THE BOY JESUS IN THE
Key Verse: 2:49
"'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'"
In the last passage, God’s light for revelation to Gentiles began shining into the world. God's glory was revealed to the people of Israel through Simeon and Anna's testimonies. In today’s passage, a very odd event happens, as Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem. At a young age, he found his way to the temple where he amazed the leaders and teachers until Mary and Joseph finally found him. It is a tiny glimpse of Jesus life, but this one event gives us much to think about regarding God’s plan for Jesus as a young man. Let's see how Jesus discovered God’s will and plan as a young man and pray for each other to grow in God’s grace until we shine Jesus’ light to the ends of the earth in our generation.
First, Jesus' childhood (40)
Look at verse 40. "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." That's almost all we know about Jesus life from his dedication till the year before official promotion to member of Israeli community. Sometimes we wonder why Jesus had to grow and learn things. I wonder if he had homework or any trouble like we have to live up to society standards. We like to think he knew everything all the time since the Bible says he is the word that became flesh and that all things were created by him. Yet, it looks like he had to learn things just like us. It was part of bearing our sorrows and taking up our infirmities as a human being in the sinful world. If Jesus was willing to learn our situation, we should be willing to learn his example and accept the fact that we need to grow in stature and wisdom as long as we live. From boy Jesus we learn that growing is natural and proper human behavior. Even though Jesus never committed sin, still he grew, because that is what human beings are supposed to do.
Most of us are pretty much grown up physically. Teens and high-schoolers are learning good foundations in all areas, physical and mental. College students are near the peak of growing in strength, but just getting started at growing in wisdom. Others are old now and starting to reduce in strength but starting to grow again in shape. At least we can all grow in wisdom, if we maintain our learning mind, like that of little children. Apostle Peter said, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1Pe 2:2).” When we first trusted Jesus, at whatever age that happened, we became spiritual newborns and we can continue growing in wisdom as long as we live. Thank God.
The last part of verse 40 says, “...and the grace of God was upon him.” As I thought about it, I remembered one story of God’s grace upon Jesus as a child. It is in Matthew's gospel. At first it seemed Mary and Joseph would remain in Bethlehem. But to protect Jesus’ life from murderous King Herod, Joseph had to flee with Mary and the child to Egypt. They were poor people with no way to survive. At just the right time however, some wise men appeared at the door with some very expensive treasures to honor Jesus and provide for his family in a strange land. Saving him from early death was the grace of God for sure. After Herod died, Joseph brought them back to raise Jesus in Nazareth. We should not think the grace of God is something special like this all time though. The grace of God is all around us, all the time, but we are so stubborn and unthankful that we take his grace for granted. If we do not trust in God what will happen? Our foolish hearts will darken as we rely on ourselves and serve our sinful nature instead. In our sinful nature, our life becomes a downward spiral into ever increasing wickedness, until we are trapped in unbelief that leads to eternal destruction. Pray for the grace of God to be upon us and make us grow in the image of Jesus. Apostle Peter also encourages us this way in 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Second, Jesus' after Passover Bible study (41-47).
Verse 41 reads, “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” The Passover was the opening dinner of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which God commanded his people to celebrate every year. Some estimate that it could take Jesus’ family up to three days to arrive in Jerusalem. Can you imagine the traffic jams and parking problems it caused to attend the feast every year? It might take more than two weeks every year to travel there, eat a lamb chop and go back home. I guess the whole country of Israel kind of shut down for that. Why was going to the Passover feast so important? The Passover commemorates the day God took his people out of Egypt, at the cost of all the Egyptian first born. When the first born of every living thing, from the lowest animal up to Pharaoh in the palace died, the Israelites were spared the death of their firstborn through the blood of the Passover Lamb. Afterward, God established the Passover and Feast of Unleavened bread for his people to remember his saving grace and the great cost he made the Egyptians pay for their years of mistreating his people. God wanted all Israelites to remember his works and maintain their identity as God’s people through the Passover remembrance and other festivals during the year.
Verse 42 says that Jesus went up to the Passover Feast with his family when he was twelve years old. Big changes were coming for Jesus, in his natural body and in society. Soon his voice will change and his beard will start to grow and all those temptations will start. The years ahead are time of forming one's own identity and struggling with independent thoughts and even figure out the world for ourselves. Even Jesus had to understand such growing pains.
Look at verse 43. “After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” After the feast was over, it was time to go home. Joseph needed to get back to work. There were tables to make, farm instruments to repair, and money to earn. What did Jesus do? He took it on himself to remain in Jerusalem. How nice if our children decided to go to worship service very independently like this when they become 12 years old! It is beautiful to see Jesus' eager desire for God at only twelve years old. It should not surprise us though. Instead, we should understand that seeking God is a normal human desire. In a right relationship with God, all human beings should long for and earnestly seek God with all their heart. If we notice other things drawing our attention and occupying our minds the most, then we should repent.
