Sunday, January 08, 2012

Luke 2:41-52 - The Boy Jesus

The Boy Jesus with the Jewish Rabbis
Contextual Notes:
We have come to the end of what is called the Birth Narrative in Luke. All along the focus has been on how this baby who is coming will fulfill the covenants of Abraham and David.

Luke calls his reader to reject unbelief and embrace belief in this Child who has been born. The birth narrative began with an unbelieving priest in the Temple and ends with the Great High Priest in the Temple.

The Passover Jerusalem visit of the twelve-year-old Jesus is the only account about Jesus’ childhood found in the four Gospels. (There are false “infancy Gospels” written several centuries later that tell fanciful stories and made up legends about the boy Jesus. Sorry to inform that Jesus did not travel to India, study yoga with Far Eastern “masters”, visit with extraterrestrial beings, or learn and perform works of magic.) Luke does not include this vignette of Jesus’ childhood for the curious, but to reveal Jesus’ real human growth, as a man, mentally and physically, to show his true nature as being fully human as well as fully God.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 2:41-52 to teach believers that we are responsible before the Lord to prepare children for the work, the call, and the wisdom of the Lord in their lives.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about rearing children before the Lord.
Pray and Read:  Luke 2:41-52

Sermon Points: The boy Jesus teaches us that we are responsible to
1.   Prepare children for the work of the Lord in their lives (Luke 2:41-47)
2.   Prepare children for the call of the Lord on their lives (Luke 2:48-51)
3.   Prepare children for the wisdom of the Lord in their lives (Luke 2:52)

