RPM, Volume 19, Number 17, April 23 to April 29, 2017

It Should Have Been Obvious

Luke 2:41-52

By Reverend Mr. William F. Joseph III

I've had the opportunity to teach at Belhaven several times. And I had the opportunity to be teaching for a morning on the incarnation, and I used an illustration that I use pretty regularly when I teach on the incarnation — the illustration of Jesus as God becoming man: I use the illustration of one of us in the classroom becoming an ant. And so I always get to a point where I ask, "How easy would that be?" And all of a sudden one of the girls in the back (it always takes one of those in the back) said, "Oh, that's easy!" I'd never had that answer before, and I'll bet I've used that illustration a thousand times. She said, "That's obvious!" [I thought, "This ought to be good."] She said, "I'll get my brother to have a baby, and then I'll be an aunt!" To her it was obvious. To me, I had never thought of that answer. And class had to be called off for the rest of the day, because I was rolling so hard on the floor! Of course it's obvious! You get your brother or your sister to have a baby, and you become an aunt! The only way it can be done. It was obvious. It was clear. It was evident.

Let's look at our passage tonight. Turn with me to Luke 2:41. We're going to look at a passage that many of us have read before, looked at; we're familiar with it. What I'd like to do is look at the obvious things in the passage. Hear the word of God from Luke, chapter two, beginning with verse 41:

"And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day's journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him. And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.' And He said to them, 'Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you now know that I had to be in My Father's house?' And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

Did you catch the obvious things? Maybe they weren't as obvious to you as they were to me. Maybe you have better insights than I do. But here are the three things that were the most obvious of this passage when I started thinking about preaching this service.

The first is, the most obvious thing to me was the normalcy [I guess that's a word; I'll have to check later]…the normalcy, the normal reality of Jesus' family. That's the first thing that we're going to look at that to me appears to be obvious.

The second is the contrast — the contrast between the fathers. Not a conflict; not confusion; but just contrast.

And then, then final thing that was obvious to me in this passage was the desires of the Son.

I. The normalness, the normalcy of the family of Jesus. ?

We're not told a whole lot about Jesus, but in this passage we are given an insight into a family where it becomes obvious that most of our families are probably just like Jesus'. Let's look together at this normal family in the Scriptures.

The first thing that you notice is that the passage talks about His parents going up regularly to Jerusalem. This was their normal habit. They had habits, just like any family. They had habits. They would go up. It says in the New American Standard there, "His parents used to go up to Jerusalem." [That tells you that a majority of the guys that were translating for the New American Standard were Southerners… "they used to go up."] I kind of like the English Standard Version a little better. It says, "Now His parents went up to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover." In other words, they had the habit, they had the custom of going up regularly to the Feast of the Passover. It was their yearly custom. They didn't have to, because even though they were required by the Scriptures to go up to the Feasts of Passover and to Pentecost and to Tabernacle, as Israel began to spread away further and further from Jerusalem the requirements became that they had to go to at least one feast a year. And then as Israel spread through all of the Mediterranean area, it became required that maybe they ought to go at least once in their lifetime. So the "habit" that Joseph and Mary had of going every year was a very interesting habit. It also indicates from this passage that they stayed the entire ten days. A lot of folks would go just for one portion of it, but Joseph and Mary apparently went and stayed the entire ten days.

Now in this case, there's something else that's pretty obvious. Jesus had just turned twelve years of age. He probably has gone through His bar mitzvah, now has become a Son of the Law, so this is probably His first time to go as an adult. He probably had been before, but this is His first time to go as an adult.

But this family is pretty normal. They've got some interesting habits, some spiritual habits…the same kind of spiritual habits that you and I in our families could have: regular attendance in God's house. OK, I'm preaching to the choir, obviously, on a Sunday night! But that's why I'm preaching this passage, just because we are those who are regular Sunday night folks.

Notice that this is a real family, too. They had travel tales. Does your family have a famous travel tale? Do you have famous travel experiences? This is not Home Alone; this is instead "left alone." Now, in Home Alone, they went away and left the little boy at home. They went away and left him. But in this case, the parents leave to return home and leave their Child. You see, they're pretty normal. I know none of y'all have ever left one of your children somewhere. I remember doing youth work in First Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City, and waiting and waiting and waiting for one Dad to come pick up their child. Extra hours of playing, yes, as we waited and waited. Finally — you know Yazoo City was so big — that finally I just said I'll just take you home. What had happened? Somebody had been left alone. We have that case right here.

