christ should remain, for some time, under a shadow, beating the name of Joseph. Though this subjection, on the part of Christ, arose from no necessity which he could not have avoided, yet, as he had taken upon him human nature on the condition of being subject to parents, and had assumed the character both of a man and of a servant, — with respect to the office of Redeemer, this was his lawful condition. The more cheerfully, on this account, ought every one to bear the yoke which the Lord has been pleased to lay upon him.  242



Mais l'ennuy et la fascherie qu'elle avoit eue trois jours durant l'a fait ainsi parler.” — “But the uneasiness and distress, which she had had for three days, made her speak in this manner.”


“Centies;” — “mille fois.”


Que tout ce qui est deu aux hommes, est au dessous de la premiere Table de la Loy, et doit tenir le second lieu, afin que toujours Dieu ait sa puissance et son authorite entiere.” — “That all that is due to men is below the first Table of the Law, and ought to hold the second plane, in order that God may always have his power and his authority entire.”


Dominis;” — “maistres et seigneurs;” — “masters and lords.”


D’autant plus faut-il que chacun de nous s’assujettisse de bon coeur, st ploye le col sous le joug auquel il plaira a Dieu de nous soumettre.” — “So much the more must every one of us submit heartily, and bend the neck under the yoke, to which it shall please God to subject us.”

Next: Matthew 3:1-6;Mark 1:1-6;Luke 3:1-6