Category Archives: THE PERSON OF CHRIST: His childhood

The only inspired account of an event in the childhood of the Lord Jesus

THE PERSON OF CHRIST His childhood

Luke2:40-52

This passage in Luke is the only inspired account of the boyhood of the Lord Jesus, giving insight into His attitude and behaviour as a youth.

The account corrects the apocryphal gospels that were written afterwards, in which fantastic and outlandish achievements were attributed to Christ. The apostles were led into all the truth by the Holy Spirit, John 16:13, and therefore during their lifetime no such gospels would be accepted. Once the true gospels had been written, the spurious were exposed as false, and rejected. Men like to drag them up in our day, in many cases basing popular and profitable novels and films on them. This is one of Satan’s ways of confusing men, and seeking to discredit the truth.

There were, according to Luke 1:1, those who with good intentions had written accounts of the Lord’s life. The four gospels replace these, and being sanctioned by the apostles, are the only ones inspired of God.

The passage includes the first recorded words of the Lord Jesus, and as such has special interest.

This event is the last at which Joseph is personally present, although he is mentioned later on, Matthew 13:55; John 6:42. It is suggested that he had died by the time Christ began His public ministry, although John 6:42 does indicate the people knew him. It does look as if Joseph was not alive at the time of the crucifixion, not only because he is not recorded as being there, whereas Mary was, but also because the Lord committed His mother to John, as if she had no husband to care for her.

The features that Luke notices about Joseph and Mary give some indication as to the sort of home in which the Lord Jesus and the other children of Mary grew up.

The Lord Jesus has left us an example that we should “follow His steps”, 1 Peter2:21. He is the perfect expression of that new sort of person our God expects us to be since we have “put on the new man”, Ephesians 4:24.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE CHAPTER 2, VERSES 39 TO 45

2:39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.

2:41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.

2:42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it.

2:44 But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

2:45 And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.

 

2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.

And the child grew- so the Lord Jesus, brought back from being presented to the Lord at 40 days old, now grows up in every way in Nazareth. He grew physically as every normal child would be expected to do. God cannot be contained by even the heaven of heavens, 1 Kings 8:27, so there is no room for expansion with God as to His essence. But for the Lord Jesus, God manifest in flesh, there is. He grows because He is truly man.

And waxed strong in spirit- His enthusiasm and zeal for all things right and good was outstanding.

Filled with wisdom- intellectually and spiritually He was complete for each stage of His life. He was not “old before His years”, or “an old head on young shoulders”, but perfectly proper in His development at every period of His life. At each stage of His development He was as mature as He should be. There was no lapse, and yet neither was there anything of the prodigy about Him, so as to make Himself of reputation. Adam had never grown up, so He is superior to Adam even in this regard, and knows every experience we may know, from birth, (and perhaps even before, if the incident concerning the unborn John the Baptist in Luke 1:41 is a guide), through childhood and youth, until full-grown manhood.

And the grace of God was upon Him- this is the result of the foregoing. God looked upon Him with favour and approval. He was growing up before God as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground of Israel, Isaiah 53:2.

2:41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.

Now His parents- Joseph and Mary were His legal parents, for they had married before He was born. The relationship was unique, however, and this is brought out and insisted upon by the Lord in verse 49. Luke and Matthew give to us insights as to the character of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a just man, but also caring and considerate, Matthew 1:19. He was quick to obey God, 1:24, and was prepared to accept the reproach that being married to Mary involved. As for Mary, she was clearly pure, and chaste; she was well versed in the Old Testament, as her song shows, Luke 1:46-55. She was willing to accept the stigma of bearing a child whose father, as far as men were concerned, was not known. Yet for all that she sang praise to God in the midst of it all. They were a remarkable and godly couple, and well-fitted for the task of bringing up the Lord Jesus.

Went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover- this shows they were devout Israelites, appreciating that God had placed His name at Jerusalem, Deuteronomy 16:6, and careful to observe the law which required them to be present at the feasts three times a year, Deuteronomy 16:16. When God said “three times ye shall…” He was referring to three seasons, for the feasts of Jehovah were in three sets, and Israelites were expected to be present at them all. Not all the women in Israel went up to the feasts, for God had said “all the males”, but Mary was clearly not content to stay behind.

