Jesus at Home
Luke 2:41 – 52
Jesus at Home
Feeling a little lost ...
Many of us, will have had the experience, captured for us in this episode from Luke’s gospel, either being lost, or of losing a child.
Many years ago my family and I were part of the Aldgate Valley Church of Christ, not far from here, and one Sunday morning, when I was about 4 years old I got lost, in the toilet!
The church had outside toilets, that is, they were only accessible from the outside, so that meant that as people were leaving on a Sunday morning the toilet doors had to be locked.
And sure enough, I was inside the men’s toilets when they were locked up for the week. My parents had no idea where I was, and my anxiety and distress, was I think, matched only by theirs, as they wondered where I could possibly be.
Although in fact, I like to think that they were anxious and distressed, wondering where I was, but truth be told I’m not really sure whether they had realised that I was missing!
Nevertheless, I was lost, and no doubt plenty of us have had that experience, or the flip-side;, That sudden gut-wrenching realisation, that you don’t know where your child is.
It’s a sickening feeling, heart in your mouth, seconds seem like hours,
You run frantically around the shopping centre, or the streets, or the Royal Show, or wherever you are, and nothing else really seems to matter, just finding that lost child.
We have, even if we’ve never experience that for ourselves, we have some sympathy, for Mary and Joseph here, don’t we?
Their distress went for days, not just minutes, and when they finally find their lost son, he seems remarkable unapologetic, doesn’t he?!
Jesus’ upbringing was faithful and obedient
So what’s going on here?
Well, let’s get our bearings in Luke chapter 2 a little bit.
If you were with us just after Christmas, you may recall that we looked at the section immediately before this, when Jesus was also in the temple, but as a baby.
We met Simeon and Anna,
We heard them speak about the salvation that God was going to bring about through Jesus,
That Jesus was the revelation of God, not just to the Jews, the nation who had been in covenant relationship with God in the days of the Old Testament, but that Jesus was also the means of God making himself known to the Gentiles, all the other nations of the world,
And so from their testimony, we learnt that if we want to see and understand what God is doing in the world, what God’s great plans for his creation are, then we need to look at Jesus.
But you might also recall, that Luke went to great lengths to show us that even in Jesus’ very earliest days, everything about his family and his life, was done in strict obedience to the Old Testament law, even, what we called over-bedience to the law.
So later on, when we’re reading Luke’s gospel, and we find the religious leaders accusing Jesus of breaking the law, not having any regard for the law, we know that that’s just rubbish, because the historical record shows that even from when he was a baby, everything about his life was done in complete obedience to the law and then some.
So we shouldn’t really be surprised that as the account of Jesus’ childhood comes to an end here, Jesus and his family are once again demonstrating, very faithful obedience to Old Testament Judaism.
See how the section opens? Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.
Even today, there are people who try and drive a wedge between Judaism and Christianity, aren’t there? To the point of being anti-Semitic.
But there’s no getting around the fact that Jesus and his family were faithful, deliberate, obedient Jews.
Places like Deuteronomy 16 record God’s command that all Jewish men were to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, Pentecost, sometimes called the Feast of Weeks, and the feast of Tabernacles.
And so it makes sense for Joseph, faithful , obedient Jewish man, to be in Jerusalem for this Festival of the Passover. We’re not surprised to see him there.
Back there in Deuteronomy 16, the instruction was that all the men of the people of Israel were to gather to celebrate Passover, and the religious scholars of the day, or actually of generations prior, had explicitly clarified, that women weren’t under the same obligation.
And yet, what does Luke tell us? Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.
Both Mary and Joseph are in the habit of making this annual pilgrimage.
Once again, over-bedience
The picture of Jesus as a law-abiding member of God’s people is iron-clad.
There were other faithful women in the history of God’s people who attended the Passover regularly. You might know the story Samuel in 1 Samuel chapter 2. His mother, Hannah, one of the real high points among God’s people in the Old Testament;, Faithful, concerned for the things of God, we’re told that she, too, travelled up annually for the Passover.
So Mary’s in good company here. When you’re pictured in the same terms as someone like Hannah, that’s quite a statement. And of course the comparison also prepares us to look out for something in Jesus. Hannah’s son, Samuel, remember, if you’re familiar with the story, a young boy, in the temple.
