Age 12 and Not a Smart Aleck?
Today I come before
you as your Bible teacher. This sermon will be a Bible teaching
sermon. This will be an unusual sermon in that there will be no
examples, no illustrations, no stories, and no applications to your
own life. You must make
your own applications. Today, I am simply a Bible teacher.
paragraphs of commentary as an in introduction.
As some of you
remember, our sermons are based on a lectionary, a system of
Scriptures for preaching and reading the Bible. 900,000,000
Christians belong to churches that use this lectionary system.
Today, all over the globe, a potential of 900,000,000 Christians in
some eight denominations will read and hear the story of Jesus in
the temple at age twelve. This is an incredible work of the
ecumenical movement, that so many Christians will read the same
Scriptures today and fifty-two Sunday of the year. … These
appointed readings involve a three-year series, and we are in Series
C this year which means that the gospel readings primarily come from
the book of Luke. This year, I counted and we have a potential of 43
sermons from Luke in this calendar year and nine other sermons can
be based on John. But our primary focus of our congregation and
900,000,000 other Christians will be on the Gospel of Luke this
year. … As a personal note, here in our congregation, we use the
lectionary 90 or 95% of the time, but we have the freedom to choose
other texts. … One
advantage of the lectionary is that you are forced to preach on the
whole range of the Bible and not focus on any one pet theme.
introductory comment. The author of the Gospel of Luke is Luke and
most people think that this is Luke, the physician, the traveling
companion of the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. Luke
writes two books; Luke and Acts. Luke said in his introduction that
he had been following the life of Christ closely for some time that
there were many other gospels in existence, but he wanted to write a
more orderly account of the life of Christ for the most excellent
Theophilus. … Many people feel that Theophilus was a Roman
official of upstanding position, a Gentile, a non-Jew, and therefore
Luke will explain to him many of the customs of the Jewish religion
that he wouldn’t have had to explain if Theophilus had been a Jew.
… Luke also indicates that there were many other gospels in
existence; perhaps the Gospel of Mark that we know was a
reminiscence of Peter. Perhaps he was referring to the Gospel of
Thomas that had numbers of exaggerated stories of Jesus’
childhood. In the Gospel of Thomas, not included in our Bible, Jesus
was more of a “boy wonder” and an “exhibitionist.”
In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus made birds out of clay and
breathed into them and they flew away; his robe he wore at infancy
magically grew longer on him as he grew taller. Luke has none of
this. Luke includes none of these fabricated legends found in other
gospels about the infancy and youth of Jesus
introductory comment. Most scholars conclude that Luke wrote during
the reign of the Roman emperor, Domitian, in the early 80s. Domitian
was the first Roman emperor to mandate that the emperor be to be
worshipped as God or Lord. There was a ceremony that every person in
the Roman empire was required to do as an act of obedience and that
was pinch some incense and say, “Caesar is Lord!” Christians
refused to do this and were summarily executed. That is what the
book of Revelation is all about. In this Gospel of Luke, the author
will emphasize that God is Lord and that Jesus is Lord. To call God
and Jesus Lord is not a mild statement but is sedition, a betrayal
of the Roman emperor. Luke is writing to a Roman official. (omit to
So, with that
introduction, we approach the nine infancy stories that are found in
the Gospel of Luke and only in the Gospel of Luke. These stories
climax with the seventh story, the story of Jesus in the temple at
twelve. These nine stories are uniquely Luke and reveal the
uniqueness of this theology. They are like a prelude to his
first chapter and first verse of Luke, he is building an argument or
story line with Theophilus, the reader. Luke wants Theophilus to
have a certain reaction, like “Whoooaaa!!! Wow!!! That is
like you are Theophilus hearing this story for the first time. Let
The first story is
about old Zechariah and Elizabeth and she gets pregnant while old
and barren. The reaction? Wow! The second story is Mary becoming
pregnant by the Holy Spirit and declaring that this child will be
the Son of God. The reaction? Wow! The third story is that Mary
visits her old Auntie Liz who is now pregnant and her baby kicks the
belly when Mary enters. The reaction? Wow! Old Zechariah comes out
of the temple, his baby has been born, old Zechariah can’t talk
and suddenly he talks and announces the baby’s name. The reaction
of the crowd? Wow! The angel choir is singing above the shepherds
and announce, “For you is born this day in the City of David, a
Savior who is Christ the Lord.” This is the first time Jesus is
called, Lord. The reaction? Wow! The shepherds go into the cave and
discover it is exactly as the angel told them. What is the reaction?
Wow! At eight days, Jesus is brought to the temple to be circumcised
as was custom, and Old Man Simeon was there, picked up Jesus and
declared that he could die now in peace because he had seen the
Messiah. The reaction? Wow. The next story is a story of an eighty
four year old widow, who had been in the temple for ages, and she
too recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah. The reaction? Wow!
