Unlike Any Other
January 28, 2018 | Randy Smith
Unlike Any OtherLuke 2:41-52
Sunday, January 21, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
Do you have anyone in your life that is really unique? I don't mean that in a bad way or in the way that each of us is unique as a special creation by God. Unique in the sense that you believe there is absolutely no one in the world comparable to him or her. Many people share similarities with someone else. Commonly we say, "She reminds me of her." "He reminds me of him." What I'm talking about is someone that is totally unlike anyone else. Someone in which you feel there is no one on the earth like him or her.
Maybe it is a personality trait.
Sometimes it's determined by athletic ability. Will there ever be another Michael Phelps? Or how about swimmer Katie Ledecky as she not only set two world records in the last summer games, but did it by blowing away the best female swimmers in the world? Will there ever be another Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or Babe Ruth?
Some are noted for their intellectual ability. In twentieth century there was William James Sidis, son of a Harvard professor. At six months he knew his ABCs. At two years he read adult books. He was into advanced mathematics at three, mastered French by four. At eight he graduated from high school. After independent study in Greek, Latin, German, Russian, French, Turkish and Armenian, he entered Harvard at eleven where he lectured the Harvard mathematical society on fourth-dimensional bodies.
Will there ever be another missionary like the Apostle Paul or evangelist like Billy Graham or preacher like Charles Spurgeon or theologian like Jonathan Edwards?
How about Beethoven or Shakespeare?
I was at the Kennedy Space Center three weeks ago and absolutely amazed with the men and women that had developed the capability to put a person on the moon almost 50 years ago.
We can keep going, but there is no competition when it comes to the most unique Person that ever lived. People have made tremendous human accomplishments, but no one compares to Jesus Christ.
We should know this already from our study in the first two chapters of Luke. In 1:32 Jesus is called "Son of the Most High." 1:33, "His kingdom will have no end." 1:35, "Son of God." 1:43, "[The] Lord." 1:47, "God [the] Savior." 1:69, "A horn of salvation." 1:76, "The Most High." 1:78, "Sunrise from on high." 2:11, "A Savior who is Christ the Lord." 2:30, "[God's] salvation." 2:32, "A light of revelation."
So far these were entirely the words from others. But now as we wrap up chapter two, we see Jesus speak for Himself. Today we will look at the first recorded words of Jesus in the Bible. Today we will see how Jesus Himself sets Himself apart from every human that ever lived. Today, for the first time we will hear from the Lord Himself as He right out of the gates demonstrates His uniqueness.
Before we begin, let me set this scene in its proper context - our first of three points. How about a timeline? In verse 16, Jesus is referred to as a "baby." This was right after He was born. Then in verse 40, right after the Simeon and Anna encounter we looked at two weeks ago, Jesus is referred to as a "child." And now today in verse 43, Luke calls Him a "boy." And we know from verse 42 that He was 12 years old. So up to this point we have recorded for us in Luke His birth, His circumcision (8 days old), Mary's purification (40 days old) and now His Passover journey to Jerusalem at age 12.
If you add in the accounts from Matthew 2:1-23, you also have the visit of the Magi (Wise Men) and the trip of the family to Egypt to escape the cruel slaughter from Herod of all the boys in the Bethlehem area two and under. And that's it!
But such little information for thirty years of our Lord's life is tough on many people. So there have been some apocryphal (fictional) accounts over the years that try to fill in the gaps. One writer says the infant Jesus says to a palm, "'Bend down and refresh My mother with your fruit.' And it does so immediately." There are stories of Jesus turning animals into people. In the Gospel of Thomas we read, "At five years of age He modeled twelve sparrows out of soft clay, clapped His hands and they flew away." Fictional stories.
Next week in chapter 3, Jesus is around 30 and officially beginning His public ministry. But this is all we have on the life of Jesus up to the age of 30. It slows down for the next three years of His life during His ministry and then moves at a snail's pace the final passion week of His life on earth.
Let's now set the specific background of today's passage. In verse 41 we learn that Mary and Joseph would go up to Jerusalem "every year" to celebrate the "Passover."