God speaks to him in the temple, and he becomes a prophet and leader of the people.
Luke’s setting things up for us, to make sure we notice what he thinks is important.
But there is a bit of shift now. You’ll notice that Jesus’ parents are not named in this section, they’re just “his parents”, and after this, Joseph doesn’t appear in Luke’s gospel at all.
We’re transitioning out of the story surrounding Jesus’ birth, which of course focussed on his parents,
Now the focus shifts more and more onto Jesus.
We saw at the very beginning of chapter 1 that Luke says he put together an orderly account, and here we can see that Luke created a unit, this section about Jesus’ childhood, which started
in the temple with Zechariah and the angel, and finishes in the temple here. Just as the whole gospel, begins in the temple, and ends in the temple, chapter 24 verse 53.
So Luke gives us the clues that we’re moving into the next part of his orderly account.
Jesus is almost old enough for the obligations on Jewish men to apply to him. He was 12 years old, according to verse 42. And it was at 13 years old, that Jesus himself would be required to attend.
So this, again, is beyond what’s required by the law.
And even the next sentence, after the festival was over, they start out for home, most people stayed 2 or 3 days in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph stayed for the whole week of the festival, not starting out for home until after it has completely finished.
Luke’s practically falling over himself to make sure we understand, how faithful and obedient Jesus and his family are.
Jesus gets lost
After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.
Now, there are a few cultural hurdles for us to get over, to make sense of this, because we know how Mary and Joseph are feeling at this point;, that horrible, sick to the stomach, heart in your mouth horror and fear,
But also we think, 20 centuries later, “Are you kidding me?
You left your son in another city?
You travelled for a whole day not realising he was lost?
What is the matter with you?
Call Families SA! This child needs to be taken away from his irresponsible parents!
Do you remember the movie Home Alone? And all it’s sequels?! The family goes away on holidays and leaves their son behind. And nobody realises he’s lost.
And if you’re a parent, you watch it feeling very smug, because despite all your parenting failures, at least you’ve never done that!
And it’s a great danger, we see this all the time, in evaluating and passing judgment on people’s behaviour and decisions in history and in other cultures, according to the standards of our moment in history, and our culture.
So let’s have a read of how it all unfolds, and let’s just suspend our judgment on Mary and Joseph’s parenting for now,
After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends
So, Jesus and his family are living in Nazareth, we see that down in verse 51. Nazareth was in the North, near the Sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem was in the south.
Between the 2 lay , Samaria. The Samaritans were the descendants of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, who had intermarried with other people. They only believed in the first 5 books in the Old Testament, the Jews considered them religiously deficient, and so they avoided the Samaritans and vice verse.
Because of this, a journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem, generally avoided Samaritan territory, and so it would take longer, making the trip about 130 kilometres each way.
The detour also took pilgrims off the highways, and onto the smaller roads which were frequented by, well, what we would call bushrangers! And so pilgrims to Jerusalem would travel in larger groups, sometimes a hundred people or more.
In addition to that, some scholars think that men and women walked separately in these large caravans, and children could be in either group. And so they say, that Jesus’ parents could easily have each thought that Jesus was walking with the other, and it’s only after travelling for a day, that they realise Jesus is not anywhere in the group.
So we keep the reigns on our modern helicopter parenting, and don’t judge them by our standards, eventually, verse 45, When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him
It takes 3 days to find Jesus, probably not that Mary and Joseph were looking for Jesus around Jerusalem for 3 days, but counting that one day of homeward journey, one day of the return journey to Jerusalem, and then the next day, when they’re in Jerusalem, they find him.
And Jesus, this 12-year-old boy, was, verse 46, in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Jesus is taught in the temple
The temple in Jerusalem was made up of concentric rooms or courtyards. In the very centre was the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt in a unique way, right there in the midst of his people. But further out were courtyards where people could come and go, and where Jewish teachers, rabbis, would teach.
The usual pattern for this kind of theological teaching was that a teacher would sit, on a chair, and those listening and learning, would sit on the ground.
And the common teaching method was Question and Answer; The teacher would ask questions, and the people would ask questions.
And so for Jesus to be described as sitting among the teachers, doesn’t necessarily imply that Jesus is, in a sense, equal to the teachers in this situation. He hasn’t taken on the role of teacher particularly.