2:42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

And when He was twelve years old- it was at the age of 13 that Jewish boys had what was known as Bar Mitzvah, and they became “sons of the Law”. A ceremony was enacted, at which the young boy would read from the law, and other procedures would take place which formally introduced him into the public life of the nation. Significantly, Luke does not tell us about this, but rather tells us what took place before.  He was writing of one who, although subject to the Law of God, had come in grace to redeem from the Law, Galatians 4:4,5.  It was not unusual  for boys to go for the first time to the Passover a year or two earlier than age 13, and this is the case with the Child Jesus, as Luke calls Him in the next verse. He was eager and willing to accept the responsibilities that being a male in Israel brought.

They went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast- thus showing themselves to be careful observers of all that God had required of the nation. They were grateful for His deliverance at the time of the original Passover, and now they go to express their appreciation by taking a lamb to be offered on the altar. Notice that it is not said He was taken to Jerusalem; it is almost as if it was a foregone conclusion that He would go. So “they” means the three of them. The three of them had gone to Jerusalem when He was 40 days old, but then it is said He was brought, Luke 2:22.

They went according to the custom of the feast. In after years, the Lord Jesus went into the synagogue “as His custom was”, Luke 4:16; into the Mount of Olives to pray “as was His custom”, Luke22:39. So whether it was to worship, to listen to the word of God and teach it, or to pray, His were holy habits. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, “as the manner (the word is the same as custom) of some is”, Hebrews 10:25. Some attend as a matter of custom, which is good, whereas others absent themselves as a matter of custom, which is not good.

2:43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it.

And when they had fulfilled the days- there was nothing half-hearted about their attendance. They were eager to stay as long as the ceremonies continued, lingering in the courts of the Lord as those who loved to be there. This is not to say that the worshippers were required to spend the whole of the seven days of the feast in Jerusalem, for the main events took place at the beginning, with the offering of the Passover lambs. So most would go home, as Mary and Joseph did.

The psalmist exclaimed, “My soul longeth, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord, Psalm 84;2, and reckoned that to spend one day there was worth more than a thousand days elsewhere, verse 10. We do well if we capture something of their enthusiasm. As the pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem they would sing psalms, and in particular the Psalms of Degrees, Psalms 120-134.

As they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and His mother knew not of it- despite the zeal of Joseph and Mary, it was exceeded by the Lord Jesus. Indeed, it was said of Him later that the zeal of the Lord’s house had eaten Him up, John2:17.

2:44 But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey- this is a very telling insight into the character of the Lord Jesus. Clearly, for 12 years the Lord had never given Joseph and Mary any cause for alarm. He had always acted responsibly, and could always be relied upon and trusted. He never got into mischief, nor did He lead others into it. It was because they knew this that his parents assumed he would be in the company, by which is meant the caravan of people returning to Nazareth from the feast.

And they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance- this shows that He had never been known to get into bad company. There was plenty of this in Nazareth, but He had always kept Himself separate. So His parents are confident that they will find Him amongst their relatives and friends, fellow devout worshippers who have been to Jerusalem with them.

2:45 And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.

And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him- having been unable to find Him in the company, they naturally return to Jerusalem, no doubt by this time very worried. Many thoughts must have raced through their minds. Has He proved Himself an unfaithful son after all? Has He been intercepted, perhaps by Herod’s soldiers, as the circumstances of His birth are recalled, and the claim that He was King of the Jews remembered? Mary may also have thought of the words of Simeon about the sword piercing her soul, Luke2:35, and feared the worst. They would reproach themselves also for not having guarded Him as perhaps they should.

 

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE CHAPTER 2, VERSES 46 TO 52

2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

2:47 And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

2:48 And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.

2:49 And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?

2:50 And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.

2:51 And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

 

2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

And it came to pass, that after three days- they went a day’s journey before they discovered He was not with them, verse 44. They would take almost a day’s journey to return, (even though no doubt they walked more quickly now, as they began to panic). Now the third day has arrived. According to Jewish reckoning a part of a day was counted as a whole day.

