Have you ever known a child who seemed bright way beyond their years? A friend was telling me a story about her granddaughter who is in kindergarten. She was in the backyard with her dad who was wondering why the grass under the ice rink he’d built that winter survived better than the brown grass around it. His 5-year-old daughter asked, “Daddy, was it because of the even pressure of the ice on the grass?” Dad was rather surprised his daughter had any idea about pressure.
I wonder what it was like for Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus?
Luke 2: 39 – 52 NLT
39 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
Jesus Speaks with the Teachers
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travellers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.”
Have you ever wondered what Jesus would have been like as a child? What would he know? Did he have an IQ ‘off the charts’? Luke is the only gospel writer who mentions Jesus’ childhood. Remember that Luke was a physician who travelled with Paul. He was not one of the original disciples or followers of Jesus. As he wrote Luke and Acts for his friend, Theophilus, he wanted to make sure he had all the details correct. In his investigations, he likely interviewed Mary to get the account right from the beginning.
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honourable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” (Luke 1: 1 – 4)
Luke starts out with “the child grew up healthy and strong”. Can you imagine Luke talking with Mary about little Jesus? Apparently physically he was a great kid. He was also “filled with wisdom”. I don’t think that meant he somehow had God’s infinite superior mind as a child. He wasn’t a little body with a hidden mind capable of ruling the universe. But he was known for his wisdom; people around him realized he did good things, behaved well. We know Jesus was without sin, so he would have been kind, generous, helpful – definitely not selfish. “God’s favour was on him”. People in Nazareth knew he was a special person. I think he would have been a wonderful child to have around the house.
But then we hear about an incident when Jesus was twelve. Jewish boys had their bar mitzvah at the age of 12/13. That was when they were officially considered responsible for their own faith in God. Perhaps that is why Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem for that Passover festival so he could see what was involved in adult worship and practice.
The fact that Mary and Joseph didn’t realize Jesus wasn’t with them on the way home doesn’t mean they were irresponsible parents. They were travelling with friends and relatives from Nazareth. Have you ever gone on social events or holidays with family and/or friends with your kids? The summer I finished high school, my family and my dad’s brother’s family travelled to the west coast together as a last family holiday since myself and my cousins were all about to leave home for university. At the time there were 7 kids all together in these 2 families, and we changed up cars all the time to talk with our various cousins. One day, we managed to leave my youngest sister who was 7 years old behind after a stop. It didn’t take too long before my dad realized the numbers in the cars weren’t right – and back we went. So … I understand that Mary and Joseph didn’t notice Jesus was missing in the crowd along the road. Keeping track of your kids is sometimes ‘tricky’.
But they had travelled a day away from Jerusalem and now had a day’s trek back. Then they had to look around Jerusalem. Can you imagine how frightened Mary was knowing she hadn’t seen Jesus for 3 days? No wonder Mary said, “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” I guess so! But Jesus had been in the Temple talking and asking questions of the religious leaders, who were “amazed at his understanding and his answers”. At the age of 12, Jesus was beyond what was expected by the Temple teachers.
Then Jesus gives a strange reply to Mary’s question. “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what he meant (v. 50). By the age of twelve, Jesus is understanding he is not a typical human being. Yet he returned to Nazareth and was “obedient” to his parents. In fact, we don’t see Jesus again until he is 30 years old when he appears at the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
Verse 52 states, “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.” Notice that this time it mentions wisdom before physical growth – a switch from verse 39. Jesus is known in Nazareth for his wisdom and the people love him. He was a carpenter continuing in the family business. (Mark 6: 3)
This snapshot view into Jesus’ younger years shows us an amazing child and young man who is known for his wisdom and is loved by people. He was that special child! But he was also humble. Can you imagine God in human form being obedient to his parents and living with them for 30 years? Wow!
That is one more piece of evidence of God’s love for us. He was willing to leave heaven, become human and live with us. He was willing to obey parents who were sinful and flawed beings. In our culture today, we emphasize being individuals and standing up for our own rights and opinions. It’s almost a culture of “Me First”. Jesus tells us “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 38) Jesus demonstrated that beginning in his childhood.
“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.”
Our song for today is Behold Him by Paul Baloche