2 Christmas Proper C2 alternate
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 2:41-52 Sermon
January 3, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
42 "O Come All Ye Faithful"
30 "Angels We Have Heard On High"
41 "Once In Royal David's City"
49 "Thy Little Ones, Dear Lord Are We"
47 "Away In A Manger"
A TWELVE YEAR-OLD SAVIOUR
TEXT (vs. 41-42; 51-52): "41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom....51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
Do you remember when you were twelve years old? I certainly can remember that time in my life. I was in grade seven, just starting junior high school. It was the beginning of some big changes in my life. I had to get used to a completely different way of school. Instead of being in the same classroom with the same teacher each day with my own desk, I now had to move from room-to-room for different classes. That was a difficult adjustment for me.
And then, that's the year we moved from our little town of Emerson to Lincoln. So I had barely gotten used to a different type of school, when yet another big change happened. I went from living in a rural farming community to living in the suburbs of a big city. Even though I liked the change, still it took a lot of adjustment for me. I didn't have the same old friends around anymore. I was in a new home, a new church, and another new school. Even today, I still wonder how different my life would have been had we not moved when we did. It probably would have been a lot less stress for me at the time.
But I was changing too. I was growing up. I was beginning to make the transition between childhood and adolescence. It's almost like doing a balancing act with one foot each in two different worlds. There's that part of you that still wants to be a child and do the things a child does, and the other part that's ready for more grown-up type things. It can be a real internal struggle at times.
Now if you take all this and add a new batch of hormones to the mixture, it can be a real emotional roller coaster. I wasn't really the rebellious sort, but I do remember feeling frustration, and getting especially irritated when people would treat me like a little kid. After all, I was practically a teenager! And I was growing up.
I don't know what life was like for you at that age. But thinking back to the various psychology classes I've taken, I know that I definitely wasn't alone. From what I can determine, I was pretty much normal. Some people have a rougher time of it and some don't. A lot depends on the various physical and psychological factors in a person's make-up, as well as the general environment.
Let's consider what a normal twelve year-old is like, and what that person knows and is capable of. Their reading skills are sufficient so they can read and understand a newspaper, or a normal instruction booklet that's included in various purchased items. Their mathematical skills are such that they can make change, balance a checkbook, figure out prices at the supermarket, or average baseball scores. Their verbal skills are such that they can communicate with just about anybody. They can do various tasks with a reasonable amount of skill. They have the ability to comprehend things, figure things out, and make rational decisions. And when it comes to computers--well, I've often wished for a twelve year-old to come and figure things out for me when I'm having trouble.
As we look at our Gospel reading for today, I think that it is important for us to remember that Jesus was twelve years old too. And I've got to think that having God the Son, begotten of the Father from eternity, in the flesh of a twelve year-old human boy has to be an interesting mix, to say the least.
Let's consider the words of Hebrews chapter 4 verse 15 which read: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin."
That's one of those verses that we tend to look at through adult eyes, with Jesus being tempted with all the human frailties we experience as adults. But in light of our Gospel reading for today, this also applies to Jesus as a boy. If you think about all of the things that tempt someone that age to sin, we know that Jesus experienced all of that as well.
It could be anything from lying, shoplifting, back-talking, skipping school, rebelling, or maybe even the ornery prank or two. Whatever tempts a twelve year-old to sin, Jesus knows all about it because he experienced it. And if any parents have ever been at their wit's end about their child's behavior, they would probably find it difficult to believe that Jesus was actually tempted to do the very same things.
As we study the Bible, it doesn't take too much for us to notice the huge gap in time in reporting about the life of Jesus. After Mary and Joseph's flight into Egypt, suddenly things jump ahead to Jesus being twelve, and then there's another huge jump in time to when Jesus was in his thirties. There are other apocryphal and spurious writings that talk about Jesus during those in-between years, most of which are highly questionable.
But just as God had good reasons for including what he has in the inspired pages of Scripture, we know he also had a good reason for including this one small story about Jesus in his adolescent years. So let's dig a bit and see what we can discover about the importance of this incident.
For starters, the Jews traditionally used the age of twelve years as an arbitrary age of adulthood. Twelve year-old children were not much different than they are now. By this age, they had been schooled in their faith and had come to a reasonable understanding about how things worked. In those days especially, it wouldn't be too many more years until that person would get married and have a family of their own. But they still walked that fine line between childhood and adolescence, and they were still in this state of transition.
So now we see Jesus with his family. Passover was a high holy festival, and those who could make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem would do so. Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, which was about 65 miles away. It's not an easy trip when you consider that most people made the trip by donkey or on foot. It took several days. But this family knew the importance of being faithful, so they made the trip. And they didn't make it by themselves either; there was a whole group of them who travelled caravan-style.
