Over the last month or so, we’ve been looking at what it takes to
grow godly families. We’ve explored the effect that our faith has on
our relationships in our families. We’ve seen that God wants our
families to reflect the relationship that he has with his church.
Because at the end of the day, God has to be the most important
person in our homes.
As you’ve probably realised by now, I’m something of a reader. One
of my favourite authors as a child was Captain W.E. Johns, who wrote
the Biggles books. If you don’t know, Biggles was this war pilot hero
who did all sorts of amazing things. In fact, I’ve got a few of the
Biggles books on my bookshelf still. A few years ago I got given a
new Biggles book for Christmas: The Boy Biggles. (Actually, it’s a
first edition which is older than I am!) The author writes in the
introduction that this book would explain to curious fans what
Biggles was like as a boy.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like as a boy? What was his
earthly family was like? How did he behave? How different would it
have been for Mary and Joseph to bring Jesus up compared to bringing
up any of their other children? This morning, we’re going to finish
our series on the Christian home by looking at the only story in the
Bible about Jesus’ childhood. Because the goal of our faith is to
become more and more like Jesus. When we look to him, we see what God
wants our own lives to be like. So the way Jesus interacts with his
family has to tell us something about God’s will for our own
families. The way Jesus interacted with his mum and dad has to be an
example for children today.
Last week, we looked at the birth of the prophet Samuel, and how
he ended up living a life dedicated to God’s service. One of the
things we saw was how Samuel’s parents made a big deal about taking
the family to offer sacrifices to the Lord on a yearly basis. And
here, as Luke tells us about Jesus’ early years, we see a very
similar thing happening. Luke tells us that Jesus’ parents went to
Jerusalem for the feast of Passover every year.
Every year, they went to celebrate the fact that our God saves.
According to the Old Testament laws, all Jewish men had to go and
worship God at Jerusalem. But Luke tells us that both of Jesus’
parents went to Jerusalem. Even though Mary didn’t have to
go, she did. I think that tells us something about these two parents:
they were both of them dedicated to God. They weren’t just going to
Jerusalem because they had to – they were going to worship God. And
when they went, they took the whole family along: Mary, Joseph,
Jesus, and the other kids. I doubt very much that the kids would have
been put into childcare for the week-and-a-half, two weeks that they
would have been away.
The Passover was, after all, a family occasion. Families were
meant to celebrate together, just like the families had first
celebrated it the night that God rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
And as part of the feast, the oldest child would ask the traditional
question which we heard just a few weeks ago in Deuteronomy. The
family would have eaten, and then Jesus would have asked, “Why is
it that we do this?”, and Jospeh would have answered and told them
the story of God’s delivering his special people.
It’s kind of appropriate, isn’t it that this is the moment when
Luke introduces us to the boy Jesus. This is the moment when we first
hear Jesus speaking: around the time of the passover festival. The
same festival around about which we read of Jesus’ dying. The
passover – the story of God saving his people – bookmarks Jesus’
life. From his childhood till his execution. For Luke, Jesus is all
about this particular festival. Jesus is all about the fact that God
Luke tells us that this particular year, Jesus was 12 years old.
For us, that sounds like he’s still quite young, doesn’t it? But what
we don’t realise is that 12 back then is equivalent to 17 today. At
about 13 years old, every Jewish boy would come of age. At 13 years
old, Jesus would stop being called a “child” and start being
called a “man”. At 13, Jesus would, according to his society, be
considered fully able to shoulder the responsibility of being one of
God’s people. But you and I are in on the secret: the secret that
Jesus was not just a “child”. The truth that Jesus is God. That
his might have been 12 years old, but that he had been around since
before time. We’re in on the fact that this child was the one who
created the universe. That this child is the one who sustains the
Jesus is 12 years old here. And he goes along with his parents and
brothers to Jerusalem. The festival would have taken about a week.
And when it finished, Luke tells us, everybody started leaving. Mary
and Joseph joined the mob headed North and started back for home.
I remember the first time I went to watch a rugby match with my
father as a child. It was quite an adventure. But what I remember
best is not the actual game, but the getting away from the game at
the end. You know how you just have this “whoomph!” of people all
getting up and moving out at the same time. It didn’t happen to me,
but I can see how easy it would be to get lost in a crowd like that.
And I imagine that it might have been a similar situation back in
Jerusalem when one of these festivals ended. Everybody at the same
time making their way out of the city.
So I guess I can understand Mary and Joseph not noticing that
Jesus wasn’t with them. There’s some evidence around that perhaps
when people made these pilgrimages to Jerusalem, they travelled as a
group to and from the city. There was safety in numbers from bandits
and what not. And there’s also some evidence that in these groups the
women and children walked at the front, while the men walked at the
back. Verse 44 tells us that Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was in the
company. I guess it’s possible that Mary thought Jesus was walking
with his dad, and Joseph assumed Jesus was up front with his mum.
Remember, he was 12 years old going on 13. A child going on an adult.
He could have walked with either of them.
But he didn’t. He wasn’t up the front, he wasn’t down the back. He
wasn’t with aunt so-and-so. He wasn’t with Beth and Kate from next
door. Jesus never left the city. It was only at the end of a full
days walking that Mary and Joseph realised that Jesus wasn’t with
them. Chances were they realised when Jesus didn’t come to eat his
dinner! That would have been the first meal stop of the journey.
