Certainty In Uncertain Times – Luke 2:41-52: Jesus: About His Father’s Business

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Book of Luke, verse-by-blessed verse.  I have a love for the Word of God and a passion to preach His Word.  One of my chief roles as a pastor is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ through the preaching of God’s Word.  I am not fishing for one verse here and another verse there or a little anecdote here and a moralism there and all this held loosely together by a silly string of funny stories.  No.  I am after nothing less – and nothing more – than God’s intended meaning in a passage of Scripture as originally given and then the meaningfulness of that passage for today.   Here is where the power for life-transformation is found, found in what the Apostle Paul calls, “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). When we were last in Luke’s Gospel we were in the temple at Jerusalem and Jesus was merely 8 days old.  We now fast forward 12 years and Luke takes us to the temple in Jerusalem again.  We may wonder why there is not more information about the years of Jesus’ childhood but, we can be sure that where Scripture is silent it is for our benefit.   God in His perfect wisdom Has given us in His Word all that is sufficient for us to know.  Most of us have some inkling of how it may have been possible for Mary and Joseph to be on their way home to Nazareth only to realize that they have left their son back in Jerusalem.  If that still seems a bit odd to us, let us remember that Passover in Jerusalem was a time when thousands upon thousands of people filled the city and at times there was scarcely any room so much as to breathe.  Pilgrims to Jerusalem often traveled in large caravans to avoid trouble on the way, walking through the hostile and dangerous parts of Samaria, for example.  And men often walked with men and women with women and so Jesus, being only 12 could have been with either company and probably often was with either one or the other.  And we can imagine the similar responses between Mary and Joseph: “Well, I thought Jesus was with you!”  “With me?!  I left Him with you!” 

Verses 41-42 tell us, “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.”  There were three annual festivals Jewish men were required to attend: Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles.  Joseph was a devout man who took worship of God seriously.  He followed God and his family followed God with him.  This is always the way it is.  If the husband and father takes the lead in the family, his family will nearly always follow him.  Jesus is going up with His parents and Jesus is 12 years old.  This may well have been the first time Jesus would be in Jerusalem for Passover.  It was customary to go to Passover at age 12 in preparation for one’s becoming a Jewish man at the age of 13.  It was at 13 that a Jewish boy officially became what is now called a “son of the commandment, or son of the law,” the meaning of the Hebrew phrase, bar mitzvah.  This is a huge rite of passage for Jewish boys.   

What was Passover like in the days of Joseph and Mary and 12-year-old Jesus?  Kent Hughes, drawing from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, provides an engaging idea of what Jerusalem would have been like when Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were there to celebrate the Passover, “When the jostling, merry throng passed through the gates of the holy city, a grand sight met Jesus’ twelve-year-old eyes.  Some 200,000 pilgrims packed out the walled city.  Every available space was rented, and in lieu of rent cheerful hosts were given the hides of sheep sacrificed by their guests.  Merchants who had come in advance lined the streets displaying their ware, and beggars stationed themselves strategically by the city’s ancient gates.  The most intense activity was at the sheep stalls, where pilgrims bartered for sheep and goats to sacrifice at the temple.”

When the sun rose on Passover, intense activity filled the encampments, the homes, and especially the temple.  A full contingent of priests (twenty-four divisions instead of the customary one) attended the temple.  Their first task of the day was to take the leaven that had been gathered by candlelight from each home and ceremonially burn it.  Next, they prepared for the ritual slaughtering of the Passover lambs.  By midday, all work stopped, and a holy air of anticipation rested over Jerusalem.

At about 3:00 the sacrifice began.  We may well surmise that Joseph and his relatives, in preparation for Jesus’ manhood, took Jesus into the temple with them so he could observe the sacrifice.  If so, as the gates of the temple court closed behind the vast group of worshipers, he heard a ram’s horn sound and saw Joseph, in concert with hundreds of other worshipers, slaughter his family’s lamb.  The priests, standing in two long rows, caught the blood in gold and silver basins, then doused it against the base of the altar.  Levites sang the Hallel Psalms (113-118) above the din as Jesus’ father dressed his lamb and, before leaving, slung the animal, wrapped in its own skin, over his shoulder and departed with his young son in tow.

At home, the lamb was roasted on a pomegranate spit and eaten after sundown by the whole family.  In the flickering amber light of a candle-decked room, the meal was joyfully consumed according to Passover liturgy with interspersed hand-washings, prayers, and Hallel Psalms.  At the conclusion, the son asked the father the ceremonial question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ (Mishnah, Pesahim x.4), and his father responded with a moving review of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.  The night ended late, with many people returning to the streets for more celebration.  Others went back to the temple mount to await the opening of the doors at midnight for further worship and prayer” (Hughes, Luke, Vol. 1, p.100).

That description paints a colorful picture for us of Passover in Jerusalem.  Verses 43 to 44 tell us what happened after the full week of Passover, “When they had finished the days (7 days), as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey (that’s like 20-25 miles), and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.”  It is a repeat of the exchange between Mary and Joseph. 

Verses 45-47 state, “So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”  Now that really is amazing, isn’t it?  Here is Jesus at age 12, involved in a theologically-rich “Q&A Session” with the Jewish teachers at the temple.  Luke writes in verse 47 that “all who heard Him were astonished.”  This includes Mary and Joseph, verses 48-49, “So when they saw Him, they were amazed (it is like they do not know what to say); and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously..  And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’”   Now this statement by our Lord Jesus at the age of 12 represents the earliest recorded words of Jesus in the Bible, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  And I do think that is the best translation.  Some translations have, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”  The Greek literally reads, “Did you not know I had to be ‘in the_____ of My Father.’”  That sounds like a strange way to talk, doesn’t it?!  Like there is a blank there: “I’m in the _____of My Father!”  But that is common Greek and it would be like saying today, “I’m in the things of My Father.”  One of the things or business of His Father was to be in His house, to worship Him.