Now we come to the
ninth story in Luke. He has told eight impressive stories about the
birth of Jesus, the stories all coming from Mary.
Each of the stories are to evoke a “wow” in the reader.
Yes, this is an impressive beginning to the story.
We come to the
ninth and last story. It is a great story. It is a boyhood story.
How I loved by boyhood, and the word, boy, stands out. Jesus is no
longer an infant, no longer a child as he was in the previous story
when he was deliberately called a child. In this story, Jesus has
become a boy.
We will now examine
the details of the story for today, appointed by our lectionary that
is used by 900,000,000 Christians around the globe today. Jesus, age
twelve, in the temple. You can read along in your bulletin and
circle the words as we work through them.
went to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was important to Jesus. He was nearby
at his birth in Bethlehem. He was circumcised in Jerusalem. He went
there every year for the Passover. The author knows that Jesus will
come back as an adult and be killed in Jerusalem as the people
reject him. Jesus will wail and cry over Jerusalem, knowing that the
residents of the Jerusalem were forever killing the prophets.
Passover. It was
Passover time and Jesus was going to the Passover in Jerusalem with
his family and friends. Passover was seven days and a grand vacation
from school and work. The Jews had three great religious festivals,
Passover, Booths and Weeks; just as we have three great festivals in
our Christian faith, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost.
Twelve. Jesus was
twelve years old and no longer regarded as a child. At eight days,
Jesus was circumcised, as required by law. The foreskin of his male
penis was slit to remind him he was a Jew. That was their custom.
Then, at twelve, there was a second custom, a Jewish bar mitzvah.
There was both an infancy ritual and a puberty ritual; just as in
our church, we have baptism and confirmation. Jesus himself was now
under the Jewish law; he was no longer regarded an infant or child.
He was now a boy. At age thirteen, he will be considered a young
man. … This reveals about Jesus that he is no longer an infant or
child. He is now of age, of discretion, of thought, of greater
responsibility. He is twelve and just been through the bar mitzvah.
In the previous story Jesus was labeled a child; now he has outgrown
his childhood and is no longer a child
Custom. Jesus went
to this Passover “as was his custom.” Luke explains many of the
Jewish customs to the Roman Theophilus. Luke uses the phrase, “as
with his custom” often in the early chapters of this book. It was
the custom that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day; it was the
custom that he attended Passover; it was the custom that he
worshipped on the Sabbath. Jesus’
parents realized the value of religious customs in their upbringing
of their son. The same is true today: parents who see ourselves as
Christian use our many religious customs to teach the Faith.
In the previous stories in Luke, Jesus was referred to as an
infant and then a child. In this text he is referred to as boy. As
the English language has three words for infant, child and boy, so
does the Greek language. In the previous story about an old widow,
Jesus is clearly referred to as a child but now in this story, a
boy. He has outgrown his childhood.
friends. His parents thought he was with “family and friends.” I
like the concept found in this text about family and friends. Both
are important to rearing a child. Initially, the parents were not
worried about Jesus when he was missing because they felt he was in
the safe care of other family and friends. We never rear a child
alone, two thousand years ago or today. It takes the security of
family and friends to rear a child.
Three. Jesus was
missing for three days. Not one, not two, not four, but three days.
Three days is important in this gospel because Christ was in the
grave for three days, the temple was supposed to be destroyed
rebuilt in three days, and Jonah was in the belly of the whale for
three days. Luke knew the way he was going to use the concept of
“three days” later in the gospel. “Three days” are important
to the story.
Temple. His parents
found Jesus in the temple. This temple in Jerusalem will be
important in the future stories about Jesus. When Jesus comes back
as an adult, he will cleanse the temple of the moneychangers, teach
at length in the temple, and will argue with the religious leaders
in the temple.
questioning. Jesus was sitting among them, listening, and asking
questions of religious teachers. His position is that of a humble
pupil and not of a learned teacher. In a famous picture of this
scene by Hoffman, Jesus is portrayed the learned teacher and the
teachers are learning from him, but this picture by Hoffman is not
accurate. Our bulletin cover today is a medieval portrait of Jesus
in the temple, portrayed as a great teacher who is seated above
those around him. But in Luke and Mary’s reminiscence, Jesus is
portrayed as sitting, listening and asking questions.
astonished. The teachers were “amazed and astonished” with Jesus
and his answers. Throughout the whole gospel, people will be
constantly amazed and astonished at his words and works. People were
astonished and amazed at his teachings; astonished and amazed at his
healings; astonished and amazed at his resurrection. Disciples today
continue to be astonished and amazed at how relevant and wise are
his teachings two thousand years later. We too are astonished and
amazed when we experience healing. We too are amazed at his victory
over death. We, too, continue to be astonished and amazed at God’s
miracles in our own lives.
