On Sunday morning we looked at one of the most intriguing passages from all four Gospels. That is, Luke’s account of the 12-year old Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem to be in his “Father’s house,” the temple (Luke 2:41-52). This is the only passage in Scripture concerning the boyhood of our Lord. We know some about the baby Jesus, more about the adult Jesus, but next to nothing about the boy Jesus. But though the Holy Spirit was pleased to reveal little about Jesus as a child, what he has revealed in this passage provides much to ponder as we contemplate the glories of Christ.
First, Luke portrays Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary. That is to say, here is what the true humanity of Jesus looked like when he was a child. On one level, we can readily identify with what Luke describes here. What parent hasn’t felt that sick feeling in the pit of the stomach when they discover they’ve lost track of their child? And every child knows what it’s like to hear the disapproving words of his parents after he’s been separated from them for some reason. We are reminded here that for all the extraordinary events surrounding the birth of Jesus, his and his family’s experiences during his childhood were very ordinary and familiar to us. Here is another way Scripture shows us that in the incarnation Christ became fully man.
And yet at the same time, Luke shows us that Jesus was special, even as a boy. When Joseph and Mary, after turning the city of Jerusalem upside down for three days, finally find Jesus in the temple they are “astonished” (v.48). Why? Because their 12-year old son is sitting among the teachers of the law in the temple courts, discussing theology and more than holding his own. “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v.47). No, this was not just another case of a lost child who had wandered off from his parents. There was something extraordinary about this boy.
When Mary asks Jesus why he had stayed behind and caused so much distress to her and Joseph, she addresses him as “son” and refers to Joseph as “your father” (v.48). But Jesus says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house” (v.49). In other words, Jesus is saying to Mary: “Don’t you understand? After all you’ve heard from the angel and the shepherds, do you still not see? I have another Father, a greater Father, and it is Him I must obey.” As a man, Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary. But as the Christ, he was (and is) the Son of God.
And his Heavenly Father was preparing him, even as a child, to fulfill the mission for which he sent him into the world: to die as a sacrifice for sinners. So it was fitting that Jesus should remain at the temple, especially at the time of the Feast of the Passover (v.41). For he was the One who would be the Great High Priest. And he would offer up himself as the true Passover Lamb. Whatever example Jesus set for us as an obedient son to Joseph and Mary (v.51), the greater lesson from this passage is that Jesus was learning obedience to his Heavenly Father. And because of his perfect obedience to his Father’s will, he is more than a good example: he is our Savior from sin and death.
Soli Deo Gloria!