As you know, the Passover was a festival celebrated every year to remember God's deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go so God sent a series of ten plagues on the Egyptians. The final plague was death of the firstborn. However, the Jews could be spared if they would sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on the frame of the door. The angel of death would then see the blood and "passover" that residence. Obviously some incredible foreshadowing of the life of Jesus. We'll come back to that.
The Jews were required to attend three annual feasts: Pentecost (50 days after the Passover), the Feast of Tabernacles and the aforementioned Passover. Since the Israelites were now scattered all over the region, attending all three with crude modes of transportation was very difficult. So if you were able to attend one, it was definitely the Passover.
Only men were required to make the yearly trek to Jerusalem. So when the text indicates that Mary was with Joseph and they went "every year" (verse 41), it shows the devout desire of this couple to obey God (c.f. verse 39). So every year Mary and Joseph, now in their mid-20's would walk the 80 miles in an estimated four days. That's about 20 miles in a day! And as verse 42 says, on this particular occasion they brought Jesus who was now, verse 42, 12 at the time.
Today, Jewish boys celebrate their Bar Mitzvah at age 13. Bar Mitzvah means "Son of the law." The term is new, but the concept was in place when Jesus lived on earth. At age 13 every Jewish boy would be welcomed into the synagogue and be expected to follow God's law on his own. Therefore it was common for dads to bring their sons to the Passover a year or two early to prepare them for their upcoming responsibility.
During the Passover it is estimated that Jerusalem would swell in population for a week due to the thousands of pilgrims that would enter. People were looking for food, a place to sleep and maybe most important, a lamb to sacrifice. Historians tell us that roughly a quarter of a million lambs were sacrificed.
The ceremony began around 3:00 in the afternoon on Friday. Every family needed a lamb. The family would present the lamb to a priest who would kill the lamb and spray its blood against the altar. The rest of the blood would then be drained and the family would go home, eat the animal, sing hymns and praise God as their Redeemer. Then often the oldest son was expected to ask, "Why is this night different from all the others?" This gave the father the opportunity to tell the Passover story their ancestors experienced in Egypt.
So Jesus is going through all of this, and as we will see shortly, He is fully aware of His divine mission. We have to wonder, what was going through His mind? He knew all of these events pointed to Him. He is the true firstborn Son. He is the true Lamb of God. He will spill His blood for redemption. He will lead His people in their Exodus from spiritual bondage. He will die in Jerusalem on the Passover. He is the One who will be sacrificed so spiritual death may Passover His people. We have to wonder, how did He deal with these facts as a twelve year old boy?
When you need eight total days of traveling time (to Jerusalem and back home), some Jews only stated two days in Jerusalem. Again we see how devout Mary and Joseph were. Verse 43 says they stayed the "full number of days" (that is one week) and then departed. Little did they know that Jesus, verse 43, "stayed behind in Jerusalem."
First, how could that happen? As verse 44 says, the people traveled in a "caravan." This was not a Dodge Caravan! This was a group of travelers on foot possibly with wagons and animals. For companionship and safety they went in a large group. The children were often put up front to set the pace and enjoy each other's company. They assumed that Jesus was with the other kids. After all, Jesus never disobeyed them in the past!
Second, was Jesus disobedient here? Mary tends to lead us to believe so. In verse 48 she seems to scold him in front of the religious leaders. "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You."
We all know that heart-stopping feeling when we tell our child to stick close by in a crowed environment and you look down and they are nowhere in sight. As parents, I'm sure we all have our stories!
So was Jesus disobedient? No, because we know from the Bible that He never sinned. If He did He would have disqualified Himself from being our sinless substitute and Savior. Verse 51 says, "He continued in subjection to [His parents]." And possibly most important was what we will discuss in our final point.
When did the parents realize Jesus was missing? Verse 44 says they "went [on] a day's journey." They probably hiked some 20 miles, set up camp for the evening and realized Jesus wasn't anywhere to be found. I'm sure they went from person to person. Verse 44 says they asked their "relatives and acquaintances." Hoping for the best and fearing the worst, they had no other option but to turn around and go back to Jerusalem. Imagine the concern and disappointment. Were they angry? That's where we get the "three days" in verse 46 - "a day's journey out, "a day's journey" back and a day to find Jesus in the Temple.
