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Luke 2:41-51: The Boy Jesus
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49
This is such a profound, prophetic answer precipitated by such a common incident of life. We have all heard those highly emotional words of Mary from our own mother’s, haven’t we? “Philip, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48). Remember the embarrassment of the scene? Your mother’s red eyes, your friends looking on and your dad shuffling uncomfortably in the background.
But this was different. It wasn’t a thoughtless adventure on Jesus’ part. He had been left behind! Have you done that too? Left a child behind? I have. That’s mega-embarrassing!
Notice the pivotal word here, “father”. “Your father and I…” “My Father’s house”. This answer is most profound. It is not a statement to counter embarrassment or guilt, rather it is an emotional declaration from the heart of the boy Jesus, saying out loud what he had already come to realise within his own consciousness. Jesus knew he was indeed, “The Son of the most High.” God was directly his “Father” and he was captivated.
The questions found in verses 49-50 would have been unfeeling and impertinent questions had not there been plenty of clues as to the probable whereabouts of their son. Having returned to Jerusalem, they spent near on a whole day looking in the wrong places. Had they not noticed his intense delight at the Feast of the Passover celebrations and the spectacle and worship of the Temple? Everything about their son was uniquely of God, His birth, His names, His conversation and especially His behaviour day on day – otherworldly holy – you might say.
You see the Temple was that one special place of God dwelling with His people. It was there that God’s people could through sacrifice and worship come especially close to their God. To the people it proclaimed, “God with us – Immanuel.” However, God was certainly not restricted to His Temple since He is the God of heaven and earth, but it was His appointed place and designed to meet His requirements.
If one of Jesus’ school mates in Nazareth had asked Mary where Jesus was, she would probably have often answered, “He’s up the workshop with His dad …spends most of His time up there!” You see over the 7 days of Passover, the Temple for Jesus had become a home from home. It is clear that Jesus’ parents were struggling with His identity. He’s just like other boys but yet He’s so different. You can see that in v50 and v51, they couldn’t get the pieces of the jig-saw together. Astonishing things were happening but they still “did not understand”. However, in v 51 you can see that Mary is keeping the pieces safe in her heart. She was treasuring up the words of God.
Providentially, it was important that Mary and Joseph did not have the full picture at this stage. Just think how it might have impacted upon their family life. The realisation would have been overwhelming and Jesus might have had a less than a normal upbringing.
Do you find you have a lot of questions? Well, take heart. Great theological minds have struggled with passages like this one down through the centuries. This story is a powerful example of the two particular incarnation truths expressed in Hebrews and Philippians:
- He was “Made like his brothers in every way” Hebrews 2:17
- “Taking the very nature of a servant.” Philippians 2:7
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) Jesus, the eternal Son of the most High, in His voluntary state of humiliation had to grow and develop. We can only tip-toe with great care to the edge of this incredible mystery. The self-existent One chose to have a childhood. We can truly say, our Saviour is indeed one of us. We see him as baby, toddler and adolescent! And this is not the superman Jesus of the apocryphal writings either, doing meaningless stunts e.g. making clay pigeons that fly away.
What are we to make of this amazing Jesus? The data of Scripture clearly shows that He did not have a dual personality. He was one and the same person as He was before time began. He had two natures, the one from eternity and the one which He took on at the incarnation. He was fully God and fully Man at one and the same time. Augustine said “He became what he was not, but did not cease to be what he was.”
How could he become like us then? Again, the data of Scripture would lead us to the conclusion that “He places in abeyance for a time and by Covenant agreement, his right to draw on the resources of his own Godhead” but instead “he drew all his strength from God through the Spirit.” He had “the Spirit without limit”. Dr Hugh Martin [1822-1885]
An example of this is here in the passage at v46. This is mystery of all mysteries. Mary and Joseph find him at an open university session held on the Temple terrace. What was Jesus doing? He wasn’t teaching (although His insightful answers would have been “amazing” to hear and were “astonishing” to His parents), He was listening to the Word of his Father (the Law and the Prophets) expounded and confirming His growing understanding with questions and answers. Because he was the Son of the Most High and knew the Holy Spirit intimately, His conclusions were spiritually astonishing.
As impossible as it might seem, Jesus’ earthly spiritual pilgrimage was mediated by the Holy Spirit similar to how it is with us. Jesus had to assimilate Scripture and pray like us but without sin to hinder and a perfect Father-Son relationship to sustain.
- “Taking the very nature of a servant.”
In one sense we have already touched upon this but look at that verse v51 and take it in conjunction with v 52. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Why is this statement here? Did it mean that from now on Jesus was going to be good? Does it imply that until the Feast Jesus’ behaviour had been a bit up and down?
Not at all. He had declared openly to his parents His true identity. The feelings developing over time in His heart had been irrepressible. He was the Son of the Most High, directly and not by adoption. He could have stood immediately upon His status and ordered everyone in His sight to prompt obedience.
This statement is astounding. It is our Saviour “Taking the very nature of a servant” expressed at this time in His being an adolescent boy, under Law, honouring His mother and father. Down to Nazareth is literally down. From Jerusalem at 2,500 feet to Nazareth at 680 feet below sea level! Jesus was on the downward path of His humbling and fulfilling that crucial role of servant. The road was to lead into obscurity for 18 years. Most likely He became head of the family looking after His siblings and putting bread on the table from His carpentry trade. How He must have longed to be on the road teaching folk about the way of salvation. But whilst it seemed wasted time, it wasn’t. Every bit was necessary for our salvation. What a truly wonderful Saviour we have. Truly indescribable!
This morning, we have two fathers if we are believers. Our biological earthly father and our Heavenly Father who has adopted us. And what is true of Jesus should become true for us.
- Is the Father’s business your business? Is it the main driver in your life to be in fellowship with God about those things that please him?
- In your servanthood as a believer, no step down should be too low. How low have you gone for Christ?
- Is your holiness gaining “favour with God and men”? Is your holiness attractive?
- Do you realise? He knows just how you feel. He’s been there before!
Have you got two Father’s? And I am not talking about a biological father and a step-dad? You need to be adopted by the one in Heaven. It can happen immediately the moment you repent of your rebel ways and trust in His Son who took your penalty at the cross 2000 years ago. You won’t have to wait for adoption papers or trial visits etc. The cost was entirely borne by Jesus himself. The Fatherhood of God is a free gift that he offers you right now.