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Jesus: The Early Years

Luke 2:39-52 


And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. [40] And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. 

[41] And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. [42] And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; [43] and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And His parents were unaware of it, [44] but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day's journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. [45] And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him. [46] And it came about 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. [47] And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. [48] And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You." [49] And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" [50] And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. [51] And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. [52] And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. 

When a Jewish boy turned twelve, he was "a son of the law," taking on the full obligations of the law. If Jesus had lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem, it would have been his obligation to attend the Passover feast, but he didn't, he lived in Nazareth, about 60 miles from Jerusalem. But because his parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover, and because he was now old enough to go, Jesus took the long journey with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.

This trip was a major commitment. Today, we travel 60 miles on a whim to go to a favorite restaurant or run an errand, but it wasn't so easy in Biblical days. The roads were little more than walking paths pounded out by previous travelers. On average, men could walk about 15 miles a day. (ZPEB, V 5, p. 799) On a journey like this one, the women would go on before the men, because they didn't walk as fast, and they would join each other in the evening to set up camp. Because a good Jew would never walk through Samaria, they would not have traveled "as the crow flies" meaning that they couldn't have made the 60 miles in four days, it would have taken at least 5 days of hard travel. Five days going, and five days coming back. Add in at least one day for the feast, and keeping this religious festival was almost a two week commitment.

But the sacrifice was worth it for this family. At the feast, for the first time, Jesus celebrated the death angel "passing over" the homes of those who placed the blood of the lamb on their doorposts in Egypt. Later, Jesus, "the lamb slain before the foundation of the world" would fall into the hands of the Roman soldiers after celebrating the Passover for the last time with his disciples in the upper room. With time, Jesus would come to know that he was "the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," but for now, he was entranced by the celebration of God's grace to His people.

When the feast was over, Joseph must have thought that Jesus left with Mary and Mary must have thought that Jesus was with Joseph, because neither of them had Jesus with them when they left Jerusalem for the long journey home. When they rejoined one another at the campsite, 15 miles down the road, neither of them had Jesus. So they looked for Him among their relatives, but He wasn't there. So the next day, they retraced their steps, back to Jerusalem to hunt for their son.

When I was a small child, I wandered off with the family dog and was separated from my parents for most of an afternoon. It was no big deal to me, I was 5-years-old and was in my mind, big enough to look after myself. I doubt if it was so uneventful for my parents. Luckily, the dog knew the way home and we made it back safely. My Mother often reminds me that being a parent is one way we pay for our upbringing. And sure enough, when Jamie was 6-years-old, he went chasing after the family dog when she "broke out" of the backyard. Susan was hysterical when she called me to tell me that Jamie was gone. We got in the car and began searching for him throughout the neighborhood, praying all the time that God would send His angels to watch after our little boy. Sure enough, we found him, holding onto our dog, two busy streets away from home. Still to this day, I shudder to think what could have happened to him.

I wonder what was going through Mary's mind as she walked the dusty path back to Jerusalem. I mean, this wasn't just her son, she'd misplaced the Son of God! I'd love to have overheard her prayers that day.

Back in Jerusalem, Jesus was oblivious to the panic He caused in a camp15 miles north of Jerusalem. He is having the time of His life, questioning the teachers of the law about the scriptures. Obviously, Jesus wasn't just any twelve-year-old, but he was a twelve-year-old. He was learning. In verse 40 and 51 of this passage, Luke emphasizes that this was a time of growing for Jesus. He was growing physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially.

We need to pause over this thought for a moment. Jesus was fully human. The fact that he could grow physically meant that He wasn't fully grown physically. The fact that he could grow mentally meant that He wasn't fully grown mentally. The fact that he could grow spiritually meant that He wasn't fully grown spiritually. The fact that he could grow socially meant the He wasn't fully grown socially. He was human.

Does that thought amaze you? It is the message of the incarnation-God became man. John wrote, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us . . ." (John 1:14a NASB) 

Humanity and sinfulness are not synonyms. Jesus was fully human, with the capacity to grow, but He never sinned. Paul wrote, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV) 

Yes Jesus was fully human, but he also was fully God! 

Three days into their search, Mary and Joseph found Jesus. Listen to Mary's reaction:

"And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.'" (Luke 2:48) Understandably upset, Mary scolds Jesus and said in essence, "your FATHER & I were worried sick." Jesus' response is: "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My FATHER'S house?"

Mary said, didn't you know that me and your FATHER, meaning Joseph, were looking for you. Jesus replied, didn't you know that I'd be in my FATHER'S, meaning God's house?

I don't know when Jesus gained the understanding that He was God's son. But by this encounter, He knew. This is the message of Emmanuel-God with us. John wrote, ". . .and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14b NASB) 

Yes, Jesus was fully human, but he was also fully divine. 

What happened next? Jesus continued under subjection to his parents and went with them back to Nazareth. Mary, the scripture said, "treasured these things in her heart." What Jesus had discovered, Mary had known all along. He was not an ordinary son. He was the Savior of the world. This wasn't the first time that Mary silently treasured her son in her heart. When the shepherds paid Jesus a visit after his birth, they told Mary what the angels had said about the child, and she responded in this way, "But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19 

Mary had a lot to ponder and a lot to treasure. Her Son-God's Son was the Savior of the world! 

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