When Jesus Was Twelve

January 3, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 2:41-52

1. Today I read to you the story of Jesus when [he was] twelve years old. When spring came, to celebrate Passover it was customary for Joseph and Mary to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Even the year Jesus turned twelve, they went up to the capital as usual and had brought the boy with them. However, an incident took place at that time. Mary and Joseph finished the festival and started on the journey back with the many people who had come from Galilee, but then after they had gone a day's journey they suddenly realized that "Jesus isn't [here with us]!" A bit panicky, they search around among the other kinfolk and friends. He was nowhere to be found. Asking everyone along the way, they retrace their steps back to Jerusalem. Then on the third day, at last, they found the boy Jesus. Not this, they didn't expect this, he was sitting among the scribes on the temple grounds, listening to the topics and asking questions! Mary automatically cross-examines him. "Why did you ever do such a thing to us? Please! Your father and I have been worried searching for you." Mary's saying these things are not unreasonable. They were truly worried. Yet, the boy replied indifferently to the worries of this mother as follows. "Why did you have to search for me? Didn't you know that being in my father's house is the naturally expected thing for me to do?"

2. What about it, the child like this? When you just normally read this, you feel like he is not such a charming child, don't you? He may be a bit wise, but he is a bit of a cheeky kid. A child uttering so self-importantly, not even considering his parent's feelings, must get a bit of disciplining. When you're a sensible Jew respectful of parental authority, you would generally think that way.

3. But this is the one and only story in the Bible which tells of Jesus' childhood. What's more, what is recorded in this text is the very first words of Jesus as set forth in The Gospel According To Luke. In addition, the text states that "[His] mother stored up all these things in her heart." It seems, therefore, that the words of Jesus and the actions of Jesus are still important enough that they must be passed on into the future.

From A Manger To A Cross

4. Jesus at twelve years of age. Jewish children are considered adults at age thirteen. So, it is just right before that. When they turn adults they are charged with the duties that are set forth in the law. Until that time the children must complete their study of the Torah that is centered on memorization. And so that their duties as adults does not become a sudden burden upon them, they receive dry run rehearsals in advance. It is believed that Jesus' being brought to Jerusalem at twelve was meant for that purpose.

5. When Jesus the boy was found he was sitting on the grounds of the temple among the scribes, listening to the conversations, and asking questions. "Everyone who was listening was amazed at the wise responses from Jesus," (verse forty-seven). But when we call up this scene in our minds, we must not think of the twelve year old boys in our country. As I already mentioned, at this point in time they just about completed their regular studies in Torah, and it was right just before when they were about to begin their walk as adults. A boy being there having conversations with the scribes and asking questions was not anything marvelous at all. Luke probably had no intention to stress the supernatural element. What we should take note of lies elsewhere. There are at least two things [to note].

6. The first thing to take note of is that there are many words in this episode that have some connection to the passion narrative. The parents had brought Jesus to the Passover festival. It was at the time of the Passover festival when the Lord was crucified. The boy Jesus went up to Jerusalem with both parents. It was also Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified. The Gospel According To Luke devotes a large portion, in particular, to the narrative of the journey going up to Jerusalem. The part about the boy Jesus not being seen by them and then being found again on the third day reminds us that he rose from the dead on the third day.

7. The second thing to take note of is the statement in verse forty-nine that clearly reveals the self-awareness of Jesus. "Why did you have to search for me? Didn't you know that being in my father's house is the naturally expected thing for me to do?," (verse forty-nine). In this text [is] the word that is translated "naturally expected." It is found later in the passion pre-announcement. In pre-announcing his own passion, Jesus says the following. "It will surely come to pass that the son of man will undergo much suffering, be rejected and murdered by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes of the law, and then he will rise from the dead on the third day," (9:22). What is translated as "it will surely come to pass that" [so and so will do such and such] is also the same phraseology. Often times it is the expression known as "divine inevitability."

8. What is the inevitable? That he [would have] "to be in my father's house." It is translated as "my father's house," but the original text only has it written as "my father's things (plural)." Jesus was most likely not speaking of only just the temple. Jesus was in the midst of his father's things. It has to do with the matters of his father's business. It [concerns] specifically [his] life in which inevitably he will one day soon go up to Jerusalem and then inevitably he will be crucified. It [concerns] [his] walk in which inevitably he will atone for the sins of the world and bring to pass the work of God's salvation. He said that that was "the naturally expected thing for me to do." He said, "It will inevitably come to pass like this," "It is a divine inevitability."

