Posts Tagged ‘parents’

On this Sunday, just a day after Christmas, as I thought about what we should focus on, I decided, “Why not look at what comes next in Luke’s gospel?” And it’s a passage that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

We don’t know a lot about Jesus’ life before he appears on the scene sometime around the age of 30 (Luke 3:23). We have several stories connected to his birth, which we know really well from focusing on them each Advent. But what about between his birth and his public ministry? Well, what we’re looking at today is the only story about Jesus’ childhood, from when he was twelve years old.

Now, some have sought to fill in the gap with various fanciful stories of what Jesus must have been like found in some apocryphal gospels. But these have no basis in reality. What we have here in Luke 2:40-52 is all there is. So let’s look at this and see what we can learn.

Jesus is growing up

40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Growing, physically and in every other way, is a part of being human. And Jesus shares this with us. He didn’t come as a full-blown adult, but as a baby. And so he had to grow into an adult. And so Luke tells us a story about him growing up. It takes place on –

A family trip

41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.

This presents a picture of devout parents – Joseph and Mary going to worship the Lord at this festival that celebrates the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. They did this regularly, “every year” it says. And here they take Jesus along with them.

So I want to point out to you that Joseph and Mary are an example for us of faithful parents raising their children in the faith, in this case by bringing them to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. We also need to bring our children to church – so that they can learn to worship the Lord.

Verse 42 tells us that Jesus was twelve years old. And, although this was, most likely, before the time of the Jewish practice of Bar Mitzvah when a young man at thirteen would take on the responsibility of keeping the Law of Moses – it was still considered in Judaism and in other cultures to be a time for children to begin making the transition to adulthood. And this includes making choices in relation to their commitment to God. And we will see Jesus doing this here; declaring himself.

And in our Christian tradition as well, this shift from childhood to adolescence is a time for each one to consider where they stand with God and to make choices related to their faith and baptism. And so this is a challenge to our young people here this morning – where are you at in this process? Have you considered taking on the Christian faith for yourself – not based on your parents – but for yourself publicly declaring this through baptism?

Jesus stays behind in the temple

43And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances . . .

Two questions stand out from these verses: How did Joseph and Mary lose Jesus? Well, they were traveling with a group. Verse 44 talks about “relatives and acquaintances,” most likely traveling in a caravan as was common for these kinds of journeys. And it would have been easy for them to think that Jesus was with others in the group. And he was twelve, so he would have been somewhat independent.

And also notice – it’s not like Jesus got lost. He intentionally stayed behind. They had no way of expecting he would do such a thing!

Speaking of this, the other question is – What was Jesus thinking? As we’ll see his staying behind without telling his parents caused them great distress (v. 48). This is not something a child should normally do to their parents. So what was he thinking?? Well, let’s live with the tension of this for a moment and move forward to –

Joseph and Mary’s continued frantic search

45and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.

This is a picture of Jerusalem and the Temple at the time of Jesus.

The city would still be swollen with people from the festival, and the Temple complex was huge, the size of several football fields. Finding a child under these conditions would have been hard – especially one that wasn’t looking for you.

46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.

After three total days of searching they find Jesus. This is a really long time! And they find him engaging with the teachers or rabbi’s in the temple area. Here we see Jesus’ wisdom and maturity on display. His knowledge is well beyond his years, as verse 47 says, “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

His parents were “astonished” or it can be translated “dumbfounded” or “shocked” – surely at what they were seeing, Jesus with the rabbis, but also that Jesus would do this without telling them.

And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

Mary’s phrase “great distress” can also be translated as “deep mental pain.” This is the first example of what Simeon had said to Mary in Luke 2:35, that because of Jesus, she would experience a sword piercing through her soul.

Having a child lost is a truly terrible feeling. I know because it happened to us. One evening when we visited the Portland Oregon Zoo, which we often did, we turned around and our second daughter, was gone. Nowhere to be seen. And there was a big crowed. So we started desperately looking around. Retracing our steps – trying to think where she might be. I finally found her in front of the big cat enclosures. Tigers were pretty much her favorite animal – and there she was! What a relief!!! She was younger than Jesus here, but she was only lost for about 15 minutes. And boy did I experience, in Mary’s words, “great distress.”

Jesus tells his parents who he is

49And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

Notice Jesus’ calmness. From a parent’s point of view there would be concern for his safety, but also that he not be in distress without them. But he has no concern or fear. He’s doing what he planned.