I don't know if being 12 has any significance by itself. Did you think of any significance in Jesus coming to the temple when he was 12? In our times, Jewish people celebrate a Bar Mitzvah at the age of 12 or 13. It is time that they believe a person becomes responsible for personal obedience to the Jewish Law. A majority may end up in a trade or other manual work in those days, so around 12 or 13 it was time to start training. However, I read that it was possible for some promising children to attend special education in some cases in a higher level academy. Even Apostle Paul wrote of his own education “at the feet of Gamaliel” and it might have taken place around the teenage years. These were the kids who could memorize the Bible and showed leadership potential.
These days, we don't typically expect much from kids at this age and we tend to let them do their thing. Maybe it is a mistake. In the lost world, even a little good training helps the children become a great blessing. I saw it in my son’s chorus concert. The director was a genius and trained the 6,7&8th graders to perform world class songs. The children loved his instruction and responded very graciously. Unfortunately, the director left because the school was limiting him. The next year’s concert was much lower quality because the students were missing their favorite teacher in school and the teacher was naturally less experienced. This example got me thinking that young people around this age have incredible potential.
Spiritually speaking, I’m starting to think these years may also be among the most important time of life. We can see in the world that many children run away from their faith when they get to college. It makes us wonder what they learned in the important formative years from 12 or so until they leave home. During those years, all natural desires take over and puberty sets in. Most parents are so busy with work and their sinful lifestyle that they ignore their kids and leave them to learn everything from the world. A most famous testimony from 2nd gen kids in our fellowship is that they felt neglected in their teens, as if their parents did not care about them because they spent all their time and effort for other things, including sharing the Bible. In some cases, the children complained because their parents studied the Bible with the students but left the children home with nothing to do.
What was it like when you were 12? I try hard to remember these days because my son is 12 and I want to remember what he is going through. I remember the first computer came into the school then but I was not impressed by that. I really enjoyed metal shop, art class and I can remember the world of construction class, where we built a simulation of the wall of a house with electric wires and a window and shingles too. It was really fun for me. When I look back I see there were a lot of practical career oriented classes for young people in those days, but I did not hear about those things from the kids today. What are 12 year olds up to nowadays? My son likes to see Minecraft video games on the computer and Running Man and Star Wars on the television. I remember there were also many peer pressures to try things that we should not try and we start to have a crush on each other. How many kids do you know who tried to study the Bible from 12 years old? There are very few actually. Even those who went to church often found themselves tempted by many things in the world that seem more enjoyable or desirable. If we think about it seriously, we have to admit that this is the time when humans are the most vulnerable to the devil’s influence. I guess we have to work harder than the devil to inspire and build up the kids in the knowledge of God too. Thank God for another special lecture series coming to our center in a couple weeks about parenting and sharing the Bible with our children. It comes just in time. Now, after seeing Jesus' example, let’s cultivate the holy desire to seek God and his kingdom first.
Verse 44&45 explains that Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was somewhere in their group. It says, "... they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him." This is one of the strangest things we can think of, but it may not be so odd, if we understand the community mindset that kept those country bumpkin Jews together. When it was dinner time, they had a terrible situation. Imagine their frantic journey for another day back to Jerusalem. Probably they got there in half the time, because they were so scared of losing Jesus. In their panic, they could not find him for three days.
Why couldn’t they find him for three days? It seems like they looked everywhere, their friends’ houses, the library, the bowling alley, J-Mart, the police station... and every place in between. What was the last place they looked? Let’s read verse 46. “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” To our eyes, it is most impressive. Jesus stayed behind in order to study the Bible in the temple! This is the most wonderful thing to imagine. It seems quite natural for the Son of God to seek fellowship in the house of God right? Verse 47 says, "Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." 12 year old Jesus was sitting around with the most respected and knowledgeable Bible scholars of his time and he was able to understand and participate in the lectures. Their lessons made him think, and his questions made them learn. Nobody ever quizzed the teachers like Jesus, and nobody ever enjoyed their lectures as much as Jesus. He was perfectly at home in the presence of God and eager to learn the Bible actively. Jesus listened and asked questions to ensure his understanding. Jesus also shared what he learned, submitting to questions and giving relevant and insightful answers. This is one of the most ancient ways of teaching. It was the model for our own question and answer study guides and we also try to share what we learned with each other in our testimony time. Jesus spent three days or more in the company of these scholars and he learned a lot, he was never bored and did not even complain about having nothing to eat. What a precious time of fellowship it was for everyone in the temple during those three days. I always pray our fellowship of worship time may be so precious and cozy time of learning together with Jesus, the son of god.