Some Christians like to imagine that Jesus is teaching the teachers. One of the children’s Bibles I had as a kid, had a picture of this scene, with the young Jesus, rather precociously, wagging his finger at the teachers, teaching them a thing or two!
But Luke seems to be quite deliberate in picturing Jesus as being taught by the religious teachers. It’s the only time in the Bible that this happens.
Jesus, as a boy, was instructed by, other human teachers. But nowhere else does Luke use this language for the establishment religious teachers. This word for teacher is used to describe Jesus in his later ministry, it’s used for John the Baptist, it’s a positive word to describe someone from whom you can learn things.
The teachers of organised Jewish officialdom, when they become a force against Jesus during his public ministry, Luke steers clear of this word which has positive connotations, and calls them other things;, lawyers, scribes, teachers of the law, and because of their opposition to Jesus, the connotations are always negative.
Here is Jesus pictured, once again, as a faithful Jew, learning from those who can teach from the Scriptures.
And obviously Jesus is involved in that kind of back and forth, the Q and A, because, verse 47, Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
When the teachers ask Jesus something, his answers demonstrate his understanding, his insight into the Word of God, and the people are amazed. This isn’t what you expect from a 12 year old.
And if we’re familiar with Luke’s gospel, and with his second volume, the book of Acts, we’ll think, “hang on, we’ve heard this language before, people being amazed.”
This is how Luke describes people responding to God’s power breaking into the world as his kingdom advances.
The response when Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead,
The response to Saul, former persecutor-in-chief , of the church, preaching about Jesus.
That’s the response people have, when they realised the insight and understanding of the Scriptures that they boy Jesus has.
But Jesus was still learning.
As he sat under the teachers of the nation of Israel, and hears them expounding the Word of God,
As he questions them, and digests the answer, and questions them again, as the Scriptures are, if you like, poured into his receptive mind and heart, his heavenly Father reveals to him, more and more of who he is, and what his ministry is going to be about.
And we know that Jesus learned, that he grew. Verse 52 makes that clear, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Back in the barn on Christmas night, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, Jesus didn’t have all the wisdom and understanding that he would have during his ministry.
Jesus grew, he learned, he gained wisdom.
And it’s from situations like this, sitting under those who could teach him God’s Word, that these things happened.
He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man
Was Jesus wrong to stay behind?
But there’s a question we need to ask.
And it’s a question that I’m sure all the parents here can’t help but ask;, Was Jesus wrong to stay behind?
Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Some of our Bible translations use the language of “great distress” to speak of Mary and Joseph’s emotional state at having lost Jesus. There are only 2 other times in the whole Bible that this word is used, and both times it comes from Luke.
It’s the word he uses in the book of Acts to describe the deep distress of the leaders of the Ephesian church that they would never see the Apostle Paul again.
And it’s the language he records in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to describe the agony and distress of being in hell!
If that’s how else Luke uses the word;, “we’re never going to see you again, It’s like being in hell”, clearly he wants us to feel the distress that Jesus’ parents feel in this moment.
Despite the fact that their way of parenting and travelling with children were so different to ours, this is real anguish that Jesus’ parents feel.
So was it wrong for Jesus to stay behind?
Was he a disobedient child?
In short, did Jesus sin, by deliberately remaining in the temple when his parents had left?
Well, the rest of the New Testament is clear, that Jesus didn’t sin.
That he was entirely without sin.
Even when Jesus’ opponents were given opportunity to point out some area of sin in his life, they couldn’t.
And we could turn somewhere like Hebrews 4:15, Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin
So what’s going on?
And why does Luke record this for us?
If he wants us to have a high view of Jesus, which clearly he does,
And if it wasn’t wrong, sinful, for Jesus to remain behind,
Why record Mary’s complaint, and the obvious anguish that Jesus’ actions have caused.
Well, I think there are 3 things going on,
Firstly, remember Simeon. Well, actually you don’t need to remember. Look back at verse 35, Simeon is moved by the Spirit of God, and he prophesies, to Mary, a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Ultimately we see this fulfilled in Jesus crucifixion, as Mary watches her innocent son tortured and murdered. But Simeon is obviously talking more broadly than just Jesus’ death, he’s talking about Jesus’ life and ministry. And Jesus’ life is going to be so painful to Mary, that it could be described as a sword piercing her soul.