They found Him in the temple- when He came into the world, “He came unto His own”, John 1:11. This means His own things. He had come to His own land, for it was Immanuel’s land, Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, and He was Immanuel, Matthew 1:23. He came to His own throne, for He was sole heir of it, but He was refused as King. He now comes to the temple, which is His Father’s House, John2:16, and yet does not assert Himself as He will do when He purges it twice over during His ministry, John2:14-16; Matthew21:12,13.

Sitting in the midst of the doctors- these were the teachers of the law of Moses. He was not admiring the architecture, as the disciples did later, Matthew24:1. His primary interest was in the law of the Lord, as Psalm 1:2 said, “In His law doth He meditate day and night”. He was not a half-hearted bystander, merely curious about what was going on, for He was in the midst, for those who had an interest were no doubt invited to come closer, and this He did. On the Sabbaths and feast days the rabbis came out onto the terrace in the temple courts to teach any who cared to listen. This shows that Joseph and Mary did not stay the whole seven days of the feast, for this teaching would not have been taking place after the feast was over.

Both hearing them- He does not attempt to teach, for His public ministry had not begun. Then it would be said that “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes”, Matthew 7:28,29. They “marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth”, Luke 4:22, and on another occasion said, “Never man spake like this man”, John 7:46. On another occasion the authorities were baffled, saying, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned”, John 7:15. He did not attend the Rabbi’s classes, and therefore in their eyes was unlearned. They dismissed the common people as those who know not the law and are cursed”, John 7:49, and He would be reckoned one of the common people. The difference between Himself and the scribes was that He was God’s Son, and spoke the words His Father wished Him to speak, John 8:26-28.

In His ministry the Lord Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of those in authority in Israel, Matthew 15:7-9, but He never tried to prevent the people listening to them. His words were, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not”, Matthew 23:2,3.

And asking them questions- He is genuinely interested in their opinion on the various aspects of the law they would have been discussing. We must not think that because He is God, then He as man “knows it all”, for that would detract from the reality of His true manhood. One of the best ways to learn is to ask questions, as long as it done in the spirit of genuine enquiry, and not in a spirit of unbelief like Satan in Genesis 3:1.

2:47 And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers- there was not one of the learned doctors that was not impressed with the fact that by His questions it was obvious that He thought deeply about the Scriptures. They could tell by the nature of His enquiries that His was no casual interest and insight. Not only was it the practice to allow questions from those learning, but also to ask questions, so that it could be assessed how much was being taken in. When this was done it became obvious that His answers disclosed a deep knowledge of the things of God. For a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, as they though Him to be, this was remarkable.

2:48 And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.

And when they saw Him, they were amazed- as bystanders, Joseph and Mary look on at this remarkable scene. They seem not to have had any inkling that He had these abilities, for He had made Himself of no reputation, even with them. Strangely, they do not seem to think that His being with the doctors was an explanation for His staying behind when they left to go home after the feast.

And His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us?- their anxiety, panic, frustration, and self-reproach now changes to a feeling of slight censure. By her question Mary implies that He had not dealt with them as He should.

Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing- can it be that the one who has always been such a model son, all that godly parents could wish for, has now shown Himself less than thoughtful? They need to learn the perfect balance He keeps between duty to His parents, and duty to His God. He will not allow anything to detract from the latter. It is right to have natural affection, for the absence of it is one of the evil features of the last days, in2 Timothy 3:3, but love to God must come first.

There are two elements in this question from Mary that need a response. The first is “Thy father”, and the second is “sought Thee”.

2:49 And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?

And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me?- the two matters that need addressing in Mary’s remark are dealt with together. How is it that you have been so long in finding Me? Should you not have come first to the temple where I was most likely to be? It is a challenge to every believer to ask, “If others knew not where I was, where would they look first?”

Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?- “wist” means “to know without being told”. They should have known by His previous history that that was where His interests lay. And as for “thy father”, meaning Joseph, the Lord is quick to safeguard His unique relationship with God. Really speaking He knows but one Father. To further His interests and to be involved in them, even when not publicly manifested to Israel, was His delight. This is the first recorded statement from the lips of the Lord Jesus, and is characteristic of Him. He had come into the world with the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will”, Hebrews 10:7, and one of His last sayings on the cross was, “It is finished”, John 19:30. Notice the perfect balance between His responsibility to parents and to His Father in heaven. He gently reminds them of His prior commitment to His Father in heaven. He obviously was confident that His previous life in the home had given them no cause for concern, so why should this incident be any different? Especially as they knew that a visit to the Temple would produce in Him devout feelings.

