Sunday, February 24, 2019

Jesus at 12. (Luke 2:41-52)


This passage in Luke chapter 2, is the only glimpse the new testament gives to the child Jesus. Yes there are other accounts outside the gospels which, because of my trust in the canon of scripture, I choose to ignore.

We know he grew up in Nazareth.

We know he was the son of a carpenter.

We really know nothing of his character as a child and youth., but we can draw some conclusions, though these conclusions must be clearly understood as ideas and not fact.

From this passage we note that he was listening to the teachers.  2:45  "they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions."

I will suggest that listening reflects both humility and obedience. When a child is being taught, the most important activity for that child is to listen. The willingness to listen implies that the listener values what is being said. Proper listening gives dignity to the speaker.
Listening with the right attitude does not try to predict the content of what is being said, but is patient to hear both the content and the way in which the information is being given. There is patience as well as trust. Trust that there will be value in what is being said. Proper discussion involves listening, and then patience in being given the opportunity to ask for clarification. Sometimes that opportunity is not given.
Asking questions should not be motivated by a desire to show your own cleverness or expertise in a field, but rather to clarify an honest concern.
This is particularly true when you are listening from a point of submission.
A 12 year old boy would certainly be in a position of submission amongst a group of jewish rabbis, assuming they were adults.
So it is interesting that Luke first points out that Jesus was listening.
He was also asking questions as well as answering others questions. Luke states that all were amazed at his answers and understanding.
Again I will suggest that this shows Jesus to be extremely intelligent. I will go further to suggest his intelligence was enough to allow him to pursue any area of intellect he chose to an extremely high level. In today’s world, the sky would be the limit. Not just theology but any area of science or humanities, or arts, or even business.

Going back to the detail of everyone being amazed, I want to say that today, the media being what it is, regularly we see young people highlighted because of talents they seem to have acquired prematurely. Whether it be sporting, singing, other musical ability or amazing high IQs allowing a child to progress to university level training years before the average, we have all seen many examples of amazing children. Though the television segment might only last a few minutes, we often gain a strong impression of where that child is heading and the likely benefit to society from their special gifts.
I do wonder if in that passage of Luke, what those who were amazed were thinking Jesus future held?
Was he to be a great theologian?, a scholar?, a prophet like Samuel?
And being intelligent, as he was, how valuable was he to his father Joseph in the carpenters workshop. Did Jesus solve carpentry problems in new and clever ways? Could he have made the business more successful than ever? Or was he too self absorbed, and wistful to be of any use as a carpenter?

Unlike the modern depiction of a bookwormish child, I believe that Jesus would have been an excellent carpenter, applying himself diligently in all aspects of his work with his father Joseph, and succeeding in every way. Hence the people’s assertion in Mark 3 "isn’t this the carpenter?" He was not only a carpenter but, I would guess, the best in the region.

A further point I would suggest is that Jesus was likely thin and, dare I say it, athletic.

I bring this up, as my mind could not help but ask how this 12 year old was sustained during those 3 or 4 days away from his family.

These are only ideas, biased by my high regard for our Saviour, but firstly I would suggest that even at 12, Jesus was more absorbed by the scriptures and being in his Father’s house, than by food, and his next meal. Yes, he would give thanks for every meal, but he was not governed by meals, or meal time.
Just as he was able to endure 40 days in the desert, and then turn aside Satan's temptation of turning rocks to bread so, at this age, he would have gladly eaten anything that was offered graciously at  mealtime, but just as likely he would have uncomplainingly tightened his belt.
I expect that in Jerusalem, at Passover time, the generous heart of people would be to share with strangers and sojourners, but either way, Jesus was able to adapt to his Holy environment with security, peace and joy. He also patiently trusted his parents would soon find him.

As an aside I wish to point out, that our faith in Jesus, as Christians, is that he was born without sin, and that he led a perfectly sinless life, including his childhood. He would have walked by the Spirit and expressed the fruit, even as a child. I would go so far as to say that even the romantic line in the carol "Away in a Manger" might not be so far fetched ("no crying he makes"). And let me add that though he stood out in so many ways, his abilities did not cause him to be self inflated, as happens so easily in talented young people (and old- though we hide it better). I believe, Jesus as a child was humble, but not shy, willing to speak the truth, and also express his needs when necessary (I thirst).

