Sunday, September 27, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus - A Very Special Child"

“Jesus - A Very Special Child”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
September 27, 2009
Luke 2:22-52

Last week, in our study of Dr. Luke’s orderly account, we surveyed some of the most familiar words in the whole Bible–the Christmas Story of the Birth of Jesus.

This week, we’re going to study His entire childhood.

Don’t worry; it won’t take long. Luke records in just 30 verses almost everything we know (though Matthew’s gospel does includes a few things that Luke’s doesn’t), but almost everything we know about Jesus’ babyhood and boyhood are found here in these 30 verses–half of a chapter.

Often, at Christmastime, we end at verse 21 of Luke 2, and we almost never hear about the second half of this chapter. We’re normally off and thinking about the New Year the next Sunday after Christmas.

But today, we pick up where Luke left off. And we learn nearly everything we need to know about Jesus as a child.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus must have been like as a baby and as a young boy?

I have.

People have speculated about this for all of church history. In the second, third, and fourth centuries after Jesus, some people wrote fantastical stories about Jesus’ boyhood that are among what is called the “gnostic gospels.” These aren’t real gospel, not written by apostles or eyewitnesses or first century Christians, but much later.

These are some of the documents that skeptics try to bring up each year to discredit Christianity–“The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Gospel of Judas” etc, etc.

But not only are they proven to be written much later and not be recognized by the church, but there is something very different about the gnostic gospels than the biblical ones. Something that doesn’t ring true.

The young Jesus that you find in those documents isn’t anything like the Jesus you find in Matthew and Luke. He’s all bug-eyed and doing stupid, pointless miracles, and/or full of confusion and fear and frustration. Not at all like what we’re going to see here.

I don’t know why the Lord didn’t preserve more for us about Jesus’ babyhood and boyhood–but I know that He preserved for us exactly what we need to know for our faith in Him to be solid and growing. For us to be certain of Jesus.

So, as we study this passage, we’ll get almost everything God wants us know about Jesus as a baby and a boy.

And, I think I could summarize it all like this: JESUS WAS A VERY SPECIAL CHILD.

Now, you and I both believe that. We know that. But I think that we need to see it again with fresh eyes and hear it again with open ears and believe it again with open hearts.

In Luke 2:22, we find out what kind of parents Joseph and Mary were. They were faithful, obedient, pious and poor Jews. V.22

“When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’”
Forty days have passed since Jesus was born.

Joseph and Mary are following the Mosaic Law to a Tee.

Mary was to have 7 days from giving birth as a week of purification according to Leviticus 12.

And then 33 days of seclusion. And then, according to Exodus 13, Mary’s firstborn was to be presented and dedicated at the temple and to offer a sacrifice of consecration–normally a lamb. Remember this from when we studied Exodus and Numbers?

But Jesus’ parents, however pious, are also poor. So they offer the poor man’s sacrifice–“a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” As we’ve seen, they are humble people of humble means.

But this is no normal child born of poverty. And there are two people who meet Jesus that day who proclaim how special the child Jesus really is. They can see it with eyes of faith.

The first is a man named Simeon. V.25

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.”

Ohh. This is interesting.

For 400 years, God has been silent. But now, he’s been talking to some prophets.

He told this man Simeon, of whom we know almost nothing except that he was godly, righteous and devout. He was a godly man who was waiting, waiting, waiting for the consolation (the comfort) the blessing to come on Israel.

Simeon appears to be an old man. It doesn’t say that directly, but most people have inferred from the few details here that Simeon was old and had waited a long time for God’s promises to Israel to be fulfilled.

The language here is that of the last third of the book of Isaiah. Chapter 40-66. Where God calls for comfort for His people and promises comfort and salvation to come through the LORD’s Servant–a Messianic figure.

Simeon has been waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. And he’s been given a special message by the Holy Spirit, that he would see it with his own eyes!

And he does! V.27

“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”


Can you imagine?

This man comes up to Mary and Joseph and asks to hold the baby and then says this?

“‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss [Nunc Dimittis in Latin] your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’”

V.33 “The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”

Joseph and Mary probably have a lot to get to used in raising Jesus!

Jesus is a very special child.

He is a child of [#1.] PROMISE AND SALVATION.

Simeon can see with the eyes of faith that this child was the child of promise.

We talked about that last week.

Simeon could see it.

This child was everything God had promised.

Which is bigger? The Old Testament or the New?

The Old. 39 books in the Old Testament–chock full of promises.

27 books in the New Testament–with this message–the promises have been fulfilled in Jesus.

Imagine that (probably) old man cradling this little baby and saying, “Here it is. Here is salvation. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and now I can die.”

He calls this child of promise and salvation a “light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

That brings in Isaiah’s language again.

