Luke 2:41-52

May 10, 2009

Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett
[Index of Past Messages]


Early this week I was able to attend a Grandparents Day lunch with Eli at his elementary school in Millstadt. It was very nice weather for a change, so I rode my motorcycle. We had a good time, sharing spaghetti lunch prepared only as a school cafeteria can do it. A few minutes of playground frolicking ensued before I said goodbye and watched Eli and his buddies go back to class.

On the way home I thought, I’m right here in Millstadt—I’ll drop by to see Krista, Luke and Chloe. Krista and the kids met me at the front door and we visited a little. Knowing it would be a brief visit I had left my helmet on, visor up. Krista explained how Luke was suffering from the misery of a spreading eczema rash, so we prayed for him, and I was off. Just then, Krista opened the door again laughing. She said, Guess what Luke said. When you went out the door, he looked at me and said “Who was that?”

Art Linkletter was right – “Kids say the darndest things.” One grandmother was watching her 5-year-old granddaughter. She was interested in how the girl was doing in recognizing colors. So she pointed to different things in the room, asking, And what color is that, and the girl answered correctly. Well, that was fun, so she continued pointing and asking What color is that? At last the five-year-old headed for the door, saying sagely, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"

Then there was the mom who was a physician. She left her stethoscope on the car seat and her four-year-old picked it up and was playing with it. The mother beamed with pride as she thought of her daughter growing up to be a doctor, just like her mother. Just then the child spoke into the business end of the stethoscope: "Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"

Have you ever wondered about the childhood of Jesus, and the things He might have said and done? Other than this short passage in the second chapter of the gospel of Luke, we have no record of this part of the earlier days of Jesus’ earthly life. The Holy Spirit must have thought it best that there would be no surviving baby book, mother’s diary or school yearbooks to fill in the details of the boyhood of the Son of Man. For a true and reliable record, we have only these few verses in the gospel of Luke—a single flower plucked from the garden of the childhood of Jesus. Read with me beginning at verse 40, where Luke sum-arizes . . . And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

This verse pairs up with verse 52 as 2 slices of bread sandwiching the delicious story of Jesus being left at the Temple. There Luke records these words: And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Why this particular event was singled out by God as the only story from Jesus’ boyhood remains a mystery. One of the most favorite things for adults to do is to sit around and reminisce the funny, the foolish, the harrowing, the exasperating things their children did growing up.

You know, Luke, the thorough historian that he was, personally interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, before writing this gospel. Why hadn’t she dragged out the family album, shown a couple of family movies, you know, retrospected more about the other interesting things Jesus did. Or, maybe she did, and Luke did not have the Spirit’s editorial approval to include it here. Maybe it didn’t seem important to them. It could be that Mary was so strongly affected (wouldn’t any of us parents be?) by the events she lived through that she had no desire to reminisce, or quite possibly the trauma of His death and the glory of his resurrection simply overshadowed everything else.

Let’s enter into this singular account left to us and see what God may give us to learn and consider. Pray with me: Lord, we come to Your Word, hungry to know You more and better. Teach us what you would have us to know.

The Tradition (2:41-42)

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

It was a matter of Jewish custom and law that every adult male Jew who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover. In fact, every Jew, anyplace in the world, should attend that feast in Jerusalem at least once in their lifetime. Turning 12, Jesus would now be considered a man, a “son of the Law”, and now responsible to keep the Law. And for the first time, the boy Jesus accompanied his parents to Jerusalem.

I can imagine that as they walked the steep hill up to the city of Jerusalem, something began to stir in this adolescent. Entering the city, don’t you suppose the Spirit of God moved within him? Twenty years from this moment he will enter again, riding a donkey in keeping with Zechariah’s prophecy. He would be welcomed by hundreds waving branches and worshiping the Lord, declaring Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!

And stepping into the courtyard of the Great Temple, don’t you imagine, must have been an awesome experience for Jesus!

Was there a niggling, a faint sense that here was a point of destiny for him? That one day he would drive wicked money-changers out of this courtyard. That here he would declare that he was the “living water”; here he would teach the true nature of sacrificial giving; here he would defiantly prophesy that soon not one stone of this Temple would be standing, but all would be thrown down; here he would foretell his second coming, he would gather his elect from the four winds, and judge the world.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away, he will tell the people from this very pulpit. I wonder if he had any inkling. Was there perhaps a dawning realization? I think something stirred in Jesus; the Holy Spirit certainly was involved in putting him in the situation he was about to enter.