They were frantic. I think Luke kind of underplays it here. They
began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they
did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
I suspect that Mary would have been almost in hysterics. Can you put
yourself into their shoes. Your child has gone missing. And to make
matters worse, this wasn’t just any old child. Mary must have thought
back to 13 years before when the angel told her that Jesus was the
Son of God. Mary and Joseph were responsible for raising the Son of
God. And they had lost him!!
Can you picture them running from
cooking fire to cooking fire looking to see if Jesus was there. Can
you image the night they must have spent – worrying about him. I
doubt they would have travelled back to Jerusalem at night time –
it would have been too dangerous. And the next morning, as the rest
of the column continued back towards Nazareth, Mary and Joseph and, I
assume, the other kids, would have been back-tracking to Jerusalem.
They’d spent a day trekking out from
Jerusalem. They spent another day trekking back to Jerusalem. And the
third day they scoured the city for him. Trying to figure out where
Jesus would be. Where would a 12 year old go?
What a great encouragement this story
must be to parents! Because Mary and Joseph are not perfect parents.
Not by a long shot. They left without checking that Jesus was with
them. They lost the son of God. And yet God – who knows all things
– was willing to entrust Mary and Joseph with the responsibility of
bringing up our Lord and Saviour. And they made a mistake. Why is
this an encouragement? Because families don’t have to be perfect to
be used by God. Parents make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But God
can still use us.
The other thing I find interesting is
that Mary and Joseph spend a great deal of time looking for Jesus.
When they do find him in the temple, they’re shocked. I’m sure they
were relieved to find him. But Mary, in perfect motherly love, turns
to Jesus and says, “Child! We’ve been looking all over for you! Do
you have any idea what you’ve put us through? ” And Jesus response?
“Why were you looking? Isn’t it obvious I’d be in my dad’s house?”
Mary and Jospeh didn’t really
understand Jesus. They didn’t know where he would go. They didn’t
click that Jesus was no longer just a child. He was – as verse 52
puts it – growing up. Growing in wisdom and stature. Growing in
favour with God and men. But as far as his mum and dad were concerned
he was still just a child. If you’ve got teenagers – or when you do
– you can imagine the response you’ll get if you call them “child!”
Or “boy!” or “girl!” When they’re actually less and less
child and more and more “adult”
Mary and Jospeh didn’t “get” him.
Because they didn’t “get” the fact that Jesus was more than just
an ordinary child. You see, Jesus was being deliberately obstreperous
by staying behind in Jerusalem. He wasn’t rebelling against his
parents. He was simply going about his Father’s work. He was doing
what he had come to do. He was in his Father’s house. He was learning
and exploring the Scriptures. He was asking and answering questions.
He was acting not like a child – as Mary accused him – but with
authority. With wisdom and insight. Verse 47 tells us that everyone
who heard was amazed at his understanding.
We’ve seen in the last few weeks how
important the family is in growing godly children. The responsibility
for teaching children the ways of the Lord lies first and foremost
within the family. But at the same time, the church has a role to
play too. Jesus spent time in the temple. This was just after
Passover, and you’d have a lot of learned men in the temple for him
to discuss things with. The professors and theologians and what not.
And Jesus was able to sit down in their midst and discuss the matters
of God with them.
I wonder if we would have allowed Jesus
the 12 year old to sit in the midst of the church with us? Or would
we have sent him out to Sunday school….
This is the first time that we hear
Jesus speaking for himself. In the chapters before this in Luke,
there have been announcements and prophecies about Jesus being the
Son of God and the Saviour. But here we hear Jesus speaking for
himself. And the first thing Jesus says is that he is the Son of God.
I am in my Father’s house. Sure – Joseph – the man Jesus called
father – had been looking for him. But Jesus has always been the
Son of God. He alone knows the father fully. He is, John tells us,
one with the Father.
In effect, Jesus had two families: the
one into which he was born, and the Spiritual one in which he has
always been. Jesus is part of the Trinity. Part of the Godhead. And
the good news tells us that because of Jesus’ dying for us – we too
have been adopted into God’s family. We have been made co-heirs with
Christ. We are now the temple of the living God. And of course Jesus
is with us – in us. Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s
house? If we are Christians, then we like Jesus are part of two
families. Our biological families and the church of God.
And look at verse 50: Jesus has just
told his mum and dad that his life revolves around his Father –
around God. But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Remember, everyone else there was amazed at his understanding. But
Mary and Joseph just couldn’t come to grips with Jesus. Couldn’t come
to grip with the fact that he is God. It took Mary a long time,
mulling over these things in her heart.
What about Christian children today who
grow up in a home where one or both parents don’t get Jesus? Don’t
“get” going to the “temple”? Don’t get spending time at
church, or sunday school? Don’t get their children wanting to learn
about Jesus? I honestly feel for such children. But they should know
that that is – kind of – what Jesus’ own childhood was like. And
it can cause conflict. I think of people who accept Jesus into their
lives, only to be disowned by their families. Jesus’ dual family
caused conflict here. He had to be in his Father’s house, but
Mary and Joseph expected him to be with them.
But even though Jesus had to be about
his Father’s business, verse 51 tells us that he went back to
Nazareth with his parents. He was obedient to them. He honoured Mary
and Joseph. Which is what Paul wrote to us a few weeks ago in
Ephesians 6: Children, obey your parents.
This is an interesting little incident
from the boyhood of Jesus. It teaches us that families don’t have to
be perfect to be used by God. It reminds us that in Jesus, we have a
loving heavenly father. It shows us that even in a family where God
is parents and their kids aren’t always on the same wavelength.
Jesus’ example shows children how to treat parents who “just don’t
What does it take to be a godly family? It takes God!