2:50 And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.

And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them- the idea of God as Father was not well known to them. It is true that the psalmist likened the care of Jehovah for His people to the pity a father has for his children, Psalm 103:13, but the concept of God as Father was unknown. They might have deduced it from Proverbs 30:4, “What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if thou canst tell”, but they clearly had not. Nor had they taken account of the words of the angel to Mary, “Therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”, Luke 1:35. They perhaps connected it with the word of God about Solomon, (since David was His father, Luke 1:32), “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to Me a son”, 2 Samuel 7:14. The idea of their boy being God manifest in flesh is not revealed to them yet. The eternal life which was with the Father is not yet manifest, for the beginning of that was at His baptism, when the Sonship of Christ was clearly made known from heaven in the ears of men.

Understood not- perhaps not until stood in the synagogue in Nazareth and claimed to be Messiah.

2:51 And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

And He went down with them- it is entirely appropriate for Him to do this now that His Father’s interests have been fostered. To have gone down with them when they left Jerusalem after the feast, would clearly have been wrong.

And came to Nazareth- He exchanges the holy precincts of the temple, with its worship and sacrifices, for the everyday life of Nazareth, yet He was able to grow up before His Father as a tender plant in both places.

And was subject unto them- He does not become subject unto them, as if His stay behind at Jerusalem was an example of insubjection. The verb “subject” is in the middle voice, telling us that it was an action He initiated Himself willingly. Subjection has the idea of obedience linked with it, so He kept the balance between obedience to His Father, and to His parents.

2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

And Jesus increased- this word means literally “to progress as a pioneer”. It speaks of steady and purposeful advance on the part of one who is earnest and determined.

In wisdom and stature- there was a perfectly balanced development of all His faculties, both mental and physical. This is the normal development of a real person. He had taken part of the same flesh and blood as other men, and yet He was at the same time God manifest in flesh. This, however, did not prevent Him being real man, sin apart. There are some who think that being God, the Lord Jesus did not need to learn. That He knew the alphabet without learning it, and so on. This verse refutes that idea, for He increased in wisdom.

Favour with God and man- the wise writer of the Book of Proverbs exhorts “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: Bind them about thy neck; Write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man”, Proverbs 3:3,4. It was not until His public ministry began, and His preaching exposed the sin of men, especially the ruling classes, that He began to be despised and rejected.

SPECIAL NOTE:

When God made man in the beginning, He made Him in His image and after His likeness. As the image of God Adam was to represent God to the rest of creation. As one after God’s likeness, he was to replicate God’s character. As such he had spirituality, able to appreciate Divine things, and relate to God in a meaningful and worshipful way. He also had rationality, with the ability to reason, decide, discriminate and advance in truth. He had personality, conscious of his relationship with God, and also self-conscious, aware of His responsibilities to the rest of God’s works. He had morality too, the ability to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong.

 Sadly, Adam sinned, despite these great abilities, and he no longer represented God adequately. This is why there needed to be the introduction of the “second man”, the Lord Jesus. He is “the image of the invisible God”, Colossians 1:15, and He displays perfectly the features of God, for He is “God manifest in flesh”, 1 Timothy 3:16. We see this illustrated in the account we have just looked at. We see His spirituality as He gravitates towards those who taught the law of God in the temple. His rationality as He astonishes the learned doctors with His understanding and answers. His personality is clearly seen as He carefully and respectfully sets the record straight with regard to His relationship to God His Father, and Mary and Joseph His parents. His pure morality is seen in that, despite going back to live in Nazareth, (“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth”? John 1:46), He lived there as one in favour with God, an impossible thing if He was anything less than impeccably upright.

At last there is Man upon the earth who pleases God totally. Yet there is placed upon His people of seeking to be like this, for they are to put on the new man, (likeness to Christ), having been created in righteousness and true holiness.