 Verse 50 tells us, “But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.”  They did not understand this statement.  After all, it had been over 12 years since the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she was going to have a special child.  It had been 12 years since Simeon and Anna spoke those prophetic words of the boy Jesus when He was an infant at the temple.  Like the disciples later, there was so much about Jesus that was difficult to grasp at one precise moment of time that became much clearer later.

Verses 51 to 52 say, “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them (or, “He was continually obeying them), but His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Two points of application surface from this text and largely from the key verse here at verse 49.  Verse 49 represents what is the summit, or zenith, or apex of the text.  Jesus says, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business.”  I see two main points of application here.  First . . . 

I. We Must Know Who Jesus Is.

What kind of a boy was Jesus?  Was He perfect in all that He did?  Did He never cry as a baby?  That is what we’re told in the Christmas hymn, “The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.”  Really?!  Never?!  When His room was messy as a child did Jesus just snap His fingers and everything was in order?  Did He play basketball on the school team?  Did they always pass the ball to Jesus and did He always sink a three-point shot?  Or did He prefer to slam-dunk the ball every single time without exception?

How important that we get our Christology correct!  Jesus was and is fully God and fully man.  As the second Person of the Holy Trinity, God took on flesh; the incarnation is the enfleshment of God in the Person of Jesus.  So while He was God, He was man.  The very fact that Luke says in verse 52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature” reminds us that Jesus is fully human and that He grew as any human would grow, growing in “wisdom” and “stature.”

He had to learn arithmetic.  He had to learn to tell time.  And His mother worked with him just as our mothers or fathers worked with so many of us.  He was fully human.  His body had the same physical composition as yours and mine.

When the eternal Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity takes on flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ, as God He gives up the right to exercise all of His attributes.  He never ceases to be God in doing so; He remains fully God.

Because Jesus is fully God He is omniscient; as God He knows all things.  However, as He is also fully man, He chooses not to use that omniscience.  Without ever ceasing to be God, Jesus gives up the free use of the attribute of omniscience.  Somehow, in a way known only to Him, He is able to bracket-in that omniscience so as to not use it on the human level.  This is why, for example, when speaking of the events surrounding the Second Coming, Jesus says in Mark 13:32, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Verse 49 represents the fact that Jesus, at this point in His life, at age 12, now recognizes and is fully aware of His unique sonship to God.  And while He now recognizes this unique sonship, He will not perform His first miracle, John tells us, until the wedding feast in Cana when Jesus is around the age of 30.  So no, Jesus did not always make every basketball shot and did not snap his fingers to clean His room and yes, He cried as a baby.   He was a child and grew like any other child and now at age 12, He recognizes His unique sonship to God.  He is fully God and fully man.

But does this all really matter?  Of course it does.  We understand that Jesus as the God-Man does for us what we could not do for ourselves and both natures – God and Man – are necessary for this to happen. 

  • As God He perfectly fulfills all the righteous commands of the Law that God expects us to keep. 

He does this for us.  He perfectly fulfills the Law and gives us the credit so that whatever may be said of Jesus may be said of us who have received Him as Lord.  He lived the law in my place.  He lived a perfect righteous life and I get credit for it.

  • As man, He dies to take our punishment for sin. 

His real body, His human body, is crucified in our place.  He dies.  He is buried.  He is raised from the dead because He is not only man, He is God!

You see, these two natures are inextricably united together into one Person and this forever and ever.  It makes all the difference in the world, not just with regard to our salvation, but with regard to our daily living.  We look to Christ and we are encouraged, strengthened, helped and energized for every challenge and every setback.  Why? Because the Bible tells us in Hebrews 4:15 that He was, “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses.  He sees to it that we will receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  He knows what we are going through.  He knows what it is like to suffer, to be beaten, to bleed, to hurt.  The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:21, Jesus has left us, “an example that we should follow in His steps.”

We Must Know Who Jesus is.  He is the unique Son of God, fully God and fully man.  The second principle follows.  Once we know Who Jesus is . . .

II. We Must Live as Jesus Lives.

If He is Lord, really Lord, then we will want our lives to be surrendered to Him, reflect His character, and honor His name..  We will want what He wants, do as He does, go as He goes, give as He gives and live as He lives.

Jesus says, “I must be about My Father’s business.”  The words convey a strong, divine causality: “I must be about My Father’s business!  This is no option.  This is my life, my soul, my all.”  That is how we’re to live.

Are you about your Father’s business?  Really?  How is that reflected in your praying?   How is that reflected in your giving?  How is that reflected in your being missional this week and this year, reaching those who are unchurched in your community?  Did you share the Gospel with at least one soul last week?  Did you?  Will you pray, give, or go to the continents this year?

Are you about the Father’s business?  How much time do you spend in the average week doing things for yourself and how much time doing things for your Father?   TV time, video gaming, sport, recreation, connecting with others, or lounging around?  How much time cracking the Bible, or actually studying God’s Word?  Have you taken time to invite a friend over for coffee to talk about the things of God?  Have you taken time to send a note of encouragement, visiting the sick, or giving to the poor?  Are you about your Father’s business?

The question is not just for adults, the question is for children and young people, too. Are you about your Father’s business?  J.C. Ryle put it this way, “Let them remember, that if they are old enough to do wrong, they are also old enough to do right; and if able to read storybooks and to talk, they are also able to read their Bibles and pray.”  This week, be about the Father’s business. 

We are not called to live as Jesus lives in order to be saved from sin.  Keeping moral commands does not save.  Being good does not save.  We must first know who He is,  believe Him, receive Him into our lives, and surrender to Him.  Being about the Father’s business begins with being saved from sin.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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