The Lingering ()

After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.

Passover in Jerusalem was a seven-day affair, but it’s in the first three days that all the good stuff happens. Once the common folks experienced the worship and the Paschal meal, it was pretty much over for them. A little like leaving during the seventh inning stretch when the Cardinals are winning by five runs—you know? We’ve seen the good stuff, let’s beat the traffic and get home. Off the family went, headed back to Nazareth, but Jesus lingered. Transfixed by the pageantry and religious meaning in his first Jerusalem Passover, the drama of seeing his first temple sacrifices, immersed in a crowd of over 200,000 worshiping Jews!

Then there was the Bible study. The time when the men of the faith would stay on for the next few days, studying, dialoguing, debating the scriptures. When Jesus saw the elders talking about the Word of Father God, something must have come over him. He was attracted to this group like a moth to a flame. Something deep within him told him this is where he belonged. In a sense he became unhinged, partially disengaged from his earthly family. A new, intriguing sense of his calling began to dawn on him. Later he would say that dialoguing Word was the Father’s work for him. So he sat and listened, learned and entered into the discussions.

Meanwhile, back at the caravan, some parents are suddenly worried. We 21st century folks like to travel in our little nuclear families—you know, 3 or 4 in a single car, maybe 5. The Jews of that day traveled with their extended families and friends, in large groups of maybe a hundred people. It is easy to see how one child might have been overlooked for a couple days—Oh, he’s probably with his cousins up front; I’m sure he’s fine; after all, where else could he be? Don’t worry, we’ll find him.
But they didn’t. Soon Mary and Joseph realized Jesus wasn’t with the other parent or anywhere in the group. I can almost imagine what Adam Childers and his wife felt like when 3-year old Joshua walked out of the house determined to go to grandma’s house. 2 harrowing days later they found him in the Mark Twain Forest, a half mile from home, dehydrated, bereft of one shoe and one pull-up, but mostly fine. What did the Childers parents go through during those 50-plus hours? Guilty because they hadn’t been more careful? Frightened for his safety? Worried someone had taken Joshua?

The Search (2:45-46)

Following a search among the family and friends in the caravan, Mary, with I’m sure concerns not unlike the Childers’, outpaced Joseph hurrying back to Jerusalem. Verses 45-46 tell us how it turned out, and where their 12-year-old had been.

When they did not find him they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

Three days! That’s a long time of uncertainty for Joseph and Mary. The wording is a little awkward, so we don’t know if it was three days of travel and they found him right away or just one day of travel to Jerusalem and two days of searching among the thousands of people in the city. What must Mary have been going through during those long hours? It’s one thing to lose a child, but the child? The child of promise? Forgive me, but I can imagine her thinking, What is God going to say about this?

They turn the corner near the courtyard of the Temple and what do they see? Their son hobnobbing with the teachers of the law. Relief washes over them and they rush the scene to take their boy in their arms. They notice, though, how comfortable Jesus looks among the elders and teachers. They’re actually letting him interact with them!

The Wisdom (2:47-48a)

For days following the Passover meal, the teachers of the Law, the elders and other interested scholastic types sit around one area of the Temple courtyards discussing the scriptures and the applications of the Law of Moses. Some people do Tai Chi on the beach, others play chess at the park. These men love to interact with one another about theology. And this is their special place and time. They let others sit in and listen and occasionally someone less intimidated that most will ask a question, just to hear the wizened scholars discuss the issue.

Today, though, they have a young-n among them. He’s jumping in regularly with questions—and they’re good ones! This precocious boy even offers answers in the discussion, and they make sense! They seem astonished at the level of wisdom Jesus demonstrates. Which further intrigues his parents. By the way, forget the over-done images of Jesus wowing the big dogs with extreme insights, turning the tables and becoming the teacher. That didn’t happen and I don’t know who dreamed such a thing up. Jesus was simply asking questions and answers that were way above the spiritual IQ of a 12-year-old, that’s all. But the teachers took notice.

The Mother and Son Dialogue (2:48-50)

His mother said to him, “Son why have your treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!