Your father. His
mother speaks to him first, “Your father and I have been looking
for you.” This is the
key line. YOUR FATHER and I have been looking for you. She is
assuming that Joseph is the father. She seems to have forgotten the
visit of the angel so long ago or they have gotten so used to life
that Mary is the mother and Joseph is the father.
This sometimes happens to those of us who are adoptive
parents; we sometimes forget that we aren’t the biological parents
of the child. Mary erroneously states that Joseph is the father of
Anxious. His mother
indicates to Jesus that she has been “anxious” over his
behavior. The translation has been softened. Luke is the only gospel
writer who uses this word and it needs to be translated
“anguish” as it is in other places in Luke. Anguish has more
pain than the word, anxious. The parents were deeply distressed and
in pain that Jesus had treated them so. Lots of us have anxious
moments with young people and anguish over them. We could preach a
long sermon about over anxious parents who waste time and energy
being overly anxious.
Jesus first words.
This is the first time we have heard him talk in the gospel. That
moment is important. What is Jesus going to say? His saying or
teaching will be crucial because it is the first theme from his
Must. Jesus said,
I MUST be in my Father’s house. The word, “must,” or “dei”
in Greek. Luke uses that word all the time, nine times, the word,
“must.” This is the first time: I must be in my father’s
house. Soon Jesus will say in chapter 4, I must preach the gospel.
Then we will hear that he must heal the sick. He must do the
ministry entrusted to him. At the end of the gospel, we hear four
times that he must suffer and die on the cross. Must. It is his
God’s given destiny. In the first of his use of the word in Luke,
Jesus MUST be in MY father’s house.
house. Jesus said, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my
Father’s house?” The
first thing that Jesus says about himself that God is his Father. My
Father is not Joseph but my Father is God. … This same concept was
found on the lips of the angel to the Virgin Mary when he said that
Jesus to be the Son of the Most High and the Son of God. … The
same words will be spoken in the next scene eighteen years later
with John the Baptist when Jesus as baptized. God spoke from heaven,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” … These same words
are spoken in Luke 10, “No one knows the Father except the Son. No
one knows my father, the same words, MY FATHER, except the Son, and
no one knows the Son except the Father who sent him. The Son reveals
the Father.” … So this fundamental truth of this story at age
twelve is found in the first chapter of Luke, the baptismal story,
and in Luke 10 about the Son revealing the Father and Jesus calling
God, MY FATHER. Jesus’ awareness of his identity as the Son of God
was in him by the age of twelve; it didn’t happen eighteen years
later in his baptism.
understand. Often in this and other gospels, the disciples do not
understand the saying of Jesus. You would have thought the disciples
would have understood; you would have thought Mary and Joseph would
have understood because of the visitation of the angels some twelve
years before. But like most disciples, they don’t understand at
the moment and only later do they come to understand. That is the
way it works with most of us.
treasured. Mary is the person who is recalling all of these nine
stories. As the gospels were being written down, it was important
that the source of these stories were eyewitness of the events,
people who had seen and heard Jesus first hand. The authors were
thinking of adult stories. Someone finally asked, “What about
Jesus’ birth and childhood?” Mary then became the source for
these stories. Mary became the eyewitness.
favor. The last story of Luke’s nine infancy stories concludes.
Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. This
is a quotation from I Samuel 2 about Samuel. Luke adds the word,
wisdom. Jesus, in the next epoch of his life, will grow in wisdom,
stature and favor with God and other people. Jesus grew in wisdom
his whole life. That is what all of us want to do: grow in God’s
An 18 year old
gap. We don’t know the details of Jesus next eighteen years. We
can draw some conclusions. That is, we know that Jesus was part of a
large family. The boys in the family were named Jesus, James, Joses,
Judas and Simon, and there were girls, perhaps several girls. Theirs
may have been a family of ten or twelve children. … We know that
Joseph, Jesus’ father, was a carpenter by trade and Jesus became a
carpenter. We know that carpenters built houses, furniture for those
houses, and farming tools like yoke for oxen and harnesses. … We
conclude that Joseph died during these years; that is, we hear
nothing about Joseph after this but we do hear about Mary. Joseph is
conspicuously absent. If Joseph died, Jesus would have been the
oldest child and the new head of the family. My own mother was like
that; Grandma Pete was busy having babies and my mother actually
raised her siblings. We can think of Jesus as the oldest child in a
family with the father gone.
years, Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and in the
eyes of other people.
theoretically, some 900,000,000 Christians around the globe will
have studied this text.