9. In other words, to wonder what is it that we can see from this story it is that the twelve year old boy Jesus had already at that time begun to walk self-consciously on the path that had been set for him by the heavenly father. Having distinctly sensed it within himself, he was living in a relationship with his heavenly father. Whenever Jesus said, "father," it was not [of] Joseph but God. And, in order to fulfill the plan of his Father, Jesus had already begun to walk offering up his life. He had begun walking towards the cross. These words from Jesus reveal this.

Cherishing The Time Of Preparation

10. But, if we wonder if Jesus, who had this awareness of himself, had started his public work right away, [the answer] would be no. In chapter three Jesus again appears at center stage. But, it is about twenty years later. The public activities of Jesus were initiated at about the time when he was thirty years old. The work of the Lord, which is being communicated to us, is for about three years, until he is crucified. When we compare that [three year] interval to the overwhelmingly long period until then, [the long interval], though, is hidden in the shadow of this short statement: "After that, Jesus went down with them, returned to Nazareth, and lived working for his parents."

11. The following expression is found in The Epistle To The Hebrews in regard to the walk of Jesus back then. "In spite of the fact that Christ is the son [of God], he had learned obedience through much suffering," (Hebrews 5:8). Going by The Gospel According To Luke, that path of much suffering was not just the final week of his life. The case can be made that it had already started with the manger. And, for Jesus, first and foremost more than anywhere else, the specific place of his daily every day life, living as a child with his mom and dad, was but the very exact place where he had learned obedience.

12. Without a doubt, both Joseph and Mary were devout Jews. The Lord was raised in this devout family. But, as devout as both Joseph and Mary were, they could not understand the plan of God the Father for Jesus. The text puts it like this, "But, the parents did not understand the meaning of Jesus' words," (verse forty-nine). Already sensing his relationship with the heavenly father and having begun to live in obedience to the will of the heavenly father, Jesus took up his daily living with his parents who were ignorant of these things. [One might] imagine that at that time he certainly had much suffering unbeknownst to others. But, the Lord first of all cherished and made the most of that time in which he lived working for his parents. He learned to work for God through working for humans, he learned to trust in God through enduring the suffering he had to put up with and [he learned] to obey come what may. He cherished it as the time for [his] learning obedience.

13. That's how he is, this very One who says to us, "Come and follow [me]!" Since Jesus needed a time of preparation in which he learned twenty years of obedience for his public work of just three short years, then how much more do we? All the places given to us can be for learning obedience. We are given many opportunities in which we can learn to work for God through working for people, and in which we can continue to obey and trust in the heavenly father, come what may, through the enduring of human misunderstanding, unfair treatment, and different kinds of suffering. In a way, we get to go to school, without paying tuition, in order to prepare to be used by God. However, just as we cannot learn anything in an actual school if we sabotage the lesson by just complaining, we will not learn anything in our lives in God's school, if we just whine and complain and waste our purposeful lessons. We must not say, "Lord, please use me!" while hardly willing to prepare for it.

14. Let's cherish the current time and the current place which is given to us. As I stated in the Christmas service, human happiness is found in walking with God and having God use us. [To have God use] our lives for someone. For someone's salvation. We have God use our whole lives in order for Him to love someone else. There is where human happiness is found. The manner in which God may use us may be like the instant in a flash of lightning. Whenever someone does have an instant in which he or she can say, "I was born for that moment," then that person can claim to be a truly happy person. [His or her] life has eternal significance.

15. Perhaps the majority of our lives is probably a time of preparation for learning obedience. However, whenever it is a preparation to be used by God in an instant [of time], then we can say that the time spent has eternal value, even if, for example, it is never seen in the eyes of others, or it never remains in the memories of others, or it is never left behind in any kind of record. It seems that the majority of the time of Jesus' life was like that. That's right. When we live our time now as a time of preparation, then we will come to live time with value. Let's cherish the current time and the current place which is given to us! Let's cherish the time of preparation!