************ Sermon on Luke 2:39-52 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 9, 2014
"Two Fathers and Two Homes"
What was Jesus like as a boy? The Bible tells us about His birth and about His ministry as an adult – but what about His childhood? Did Jesus walk and talk before the other babies in Nazareth? Did He ever fall and cut Himself? Did He win every race? Was He the best athlete? Did He get nothing but "A's" on all His tests? Was He like our grandson: handsome, smart, advanced, beautiful, friendly, and happy? As a boy, did Jesus do wonderful tricks and miracles for His friends and family?
In an attempt to answer some of these questions, books have been written about the childhood of Jesus. One of these is the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas." This book – and other apocryphal books – make Jesus into the Miracle Child.
For instance, water fetched by Jesus made Mary's doorstep gleam like the richest marble, killed poisonous snakes, and instantly grew beautiful lilies.
When Jesus was around dirty laundry would be instantly washed, dried, folded, and in the drawers. The fire lit itself whenever the air felt chilly and went out when it was no longer needed. The beds made themselves.
Clay figures made by Jesus would come to life and move.
Liberals, of course, deny such stories out of hand. They don't believe in a divine Jesus. They deny His miracles and scoff at His resurrection. I suspect that among Reformed people, many would like these stories to be true. I suspect that because, unlike the liberal churches, our problem likes not with the divinity but with the humanity of Christ. We have no problems with the miracles of the fish and loaves, walking on water, and the resurrection. Our problem is with a Jesus Who was wrapped in diapers, Who spilled milk as a child, Who cried as a baby, Who slipped in the mud and got His Sabbath outfit all dirty, Who accidentally tore His best cloak, Who cut a board two inches too short when He worked in Joseph's carpentry shop. We like our Jesus to be divine and we don't really want His humanity to be at the same level as ours. That's why we may like the stories of Jesus as the boy-wonder. These stories, however, create a false picture of Jesus. They rob Him of His humanity.
Was Jesus the boy-wonder? Certainly not because the Bible makes clear that the turning of water into wine was the first of Christ's miracles (Jn 2:1-11). Furthermore, the Hymn of Christ in Philippians 2 tells us Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself of His equality with God when He took human form:
(Phil 2:6-7) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.The "Infancy Gospel of Thomas" is filled with fiction designed to deny the full humanity of Christ. The true facts about the infancy and childhood of Jesus, apart from the little bit we read in today's Scripture lesson, remains a mystery.
Today, as we look at our Scripture reading from Luke 2, we discover that the boy Jesus was fully and completely human. At the same time, it becomes clear that the boy Jesus also realized that He stood in a special, divine relationship to God the Father. As our sermon title puts it, Jesus had two fathers and two homes.
I Earthly Father and Earthly Home
A Boys and girls, it is hard to imagine, but Jesus was once just like you. He probably liked birthday parties. He had His favorite and not so favorite foods. He had certain games He liked to play. I am sure He scraped His arm or knee some time or another.
What does the Bible say about the childhood of Jesus in Nazareth? We know that Jesus grew up in a fairly large family; we are told Joseph and Mary had a number of sons and daughters after His birth (Mk 6:3). In Nazareth, the town where He grew up, people called Jesus "the carpenter." That tells the story, because in small towns people know each other. Many think Joseph died early and that Jesus was in charge of His widowed mother's care (Jn 19:26-27) and supported His family through His work as carpenter.
B Jesus had an earthly father and an earthly home. He grew up like other children. This is supported by the two short verses the Bible uses to sum up thirty years of Christ's life. Its description of Jesus' growth and development is very similar to what it says about the growth and development of John the Baptist, Samuel, Samson, and Isaac. The point Luke wants to make is that Jesus grew up and matured just like any other Jewish boy. Listen to the words of verses 40 & 52:
(Lk 2:40) And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.What do these verses mean? What do they tell us about the boyhood of Jesus?
(Lk 2:52) And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
In these verses we have a picture of Christ's true humanity. He grew and developed just like every other human child.