It's interesting as you read through this, the use of the words in here. When the parents finally find Jesus, it says that they were — what? If you look at it there in verse 48, it says they were astonished. If you look earlier, it says that all those who heard Jesus were amazed. Now the difference between those tells you something. The amazed people who heard Jesus speaking and asking questions were amazed because this was out of the ordinary; but the parents were astonished. Now, the difference is that it means that they were very upset from a personal point of view. In other words, they had had to do what? They had gone for a whole day on their trip. Now it happened very easily, I'll explain in a second, but they went a whole day thinking everything was fine on the trip home. They get half way, they look around, "Oh, no!" Then they have to do what? They have to come all the way back — that's another day, that's two days. Then they spend a day looking for Him. In other words, 'Son, You caused us three…no, six whole days, because we've got to go back!' You can see the astonishment that's theirs as they deal with this situation.

But then the other way is, notice how Mary deals with it. "Look, why did You treat us this way?" I've heard that a thousand times when we were traveling! "Why are you being so selfish? Don't you realize what you're doing to us as we travel?" This is indeed a very typical looking family. Hmmm….

It says they were anxiously looking for Jesus. Remember, they're from Nazareth…[real big metropolitan area!] They'd been in Jerusalem for ten days. They'd been keeping up with Jesus all that time. There may be some other children involved, and now there's just them going back to look for Jesus and they're anxious. You bet they're anxious! They are nervous. They are upset. Not only is this a family travel story that they'll remember for a long time, but there's all kind of confrontation in the family. Confrontation…

But then, also, this is a pretty normal family in other ways. They're very limited. Look at verse 50. If you look down at verse 50, you see these words:

"And they did not understand the statement which He had made to them."

They didn't understand their Child? None of you, I know, that have children have ever misunderstood your children! And as a child, you were never misunderstood!

You see, the most obvious thing is the family of Jesus is a normal family. There's miscommunication. There are problems. There are struggles. We sometimes think of all the problems that our families have, and we forget that that's part of being a family. For Jesus it was very obvious; for us as we read this passage it's very obvious. We see it here. We see this family struggling. We see these parents trying to do what's right. We see these parents forgetting Who their Father is. We see this family forgetting — though going to church is important, though going to the Father's house is important — and they have been regular; they have been habitual in it. They still lose sight on this occasion. Now, if that doesn't help some of you at least deal with the fact that this morning as you were coming to church you only had your second biggest fight with your children, then this should be an encouragement to us. Here's the family of Jesus, and we know that Jesus didn't sin. This isn't an issue of sin. This is just an issue of families not communicating and not being aware.

Now how did Jesus get lost? Well, think about that for a moment. In those days they didn't jump into the big Land Cruiser and travel back to Nazareth. As a matter of fact, they were pretty smart about how they traveled. The women and the children would leave early in the morning when it was cool, get further down the road. They were going slower. And then maybe two hours or three hours after they had left, the men would leave. And they would go faster, and so as one went along slowly the other would move faster and catch up, and they would reach an agreed place. So you see, even in their travel it was very easy for them to lose Jesus—for Joseph to think Mary had left earlier with Him, and Mary to think He's with Joseph coming along later. And so their method of travel created a problem.

But even in the midst of the problem, even in the midst of the problem there's a very interesting statement. It says, "The boy Jesus stayed behind." And we'll deal with that in a few minutes, but I think that drives us to the next obvious thing. And what is it?

II. The contrast between fathers.

You see that particularly in verse 48. In verse 48, you see these words:

"And when they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.'"

Now tell me you haven't heard that one before! "Your father…." Have you ever heard your wife say that? [Wives, y'all have never said that…] This is a woman who knows that this is not the real father of Jesus. The contrast is interesting because Jesus is like an adopted child.

I had a student at Alabama who was adopted decide one day that he wanted to find his birth parents, and he came and we talked about it. And I encouraged him to go very slowly, because as much as he wanted to find out who his real parents were, they might not want to know who he was. And he didn't want to go in and mess their life up or create problems; he wanted to go real slow. It took him about nine years to be able to find them.

But here is Jesus finding His Father, even though He is living with His adopted father. And you see the contrast, and the contrast is so interesting because in it we're not told much about the father of Jesus, are we? Probably the two passages besides this passage that we're looking at…in Matthew 1:19, you hear these words:

"And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man…"

The description of Joseph is that he's a righteous man. Boy, now, that covers a lot! Because that means he was a man who trusted in God for his salvation. He was not righteous because he was good; he was righteous because Christ was righteous for him. And because of Christ's righteousness, he was a righteous man.