Is there a hint of the Resurrection here? The death of Jesus on day 1 and then His return to the Father's side on day 3? Maybe stretching it a bit!
And now we get to the heart of the passage in our third point. What does this mean for us?
So the young couple is looking for their son. Where do they find Him? Verse 46, "In the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers." What is Jesus doing? Verse 46, He is "both listening to them and asking them questions." This is the only time we ever see Jesus in the position of a student.
So what's going on here? Something we need to remember is that Jesus is fully God and also fully human. In verse 40 and 52, Luke reminds us that He matured no different than any other young boy. He needed to grow and learn and come to the realization of who He was. And we have to believe at this time that the growing awareness of His identity was achieved and He found a very natural place in exploring God with other learned individuals. He had a thirst for discussing truth. He had a passion to see how people processed truth. He had a hunger for growing closer to His heavenly Father. When He went to the temple, Jesus was in His setting and He just couldn't get enough!
What is God telling us through this passage? Here it is: Be blown away with the Person of Jesus! Does He thrill you? Is He number one in your life? That's the theme of this chapter! Verse 18, "And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds." Verse 33, "And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him." And now the greatest teachers in Israel realize there is definitely something very unique about this Man. Verse 47 says, "And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers." The same could be said of His parents. Verse 48 adds, "When [Mary and Joseph] saw Him, they were astonished."
Of course they were! Their 12 year old son was left alone in a busy town for 3 days. And when they finally locate him, He is not crying or scared? As a matter of fact, He doesn't even appear to miss them. And the astonishment grows when Jesus responds to their rebuke with a very unusual answer. Verse 49, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" Even verse 50 adds, "But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them."
Verse 49 is the key verse of this section. What can we make of Jesus' response? Everybody in Luke chapters 1 and 2 that came in contact with Jesus spoke about His uniqueness. What did Jesus think about that? Now for the first time in the first recorded words from Jesus Himself, He speaks about His uniqueness. His answer is intended to be unique unlike anything a 12 year old would ever say. Isn't obvious, Jesus says, that he has (emphasized) to be in His Father's house?
What confused His parents was that a transition needed to take place. They needed to now see Him primarily no longer as their son, but rather as their Savior. They needed to realize that He had a greater obligation to the will of the heavenly Father than He did to the will of His earthly mother and father. Wonder for Jesus is great (Mary did a lot of that), but it now needed to turn to worship. As He came to the realization that He was the Messiah, they needed to accept that realization as well. Mary was warned, a text we looked at two weeks ago (verse 35) that a sword would pierce her heart. Was that blade now beginning break through the skin?
This amazing Child will begin a radial single-minded, unencumbered and flawless devotion to the will of the Father, regardless of all the opposition that will stand in His way, everything from destructive demons to religious leaders to faithless disciples to confused parents. He is unique and He will not compromise, deviate or alter the road to Calvary that is set before Him. That is His heart. Is that our heart toward Him?
"Why were you expecting to see Me in Nazareth? Why are you searching everywhere? My Father's house is where I belong." Or if we translate the Greek literally, "In [or about] the things of My Father." If I can apply that to us, "I'm not sure of the latest fashion or highest batting averages or most popular movie or celebrity gossip or the lyrics to every new song or the winners at the Grammy's, but ask me a question about Jesus. Why are you so surprised that I am not consumed with everything that consumes the world? Jesus is the One that I am ultimately about!
As we prepare for the actual ministry of Jesus next week, Luke has set a wonderful stage for us in chapters 1 and 2. The Person of Jesus is unique. Verse 34, people will rise or fall based on what they do with Jesus. Every person will be judged by God as to whether they are "in" or "out" with Jesus. And being "in" means trusting His sacrifice for sin as our Savior. It means obeying Him as Lord. But most importantly, it means loving Him as a Person - a Person unlike any other person that has ever existed. It means worshipping Him in all that He is and for all that He does. It means, verse 51, like Mary, treasuring Him in our hearts and keeping that always in the forefront of our affections.