Summary: We study the only biblical story about Jesus as a youth. He is already going about his work as our obedient substitute. Mirror Christ by being obedient to the Lord and his representatives.
The First Sunday after Christmas
During the first decade of life, children tend to view their parents as the greatest people in the world. This is the time of life when kids argue among each other, “My dad is stronger than your dad! My mom is prettier than your mom! My parents are smarter than your parents!” During this stage, parents are almost idolized by their children, and it seems they can do no wrong.
In the second decade of life, parents go from being the smartest people in the world to the dummest, most unfair parents on the planet. “Dad, I can’t believe you bought me that brand of jeans…nobody wear those anymore! Mom, I have the earliest curfew of anyone I know.” At this stage, parents can do no right.
In the third decade of life, the younger generation is beginning to figure out that their parents weren’t so clueless after all.
As we said before, today’s theme is all about obedience. And God teaches us today that we need to have the obedience of a 12-year-old. Now that might sound odd, given what we said about that stage of life. That’s one year before the teen-age years, and when you think of teenagers, you probably don’t immediately think of the word: obedience. Of course, we are not talking about just any 12-year-old. We need to have the obedience of the 12-year-old Jesus. This morning we will learn that this is an obedience that respects the Lord, and it is an obedience that respects the Lord’s representatives.
Maybe you spent some time with family these past few days. And even if you didn’t, you probably make a phone call or two to relatives far away. At a time of the year like this, it’s only natural to reminisce about the old days. You and your family might have told stories to each other about things that you did when you were younger. While some of these stories might be humerous and a little embarrassing, probably parts of those anecdotes reflect the kind of person you are today.
God gave us 4 books about the life of Jesus, but he gave us only one story about Jesus’ childhood. So this one story that we have of Jesus’ youth is God’s way of teaching us what all of Christ’s early years were like. Christ’s early years mirror his later years that we are more familiar with. We can sum up the youthful Jesus with the word: obedience.
We see that Jesus was given good models of obedience with the earthly family that God gave the Christ-child to. Look at our first verse, “every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” It was a requirement that all Israelite men who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem to travel to the city and celebrate the Passover each year. Joseph lived in Nazareth, outside of this sphere. He didn’t have to go. And it was only the men who were required by God’s law to do this…the women didn’t have to go. But look at the devotion…the obedience…that this family shows toward God’s laws, “every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” They didn’t want to just give the Lord the minimum…they wanted to give him their devotion year after year.
And now we get to the more well-known part of this story. After the feast was over, the family returned home. And maybe you have wondered how on earth Jesus could have been forgotten in Jerusalem while his parents left. Back in those days, families traveled much like a family of ducks swims on a lake. The mother duck goes first, followed closely by the little ducklings, and the father duck protects the rear. Mary would have been traveling with other women who had decided to come along, and they would have started out an hour or so before the men. She must have thought that Jesus was with the guys, since at 12 years old he was just beginning to become a man. Joseph would have been traveling with the guys, and he must have thought that Jesus was with mom. The fact was that Jesus wasn’t with either. He was in the place that you’d expect to find the Son of God. He was obedient to his Heavenly Father by staying and learning more about his mission. And there they find him in the temple, eagerly learning the Word of his Heavenly Father. Young Jesus wasn’t being a precocious 12-year-old telling the religious experts how things were, but he was a humble student of the Word, enthusiastically engaging in Bible study: “they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” It just wasn’t every day that you found a 12-year-old so interested in the Scriptures and so respectful to his elders, “everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”