But it also says he was not wanting to disgrace Mary. He had found out that Mary was pregnant, but he was a kind man. He desired to put her away secretly. He was going to deal with her very graciously. But it says when he had considered what the angel had told him, he went ahead and married her. In other words, he was a thoughtful man — a great example of a godly man, right? But that's all we know about him! It's interesting…we don't know about his sins; we don't know a lot about him. Why? Because the emphasis in the Scriptures is not on Joseph; the emphasis in the Scriptures is on God, our Father. And yet the contrast here is simply this. Mary says, "Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you…" and then Jesus replies in what way? "Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?"

Now think of the people sitting around as Jesus says that. The people sitting around have been listening to this young man and talking with this young man. They have been conversing. He's been asking questions, and they have been listening to any answers that he may have given. It had to be a very interesting situation (it's like one of these children coming up here to lead and to talk. Not quite that way, but pretty close), because He had not been doing it for one day; apparently He had been doing it the entire time that the parents were gone.

Isn't it interesting that Jesus has that habit when the parents aren't around? Don't you wish you had that confidence in your children to do that? That when you were not around, your children would be calling Ligon and asking him hard questions? Hmmm…yeah…yeah…you and me, too! That would be wonderful, particularly if they are twelve. You see the strange contrast. Those people sitting around…they see this woman and this man coming in, and they are upset (and they should have been)…they were upset with their Son, and they say "Your father and I…" and yet the Son replies, "Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?" You see, Jesus drives home the contrast. It's a contrast that's easy to see. The whole of Scripture is about God, who is our Father. And that's why indeed there's not much about Joseph. But it was to me a very interesting and obvious point to see.

III. The desire of the Son.

Now this is where it hits home. Look at what Jesus said to them:

"Why is it you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?"

These are the first words of Jesus…the first words of Jesus that are written for us. We don't read much about His youth in Matthew, because Matthew was more concentrating on Joseph's side, the legal side of His heritage and where He came from. But we know Luke had talked to Mary, and so this obviously is from Mary's point…to which to those of you who say, 'Well, it's also obvious that Joseph didn't say a whole lot in his family,' he probably said something; but he couldn't talk from the grave, because when Luke came to interview Mary and get the information, Joseph was probably already dead. So we're only getting her side of the story.

But in this view as we look at this, as we see what he says about Jesus' first words, do you see the longing that's there already? Do you see the longing that Jesus has? He says that "I must be in My Father's house." He is like a newborn babe who longs to be where the word of God is preached. He longs for it. He's been there for three days. No, if you think about it, He's been there thirteen days: the ten days of the Feast, and the three days His parents were traveling back and forth toward Nazareth…and He was in the house of God.

Now, we don't know of the conscious awareness of Jesus. We're not told when He knew that He was the Son of God. How did that go? But here we know there is a longing to be in God's house, a necessity to be there. He feels that necessity. He must be in God's house! He already understands the contrast between "your father" and "My Father." And yet at the same time, He wants to be, He longs to be in the house. Where did He get that longing? He had been taught the Scriptures. He had memorized the Scriptures. He had studied the Scriptures as a child growing up. He had sat under Joseph's instruction, because though we're not told what Joseph did in the details, if Joseph was a righteous man then the commandments in Deuteronomy 4 were important to him — that he was to teach his children when he rose up, when he sat down, that he was to instruct them. Joseph was a carpenter. He taught Jesus carpentry. Jesus was a carpenter. But he was a godly carpenter, and so he taught his Son the truth of God's word even as he taught Him about carpentry.

The desires of the Son had become very obvious. "My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times," the Scripture says. "As the deer pants for the water brook, so my soul pants for Thee, O God." Those were passages that Jesus knew and understood. Those were passages that He had heard and learned and memorized, and now was able even as a twelve-year-old to begin to live. He had been there for ten days.

And what had He been doing in those ten days? The passage before us tells us that He had been asking questions and listening to the men in the temple, to the teachers and the scribes. He had been conversing with them about God and His word. We don't know what questions he asked. Michael Card has tried to kind of visualize it in a song called The Voice of a Child, in which a rabbi is said to be "searching for the Child that was here yesterday.

Stand in awe of " I don't know if you've heard the song, but the words to the chorus go:

"Come listen a while to the voice of a Child,
The wisdom of God;
Hear what He has to say, for the time is today.
You can come, or just walk away."

In other words, don't you imagine that those scribes, those rabbis, hearing that Child ask questions…it says they were amazed! They were in wonder. They couldn't believe what was going on.

