Luke 2:41-52 Sermon December 31, 2017
“Jesus’ First Words”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
2:41 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. 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. 2:51 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.’
Most of us are familiar with the seven last words of Jesus from the cross, as it used to be that Christians would gather on Good Friday to hear various pastors preach on the seven last things that Jesus said before He died. But I would guess that few of you ever heard a sermon on the first words of Jesus in the temple, right? Yet as I was meditating on Luke chapters one and two for my Christmas sermons, I realized that the first recorded words of Jesus in the Bible are truly significant! Here they are:
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” I want you to see two significant truths that flow from these first words of Jesus:
The First Truth is that Jesus’ masterful questions always cut to the heart of a matter.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked.
The very first recorded sentence of Jesus in the gospels is a question. That shouldn’t surprise us, as God often uses questions to make us think. Consider: what are God’s first words to Adam after he has disobeyed in the garden? A question: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) What are Jesus’ first words to the Samaritan woman in John 4:7? A question: “Will you give me a drink?” What are Jesus’ first words to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus? A question: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
Jesus asked about 175 questions in the four gospels, and each time He used these enquiries like a skilled surgeon with a knife, getting to the heart of the matter.
Now as an application, I’d like you to ponder that, as you think about how you approach people. Let me ask you: How often do you use questions? Instead of giving your opinion right away, how often do you ask questions to make others get to the heart of the issue? A good question often exposes the motive for why we are doing something, doesn’t it? Consider: a friend comes to you for advice, and you can either give them your opinion, or you can ask “What are the heart issues involved in this choice?” or “Are you concerned about what others will think of you if you do such and such?” Whether in counseling or evangelism, Jesus shows us that good questions can cut to the heart of any matter.
But getting back to our passage, let’s consider why Jesus’ first question, “Why were you searching for me?” is a masterful one.
The context is that Jesus, along with his parents, Joseph and Mary, have been in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and as they make their way back home, his parents make the fair assumption that Jesus is among their many relatives who have all made the trip together. But after a day’s journey, they realize that their 12 years old son is missing! (Some of you have left behind children without realizing it; I know we have!) So they frantically double back to Jerusalem – another day’s journey – and then spend a full day anxiously searching for their son!
Look at what happens at that point, in Luke 2:46-48: “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. 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.” (Or “searching for you in great distress.” Literally, “in pain.”)
(Have you ever “lost” a child at a crowded beach? We have – and it is a panicky moment!) So you might think that Jesus, being aware of His parents’ distress and pain, might say something like, “Sorry to make you worry. I should have told you what I was doing. Please forgive me.” Or perhaps Jesus might have said, “Chill out! I’m 12 years old now. I can take care of myself. No need to call out the FBI to find me!”
But instead, Jesus asks them a question to make them stop and ponder. His question is designed to make them ask themselves, “Yes… why were we searching all over? Why were we so anxious? We should have known where He would be – in the temple, in His Father’s house, going about His Father’s business … for isn’t that why He was born? Isn’t that what the angel Gabriel proclaimed to us? Isn’t that what the Shepherds and Simeon and later the Wise Men all told us, that our child was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that His food would be to do the will of Him who sent Him? We should have known that He would have to be in His Father’s house!”
Some 21 years later an angel would ask some women who had come to Jesus’ tomb “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). That cut to the heart of the matter!
Perhaps the most important question that Jesus ever asked was the one He asked Simon Peter, and that each of us must also give an answer to” “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15)
Therefore I ask each of you, “Who is Jesus Christ?” Who do you think He is? The answer to this question will settle the matter of your eternal destiny, and will establish once and for all the matter of authority in your life. It will utterly rearrange your priorities and values.
The Second Truth is that Jesus’ matchless relationship to God reveals the heart of His mission.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
“Had to be” or ‘must”: It was inevitable, given Who He is. Jesus’ whole nature yearns to serve His Father.
“My Father” is significant, as pious Jews of that time would refer to “our Father” or “My Father in Heaven.”
Therefore the first recorded words of Jesus are a recognition of His unique relationship to God. Jesus had a relationship with God (the Father) like no one else. Jesus Christ has a relationship to God the Father that is different from – and deeper than – anything that had been known before. And the last statement—that they did not understand Jesus—is Luke’s way of saying to us: “There’s more here than meets the eye. This is the key point, don’t you miss it.”
John Piper comments that the main point of the passage lies in the contrast between “your father” and “my father.” Mary says, “Your father and I have been searching for you.” But Jesus answers, “You should have known I would be at the house of my Father.” In other words, Jesus has chosen this crucial stage in his life, on the brink of manhood, to tell his parents in an unforgettable way that he now knows who his real Father is, and what it will mean for his mission. It will mean, as Simeon said in Luke 2:35 that “a sword will pierce through your own soul, Mary.” The time will come when Jesus will be killed at Jerusalem, and after three days He will rise from the dead, and that will be a great pain to Mary. And is not this three-day anxious and painful searching by Mary and Joseph a foreshadowing of that experience?
So Jesus here, in His first recorded words, recognizes and acknowledges two things:
First, his unique relationship to God the Father, as His one and only begotten Son;
Second, that his mission will require of him a devotion to God’s purposes so great that it will take priority over the closest family ties. This relationship to His Father is so important that all human relationships must be subservient to it. Think about what Jesus demands of those who would follow Him and be His disciples, in Luke 9:23-27 and Luke 14:25-27. Our devotion to Him so be so great – in response to all that He is and has done – that all other relationships seem like “hate” in comparison.
Jesus is also telling us here that He must follow His calling, even if it brings pain and misunderstanding. In this way Jesus’ initial words set the stage for the adult ministry of the Son of God. They point us to His divine Sonship and to His mission on earth – to serve, obey, and glorify the Father, in all things and at all times – so that He would be Savior of the World…
And that is what we will begin examining, Lord willing, beginning next Sunday, as we start a series in the Gospel of Mark.
“Who do you say that Jesus is?”