Jesus example shows us how our attitude toward seeking God's kingdom makes a difference. Some Bible students are so bored when they receive each week’s Bible study questionnaire. Maybe the passage is already familiar; the questions don’t seem interesting; the answers all seem so obvious. "I already know all this stuff!" That's a know-it-all attitude that cannot learn any more. Instead, it's better to study the Bible like a 12 year old child of god. Come to fellowship and Bible study intent on learning God's will and things are very different. If we faithfully pray and patiently discuss our answers and ask our own questions about each passage openly and honestly, we may experience amazing grace. Let’s not have a habitual attitude toward Bible study. Let’s learn from Jesus how to study the Bible well and grow.
Third, “I had to be in my Father’s house” (48-50).
Jesus’ parents had a very different reaction, compared to the teachers, when they found him in the temple. They did not sit down to listen to his study or ask him any questions. They interrupted everything, acting hysterical. "His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.'" It seems like Mary and Joseph forgot that Jesus was even born by a miracle and they forgot all God told them about Jesus before he was born. Mary blamed Jesus for all her sorrow and days of fear, but Jesus did not see the problem. He wasn't being rebellious to Mary. He was actually confused about what took them so long to find him. He never intended to hurt his parents or run away. Look at verse 49. “‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’” Mary and Joseph did not see Jesus correctly. I guess all moms can relate to Mary very well. She and her son were not on the same page right now. Like any mom, it was very hard for her to see her son as a growing young man, who will make his own way soon. Lately I keep warning my son that mom will never understand that you are grown up. Even when I visited my mom in the hospital one day after an operation she would say to the nurse and doctors, "this is my baby boy." Especially in the panicked state of mind, it was hard for Mary to think straight. She thought Jesus was embarrassing her with his hill country accent, asking silly questions in the presence of all the upper crusty teachers in the temple. All she could think of was how apologize for his bothering the teachers and elders in the temple. Jesus saw things very differently. He thought it was it was good to honor God his father and learn the word of God from the best teachers of his day.
What was Jesus trying to teach Mary and Joseph in this lesson? It's popular among the English Bibles to paraphrase Jesus' description of his location as “my Father’s house.” A few bibles try to make sense of Jesus word by writing "at my father’s business" as if Jesus was looking to learn a trade from his dad. When I looked at a literal Bible I found his saying more obscure. Very literally, Jesus said something like, “… it is fitting for me to be in my father.” It’s more difficult to grasp, and almost sounds like babbling, so I could understand why Mary & Joseph may think something was wrong with Jesus. In any case, Jesus wanted to be with his father in heaven the most. He was ready to stay in the temple and study, but it turns out God had another plan.
Jesus desire to honor God and Jesus’ zeal to seek fellowship with his father in heaven is very gracious. Some parents think that when their children begin to honor God, they are dishonoring them. But it is not so. Children honor their parents most by seeking God’s kingdom first. In the big picture, it was a very precious fulfillment of God's promises that Jesus was in the temple today. Pray for all children to come with such a good attitude to their fellowship, the same attitude Jesus came to the temple with.
Let’s think more about Jesus words, “I had to be in my Father’s house.” He answered Mary’s comment, “Your father and I” by identifying God as his Father. Jesus is clearly identifying himself now as the Son of God, but Luke tells us that his parents did not understand what he was saying to them. From this time on, Jesus’ consciousness of God as his Father was growing. He understood that God put him in this world and began to find his identity in God his Father. We need to do the same. Paul taught us many things about becoming children of God and how our minds and lives should transform when we find our identity in our Father God. Do we become cult members, or brainwashed when we acknowledge God as our Father? The world thinks so, but in God's eyes we become normal human beings, on the path toward being like Jesus someday. Many here are studying a major or preparing a career in a specific field, but we must pray our identity will be rooted in God; he is the one who created us, and fulfilling his purpose for our life is what really matters. (Eph 2:10).
To know our Father in heaven is to have a relationship with him, depending on him and accepting his loving involvement and careful direction for our lives. Sinless Jesus grew up to know God his Father naturally. But Jesus said to Nicodemus that we sinners must be born again before we can even see the kingdom of God. When we are born again, our natural desire fades away and our spiritual need for fellowship with God will grow. As we mature, the Holy Spirit assures us we are God’s children, and we cry out, “Abba, Father!” toward God in heaven.
Jesus’ words “I had to be in my Father’s house” also show that he loved his Father. This is the Law’s greatest commandment, as Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” How strange that his mom was angry at Jesus for loving God with all his heart, keeping the greatest commandment. Jesus’ relationship with God explains his attitude toward the word of God. When Jesus loved God with all his soul, he gave his mind and heart to seek God first of all and he decided to let God’s will and words to shape his thought world and conform his attitude to do the will of God.