And now, mom and dad have arrived. Could it be the boy had become so engrossed he forgot the time? But it was more than three days? Did he talk through the night? Where did he sleep? What did he eat? Why didn’t he call? (Oh, no cell phones, right) How does Mary handle the whole thing? Just like a mother! What would you say, moms? I know, Where have you been, young man? We have been worried sick! Pretty close to Mary’s response—she’s a mom!

Mom’s live, eat, sleep and breathe the health and safety of their children! That’s what they do! They turn into mama bears when their cubs are threatened. They love their children with godly care and nurture. Worry comes naturally when that’s your job description.

Not to mention, there was never a single day that Mary did not remember this one, this first-born son, is God’s child. She was inseminated by a miracle of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh! This was no ordinary boy! I’ve watched closely the parents of special needs kids and how they dote on those kids. How would you parent the son of God, moms? Mary lived out the anxiety and awesome responsibility of this role every day of her life.

The Critical Reply (2:48-50)

But never had her son ever done something so foolish, so irresponsible, so insensitive to her and his step father! Her question: Why have you treated us like this? And it’s a good, fair question. But he returns his mother’s serves as deftly as he had the questions of the elders. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked.Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?

I don’t think we should understand this as a son giving lip to his mother, or as any kind of a disrespectful answer. Jesus was now finding his element, his calling. His heart has been captured by God, and he will, from now on, be a teacher. He knew it! We can imagine he had at least some understanding of his deeper calling as the Messiah of Israel, and Savior of the world, but for now, the boy-to-man Jesus was now so sure of his direction in life that he was ready to start, and he must shoot straight with his mother.

When Jesus said, …my Father’s house, Mary and Joseph heard something they probably expected to hear ever Bethlehem. They had always known Jesus was their son for a short time; now they knew, though they did not have the whole picture, their son was going to be fully devoted to his heavenly Father.

He had to make it clear to them that they must begin to release him into this calling. It would be another 18 years before Jesus would be baptized by his cousin John and officially begin his ordained ministry, but Jesus has staked his claim, made his stand and confirmed his calling. Moms (and dads), this is perfectly natural and right. Begin expecting now for your children (each one of them) to do or say things that will let you know they’re moving on to independent adulthood. There will be a ring of authority in their voice, and the sting of hurt when they say it.

The Return (2:51-52)

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Jesus returns to his home, temporary though it will be, and he will submit to his parents and serve as a good son, but make no mistake about it, he is changed. He is called. I love what verses 50 and 51 say about Mary: she didn’t understand, and she treasured all these things in her heart. Moms, I know you can understand that. How long you have done for your kids more than anyone, including your husband, will ever know; and how often these kids have made you wonder, are these children really mine, or were they switched at birth? Are they even human?

Growing up is hard. We adults have forgotten, fortunately. But while these precious souls whom God has entrusted to your care bump and bruise themselves on the treacherous road to maturity, I encourage you: remember Mary. You will often not understand, just treasure all these things in your heart. That’s your calling. Verse 52 finishes the sandwich. Would you notice something about that oft-quoted verse? Jesus did what was perfectly normal—he grew up! So will your children. Start preparing yourself. Your child will not be the Messiah, but he or she will be going toward their calling in God. Pray and prepare now to let them go when that time comes.

What Moms May Expect

  •  You will be hurt

  • Your kids must leave

  •  Your God is with you

  •  You will always be loved

Tracy sat at the piano. She talked about the difficult week she'd just been through. Chaotic, she said—a mess of petty crises on top of a rash of minor accidents, all mixed up in a soup can of crazy busyness. It had left her weary and cranky. She got up that Sunday to lead worship and felt spent, with nothing more to give.

But Tracy's 8-year-old daughter, Brenna, had helped her gain perspective earlier that morning. When Tracy walked into the living room, she saw the window was covered with scrawl. Using a crayon, Brenna had scribbled something across the picture window, top to bottom and side to side.

At first, it seemed like one more mess for Tracy to clean up. Then she saw what Brenna had written: love, joy, peace, patience, kindnece, goodnece, faithfulnece, gentlnece and selfcantrol Tracy stopped, drank it in. Her heart flooded with light. It was exactly what she needed to be reminded about: the gift of the fruit of the Spirit that arises, not by our circumstances, but by Christ within us.

And then Tracy noticed one more thing Brenna had written at the edge of the window: Love one another. Only Brenna, in her creative spelling, had written: Love won another.

It's what Jesus has been trying to tell us all along. You were won that way. Now go and do likewise.



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