In verse 49 we have Jesus’ first recorded words. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Here Jesus tells us who he is, he is God’s son. And so he needs to be with his Father in his house. Already at twelve he knows who he is.

Notice the contrast of his earthly parents seeking him to take him home, while he is seeking his heavenly Father in his house, the Temple; a contrast of parents and homes.

This brings us back to the question, what was Jesus thinking? I don’t think this is an example of Jesus acting unwisely so that he has more to learn; a part of his growing process. Rather, I think Jesus made an intentional choice to do this to help his parents understand who he is and to give them a preview of what’s to come. He carefully orchestrated this.

Although he’s interacting with the teachers, he’s really teaching his parents something about himself that they need to know, both in their seeing him with the teachers of Israel, but also in what he says to them about being God’s son.

This brings us to –

The trip home

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

We ought not take from this that children should intentionally put their parents in great distress. That’s not the lesson! There’s enough of that already! This was something different and unique to Jesus’ situation, as the son of God, and his need to communicate this to his parents.

But to make sure that the wrong lesson isn’t taken from this Luke tells us that he “was submissive to them.” Despite Jesus helping his parents understand who he is, he’s not rebellious, but a good son.

Indeed he stayed with them patiently waiting another 18 years or so before he begins his ministry. And Mary received what he said, even if not really understanding it all. It says, she “treasured up all these things in her heart.”

Our story ends like it begins, with –

Jesus’ growth

52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

And this story is the prime example. It’s an example of his acting in wisdom to show his parents who he is. He knows who he is and communicates this to those closest to him.

In closing let me say that –

This whole story foreshadows what’s to come

  • Jesus will once again go up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the commemoration of the lamb slain for the salvation of God’s people (Luke 19:28).
  • Jesus will once again engage the teachers of Israel in the temple area, this time, however, they are hostile and Jesus has to overcome their attempts to trap him (Luke 20)
  • Jesus will once again not travel back from Jerusalem with the pilgrims, but rather will be arrested, tried and executed – the true Passover lamb that brings salvation to God’s people (Luke 22:47-23:56)
  • Mary will once again feel a sword pierce her soul (Luke 2:35) seeing her son die on a cross.
  • Jesus will once again be found after three days, after he is raised from the dead (Luke 24).
  • And although Mary did not understand in our story, she comes to understand who her son is, as we find her in the upper room among his followers after his resurrection (Acts 1:14)

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

Today in our series on Paul to the Thessalonians we are up to 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. As we work our way through this passage, I want us to pay attention to the love that we see demonstrated in Paul for these believers. We can really see his heart for those he ministered to.

But first let’s remember together –

The story after Paul had to leave

  • Because of persecution Paul and team were sent away by the new church – Acts 17:10
  • They went to Berea and ministered there – Acts 17:10-12
  • But some opponents from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up trouble – Acts 17:13-14
  • The believers sent Paul off to Athens, but Silas and Timothy stayed behind – Acts 17:14-15
  • Paul ministered in Athens, speaking at the Areopagus– Acts 17:16-34
  • Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Athens – 1 Thessalonians 3:1
  • Paul sent Timothy back to check on the Thessalonians – 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5 (possibly Silas was sent somewhere in Macedonia as well – Acts 18:5)
  • Paul went on to Corinth and began ministering there – Acts 18:1
  • Silas and Timothy met up with Paul in Corinth – Acts 18:5
  • Paul heard Timothy’s report concerning the Thessalonians – 1 Thessalonians 3:6

This is when Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to this and almost certainly sent it back by means of Timothy.

With this background in mind, let’s look at our verses.

Paul’s desire to see the Thessalonians

1. He tried to visit. “17But since we were torn away from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.”

Paul is saying, ‘Hey, it’s not for lack of trying that we haven’t come back.’ The reason is that Satan hindered us. This may refer to synagogue opposition, or restrictions put on Paul by the authorities in Thessalonica, or maybe that he was too sick to travel that far. But he tried several times.

“19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.” Here he assures them that his not being able to come is no reflection on his concern for them. They are his crown of boasting, that is, his victory wreath that will be made know when Jesus returns. He says, “you are our glory and joy.”

