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THE SON OF GOD AT 12 YEARS OLD

Luke 2:41-2:52
Key Verse: 2:49

Luke was the only one among the four gospel writers who recorded the childhood of Jesus. Through Luke, we came to know the life of 12 years old Jesus. In that sense, this passage is very unique, and studying this passage gives us the whole picture of who Jesus is and why he came to this world. It is like putting the last missing piece of puzzle to complete the whole picture. May God open our spiritual eyes to see who Jesus is and how the life of the boy Jesus is relevant to our life of faith.

The story happened this way. Look at verse 41. “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. The Feast lasted a week, and we expect to hear that Jesus and his parents came back home safely when the Feast was over. But the story gets complicated. Look at verse 43. “After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” After one day of journey for return, the parents found that Jesus was missing. Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have been terrified when she realized that she lost Jesus, the Messiah of the world. Their search for missing child began. We know how desperately parents search for their missing child. They began to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. Look at verse 48. “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Here, we want to think about three things about Jesus.

First, Jesus’ great spiritual desire (46-47) How could Jesus be left behind, spending 3 days with the teachers? I heard some kids can play video games without sleeping and eating for many days. As a young boy who probably went to Jerusalem for the first time in his life, he would have been excited by many things. But the boy Jesus spent 3 days in the temple courts for intensive Bible study, forgetting the fact that he became a missing child. This incident shows Jesus’ great spiritual desire for God and God’s word. At that time, the teachers in the temple were Jewish Rabbis who were like doctors and theologians of the Scriptures. Jesus did not only listen to them in great learning mind, but also asked questions that came from his deep understanding of God’s word. Everyone including those teachers was amazed at Jesus’ understanding and his answers. It seems that Jesus’ understanding of God’s word surpassed everyone including those doctors and theologians of his time. Here we can raise one important question? How is it possible that even Jesus needed to understand the word of God and grow in wisdom as the Son of God? However, verse 52 gives us a clear answer. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” This is the mystery of Jesus’ humanity. We know that Jesus is God, and he is fully divine. But at the same time Jesus is fully human. When he came to this world, he emptied himself and became a man. Some Bible scholars say that one of the things Jesus emptied himself of was his omniscience. I am not still fully convinced of this. But one thing is certain based on this passage. As a man, even Jesus needed to learn and grow in understanding the wisdom of God, as his physical stature grew. How much more do we need to understand and grow in the wisdom and understanding of God? Nobody should say he learned enough of God or the word of God. How much more is it true for us if we want to serve God’s flock as Bible teachers to lead them to God? We must sit down, listening and asking questions, and keep on asking questions until everything begins to fit together. As we know, listening and asking questions are the most important qualities in the process of learning and growing. Good students in class are those who listen carefully and ask questions. We must be humble, and open-minded in studying the boundless word of God. We need great learning mind as well as many questions concerning the things of God. We must also study and read the Bible diligently and with prayer. I was challenged when I heard that one of our missionaries wants to read the Bible 4 times this year. I doubted my ears because it was hard for me even to read one time. Timothy 3:16 and 17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Through Bible study we can come to know God personally. Through Bible study, we can understand God’s will and his purpose. Through Bible study, we can be thoroughly equipped for every good work that pleases God. Toronto was hit by severe ice storm this winner I have never seen in my life in Toronto. Many trees fell on electric lines and caused power outage for many people. Some trees completely fell from the root into the roof of cars. But the trees with deep root stood firm and survived the ice storm. Likewise, those who take deep root in the word of God will stand firm in any trials of life and become fruitful trees like trees planted by the streams of water and yield fruits in seasons. (Psalm 1:3) May God give us such a great spiritual desire for the word of God like that of the Son of God at 12 years old.

Second, Jesus’ self-awareness of his identity and his mission (48-50) When Jesus’ parents saw him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, 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.” What was Jesus’ response? “Why were you searching for me?” He asked, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus’ response would astonish them even more. These words are the first words of Jesus recorded in the Bible. Verse 50 says, “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” And verse 51b says, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Probably, Luke wrote this story by hearing it from Mary through personal interview. Through these words of Jesus we can learn mainly two things about Jesus. Firstly, Jesus was aware of his identity as the Son of God. We do not know when the boy Jesus began to understand his identity as the Son of God. Surely, his parents told him about his identity based on the Scriptures and their own experiences. Also, Jesus would know it through his inherent knowledge about himself. But based on this passage, we can see that the Jesus at 12 years old began to enter into his personal relationship with his Father in heaven. And during the next 18 years of his life, he grew in understanding of God as his Father and in his personal relationship with the Father God until he was fully aware of his identity and his mission from God. In the same way, as children of God, our understanding of our Father in heaven and our relationship with him must grow as we grow day by day and year by year. Our understanding of God this year must be deeper and more personal than last year. Secondly, Jesus was aware of his mission from God. “I had to be in my Father’s house” can also be translated into “I must be about my Father’s business.”(KJV) At that time, 12 year old boy would begin to involve in his father’s business. Probably, Jesus began to learn carpentry from his father Joseph as an apprentice. But in this verse Jesus was telling that he was not just a son of his human father. He is the Son of God, and his involvement of his Father’s business takes priority over all other matters of life, even his human relationship with his parents. That is what Jesus realized at this stage of his life. These words of Jesus set a stage for his future public ministry that would start in the next chapter of Luke’s gospel. The 12 year old boy Jesus was fully aware of who he was and what he was going to do as the Son of God. As the Son of God, Jesus understood his Father’s business, which is the redemptive work of God. As the Son of God, Jesus was now doing his Father’s business in his Father’s house by sharing the word of God with people. As the Son of God, Jesus would prepare himself to do God’s business through his public ministry.

We can just say that Jesus’ understanding of himself and his mission is different from ours because he is the Son of God. But we must know that all men created in the image of God are capable of understanding his identity and his mission before God. For example, Moses, when he grew up, understood his identity as one of God’s chosen people and also his mission to deliver God’s people from the slavery of Egypt. These words of Jesus tell us that we as God’s children must have the awareness of our identity and our mission before God.

Third, Jesus was obedient to his parents (51-52) Even after his self-awareness of his identity and his mission, Jesus went back to his hometown and was obedient to his parents. Jesus’ humility was best described in his obedience. Soon after, his father disappeared from the scene, and he became ‘the man of family’ as an oldest son. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” For 18 years of his youth, Jesus was obedient to his human parents, then for 3 years of his ministry, he was obedient to his Father in heaven, even to death on the cross. Verse 52 says, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” This verse tells us what happened to Jesus for the next 18 years until he began his public ministry. The Son of God grew physically, intellectually, and spiritually through normal process of growth as a man. He also grew in personal relationship with God as well as relationships with people.

Thank God for giving us the privilege of learning of Jesus the Son of God at 12 years old. I learned that Jesus became our perfect role model in every stage and in every aspect of our life. We need role model to look at and follow in our life. I heard that Nelson Mandala was the role model of Barak Obama. But no man can be a perfect role model for others no matter how great he is. Jesus the Son of God is our perfect role model to look at and follow in every stage and every aspect of our life. He is the perfect role model for young boy like Christopher as well as quite an old man like me. Jesus became our perfect role model through his life and his death and through his resurrection. As we start a new year of 2014, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Most of all, may God help us to grow in wisdom and understanding of God’s word by studying the Bible with great spiritual desire like Jesus. May God help us to grow as his useful servants whom God can use for his business, his great redemptive work through the gospel of Jesus.

BY James Lee

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