Now it doesn't indicate that Jesus was teaching them, that He was instructing them. It simply says He was asking questions and He was answering questions. He was growing. He was learning. He was getting a better grasp of His Father and His relationship to His Father. It's very obvious that Jesus, who had learned the Scriptures from His youth, was not just learning Scriptures. He was not just memorizing Scriptures. It was becoming His heart. It was becoming His communication with His Father. When He read the Scriptures, He heard His Father speaking. When He spent time in the word it wasn't a duty, it was a joy. It was something He longed to do more of, and now that He was in the temple He took advantage of it. Now that He was in the house of God, He took advantage of it so that when His parents come in, He says, 'Look, it was obvious where I was. Haven't you been watching? Haven't you been listening to the questions I ask at home? It's obvious that I should be in the house of God…that I must be in the house of God.'

Are these things obvious to you? I don't know. But it's obvious by your presence here tonight that you must be a people who love God; that you desire to worship Him; you desire to think through His word. Is it because we are becoming like Christ? Is it because the Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts and changed us so that we desire to be in our Father's house?

The Spirit does what? He changes our hearts of stone, so that we cry out, "Abba! Father!" "Daddy!" And here we are, gathered together in God's house. Is it because we long to be here? Is it because it is our hearts' desire? Is it obvious that we are children of this twelve-year-old King who longed to be in His Father's house? Is it obvious that you and I, because we are here in God's house… is it obvious that our thinking, our questions, our answers that we give to those who are sitting in our sphere of influence in our daily areas of work, that they are hearing and seeing that we long to be — that we must be — in God's house?

It's interesting how this passage finishes…a passage that many of us know and have heard many times. It says that "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man."

He kept increasing…that's pretty obvious, too, isn't it? His relationship with His Father…it grew. It grew stronger to the point where one day He said, "Father, if there's any other way, let this cup depart from me; nevertheless, not My will, but Your will." Now that is some kind of obvious relationship between a Father and a Son, isn't it, that He would die to fulfill His Father's will so that you and I might have life. He died in our place. He took our sins upon Himself. It was not easy!

And yet, because of His Father's will, because of His longing to be in His Father's house and to have you and me there with Him, He died, so that the end result will be that we will be in our Father's house forever. We, because of Christ and what He did, will dwell with Him in His house, in our Father's house, forever. What we do here is simply practice of what we will do there. What we do here, our attitudes here, as we gather together in God's house to worship is simply practice. That's why our fellowship together on Sunday evenings is such a blessing. That's why our gathering together and seeing each other and being able to talk afterwards is such a blessing…to be able to ask questions of each other: "How are you doing?" "I'm doing fine." It's because none of us would be here if Jesus' own desire was not to be in His Father's house. We're here…it's obvious that you're here! It is obvious that you're here.

But let me ask one other question. Is it obvious to your neighbors that you are here? Is it obvious to the watching world that you are here? Because you know, as time seems to be moving, more and more people are giving up evening worship, and they're giving it up left and right. Pretty soon your attendance on Sunday evenings will be one of the biggest evidences that you belong to Christ in this country. It could well be, "You know those Christians…they're the only ones driving around on Sunday evening straight to the church," and that kind of thing. But let's remember something. We're not here because we're good. Nor are we here because we want to do everything that God wants us to. We're here because our Savior's desire is to be in His Father's house, and His work in our lives has now given us the desire to be in God's house.

Is it obvious? It is to this crowd. But is it obvious to the world watching that we are here? An interesting question to struggle with.

"Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and man."

May that be obvious in our lives as well.

Let us pray.

Father, each of us struggles in our knowledge of You and our understanding of You and our obedience to You. And yet we are glad that our obedience and knowledge of You and understanding of You is not what You require, for Jesus has known You and Jesus has been perfectly obedient for us, and Jesus is our righteousness. And so we are grateful, Father, to look again at the motives that we have for being in Your house; that we are here because of what Jesus did: that He indeed suffered on the cross for us, but He also longed and desired to be in Your house. He did that when He was twelve. O Lord God, thank You for Your work in our lives that we indeed desire to be in Your house, and that it is very obvious that You have been at work and that You have grown us and changed us. O Lord, bless us. May we be faithful not because of our faithfulness but because of His faithfulness, and may we indeed dwell in Your house forever. These things we ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let's stand and sing together the last stanza of 184 [The King of Love My Shepherd Is].

"And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever."

©2013 First Presbyterian Church.

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