Luke 2:41-52 The Boy Jesus

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. Every spring when it was Passover, according to Jewish custom Joseph and Mary made a habit of going up to Jerusalem.  Even the year when Jesus turned twelve, they went up to the capital as always and brought the boy along.  But, something happened there.  When they were done with the feast and had departed on the road back with the many people who had come from Galilee, Mary and Joseph realized after they had gone a day's journey that "Jesus isn't here!"  They panicked and went searching among their relatives and friends.  They didn't find him.  While they inquired on every road they landed back in Jerusalem.  And on the third day, at last they found the boy Jesus.  He had been sitting in the middle of the scribes on the temple grounds, he was all along listening to their speeches and asking them questions!  Without thinking, Mary asked him straight out, "Why did you do such a thing like this to us?  Please give this a look.  Your father and I have both been worried and looking for you."  What Mary said wasn't unreasonable.  They were truly worried.  But, disregarding his mother's worries he replied as follows: "Why did you look for me?  Didn't you know that it was my duty to be in my Father's house?"

2.  If this weren't a story about Jesus, it would seem like only the story of a bratty and hard to love child, though a smart one he may be.  A child who doesn't know his parents' mind, but has a smart mouth has got to be disciplined just a bit.  Goodness gracious, I'm sure that's exactly how a Jew with common sense thought who honored parental authority.  But, this is a story about the Lord Jesus.  What's more, this is the one and only story in the Bible that tells us about the childhood of Jesus.  Furthermore, they are words from the Lord first given out in The Gospel According To Luke.  Since this is so, we must ask why was the Lord behaving so boldly and why did he say such a thing.  What really could it be that the Bible is telling us through these words from the Lord and by means of the whole childhood story of our Lord?

From The Manger To The Cross

3.  So then, we might like to see a little more detail on this whole story.  It tells us that it was the time when Jesus was twelve years old.  Since Jewish children were considered adult at thirteen, this was just before that.  When a person comes of age, they would have to fulfill their duties which were set by law.  So, until then the children would have to complete their studies of the law which was centered on memorization.  And so that their duty as a person come of age would not be a burden all at once upon them, they had rehearsals before hand.  In particular, they think that when Jesus was brought to Jerusalem when he was twelve it had that such a meaning.

4.  When the boy Jesus turned up missing and was discovered by his parents on the third day, he was sitting in the midst of the scribes on the temple grounds and was listening to their speeches and asking them questions.  The text says, "All who were listening were amazed at the wise responses of Jesus," (verse forty-seven).  But, when we think of this scene, we should not think of the twelve year old boys in our country.  As I already mentioned, in regards to the law at this time it was just before they finished their studies almost all the way through and were about to begin acting like adults.  There is nothing to wonder at at all that there was a boy there who had been speaking with the scribes and asking them questions.  Instead, it would seem that the supernatural elements in this picture had been left out to the max.  This comes clear when compared to the numerous episodes regarding the boyhood of Jesus created in the second century on.  For example, in the traditions there is the story that a sparrow of mud that Jesus made flew off into the sky.  The point they emphasized was that the boy Jesus had a special supernatural existence.  When compared to them, you might say that the picture of the boyhood of Jesus, which is the only one to have survived in the Bible, is rather surprisingly reserved.  What's more, the section at the end of this story is written like this, "After that, Jesus went down with them, returned to Nazareth, and lived in obedience to his parents," (verse fifty-one).  We have in this the figure of an ordinary boy who lived just like the children in any household anywhere in obedience to the law to "Honor your father and mother" and who lived in service to his parents.

5.  In continuing to reflect on this, we see that this passage and two other scenes are related.  The birth of Jesus is recorded in The Gospel According To Luke as follows, "However, while they were in Bethlehem, Mary came to full term, gave birth to her first son, and laid him in a manger wrapped in linen; for, there was no place for them to stay in the inn," (Luke 2:6-7).  In the pictures depicted for this scene we usually see them depicted with the figures of angels singing all around.  The infant Jesus himself also usually radiates light.  But, that's not what the Bible tells us.  It doesn't have any angels enacted on the scene.  This is rather odd.  Don't angels frequently appear in The Gospel Of Luke itself?  Within the context of the birth of God's son something really odd is going on.  It even looks like a drama in overproduction.  But yet no angels appear in the actual place of the birth of the son of God where we would like for them to appear most of all.  The praise of angels do not even reverberate there.  All we have is a dirty manger.  While nothing seemingly miraculous occurs, the infant Jesus is laid to sleep there as a pitiable figure.

6.  The other one is a scene of death.  When you look at ancient pictures for this one too, angels will be flying about in them.   But, none of that is written in the Bible.  Nothing on the order of the miraculous from God happened either when the Lord was condemned at his trial, or when he was ridiculed, beaten, and whipped, or when he was suffering on the cross.  In fact, as those responsible mocked him they said, "You saved others.  If you are the messiah from God, the chosen one, you should save yourself."  Even the Roman soldiers said, "If you are the king of the Jews, try saving yourself."  As for a special event only Luke records briefly that "The sun lost its light.  The curtain of the temple split down the middle," (Luke 23:45).  But this too is surprisingly reserved if compared to the descriptions in The Gospel According To Matthew.

