Summary: Compelling look at the story of Jesus in the Temple from an innovative perspective (with scholarly support). A message for the whole church; not just parents. Good illustrations.
Just before Jesus stepped into the spotlight, God raised up John the Baptist “to turn the hearts of the parents toward their children, and the disobedient toward the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17 NRSV) What does it look like when parents turn their hearts toward children?
Once upon a time, a congregation outgrew their church building. Everyone agreed that they needed to build a new church; but they couldn’t agree on a blueprint, a budget or a building site. In desperation, the pastor invited everyone to join him for an evening of special prayer. One woman came, bringing her five year old daughter, Lucy. As she listened, Lucy understood that they were asking God for a new church building. She made a silent promise to God; telling Him that she would figure out some way to help the pastor.
The next morning, Lucy was up and out of the house before her mother was out of bed. There was a light snow falling. Lucy’s mom saw tiny tracks leading away from their house. She ran outside in her bathrobe, trailing her daughter down the street. She quickly guessed that Lucy was heading for the pastor’s house; he lived two blocks away.
Sure enough, Lucy’s mom found her little girl talking to the pastor on his porch. She had just arrived; the pastor hadn’t even had a chance to invite her to come in and warm up. Lucy was crying, telling the pastor about her prayer and her promise to God. When Lucy’s mother made it onto the porch, she realized that the pastor was crying, too. He was looking over Lucy’s shoulder. Lucy’s mom turned around and discovered that she had run right past Lucy’s toy wheelbarrow. It was parked at the bottom step of the pastor’s porch. There were two bricks inside.
(Don’t you love it? Kids are sweet, but they can be so silly, too. They don’t understand that you can’t build a church out of two little bricks. Lucy’s idea reminds me of the little boy who volunteered to share his lunch with a few thousand people. That kid actually believed that two fish and five loaves of bread were enough to feed a multitude. Jesus was there, He turned His heart toward that kid…and, well…that ridiculous little kid was right! See Luke 9:10-17)
The next Sunday, Lucy’s pastor held up those two bricks and told the people about Lucy’s generous act of faith. The people were stunned. They grew up, almost on the spot, and they worked out their disagreements very quickly. They wound up with a great new church.
Amazing things will happen when we turn our hearts toward our children.
The bible only offers one story about the boy Jesus (Luke 2:41-50). It’s a story about what happened when Jesus (age 12) went up to Jerusalem—in the company of family, friends and fellow pilgrims—to celebrate the Passover. Back in those days, a boy’s coming of age into manhood took place on his thirteenth birthday. When a boy was twelve, he was allowed to travel to Jerusalem and observe the Passover celebration.
In all likelihood, this was Jesus’ first Passover experience. It’s quite possible that this is the first time that Jesus saw spotless lambs sacrificed by those who wanted to receive God’s forgiveness for their sins. By the age of twelve, Jesus understood that He was the Son of God; but it’s very possible that He didn’t have a crystal clear sense about what that was going to mean. While Jesus watched the lambs being sacrificed, I suspect that He experienced an important moment of self-discovery. I imagine it was a time of mixed emotions.
Now the Passover festival was originally intended to be a seven day celebration; but by the first century, the religious leaders had trimmed it down to a two-day ceremony. Once the sacrifices were made, the feasts were consumed, and the sheaves of barley waved as a token of thanks for the coming harvest, almost all of the pilgrims headed home. In fact, the priests came to refer to the last five days of Passover as “half-holy days;” meaning they were less important than the first two.
According to Alfred Edersheim, an insightful scholar who was very familiar with Jewish history and the original language of Luke’s text, Joseph and Mary were probably in the multitude that left Jerusalem right after the main event. If they were, then it might explain why Jesus chose to stay behind in the Temple.
Let’s put it this way: Joseph and Mary probably acted like the majority of modern American church-goers. They did their religious duty, period. They showed up for the main worship service and then ducked out as soon as God finished taking attendance. I would dare to say that Joseph and Mary didn’t connect with God; otherwise they probably wouldn’t have lost track of His Son!