Series on Luke, II The Identification, F The Boy Advancing, Text: 2:39-52, Title: Prodigy or Prophet?


Many fictional works about Jesus’ youth have been written. Some were written by well-meaning friends who recount his boyhood miracles, Others were written by eastern mystics who wish to claim His influence. There is not a shred of truth in any of them. The Bible tells us very little about Jesus youth, and in fact the best information we have is right here in Luke’s gospel. From what Luke says and what we know of the first century culture and Jewish customs we can form a picture, but it is still a very dim picture of His childhood and adolescence. The Bible was not written to answer to our idle curiosity. It was written to provide us with the knowledge that will restore our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer and enable us to worship and obey Him. It provides exactly what we need, no more and no less. It is proper to assume that we are given what we need to know, and since our text is the fullest revelation of the early life of Jesus, what is it that we need to know? There are three things revealed about the early years here and they are His development, His dedication and His determination.

I His Development

There are two statements in our text about His development. In verses 39 and 40 we read, When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him, and in verse 52 it says, And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. These verses contain two elements.The first is a comment on His physical and intellectual development. The second is information about His spiritual dedication. We shall consider first His development. I think this is vital because there are many misconceptions  about the incarnation of the Son of God. The Bible teaches that He was fully God and fully human. The Nicene Creed uses the language, “Light of Light, very God of very God,” to describe His deity. The book of Hebrews reminds us that angels worship Jesus, but also tells us that he was tempted in all points just as we are, and is, therefore, able to sympathize with us sinners. I suspect that although the error of doubters is to deny His deity, the most common error that people make is to misunderstand His full humanity. The information we have here reminds us that he developed in the normal human manner, physically and mentally. The illusion that many have about Jesus is enshrined in a familiar Christmas hymn, “Away in a Manger.” It contains the line, “The cattle are lowing The poor Baby wakes But little Lord Jesus No crying He makes.” This is probably the carol that most children learn first and it contains misinformation. Of course he cried. He was a real human baby. He wasn’t born speaking Koine Greek, or Aramaic fluently. Hebrews 5:8 reminds us that he learned obedience through what he suffered. Each new experience was a learning experience for Jesus but he met each one without sinning. Jesus grew hungry, Jesus grew tired, and let me shock your sensibilities, Jesus sneezed and Jesus coughed. What we are being taught in this sparse information about His development is that he was truly and fully human, while at the same time being truly and fully divine and neither one detracts from the other.

II His Dedication

We have been told that the grace of God was upon Jesus, and that He grew in favor with God as well as man. We have studied His formal dedication in the previous section, but His dedication was not just a ceremony it was heart devotion. This becomes evident in the story in verses 41-47,  Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Is he precocious? Is He a prodigy? Humanly speaking, He would be considered such, but actually He is a prophet and not a prodigy. This is clearly shown in Jesus’ response to his parents’ anxiety in verses 48-50, When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. It is easy for us in retrospect to wonder why they didn’t understand, but his family, and his disciples as well, all misunderstood in the first century. These events were gradually unfolding in the fulfillment of prophecy and they were struggling to understand things that are now quite clear to us because we see the whole picture. The point is that Jesus awareness is growing in His spiritual development and here He is beginning His self-disclosure. He is conscious of the need to be dedicated to God’s house. It is His house. It is a house He came to save. Later the author of Hebrews would write in 3:1-6, Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.   Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

III  His Determination

In verses 51 and 52 we read, Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. C.H. Spurgeon writes this about Jesus, "Behold, also, the condescension of the Son, that he should become the servant of the Father, to do not his own business, but the Father's business. See how he stoops to become a child, subject to his mother; and mark how he stoops to become a man, subject to God his Father." Actually the King James Version uses the words Father’s business for Jesus’ preoccupation, and the New International Version uses the words Father’s house, but in reality the Greek simply says “the things of my Father.” This preoccupation with the Father’s business or house is characteristic of Jesus’ entire life and ministry. In John 17:4 Jesus says in His high priestly prayer, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. This was right before his atoning death on the cross, and that event was the culmination of the work He came to do because he was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This was the Father’s business and the reason Jesus had been sent. This theme runs throughout the gospel of John and Jesus’ ministry. In John 6:38 Jesus says, For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. In 10:37 He says, Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. In 9:4 Jesus warns, As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. In John 5:17 we read,  Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working,” and in 5:30 He adds, By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. I think you get the point. What Jesus says to Mary and Joseph is something he says over and over again in His ministry. He is only about His Father’s things, His Father’s house, His Father’s business. That business included a life of total obedience, and a willingness to sacrifice Himself for the sins of His people. This is something Jesus was aware of even at the age of twelve. He was, after all, the great prophet who understood perfectly what had been written in Moses, and the prophets and the Psalms concerning Messiah’s mission and he had come to fulfill it.