Luke 2:41-52 “Looking Once More for Christ”
Robert Fulghum wrote in the Kansas City Times, “Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.”
“These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody . . . When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. “
In reading this, I am reminded that Jesus never went to high school. He never went to college. He never went to seminary. He never went to post-graduate school. Yet, Jesus was the greatest man who walked on the earth. So, Jesus never went to school, then how did he become the greatest man who ever lived? He went to church! Our text for this morning portrays Jesus in a synagogue, the common church of the day in the Jewish world, listening to people discuss the Hebrew scrolls, the common Bible of their day. Is this where Jesus learned everything he would need to know as the Christ? Yup, he went to church and never wanted to leave! Amen to that!
A survey by the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics reported that 61% of high school students have admitted to having cheated on an exam. Please remember that this number only reflects those who have admitted to doing it. This does not include those who cheat but will not admit to it later. So, just think that it is better to go to church than it is to go to school because nobody cheats on an exam in church! We all know we cannot cheat God! And, there is no reason to cheat! Everybody who comes to church gets an automatic “A” just for showing up!
I want you to notice in the text that Joseph and Mary call Jesus “child.” Somebody in bible study on Tuesday asked about this. The Greek word here is τεκνον. How old is Jesus? It says in our text that he is 12 years old. By the standards of the time, Jesus is all but a man. At age 13, a boy is considered a man. The parents do not call him “young man.” They call him “child.” I believe that this is meant to remind Jesus of his obligation to his parents. You see, in English, the word “child” really has two meanings. A very young person may be referred to as a “child” even though they are not your offspring. This word τεκνον in the Greek is specific to offspring. It bespeaks a parent/child relationship. So, even though Jesus is already a young man by the standards of the day, his parents still call him “child.” He is their grown up child! By the way, just a “very young person” in Greek is called παιδιον, from which we get the word “pediatrics.” So, this reference here is a way for Mary and Joseph to remind Jesus, the young man, “do not neglect your parents!” That is a good message for all of us to here! It is the 5th Commandment, “Honor your mother and father.”
I know that somebody after worship is going to ask me about this, so a quick tangent off of the sermon for a moment here: From 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child I acted like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, when I became an adult I put an end to my childish ways.” Nope, this is neither the word παιδιον nor τεκνον because Greek language is like looking at a Christmas tree with a whole bunch of unwrapped gifts, we have yet another word here, which is νηπιος. When we unpack that word, we see that it means “an infant” that is completely unlearned. Joseph and Mary do not call Jesus infantile or unlearned. They call him their offspring!
This reference to the parental relationship creates a dynamic tension in the text when Jesus says, “Did you not know I would be in my Father’s House?” I know that Jesus, like all of us, had a natural desire to be with his family, too. Yet, his desire to be with his heavenly Father in the temple is also pulling on him. In our own world, when we are torn between the worldly and the spiritual, which one usually wins out? For Jesus, it is the spiritual side that always wins out.
This is an example unto us. If we are going to be lost in thought, let it be in spiritual thoughts! Let us be so enthralled by the Word of God as it comes to us that we don’t want to break away and go back to our worldly ways. Let us just be so focused on the love of God, the hope of salvation, the peace of Christ, that the joy we feel makes everything else seem not so important anymore.
Let us move on with the story from our text. Jesus is there in his Father’s House, talking with very learned rabbis. At first we understand that Jesus is listening intently to what they have to say. However, right after that we learn that the rabbis were in fact asking Jesus questions. If Jesus walked into one of our Bible studies this coming week, what questions would we ask him?
Those of you who attend bible studies here will already know that when this pastor does not know the answer to a question that is raised in the group, I will just say, “One day when it is my time to meet Jesus, that will be the first thing I will ask Him.” I know that in this is a huge conceit that I believe will be ascending rather than descending when that time comes, but besides that is the reality that I have said this soooo many times that I am sure I cannot remember everything I was going to ask Jesus! I mean, I recall some of the really foolish things I want to ask, such as, “What is the name of that talking donkey that Balaam had in the Bible? If he can talk, he must have a name!” and “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” Then, there are a plethora of personal questions about my own life that I do not need to share in public: “Why was I born blind in my right eye?” and the like.
I just imagine the line of souls waiting to ask Jesus all their questions in the End Times! It would be like the after-Christmas returns line at Walmart or Target. It would be like “Thank you Jesus for all the love and grace throughout my life, but now what about that this or that?”
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during that time when the 12 year old Jesus was answering those questions! What would YOU like to ask Jesus? One thing we do learn from this is that Jesus will answer our questions to Him! So, at least in prayer, ask your questions and know one day Jesus will answer. You will know the reasons behind what you have experienced in your lives! I will know the donkey’s name!
As the story goes, Mary and Joseph finally find their child in the synagogue. Okay, I have to do this really bad joke that kind of comes out of the movie Forrest Gump. “Mary and Joseph found Jesus!” Have you found Jesus? I did not know you could lose Him! Sure enough.
When you do find Jesus, then you have got to do what Mary did. Now, the translation here is a little bit tricky if you ask me. The word that is being translated here as “treasured up” gives us the impression that Mary hid these things in her heart. We get the sense that all of this that she has experienced is going to be put into that proverbial “locked box” and buried under the house somewhere. Do not think that way.
I prefer the translation that other Bibles use for this word as “guarded.” She had a guarded heart. Honestly, I think it is important as Christians to have guarded hearts—not just hide our faith so deep in our hearts that others cannot see or ever find it. This obviously is not about hiding the last pop tart in the cabinet so that you can have it the next day for breakfast. It is not about keeping your personal faith away from others.
Guarding your heart as a Christian is about taking what you believe and setting it up as the sentinel of strength. Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart with all vigilance for from it flows the springs if life….” I think this is what Mary does at this time. Her life is completely focused now on the ministry of Jesus whom she sees now not just as her child but as truly the Son of God. Nobody could take Jesus from her heart now—not even death on the Cross could take Jesus from her heart!
And, we shall also guard Jesus in our hearts. Nobody will ever take Jesus from us. He will always be found right here in our hearts.