7.  Thus, in this gospel account, the story of the childhood of Jesus looks like it is placed in one long line that connects his birth in the stable with his death on the cross.  When we read this story carefully then, another feature becomes apparent.  As far as the location goes, it lies near the one in the story of his birth, but Jesus' going up to the capital at age twelve best overlaps with his final going up to the capital about twenty years later.

8.  These events took place in Jerusalem.  It was in Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified.  It was at the time of the Passover when the boy Jesus went with both parents to Jerusalem.  In the same way, it was the time of the Passover when Jesus had his final going up to the capital city.  In addition, the story of the boy Jesus disappearing and then being discovered again on the third day brings to mind that he was crucified, buried and appeared on the third day before his disciples.  And in this childhood scene the words are spoken, "Why did you look for me?  Didn't you know that it was my duty to be in my Father's house?," (verse forty-nine).

9.  The phrase that is worth extra care to look at is the phrase translated "it was my duty to."  This is a phrase that appears repeatedly in Luke.  If you asked in what kinds of places does this phrase appear, it would be in the predictions of Jesus' passion, for example.  Please open to chapter nine and verse twenty-two.  "The son of man will definitely experience suffering and be rejected and killed by the elders, the chief priests, and the legal scribes, and be resurrected on the third day," (9:22).  Here "will definitely" is the same phrase.  It is often said that this phrase is one that expresses "divine necessity or inevitability or predestination."  It means "to be set in God's plans according to His will."  If we translate "my father's house" literally, it is "my father's things, stuff, business, what belongs to my father."  It takes on the meaning of that which pertains to the interests of God the Father and not just things of the temple.  In other words, he was saying by this that Jesus already was living in the self conscious awareness at the age of twelve that he was living in divine predestination and that he was advancing on the path fixed for him by God the Father.

10.  And that path, that path set by God is one that leads to suffering and hardships.  The readers of this gospel will soon come to know [that].  It had already begun back at the manger.  The childhood of Jesus was along the way that led from the manger to the cross.  We must hear this truth out of the boyish words of Jesus.

The Days He Learned Obedience

11.  Then, Luke expresses in the following simple statement how the boy, who had the self awareness like he did, spent his approximately twenty years until his public appearance later before the people, "After that, Jesus went down with them, returned to Nazareth, and lived in obedience to his parents," (verse fifty-one).  That's it.  Jesus' public activity began at roughly age thirty.  It was about three years after that to when he was crucified.  Thus, if compared to the days the Lord's activity is known, an overwhelmingly long period of time is hidden behind the sentence of "he lived in obedience to his parents."  As for the time when God the Father had intended to do his work of salvation through his son, the greater part of that period of time was hidden from most people's eyes as a time of preparation.  Only Jesus knew the time of his preparation.

12.  In The Epistle To The Hebrews the following is said concerning Jesus' walk.  "In spite of the fact that Christ is the son of God, he learned obedience through a great deal of suffering," (Hebrews 5:8).  That path of his much suffering was not just the last week of his life.  It began long ago with the manger.  For Jesus, the specific place of his daily life where he lived as a child with his mom and dad was above all else a place where he learned to obey.  No doubt, both Joseph and Mary were devout Jews.  The Lord was raised by a pious family.  However, neither Joseph nor Mary as pious as they were understood the plans of God the Father for Jesus.  Joseph and Mary were not a perfect father and mother for Jesus.  But, the Lord highly regarded that time he first lived with his folks.  He valued it as a time to learn obedience.  The text reads that, "he lived in obedience to his parents."

13.  We should not forget how he himself was who said to us "Obey and follow me."  We want to obey the Lord.  We hope to have God use us in his plan.  "O Lord, please use me."  I have noticed many who offer up that prayer.  It is a hope and prayer that anyone of us should rightly have.  Yet, when we pray to the Lord for him to use us, we should not take our eyes off of how Christ was.  With him there were thirty years of preparation for only a three short years in public service.  Most of his life was a time of learning obedience.  That's how it was even for the son of God.  It will probably be much more for us.  Notwithstanding though, in contrast to how Christ prepared, most of us do about thirty years of work out in the public with three years prep time.  There are many times when the prayer "O Lord, please use me" in the final analysis only means "Let me do a great work appreciated and recognized visibly by the public."

14.  We have got to learn obedience.  We must not discount preparation time. Ultimately, the way God uses us may be for a lifetime, or it may be for an instant as in a lightning flash.  But, if the majority of our life is a time of learning obedience and is preparation for an instant in our following God, and even if it never appears before the public eye, or remains in anyone's remembrance, or isn't left in any record of any kind, the time spent will surely have value in eternity.  Therefore, just as the Lord highly regarded the time that he served his parents, we must cherish the time now and the place in which we are granted life now.

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