Sometimes we think it is because we are fallen or have some problem that we need to study the Bible. If someone is obviously messing up his life, we say “They REALLY need Bible study.” That’s true, but see how even the Son of God studied the Bible. He studied out of love for God his father. Such study became the foundation of his spiritual life. When Satan tempted him in the desert, Jesus quoted the Bible from Deuteronomy. In his first recorded sermon in the book of Luke, Jesus quotes the book of Isaiah and applies it to himself. Where did Jesus learn to do this? It was from building his life on the word of God. How is your attitude toward Bible study? Is it like Jesus’? Does it reflect genuine love and longing for your heavenly Father? Psalm 1:2 says we are blessed when we our "delight is in the law of the Lord" and when we meditate on it day and night.
Another thing to note is Jesus’ sense of purpose. His words “had to be” reveal a spiritual priority system. He absolutely thought that in he should be serving his heavenly father from now on. He thought it was a “no brainer” that Mary and Joseph should have realized too. His identity and sense of purpose were rooted in his Father and Son relationship with God. Without a father and child relationship with God, we will waver back and forth, swayed by the ebb and flow of worldly desires. Even God's words in the Bible will become subject to our desires and we can justify any behavior.
On the other hand, when we have identity in God our Father, and a personal decision to study the Bible and seek God’s kingdom, then we can say to our parents as Jesus said, very respectfully, “Mom, Dad, I don’t belong to you; I belong to God. It’s time for me to do God’s work.” And parents must admit that their children don’t belong to them but to God. Let’s pray that we may live before God, and experience deep conviction of what we must do, and carry it out by faith. That is the life of the children of God. Pray for inner conviction that God has put us where he wants us to be at any moment and pray that our identity in this world may be known as children of the heavenly Father and co-heirs of his kingdom with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, Boy Jesus practices the word of God (51-52).
Look at verse 51. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”
Maybe there were some other events in Nazareth that could only be described as the grace of God. Growing up in Nazareth was nothing to brag about in those days. Apostle Nathaniel shows the general opinion of that area in his time. He said, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" It was on the outskirts of Jewish settlements in the area referred to in the Bible as "Galilee of the gentiles." Though it was a hard place to live, God thought it was the best place for Jesus. He grew and became strong and was filled with wisdom through his years in Nazareth.
Mary did not understand what Jesus meant about being in his Father’s house, but she responded prayerfully and held this event in her heart. Later she understood and passed on this important event to the Christians. As for Jesus, he was not hurt by his parents’ misunderstanding; he did not become discouraged and crooked. Nor did he despise his parents, as if he were now past them. Rather, Jesus humbled himself and continued to be obedient to his earthly parents. To our surprise, Jesus honored his heavenly father and his human mother very delicately. What is more surprising is God's plan for Jesus' education. Jesus was ready to study the Bible with the most famous teachers of his day. He was willing to become a leader in Israel by the typical way of instruction in his time, but God did not let him stay in Jerusalem. God welcomed him and let him check in with the leaders, then sent him off to the country side where he humbled himself to serve others.
Many people today think rebellion is the path to becoming a real person. But we learn from the boy Jesus that humble obedience is a part of normal and healthy human behavior. Obeying our parents is the first way God gives us to put his word into practice. Verse 52 says “... Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” He studied the Bible with the villages on the Sabbath days, and became known as “son of the carpenter” (Mt 13). He served his village and family until it was time to serve all of God's people by laying down his life for them. God's plan and wisdom are not what we expect. I thought Jesus should study the Bible in the Jerusalem Seminary with the best professors. But God decided to send Jesus to the Nazareth Sluminary, to learn faithfulness, serving and loving God with all his heart in a simple country house church. Here we learn from Jesus' example that practicing humble obedience to God's direction is most important. God did not leave Christians without a good foundation in the word of God though. Paul came through the same school Jesus was found in, and God used Paul to witness to all the Jews of his day and too many gentiles to mention. His letters lead us to the Hebrew scriptures and reveal all we need to know about how the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus.
Let’s read verse 52. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” When Jesus accepted God’s plan, he grew well and commended himself in every way until he was prepared to begin his public ministry. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also the best example of a normal human being, showing how we are meant to grow as children of God. We all need to grow as people of character and content, with identity in God. In this passage the boy Jesus shows us how to grow by learning about God our Father through his word and practicing obedience to God’s will. It is the way to live life to the full as a real human being with the image of God. Maybe our growth was delayed for too long because of our sin. But when we are born again through faith in Jesus, we can receive a new life and grow and grow. May God help us to come into this relationship with our Heavenly Father. May our delight be the same as that of Jesus: “I had to be in my Father’s house.”
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