And so probably Luke wants us to make the connection here, when we see the very beginnings of the kind of ministry Jesus is going to have. It has that painful, soul-piercing effect on Mary.
If you’ve ever lost your child, having your soul pierced, that’s not a bad description of the feeling, is it?!
We’re supposed to think, “Yep, it’s already started.”
We’re supposed remember something about Jesus in this moment. He’s the one spoken of in those terms.
He’s the one who’s going to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, verse 34,
He’s the one who is called God’s salvation, verse 30.
Verse 32, He is the light for revelation to the Gentiles
Mary’s anxiety and distress points us back to what’s already been revealed about Jesus, and reminds us of his identity and his mission.
And as I said, the cross kind of stands at the end of this, and so even at this very early stage, we already see the shadow of the cross across Jesus’ life, and Mary’s life.
The second thing to bear in mind, is the priority that obedience to God takes, even over the closest family relationships.
Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?
Clearly for Jesus, the relationship with his heavenly Father had a precedence over his relationship with his earthly parents.
We see as Jesus’ ministry unfolds in later years, that Jesus explicitly states that a relationship with God takes precedence over family relationships.
Not that this is cause to disrespect our family, but there may absolutely be choices that we make, that cause our family anguish and distress.
I know a young man who gave up his medical studies to pursue becoming a church pastor. I know that his parents were deeply upset by that. They would use the language that Mary used here, such hurt and distress, because of a choice that he made, out of his obedience to God.
Even my wife, Kathy, when she spent a year overseas doing mission work, the fact that she would go to another country, explicitly to tell people about Jesus, caused distress for some of her family.
In our culture, family is the unassailable idol. It must never be spoken against. There was an article in the news just last week about lengths that parents go to, stalking their children’s school teachers on weekends, to make sure that my family gets what it needs.
There is an allegiance, even higher than family. Jesus must obey it, and we must obey it.
There may be times when our obedience to our heavenly Father, necessarily takes precedence over our obedience to earthly parents, or over other family relationships.
The third thing that we learn from this little interaction between Jesus and his parents and particularly Mary’s response to Jesus, is the key question about Jesus and his identity.
That is, every , single person, has to come to a decision about who Jesus is. And they have to do that for themselves.
Jesus’ parents were no exception.
Jesus’ parents had to decide who they thought Jesus was.
They had to come to an understanding of his mission.
And in that, they’re an example for us. They’re in exactly the same boat as us. There are no shortcuts to being in relationship with God through Jesus.
Being in the right family doesn’t automatically bring you on board with what God is doing in the world.
Even having Jesus born into your family doesn’t make you his follower.
In fact the New Testament tells us, that none of Jesus brothers at least believed in him during his earthly ministry.
It wasn’t until after the resurrection that they finally understood who he was.
Being in the right family counts for nothing before God.
There are no shortcuts to relationship with God,
Every person has to consider the claims of Jesus for themselves.
And if it applied to those closest to Jesus, it certainly applies to each of us today.
Which, just let me say, yes, this speaks to us of our need to come to an understanding of Jesus’ mission and identity for ourselves,
We can’t rely on our family connections,
Or what other people close to us think of Jesus,
But let this also be an encouragement to you, the fact that Jesus’ own family had to arrive at a conclusion as to who Jesus is, and at this stage they haven’t yet. See verse 50, But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
In fact it took them decades to understand Jesus’ identity and his mission!
And I’m thinking particularly of Jesus’ brothers, more so than his parents who get the attention here.
But, in terms of personal witness, you’d have to say that Jesus would have had a pretty good personal witness to those in his family, wouldn’t you?
There was no sin to undermine his witness, and for his siblings to call him a hypocrite, which sometimes happens to Christian people today, doesn’t it?, when we’re trying to share our faith and live out our faith among our family.
It’s those closest to us to who see our own sin and our failings, and who sometimes use those things as an excuse for them not to put their trust in Jesus.
Jesus had the ultimate personal witness, and there was no sin to undermine it, and yet for 30 years or so, they didn’t believe in him. They rejected his ministry and mission, and thought he was out of his mind.