First, Jesus grew intellectually. The Bible says He "was filled with wisdom" (Lk 2:40) and "grew in wisdom" (Lk 2:52). But wisdom here is more than mere knowledge and an understanding of the facts. In the Bible, wisdom is knowing how to live rightly before God. It means taking the facts and having a right relationship with God, man, and the world.
Second, Christ grew physically. The Bible says "the child grew and became strong" (Lk 2:40) and He "grew in ... stature" (Lk 2:52). The Greek suggests increasing maturity as well as physical growth.
Third, Christ grew spiritually – "the grace of God was upon him" (Lk 2:40) and He grew "in favor with God and men" (Lk 2:52). He was greatly loved and cherished by all.
Don't forget, Christ grew up as a Jew. In that time and place a twelve year old boy, like Jesus, was being prepared for entry into the religious community through a first century version of a bar-mitzvah.
There is, however, one important difference between Jesus and all other children: in His life there was nothing of the influence of sin, evil, and shortcoming. He was truly man, but also perfect man, even in childhood. His was a perfect yet complete humanity. All other children – including my wonderful grandsons – are corrupt in nature and children of wrath; but not Christ. In the lives of all other children the weeds grow alongside the wheat; but not in Christ.
Jesus in the Temple is a perfect illustration of how He "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Lk 2:52). He was "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (vs 46). Jesus was not there as a teacher – as some have said Him to be – but as a pupil. He was eager to learn more about His faith. He wanted to know His God and Father. If He was United Reformed, Luke would say He eagerly attended Church School, Catechism, worship services, Cadets, and Young Peoples. Already at the tender age of twelve He showed a great interest in God and the things of God. Jesus loved the house of God. He loved the worship and the learning and the fellowship. Jesus is the perfect example of someone Who seeks the Lord in the days of His youth. Jesus is a perfect example for our boys and girls and youth to follow.
Jesus was not a super-boy. He was and is just like you and me. And, He shows us how to be completely and fully human – by seeking God and the things of God. Boys and girls, young people, I urge you to be like Jesus. I urge you to seek the Lord while you are still young. Like the boy Jesus, commit your ways unto the Lord.
Now, we are told that the teachers of the Law "were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Lk 2:47). The Greek suggests that these teachers were amazed over and over again. They recognized that the wisdom of God was upon the boy. It is not necessary to see Jesus as a genius here, although He may have been. What we are to see is a sinless twelve year old boy Who is well studied in the Scriptures and illuminated by the Spirit.
Scripture doesn't tell us, but I wonder how Jesus impressed the educated men of the Temple. Did He quote big blocks of Scripture in response to their questions? Did His answers show He understood complicated concepts like atonement and judgment and how animal sacrifices covered sin? Did He dissect the individual commandments and state how they applied to life in the first century?
Whatever it was that Jesus said to these learned men, they were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
C Do you know what I find to be even more amazing than His understanding and His answers? I am amazed by the words of verse 51:
(Lk 2:51) Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.Compare Jesus here to how we sinners react to authority. We give lip to our parents, a big mouth to our teachers, and disrespect to our leaders. But not Jesus. He is obedient and perfect in all His ways. He succeeds where everyone from Adam on fails.
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was obedient to His parents. Even though He probably knew more than they did. Even though His was a closer walk with God. If any child could be exempt from the fifth commandment, you would say it would be Jesus. But, like every other child, Jesus had to obey the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Jesus knew that children serve God by being obedient to their parents. Imagine that: even though Jesus was God's Son, He still obeyed His human parents and put Himself under God's law.
Jesus had an earthly father and an earthly home.
II Heavenly Father and Heavenly Home
A We know from Luke's Gospel that there is more to Jesus than just a Jewish boy growing up in the town of Nazareth. He wrote no books, composed no songs, drew no pictures, carved no statues, amassed no fortune, commanded no army, ruled no nation. And yet ... He Who never wrote a line is the main character in numberless volumes. He Who never wrote a song has put music into the hearts of nameless multitudes. He Who never established an institution is the foundation of the Church, and of thousands of schools and hospitals too. He Who refused the kingdoms of this world has become the Lord of millions.