Exposition:   Note well,

1.   The boy Jesus is an example, teaching us that we are responsible to PREPARE CHILDREN FOR THE WORK OF THE LORD IN THEIR LIVES (Luke 2:41-47)
a.   The law of Moses required of every Jewish man three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem’s Temple (Exod. 23:17; Deut 16:6). By the first century, custom seemed to have reduced that requirement to one trip to the Temple at Passover. Mary and Joseph are doing their best to follow the teachings of Scripture, and Mary’s attendance at the Temple may be another allusion to Hannah in 1 Sam 1:7; 2:19.
b.   Luke 2:42 – When he was twelve years old: According to Jewish tradition, a boy became “a son of the Torah,” responsible to observe the law when he was thirteen years old.[1] It was customary that a year before a boy turned 13, he went with his family to the Temple for the first time to prepare him for what would be expected the rest of his life. What is important is that his parents were taking steps to prepare him for his covenantal responsibility before the Lord as a responsible man of the Teaching (Torah) of God.[2]
c.   Luke 2:43-45 – Jesus stayed behind: The journey down from Jerusalem to Nazareth is about 80 miles (going around Samaria), and would take about 3-4 days. How could Jesus’ parents leave Jerusalem without him? The family is probably traveling in a caravan of relatives and friends for protection from roadside bandits. In these caravans, neighbors would watch the community children together, and the near-adult Jesus would have naturally been with companions. Mary and Joseph were probably tending to younger children by this time.  
d.   Luke 2:46 – After three days: The three days then probably tells us the total time from their departure from the Feast to the discovery of Jesus in the Temple courts (one day out, and Jesus is nowhere to be found at the first night’s encampment, one day back to Jerusalem, a day searching).
e.   Luke 2:46 – In the temple courts among the teachers. In Luke 2:21-40, Jesus intrigued the prophets Anna and Simeon in the Temple. In Luke 2:41-52, Jesus intrigues the rabbis and teachers in the Temple. One day Jesus himself would come and teach in the Temple courts during his ministry (Luke 19:47).
f.    Some Jewish rabbis conducted class in the Temple courts, but more likely, during the large feasts such as Passover, rabbis would gather people and teach in the Temple courts, answering questions and expounding the Torah. Jesus takes the traditional Jewish position as a disciple, sitting at the feet of his teachers.[3] Jesus is listening to them and asking questions, following the Jewish question and answer format, questions and counter questions. What was the discussion? Perhaps the prophetic meaning of the Passover?
g.   Luke 2:47 – Jesus’ insight (synesis) and his intellectual exchange with the rabbis provoke amazement among his hearers at how well he was holding up his arguments. Jesus, yes, is the Inspiration of Scripture, but here as a 12 year old boy he demonstrates that he has been trained well in the Scripture by his parents. He knows the Word of God. In typical Jewish education, a child’s first education was the responsibility of his mother. It began as soon as he could speak and would be focused on memory work on the Psalms of Hallel (Psalm 113-118) or the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). Then at age 5 or 6 the Jewish child’s education would come under the responsibility of his father and he would memorize the first nine chapters of Leviticus. In schools connected to the local synagogue and led by the chazzan or congregational leader, as a supplement to the family’s instruction, the teacher and students would sit in a circle on the ground while the leader taught Scripture. The Bible was the only textbook until the age of 10.[4]
h.   The prophetic background to this text is the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:2, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding rested on him and the fulfillment that Jesus is to that prophecy. The wisdom and spiritual acumen Jesus demonstrates are intended to be all the more extraordinary since this event takes place prior to his turning thirteen.
i.    APPLICATION: Parents and grandparents, what are you doing to prepare your children for taking responsibility before God for their souls? What are you doing now to prepare them? Do you talk about the Lord around your table? Does your family eat once a day around a table? Do you pray before your meals? Do you have them regularly in church so that they know that worship of the Lord is a normal part of life? Do you talk to them about what God has done in your life and how he is guiding you? Do you regularly read the Bible together as a family?
j.    Are you as focused and determined on developing their souls as you are on developing their athletic abilities or their academic capacities? It will be too late to wait if you wait. You cannot wait and do your parenting when they get that age. Your window will have passed, and you will inherit the problems you created through your neglect of so great an issue.
2.   The boy Jesus is an example, teaching us that we are responsible to  PREPARE CHILDREN FOR THE CALL OF THE LORD ON THEIR LIVES (Luke 2:48-51)
a.   Luke 2:48 – Mary, like any worried mother, has reacted with fear. Her question reveals that living day-to-day with the young Messiah could cause her to let slip the promises given about her son.
b.   Luke 2:49 – I had to be in my Father’s house: or “about my Father’s business” or even “among my Father’s people.” It is an idiom. The importance here is that even before his responsibility before the Lord began at age 13, he knew that he had a mission before the Lord.
c.   Luke 2:51 – He was obedient: Jesus’ desire to be about his Father’s business was not at all disobedience or disrespect to his parents. He submitted to them. He was not a rebellious son, but kept the fifth commandment. The command to honor one’s father and mother was regarded as one of the most important in the law.
d.   Luke 2:51 - “Mary treasured these things” is the second time it is mentioned (cf. Luke 2:19).
e.   ILLUSTRATION: One of the things that we treasure in our household are things that come out of the kids’ mouths. Last Friday, after warning our three year old Ava-Grace about some discipline if she did not improve her attitude, out of the blue at the supper table she said, “If I was God, I would make kids with no fannies so they wouldn’t get spankings.” Her mind was working overtime, but her heart had not changed!
f.    APPLICATION: Parents and grandparents, are you helping your young ones to find God’s call on their lives? Whatever the field, whether of education, or politics, or electronics, or medicine, or the military, or motherhood, or missions, are you watching and helping them find God’s call on their lives? Are you opening opportunities for them to explore those areas? Are you thinking about their future and helping them understand the challenges associated with the area where the Lord is calling them?
g.   Young woman, young men, as you grow and develop, are you remaining obedient to your parents? Are you giving them proper respect? Are you rolling your eyes when they ask you to take care of the things that are your responsibility in the first place? Are you being respectful of their fears and their care for you? Did you know they are have fears as grandparents and parents about your future? They want the best for you, but they also see better than you do the challenges that lie in the way of the great opportunities in front of you. Respect and obey your parents and grandparents. They have hopes and dreams set in you, and they want the best for you. They are doing everything they can to help you. The very least you can do is give them the respect and obedience you should.
3.   The boy Jesus is an example, teaching us that we are responsible to PREPARE CHILDREN FOR THE WISDOM OF THE LORD IN THEIR LIVES (Luke 2:52)
a.   In this and Luke 2:40 we are told everything we know about Jesus between ages 2 (Matt 2:16) and thirty (Luke 3:23) except for the incident in the passage today. We know that he was known in Nazareth as a carpenter, the trade of his father Joseph (Mark 6:1-4). In those 18 years, his contemporaries became familiar with him (John 6:42; Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3). Except that he was a carpenter, we know next to nothing about Jesus’ father, Joseph.  If his brothers who later penned the NT letters of James and Jude, cousins John the Baptizer and Simon Zelotes are any indication, his home was one of simplicity and hard work. We can infer from the letter of James and the lonely life of John the Baptizer that the family’s religion was direct, earnest, vigorous, and rigorous. From the letter of Jude we see a deep interest in the end-time hopes of Israel in the Messiah. Therefore it would make sense that in politics they were apparently Jewish Nationalists (Simon the Zealot: Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13; Mark 3:18).[5]
b.   To the summary of Luke 2:40 is added here the additional information that people recognized his character as a young man (“in favor with God and man.”) Luke 2:52 echoes 1 Sam 2:26; 3:19 about the boy Samuel as well as Luke 1:80; 2:40. Isaiah 11:2-4 identifies the coming Messiah as bearing extraordinary wisdom. Humanly, he grew in wisdom even though divinely, He is Wisdom.
Invitation:
Indeed He is our Wisdom. Would you come today and find the Wisdom that is only found in Jesus Christ? That wisdom of eternal life and of forgiveness of sins?

[1] The bar-mitzvah ceremony may not have yet existed and did not become a major ceremony until the Middle Ages, according to David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 110.
[2] Samuel was also twelve years old when he received his call and began to prophesy, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.10.4 §348; 1 Sam 3), and according to 1 Kings 2:12 in the LXX, Solomon’s reign began when he was twelve.

[3] This is the only place Luke uses the term teacher (didaskalos) for the Jewish rabbis, giving a more positive connotation than lawyers (nomikos) or scribes (grammateus). The famous Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai may have been two of the teachers Jesus encountered in the temple courts.

[4] After that, according to Edersheim, the Mishnah was read between ages 10-15, then at 16 the student would enter theological discussions in the Academies of the Rabbis.

[5] Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 174-5. Edersheim says that in religion they were more of the school of Rabbi Shammai rather than Rabbi Hillel.