John T. Willis

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Adolescent's Most Important Choice--Luke 2:41-52

Luke contains the only Gospel reporting the account of Jesus doing anything between his birth and the beginning of his adult ministry at about age 30. That event occurred when Jesus was an adolescent, age 12. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Jerusalem temple at the annual Festival of Passover. The account is in Luke 2:41-52. This falls into six sections.

I. The Background. Luke 2:41-42.
a. Luke briefly and pointedly states that EVERY YEAR Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover. Jewish people celebrated Passover at the sundown marking the beginning of 15 Nisan, the first month in the Jewish calendar, which is March/April, the older name of the month, Abib. In this festival, the passover lamb was slain in the late hours of 14 Nisan, was roasted and eaten in a family circle of at least ten people at sundown--Leviticus 23:6. Everything leavened (prepared with yeast) must be removed from the house before slaying the passover lamb--Deuteronomy 16:4. The family had to eat unleavened bread for seven days--the Festival of Unleavened Bread--Exodus 12:8, 17-20; 23:15; 34:18. "Passover" symbolized the "passing over" of the Lord to spare the Hebrew firstborn during the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. Exodus 12:13. Those who came to this festival appeared in Yahweh's presence and not without an offering--Deuteronomy 16:16; Exodus 23:15d; 34:23. 2:41.
b. Luke tells his audience that on this occasion, Jesus was 12 years old, and Jesus and his parents attended the Festival of Passover every year "as usual." In the later tractate m. Niddah 5:6, Jewish Rabbis declared that a Jewish boy was obligated to observe the Torah at age 13. Later, this came to be called Bar Mitsvah. From age 13 on, that individual was obligated to take part in the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is possible that devout Jews prepared their sons to do this at age 12. This is similar to the practice of the young boy Samuel at the temple at Shiloh according to 1 Samuel 3:3. The account in Luke 2 contains details about the story of Elkanah and Hannah going up yearly to the Shiloh sanctuary--1 Samuel 1:3, 21; 2:19. 2:42.

II. Joseph and Mary Lose Jesus. Luke 2:43-45.
a. After the festival of Passover, which lasted seven or eight days, was over, Jesus remained in Jerusalem, but his parents Joseph and Mary did not know this. It was common for people to travel in large groups to have good company and to be protected against dangers like wild animals and robbers. Luke 10:30. To travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem and to return, these people had to pass through the region of the Samaritans, the descendants of North Israelites--see Luke 9:53. After traveling for a day (one thinks of Numbers 11:31; 1 Kings 19:4)and not seeing Jesus, Joseph and Mary went among their friends and relatives to try to find Jesus. This shows the genuine care of parents in such a situation. 2:43-44.
b. Joseph and Mary could not find Jesus, so they returned to Jerusalem to try to find him. 2:45.

III. Joseph and Mary find Jesus at the Jerusalem Temple. Luke 2:46-48.
a. After three days (the day they left, the day they realized Jesus was not with them, and the next day--see Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46; Acts 10:40; 25:1; 28:17), they found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking them questions. Jesus was in the hall or portico of the outer courts. Like a genuine pupil or student, Jesus carefully listened to the teaching of the teachers at the Jerusalem temple, and asked questions concerning the Torah and its place in Jewish life. 2:46.
b. Joseph and Mary realized that all who heard Jesus were amazed at his questions, his understanding, and his penetrating answers to the teachers. 2:47.
c. Joseph and Mary were also astonished when they saw Jesus among the teachers. Mary kindly rebuked Jesus for treating them in leaving them without knowing where he was, not comprehending what was taking place. Joseph and Mary had been terribly worried, in mental torment and anguish (see Luke 16:24, 25; Acts 20:38), because they could not find their son Jesus. Mary's rebuke implies that a responsible son would not behave in this way. 2:48.

IV. Jesus's Response. Luke 2:49.
Jesus responds to his mother Mary by rebuking her in response. Surely her parents would know that Jesus would be at the Jerusalem temple. The Jerusalem temple is God's house--Luke 19:46. Jesus declares that he MUST be in his FATHER's house. Here there is a very important lesson for all human beings. We are to love our parents deeply. But our HEAVENLY PARENT is even more important than our earthly parents. Often, God our Father summons us to leave our parents to serve our Heavenly Father. This theme returns often in Luke and elsewhere in the Bible. It is a major mistake for parents to demand their children to submit to them rather than to submit to our heavenly Father. This is a supreme lesson for all.

V. The Response of Jesus' Parents. Luke 2:50.
When Jesus responded in this way, his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not understand what he said to them. Like all human beings, we come to real understanding by a gradual process. This is the same thing that happened to Jesus' disciples--Luke 18:34. It is significant that after the resurrection of Jesus, Mary his mother becomes one of the first believers of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord--Acts 1:14.

VI. The Story comes to a Significant Conclusion. Luke 2:51-52. [Luke makes three points about this story].
a. After this conversation with his parents, Jesus returned with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Jesus put his heavenly Father first, and under his heavenly Father he was obedient to his earthly parents. 2:51a.
b. Mary the mother of Jesus treasured all these things in her heart. She was gradually growing spiritually to become the women she would be. 2:51b.
c. Jesus increased or grew in four dimensions: (1) in wisdom; (2) in stature;
(3) in divine favor; and (4) in human favor. This is the same language as 1 Samuel 2:21, 26; Luke 1:80; 2:40. [As a side thought, it is very difficult for us to understand how Jesus could grow in wisdom, since he was from everlasting and is divine. We cannot comprehend all that is going on].

Share YOUR insights and reasons with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willois


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