Now I'm sure that Jesus enjoyed making the trip with people his own age. After all, what twelve year-old wants to be stuck with his parents, when there are others of his own age group? We have to remember that Jesus was human too, and he enjoyed the things that other people did.
So when Mary and Joseph started back to Nazareth after the Passover feast was over, they wouldn't have thought anything about the fact that Jesus was not travelling with them. They went the whole day thinking he was with some of his other friends or relatives. It wasn't until they stopped for the night that they realized he was nowhere to be found. And like any parents would be, this upset them.
So they leave the group, travel back to Jerusalem, and search for Jesus. Where could this twelve year-old child be? They would have searched the various places that would appeal to such a person. But they still couldn't find him.
Finally they found him in the temple, and he's talking to the church leaders and the high religious figures of the day. What was so amazing about all of this, is that he was carrying on a conversation with them like no other twelve year-old would ever have. As precocious as some children are at that age, this went way beyond that. Jesus was able to communicate with them at a spiritual level that was deeper than anything they had experienced from an adult, let alone an adolescent boy.
When Mary and Joseph finally find him, Mary scolds him for deserting them. Verse 48 of our text says, "When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.'" Naturally, Mary uses the term "your father" meaning Joseph. They were the ones searching.
But Jesus straightens this out very quickly. In verse 49 he responds, "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"
Jesus very respectfully, but directly straightens things out. In the family situation, Joseph would have been seen as Jesus' father, even though he was the step-father. But God was his real Father, and they needed to be reminded of that fact. Jesus was indeed true God in human flesh.
One very important thing is brought out in the final two verses of the story. Verses 51-52 read: "51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
Jesus was obedient to them. A little while back, I quoted the words of Hebrews chapter 4 verse 15: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin."
We need to be reminded why Jesus came in the first place. He came to keep God's law perfectly. He kept the law on our behalf, so that through faith alone, his righteousness would be ours. The Bible gives us examples of how Jesus kept those Ten Commandments without ever having one slip-up or goof.
But when it comes to "Honor your father and mother," we needed to see how Jesus kept that commandment perfectly as well. Oh certainly we see Jesus obeying those in authority, especially with examples such as paying taxes that are due. Christians are to be good citizens and give proper respect to the authority figures in their lives.
However the only way we can see Jesus actually obeying this commandment in a family setting is to report about a situation where this actually happened. He went home with them to Nazareth, and he was obedient to them. And as he grew, people noticed how good and well behaved he was. Indeed he gained favor amongst the people.
As we take stock of our lives, I would imagine that we can remember situations in our own childhoods where we have sinned. We know we've misbehaved, and we probably got punished for it. And if we're honest with ourselves, most of the time we probably deserved it too.
For a child, God can seem so far off and distant. Jesus can appear to be out-of-touch with a child's world. How does Jesus know what I'm thinking and feeling? Well guess what, Jesus has been there. He's felt what you're feeling. He knows what's going on.
Twelve year-olds need a Saviour just as much as anybody else does. God extends his grace to everybody, regardless of age, because as it says in Romans chapter 3 verse 23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Everybody needs the righteousness Christ offers through faith alone. Everybody needs a Saviour.
The very next verse of Romans 3, which is verse 24 continues on, "and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Everybody has a Saviour.
God the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of people regardless of age. This is the faith that causes people to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord of their life. It would be impossible for us to make a conscious choice in this matter based upon something we do ourselves. It's God and God alone that works this miracle in our lives.
A personal faith is something that is as individual as we are. We can't believe for somebody else. Children can't ride on their parents' coat-tails through the gates of heaven. We can't sneak our relatives past the judge of all. Everybody needs their own personal faith in Jesus, and there are no exceptions to this.
That's why it is so important to see Jesus in various stages of his life on earth. Jesus is the Saviour with which everybody can identify, regardless of age. Jesus knows us each individually, and he loves us personally like nobody else can. God the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to accept Jesus, and he promises to sustain that faith throughout our lives.
Before the sermon this morning, we sang one of my favorite Christmas hymns, "Once In Royal David's City." I'd like to leave you this morning with verses 3 and 4 of that hymn, verses that can be applied to our lives regardless of age.
And through all his wondrous childhood,
he would honor and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden,
in whole gentle arms he lay;
Christian children all must be,
mild, obedient, good as he.
For he is our childhood's pattern:
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak, and helpless;
tears and smiles like us he knew;
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness. (SBH 41:3-4)