Baby Dedication Service: Listen Online!
It is interesting to us that the Bible doesn’t record a lot about Jesus’ childhood. The period of time before he started his ministry at around the age of thirty remains a mystery to us. There are some extra-Biblical texts that describe Jesus’ childhood, but these are all considered to be the product of overactive imaginations rather than reliable accounts of Jesus’ youth.
Luke does not, like Matthew, record the flight into Egypt away from Herod the king who sought to kill the child. Luke tells the story of Jesus through geography and has centered these opening chapters in Judea – predominantly in Jerusalem, and in Galilee, namely Nazareth. These two cities are actually going to feature significantly in the heart of the book explaining Jesus’ mission, so Luke doesn’t muddle the geography or the message of the book by including the journey to and from Egypt. Thus, in Luke 2:39, And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Luke simply streamlines the story.
The only recorded story in any of the gospels about Jesus’ childhood is found in Luke Chapter 2. In this story, a twelve-year-old Jesus seeks to understand more of his Heavenly Father’s will for his life, while his earthly parents struggle with giving their child completely over to God. It is these relationships that we will focus on today as we study this passage.
Mary and Joseph --> Father God: Obedience
The first relationship described in this passage is that of Mary and Joseph’s relationship with and submission to God the father. It’s easy to be hard on Mary and Joseph in this passage. I mean, they lost God! How can you lose God? If your pre-teen son were the incarnation of God himself, wouldn’t you think that you would keep a close watch over him at all times? Don’t you think you would at least check to see if he was with you when you set off on a trip? Like I said, it is easy to be hard on Mary and Joseph, but we must refuse to do so if we are to hear the full message of this passage.
This passage is not written to show what bungling parents Mary and Joseph are, but instead, to emphasize their full obedience to the Lord. Verse 39 commends the two young parents for doing everything according to the Law of the Lord in relation to the birth and circumcision rites that devout Jews were required to do for their children. We see this obedience back in verse 21-24. They gave their child the proper name, according to the name given them by the angel. They presented him to the Lord with an offering. Although they weren’t able to afford the proper offering for a first-born boy, they gave an offering according to the Law of the Lord that met the requirements for poor families. Jesus’ parents’ obedience to the Lord continued throughout his childhood and formative years. Verse 41 informs us that Jesus’ parents, though poor, made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every single year during the feast of Passover – staying for the entire feast. It was a long journey to make every year – a sacrifice of time and money. While men were required to make these trips, women were not. Mary again shows her own dedication to the Lord and to Joseph by going along. When Jesus was of the proper age, they included him in their worship, bringing him along on the pilgrimage. These are parents who had their priorities straight, who concerned themselves with following God’s rules, not legalistically, but wholeheartedly. They sacrificed their time and money to find God where he dwelt, and desired to pass on their relationship with God onto their children. Aren’t you glad that Luke emphasizes their faith and obedience rather than the silly mistakes they made as parents? There might be hope for me as a parent yet. But parents, let me ask you – how are you doing with the important things, the things that will really make a difference in your children’s lives? Are you acting in obedience to the demands of the gospel? Are you making that pilgrimage to the place of God regularly and bringing your children along for the ride? What are your children going to remember about the way that you have raised them? Mary and Joseph are here remembered for their faithfulness to their heavenly Father and how it impacted the boy Jesus.
Discipline and Spirituality are not unrelated. Discipline provides a space for spirituality to flourish. There is a certain strictness that inspires spirituality. Not strictness for the sake of strictness itself, but a strictness that arises from and is dedicated to devotion to the Lord.
Jesus --> Father God: Seek
The second relationship of interest in this passage is that of Jesus to his heavenly Father. From verse 42, we find out that this is the first time that Jesus as a boy has gone up to Jerusalem. It’s his first time to see the temple. Can you imagine his excitement? He’s going to see where his dad lives! I’ve often wondered about how much the boy Jesus knew about his divine origins and when he knew it. Did Mary sit him down on her lap one day, maybe not long before they left for this trip to Jerusalem and tell him, “You know, Jesus. You’re not like other children. The angels sang when you were born. And Joseph – you’ve never called him “dad” Did you ever wonder about that? It’s because he’s not your real father. God himself is your father.” This, of course, is just speculation. What I do know is that, once twelve-year-old Jesus entered Jerusalem, he started looking for his real dad, just like any other adopted kid would do if he had a chance to meet his real parents.
He had one lead – one piece of information: get to the temple. Somehow, in the confusion and chaos of the Passover crowds, Jesus was separated from Mary and Joseph. It’s no surprise when we find Jesus in verse 46 that he has made his way to the Temple. He’s come home, to Dad’s house. And what does he do? He starts asking questions trying to find out as much as he can about his Father from the teachers. It sometimes is pictured that Jesus was here standing up and teaching the teachers, but the text does not picture it like that. Jesus is learning. Jesus is asking questions. Jesus is showing his understanding by how he is answering and marveling the teacher, but he is still very much a child before them.