2. Paul sent Timothy to check on them.  “1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.”

Paul was really in anguish not knowing how they were doing as new believers under persecution (for Paul’s anxiety for his converts see also 2 Corinthians 11:28-29).

His concern was that they would give up their faith (the phrase “your faith” is used five times in this passage). He is concerned that they would be “moved by these afflictions;” that “the tempter had tempted them” so that they no longer had faith in Jesus.

So he says twice that when he could bear it no longer (3:1, 5) he sent Timothy to check on them, even though it meant he was left alone (3:1). It’s likely that if the obstacle was opposition in Thessalonica Paul would have been immediately recognized, but Timothy was not such a public figure. Timothy’s mission was to check on their faith and “to establish and exhort them.”

Just a note on suffering. Paul says, “we are destined . . . to suffer affliction” – 3:3-4. This is something that he taught them ahead of time. How different is so much teaching in America, where the gospel is all about self-fulfillment and prosperity. Something to think about.

3. Timothy’s report to Paul in Corinth. Just as you can feel the anguish of Paul in the verses before this, so here you can feel the relief he had after hearing Timothy’s good report.

“6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?”

Timothy reported that they had not abandoned their faith, nor their love for Paul. Paul’s response to this is overflowing thanksgiving to God joy and great comfort.

Our passage ends with 4. A prayer to see them. “11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

His prayer to see them was eventually answered as we see in Acts 20:1-2.

He also prays for much of what he will be talking about in the next two chapters: love for others, holiness, and Jesus’ return.

Now we turn to our focus –

Paul’s love for the Thessalonians

This is clear in several places in this letter, but especially out text.

1. He has affection for them. 2:17 – he talks about being “torn away from you” but “not in heart.” 2:8 – he says you are “very dear to us.”

2. He wants to be with them. 2:17 – “we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face.” 3:6 – “we long to see you.”

3. He wants to know what is going on with them. 3:5 – “I sent to learn about your faith.” 3:5 -“when I could bear it no longer” that is, not knowing, he sent Timothy.

4. He is concerned for their well-being. 3:3 – “that no one be moved by these afflictions.” 3:5 – he speaks of his “fear that somehow the tempter had tempted” them and their faith was now gone. 3:8 – when he heard good news he said “for now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”

5. He wants to help them. 3:2 – “to establish and exhort you in your faith.” 3:10 – to “supply what is lacking in your faith.”

6. He takes joy in them. 2:20 – “for you are our glory and joy.” 3:9 – “for what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.”

7. He prays for them as we see in vs. 11-13.

How is your love?

In his prayer Paul prays, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love as we do for you” – v. 12. Notice the last phrase – “as we do for you.” Paul uses his expression of love for them as an example for what God might do in them. And in the same way, this morning I want to use Paul’s expression of love to challenge us to grow more and more in our love for others.

Let’s look at this in several areas:

1. Paul was in a relationship with them as one who ministered to them. So we can ask – How is your love for those you minister to? Think for a moment about who you do minister to. Maybe it is a Sunday school class, or a friend going through a hard time, or sharing your faith with someone. Do you:

–         Have affection for them?

–         Want to be with them?

–         Want to know what is going on with them?

–         Have concern for their well-being?

–         Help them?

–         Take joy in them?

–         Pray for them?

2.  Paul relates to them as a parent because he brought them to faith. In 2:17 he likens himself to a nursing mother who is gentle. In 2:11 he likens himself to a father in his exhorting them. So we can ask, as parents or grandparents – how is your love for your children? Do you:

–         Have affection for them?

–         Want to be with them?

–         Want to know what is going on with them?

–         Have concern for their well-being?

–         Help them?

–         Take joy in them?

–         Pray for them?

3. Paul uses “brother/sister” language to speak of them as fellow Christians. So we can ask how is your love for one another in our congregation?

–         Do you have affection for them? Do you show concern?

–         Do you want to be with them? Do you miss them when they don’t come to church for a while? Do you have time in your busy schedule to spend time with them to build relationship?

–         Do you want to know what is going on with them? Do you check in on them?

–         Do you have concern for their well-being?

–         Do you help them? Do you even know what their needs are?

–         Do you take joy in them? Do you rejoice in their growth in faith?

–         Do you pray for them earnestly?

How does your love measure up? Do you need to increase and about in love more? May God challenge each of us to grow and increase in our love – just as we see in the example of Paul’s love for the Thessalonians.

William Higgins

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