Why is this so? As Luke makes clear, Jesus is not just a boy Who sought the Lord from the days of His youth; He doesn't just have an earthly father and an earthly home; but he is also a boy Who stands in a special, divine relationship to God the Father because He is the Son of God and Messiah.
B It is extremely doubtful that Jesus knew and realized from birth on that He was the Son of God. The picture created by the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas", a picture of a little Jesus strutting around and claiming to be God, is simply not credible. As the years passed, Jesus grew not just intellectually and physically and spiritually, but He also grew in His knowledge and understanding of Who He was and what He had to do (Lk 2:40,52).
This much we know: already as a twelve year old in the temple Jesus was sensitive to the fact that He stood in a special relationship to the heavenly Father.
C I am sure that every parent here can imagine how frantic Joseph and Mary must have been when they realized their little boy was gone and was missing in the great city of Jerusalem. People often traveled to the feasts in groups, with the women and children leading the way while the men followed behind. Both Joseph and Mary must have assumed that Jesus was with the other parent.
When Joseph and Mary discovered Jesus was missing they desperately searched various parts of the city. This is every parent's nightmare. This happened to one of our set of parents a couple of months ago when they left their child here at church. You know the feeling that almost overpowers you: the palpitating heart, the frantic searching, the call of the child's name in ever more shrill tones, the feeling of fear and dread. And the questions that surge through your mind: Is he safe? What could have happened to him? What if I kept a better eye on him? I should have been more careful. But this story has a happy ending because after three days Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus in the temple courts.
Being a concerned and anxious mother, Mary admonished Jesus:
(Luke 2:48) "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."This is a deep and real anxiety felt by Mary. Already she was experiencing the sword spoken of by Simeon in his prophecy (Lk 2:35).
Jesus' answer to His parents is very revealing. He said to them,
(Luke 2:49) "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"At that time, just like today, no child should ever leave his or her parents without first telling them where he or she is going. But, then, Jesus had a problem. He had two fathers: one on earth, another in heaven. He was close to both and completely obedient to both. What home, then, is His real home? The one belonging to father Joseph, or the one belonging to God Almighty?
Jesus evidently knew and realized that He stood in a special relationship to God the Father. He had some understanding of Himself as God's Son. He talks about the temple as "my Father's house." He expresses amazement they even had to look for Him; to Him, it was obvious where he would be – in the temple, the house of His Father. And the phrase, "I had to be," shows how serious He takes His relationship with God. This was a "divine must." Just like He had to preach the Gospel, just like He had to go the way of the cross and the grave, so He had to be in the Temple with His heavenly Father. That's why He could reply the way He did. He wasn't showing disrespect to Joseph and Mary. He wasn't being disobedient. He was God's Son. He was at home in the temple. His was a heavenly Father and a heavenly home.
The point that Luke wants to get across to us is that the boy Jesus had two fathers and two homes, that He is completely human but also the Son of God.
What is Luke's purpose in telling us this? Luke is preparing us for the cross and grave, the crucifixion and resurrection. You see, Jesus is Savior. And, He can save us only because He is the perfect Savior, fully God and fully man and completely righteous.
There was a little girl whose parents had a miserable marriage and were divorced, having nothing in common except their love and affection for the child. One day as the girl was playing in the street she was hit by a bus and seriously injured. Taken to the hospital, she was examined by the doctors but was found to be beyond human aid.This is a picture of what Christ did on the cross. The Savior took the hand of sinful, hateful humanity and placed it in the loving hand of God. Jesus reconciled us to God; He broke down the barrier; He restored the broken fellowship caused by our sin. And, He was able to do this because – even as a child already – He had two fathers and two homes.
Hastily summoned to the hospital, her parents heard the sad news and stood silently, one on either side of the bed, looking down helplessly at their little girl. As they stood there, the child's eyes suddenly opened and seeing her parents she tried to smile. Then drawing one arm from under the sheet, she held it out in the direction of her father. "Daddy," she whispered, "give me your hand." Turning to her mother, she stretched out her other arm. "Mommy," she whispered, "give me your hand." Then with a final effort she brought both hands together and died.
We need to love this beautiful Savior. We need to submit to Him in devotion. We need to worship and adore Him.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page