Finally I wish to look at that short exchange between he and his parents when they finally , with great relief, found him amongst the teachers in the temple courts.

Did he deliberately disobey his parents?
That is not stated. Nor is it implied. It would be out of character for our Saviour, even as a child, to disobey his parents. I suspect that Jesus was not told that the company was departing, they possibly left earlier than they had in previous years, the main festival was over, but the meetings with religious teachers obviously had not. The fact that they did not notice he was missing for a day, implies the size of the company was large. Maybe there were many such groups of pilgrims, maybe most of the festival time was spent at the temple, or nearby. Clearly between Jesus and his Parents, there was more assumption of communication that actual communication, and Jesus was so absorbed in the teaching and worship, that he was submerged in his element and unwilling to leave without a direct request from his parents. While others his age may have been more interested in kicking the football at a nearby field, so to speak, he was much more interested in the faith related activities. This is all simply speculation.

I do not believe that he deliberately disobeyed his parents.

Mary, his mother accused him of mistreating them. As though he deliberately hid from them.

I can certainly understand their concern at not finding him for three or four days, in todays climate, you would certainly think a 12 year old would have come to grief in that time.
Added to this is the perplexing message she had received from Simeon 12 years before when the baby Jesus was presented at the temple “a sword will also pierce your own heart”. Was Mary thinking that Jesus' fate as the lamb of God had already arrived at this tender age of 12? Clearly they were in a panic, and they checked all the places where every other 12 year old boy had been frequenting during the Passover celebration (? Shopping malls, arcades, sporting fields, hobby shops, or whatever was their equivalent at that time in Jerusalem), and finally they found him in the the last palce they looked (smile emoji) in the temple courts.

Her question included the painful point “your father and I have been anxiously searching for you”.

Jesus' answer may seem proud, arrogant, or even smart-alecky, but I suggest it was simply an honest answer: didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? The same word for father is used.

In terms of submission and authority, a jewish boy is certainly subject to his father.
Is there anything more proper than for a son to be found in his father’s house? Is there anything more secure, or justified?

Jesus at that point in his life knew, by faith, that God was truly his father. He probably knew (by faith) that he was the true Passover Lamb. He expected (incorrectly) that his earthly parents also knew that God was his Father. This was a new theological concept to the people of that time. It was truly a grand revelation. He understood it, but his parents did not.

The passage ends by stating that he was obedient to his parenst as they returned to Nazareth. And in my opinion it could have added, as he had been all of his life.
It also says that he grew in stature and in wisdom and in favor with God and man.

A final point I wish to make is this.

I believe that Jesus was particularly sensitive to the scriptures. Added to his high intelligence, I believe he was like a sponge, absorbing the scriptures easily , willingly and joyfully, at every opportunity in his life.
Unlike today, I do not believe the scriptures were freely available. He would have had to acquire them through regular attendance to Sabbath day gatherings where they were read. He may have had access to read the scrolls himself, I don’t know. But I do not believe he was simply programmed with them from birth. I believe he learnt them and committed them to memory as any of us do today, through deliberate study, albeit with greater abilty and motivation.

I believe that all he did , he did as a man, by faith. His prayers, miracles, understanding of peoples hearts, and ability to resist temptation all were achieved through faith and by self-disciplined prayer, meditation and learning. I suspect that the times he heard the Father speak audibly were few, and possibly limited to those recorded in scripture, eg at his baptism and at the transfiguration. At his most desperate time, in the garden at gethsemany, his prayers were not audibly answered, as far as we can tell, yet by faith he knew the Father had heard him, and his decision to follow through was clearly made.

He could have taken any path in life had he chosen, (hence his temptation by Satan in the desert) but instead he chose to obey his heavenly Father and pursue the ministry of the true Lamb of God, to become the true sacrifice and propitiation for us sinners. And we who put our faith in him, can truly trust that he is able to present us before the throne on that great and glorious day.