Here we have an account of Jesus as a young man – desperately interested in knowing God. He has stepped out from underneath his parent’s faith to find God on his own terms. How many of our young people can truly say that? Your parent’s faith can only take you so far. At some point you’ve got to make that relationship with God your own. It’s especially dangerous for you who grew up in a Christian home. I never had that experience. My parents were complete agnostics when I first heard the gospel. They actually discouraged me from coming to faith and growing in my relationship with God. I honestly don’t know what is easier. My faith has been my own since my first day in the Christian church. I have friends who have had the other experience. They have been surrounded by Christianity ever since they were in the womb. Listen, you don’t become a Christian by being in church any more than you will become a doctor by hanging out in a hospital. At some point you’ve got to make your faith your own. Step out in your own faith, not that of your parents. Find your daddy.
Mary and Joseph --> Jesus : Release
The third significant relationship in this passage is that of Mary and Joseph to Jesus. When Jesus’ parents found out that Jesus had not left Jerusalem with their caravan, they became frantic. They had already traveled a day, thinking that Jesus was in the back of the pack with the other cousins, but when it came time to put the kids to bed, Jesus was no where to be found. I can’t imagine what that night was like. The worry. The anxiety. Can you imagine how that would tax their faith? They raced back to Jerusalem and searched the street for him. A day past. Then another. Finally, on the third day, they found him, sitting in the temple chatting with the teachers. The words that follow form the climax of this whole episode. “Son, Mary says, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you!” They were astonished to find Jesus, now they become utterly confused by his answer: Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be about my father’s things?”
Jesus’ answer challenges me as a parent on two accounts. First, it rebukes my anxiety. I can tell you, as a parent, there is no greater fear than losing your children. I must confess that still get frightened every time Keiden wakes up late – did he stop breathing during the night? I worry about Aiko when I send her off on the bus on the way to school. When those anxieties creep up, the only way to calm myself is through prayer. Remember this truth: worry grows where trust does not. It is impossible to worry and trust at the same time. That is why Paul connects the two so often, as he does in Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing but in all things by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Worry grows where trust does not. Keep praying and ask God to show you the root of your fear and then ask him to remove it.
Second, Jesus response calls me to once again offer my children over to their true parent. His answer reassures me that my children do not belong to me, but to God. Look at the subtle connection Jesus makes. Mary says, “your father and I have been looking for you,” and Jesus answers, “I had to mind my Father’s things” (the word house is not in the original). This is the key to understanding the entire passage. As parents, we need to understand, unlike Mary, that God has his own plan for our children’s lives and do all we can to assist that plan rather than try to subvert it. He is their true parent, and if he calls them to serve him oversees, if he calls them in to the ministry, even if he calls them to martyrdom, like he did Mary’s son, we must be willing to give them over to him at every point along the way. Mary and Joseph were willing and obedient to dedicate Jesus to the Lord as an infant, but now, when he is on the brink of adulthood, are they willing to re-dedicate him to the Lord? Some of you are facing these types of questions. I hear that several young people in this church are following their heavenly father’s call to serve the Lord oversees for a short time. That is great! But what if God calls them to full-time service? What is they don’t come back, but remain serving the Lord over there? Are you willing to respect the call of God on their lives and support them in it? You know, I don’t want to overly spiritualize this either by focusing on missions or full-time ministry. Parents, what would you do if your son, whom you were grooming to be a doctor or a lawyer, suddenly came to you and said that he feels that God has given him the gifts and the desire to serve him while working in an autobody shop? Would you see that as truly from the Lord, or would you fight it because it doesn’t match your criteria for worldly success? Would you be ashamed of your son for choosing such a career, or would you be proud of him for seeking God’s will for his life first even if it meant sacrifice? This is difficult to do. Remember the words of Simeon, who blessed the baby Jesus at the temple, when he said to Mary, “a sword will pierce you own soul as well.” It hurts to let our children go. But our children are not our own. They have a heavenly parent who knows them better because he created them, and knows exactly what he created them to do. As Psalm 127:4 says, our children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior, that we shoot out so that they can impact the world. Let them go. Raise them, train them and shoot them out.
Jesus --> Mary and Joseph: Submit
The final relationship in this passage that we must look at is that of Jesus to his parents. In verse 51, there is an immediate shift in tone. This boy-wonder, who has been astonishing the teacher so the temple with his wisdom, and has just rebuked his own parents for their lack of faith and inability to grasp God’s plans for his life, hops on Joseph’s shoulders and returns with them to Nazareth. I think verse 51 contains the most amazing words in this entire passage: he submitted to them. Even though his parents demonstrated alack of faith, he submitted to them. Even though they did not fully understand the call of the Father on his life, he submitted to them. He went back to Nazareth, rather than staying in Jerusalem to study under the famous teachers. He learned the family business from Joseph, and many scholars even believe that he took it over from Joseph after Joseph died. In short, he waited. He waited in submission and obedience to his parents until the time came for him to leave the house and start his ministry. He found the balance between honouring his parents and following God’s call, earning favor with both God and men.
Young people, I know it seems that life is flying at you at the speed of light, and that you have to step out now and grasp your independence from your family in order to follow God. Jesus shows us here that you don’t have to. Wait. Pray. Submit. Honour. And when you are ready for going out on your own, you will have their full support and arms to fall back on.