Eventually though, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, at the beginning of Acts, his family are there , with the other disciples, and they went on to be used by God in serving the church, even, being martyred for their trust in Jesus.
If you’re tempted to be discouraged at the apparent un-fruitfulness of your witness and testimony about Jesus to those you’re closest to, be encouraged that even Jesus own family had to make the decision to believe in Jesus and his ministry for themselves, and that they didn’t during his lifetime.
We have to come to an understanding of who Jesus, and Luke includes this details to highlight that even those closest to Jesus, must reach a conclusion about his mission and purpose for themselves.
Jesus must be in his Father’s house
And we hear something about Jesus’ mission, from his own mouth.
49 “Why were you searching for me?”, verse 49, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
And two particular things are revealed here, first of all the necessity of the task. Notice the I had to be.
We hear this language from Jesus right throughout Luke’s gospel when he speaks about things that have to happen in order for that salvation spoken of by Simeon and Anna to come about.
Jesus being in his Father’s house, sitting under God’s Word, is just as necessary,
As , chapter 4 verse 43, Jesus proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God,
It’s just as necessary as the fact that Jesus must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, 9:22,
The same as the necessity of Jesus having to suffer, and then enter his glory, 24 verse 26, and so on, and so on, when Jesus speaks about the things that must happen, in order for the plans and purposes of God to reach their fulfilment in him.
So we know that it’s important, but what actually does Jesus say he must be doing?
I had to be in my Father’s house?
These are the very first words of Jesus recorded for us in the Bible, and so obviously they’re going to be significant! And they also set the tone for everything else that follows later on from Jesus’ mouth.
You’ll see a little footnote at the end of verse 49, where the translators have said that it could read, “be about my Father’s business.” Literally what Luke records is something like “I must be in the things of my Father?”
And there are other places where Jesus speaks about sharing in his Father’s work. That was that very claim to equality with God that made the Jewish religious leaders determined to kill Jesus.
But of course, Jesus could be about his Father’s business anywhere, that wouldn’t require him to be in the temple, and so the NIV translation is probably the best way to read it.
It’s important, it is necessary, for Jesus to be in the temple, in his Father’s house.
The temple was the focus of God’s presence on earth.
The temple was the focus of the relationship between God and his people. That was really the whole point of the temple, the place where God dwelt among his people, and where you could go to be with God.
It’s why even today, the remains of the Western Wall of the temple in Jerusalem, are the place Jews go to pray, and such is its significance that there was a court case decided just this week, about who’s allowed to pray there.
, And as we’ve seen, it’s the temple where God’s Word was taught and explained, and where the young Jesus could learn and be filled with his Father’s Word.
It would have been surprising though, unheard of, really, for someone to speak of God as my Father, let alone for that claim to come from the mouth of a 12 year old boy!
You would be somewhat taken aback, I’m sure, if you someone outside of your family, refered to your father, as their father! You’d think, “Hang on! You’re claiming a relationship you don’t have!”
Well that kind of indignation, coupled with an accusation of blasphemy, is how pious Jewish people would have responded and did respond, to Jesus calling God his own Father.
The Jews of Jesus day quite happily spoke of God as the Father of the nation, but Jesus uses more personal language, reflecting his understanding that his relationship to God the Father was unique.
His first words recorded in the Scriptures, and they prepare us for every single other thing that Jesus says, because they lay this very important foundation, that Jesus is God’s own son, and therefore worth us listening to.
This is a statement about Jesus’ unique identity, that sets up the rest of his ministry
I had to be in my Father’s house
And yet from this moment on, as Luke’s gospel turns the corner into the rest of Jesus’ ministry, numerous times Luke and the other gospel authors record Jesus taking this relationship that only ever applied it to him, and telling his followers that they have it.
We are able to call God our Father because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, dying in our place, to bring us in to God’s family as adopted children.
We are those, if we trust in Jesus, who enjoy this amazingly privileged family relationship, and can call God, “My Father.”
In fact the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says that God gives us his own Spirit, who enables us call God our Father.
You and I are not Christ, friends! As if there was ever any doubt! We don’t want to confuse our relationship with God that comes through Jesus with the relationship with the Father that Jesus had by nature of his very being.
But this wonderful privilege of calling God our own Father, is one we now share with him, the eternal Son of God.