This morning we look at the solitary story of Jesus in his youth. The account in Luke 2 of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple reveals two incredible things for us to think about and appreciate this morning. First, how wonderful our relationship with God the Father will be one day, when all the effects of sin are removed from our lives. And Second, we see how much our Savior Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, gave up for us and for our redemption when he took humanity on himself. He truly knows our weaknesses!
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Jesus Left Behind at the Temple
Good Morning. Today we have a unique story, in that it’s the only story of Jesus growing up. Only Matthew and Luke give us the nativity, and only Luke tells this ONE story that fills the huge gap between the wise men, and Jesus turning 30 and his Baptism in the Jordan River.
I think our imaginations always run thinking of what life would be like for Jesus growing up. Imagining his poor brothers, who are always hearing their parents complain, “Why can’t you be more like Jesus!” Hard standard to live up to. My brother and sisters had it much easier.
A century after Luke wrote his Gospel, a non-Christian group called the Gnostics wrote a fraudulent account of his childhood. It’s obvious to tell it’s a fake without knowing it was written 100 years later when the 5-year-old Jesus goes around Nazareth killing all the other boys for tattling on him for making pigeons on the Sabbath or bumping into him. Not real!
Real! Luke lets us know that Jesus was 12 on this trip to Jerusalem, a trip Mary and Joseph made every year. This means that Jesus had begun his preparation to become what was known as a Son of the Covenant, because even back then, we’re told Bar Mitzvahs took place at 13.
If you don’t know what a Bar Mitzvah is, it is very similar to our service of confirmation, where you publicly claim the covenant responsibilities that may have been made for you by god/parents in youth. So, this would have been a special trip, where Joseph likely would have spent extra time showing Jesus around the temple and explaining things.
Although the Passover lasted for seven days, travelers to Jerusalem would usually only stay for the first two days for the Seder meal.
The passage also tells us that they traveled up to Jerusalem and back down to Galilee with a large enough caravan that Mary and Joseph each assumed that Jesus was with the other when they were going back. To make that a little more understandable, back then, the women and children would travel in the front of the caravan to talk amongst themselves, and the men would travel in the back of the caravan to talk, and they would only meet back together as a family at the end of the day’s travels.
Jesus being 12, and spending time preparing for the Bar Mitzvah, Mary would have assumed Jesus would have stayed with Joseph and the men, while Joseph would have assumed Jesus was with Mary and the children. Pretty easy to understand. And here is also when you can hear a bunch of funny pastor stories about leaving their kids behind at church if you listen to other pastors like I did this week preparing for this message. I never left my kids behind at church actually until I got to St. John’s, and then it really didn’t even matter.
Then Mary and Joseph got back together at the end of the night.
“I thought he was with you!” “I thought he was with you!”
They rushed back to Jerusalem, and here is the truly heart wrenching thing, don’t miss this parents. They searched around the city for THREE days. I know what it’s like in my house when a 15-year-old can’t be found for an hour, so I can’t even imagine what they were like after three days.
The last place they expected to find him was the temple. While most people left the feast to go home after the first 2 days, usually the rabbis, scholars, and theologians from all over the land would stay in Jerusalem the full 7 days of the feast to discuss theology, to talk shop.
The rabbis and teachers were all in the room buzzing back and forth, talking about their insights over the year, and to Mary and Joseph’s amazement, they find Jesus sitting in the midst of these doctors, participating in the dialogue. He’s only 12, but he’s participating. And none of the elders seems to be saying, “Go away son, you’re bothering me,” but excitedly involving him, like some child prodigy.
To be clear, Luke doesn’t say he was teaching a seminar, but listening and asking questions, and amazing everyone with his answers.
Mary calls him aside and asks Him to explain why he had caused them so much anxiety over where he could have been, and Jesus’ response tells us he was beginning to understand the calling of His Heavenly Father on His life, when he responds “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”
I’ll emphasize for now that Jesus' question reflects genuine surprise and not trying to correct her. You see that in that he went obediently with them and didn’t try to pit his obligation to God and against his parents.
There is a lot to unpack here! One! Very briefly, Jesus comment about being in My Father’s house shows he was beginning even this young to understand his unique relationship with God the Father.
This points, I think anyway, to something fantastic about our hope and life without sin. What would our relationship be with God, if sin wasn’t constantly in the way? How much better would we understand, even when we were kids, what God had for us, if sin wasn’t constantly clouding that relationship and cluttering up everything in our life.
Jesus cultivated a sinless loving relationship with his Father from his youth. And our hope is that, one day, when these wretched bodies are remade without the taint of sin, we will have a relationship like that.
Two! What Jesus lost for us. What I think causes the most confusion, and tells us the extent of how He humbled himself for us, is the last verse. There, Luke mentions something that many people not only don’t think about, but actually causes people struggles to wrap their brain around.
51 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke tells us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in humility, was growing in wisdom as he grew in size. I was probably about the same age Jesus was in our lesson when I heard this passage being read and preached, and afterwards asked my mother to explain it, how Jesus could learn and grow… if he was God. “Did n’t he already know everything???”
When atheist/Muslim who hope to shake a Christian’s faith, this is a popular place to start, because most Christians don’t spend time thinking about what it meant for Jesus to become fully human. Jesus caught colds like us. Jesus cried as a baby no matter what any Christmas Carol says.
He got hungry, he got hot, he got headaches and had all the problems we have, because he was not a ghost who appeared to be human, but was human. Yes, he was sinless, but that doesn’t always mean he knew perfectly geography or algebra or even that he cut every piece of wood perfectly the first time without measuring!
Tough passages like this point to something amazing about who Jesus was, is, and what he did to save us. To be Fully Human, Jesus could no longer be all knowing, all powerful. Mark says in 13:32 that concerning the day and hour of his return no one knows, not even the angels nor the Son, but only the Father. He was limited as a man like we are.
It is an incredible picture of humility many people don’t consider! As he humbled himself to suffer physically like we suffer, in the same way His mind was subject to the same limitations as ours are, as Adam’s mind was even before he sinned. The difference between us and Him, however, is that He freely, of His own will, took on these weaknesses.
We’ve been playing during Communion the Song How Many Kings, it’s a newer Christmas and Epiphany Song by Downhere.
How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
This is all God has done for us, because he loves us. Seeing how much God loves us, and how he became the least for us, Let us glorify him becoming the most we can for Him.