Jesus was the glory of Israel. Everything promised to Israel–including salvation from all of their enemies–including Satan and Sin!

And a light to the Gentiles. That’s us!

Simeon could see, however dimly, that we would be included in the salvation promised and fulfilled in this special child!


Mary and Joseph didn’t know what to think. But Simeon had more to say. V.34

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’”

Jesus was a very special child.

A child, not only of promise and salvation, but [#2] DIVISION AND PAIN.

This child would divide people into two categories.

You will be either for this child or against this child.

And there will be no middle ground.

This child will divide people and change everything! V.34

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.”

Some will fall. Some will rise.

“And to be a sign that will be spoken against...” Ouch. How would you like to hear that on the day that you dedicate your child? “This one will be spoken that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

Jesus will reveal hearts. Hearts will have to choose.

Are you for Jesus or against Jesus?

Are you on the side of salvation or damnation?

Are you rising or falling?

There is no neutral ground.

After this child is born, nothing will stay the same.

And it will hurt. It will even hurt his mother. V.35, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Division and Pain.

It’s going to hurt to be Jesus’ mother.

You’d think if you had borne this miraculous baby, that your life would be easy–but the opposite is true.

A sword in the soul. Pain and distress will come with being connected to Jesus.

He is a very special child, indeed.

In fact, all who belong to Jesus will suffer in this life.

And don’t believe anyone who tells you different.

Jesus was a child of promise and salvation, yes.

But also division and pain.

Where do you stand with Jesus today?

You’re hear in church, that’s good.

But I can’t tell by looking at you if you’re hear at church with Jesus or without Jesus.

Whether you are falling or rising.

Which side of the divide you are on. You can’t straddle the middle.

“...the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

Where do you stand?

Anna stood on Jesus’ side. She was the second prophet to approach Jesus’ family that day. V.36

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old [she was old!]; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four [the Greek is difficult, perhaps it means that she had been widowed for 84 years–either way she’s old!]. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Jesus was a very special child.

And Anna could see it with eyes of faith.

Notice that she doesn’t just talk to the family.

She talks (v.38) to “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

She’s prophesying!

She’s calling out, “Here He is! Here is redemption! Here is promise! Here is fulfillment! Here is salvation! Here is judgment! Here is revelation! Here is redemption!”

Can you imagine?

She could see it. She could see how special Jesus was.

And she was following Him even then.

Are you following Jesus?

If you were on trial today for being a Christ-follower, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

V.39 doesn’t tell us what Mary and Joseph thought about this. They were probably overwhelmed by it all.

But it does tell us that they (at some point) headed back to Nazareth.

Matthew’ gospel fills in details about the “wise-men” and the escape to Egypt. But Luke moves on from here back up to Nazareth. V.39

“When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

Jesus was a special child.


V.40 tells us that Jesus was a special child.

It doesn’t answer all of our questions about what it must have been like to live with Jesus.

How His personality developed.
How His education developed.
How He played, what He liked to do.
Who His friends were.

Jesus was fully human and grew in the same way we do.

And yet, He was different. He was special.

We still have all of those questions about what it was like.

But, we know what we need to know. v.40, “The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

You know, that’s a great verse to pray for our children.

That one and verse 52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

I pray that one for my kids several times a week.

“Lord, grow up my kids in wisdom and stature and in favor with you and others.”

But, these verses aren’t here primarily to tell us what to pray for our kids.

They are here to tell us that Jesus was a very special kid Himself!

He grew up in wisdom and grace like no one else ever did!

He grew up like we do–He had to grow up.

But He grew up like no one else ever did!

“He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

This became crystal clear one day when Jesus was twelve.

When Jesus was twelve, he went with his family to the Passover feast. V.41

“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. [Very pious, obedient Jews.] 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.”

Now, this may sound strange, but it probably wasn’t all that strange. These families traveled in great big groups–caravan style.

And Mary and Joseph just assumed that Jesus was with some other part of the family–he probably had been on the way down–riding in the mini-van with his cousins (or whatever the mode of travel was). V.44

“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.”

Imagine their shock! “What, he’s not with you? You mean he’s not with you? Where could he be?”

Luke says that it took three days to find him. I think that’s day one traveling without realizing he’s gone. Day two traveling back in haste hoping to find him among the estimated 200,000 festival attenders. And day three finding him. Where? V.46

“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.”

A special child. A child full of wisdom and grace.

Jesus is sitting among the theological experts of His day, and He’s holding His own.

He’s asking insightful questions. And He’s following the discussion. And He’s maybe asking a few stumpers. And He’s able to give thoughtful, meaningful, significant answers to questions put to Him.

Full of wisdom and grace.

And He only got wiser as His days went on!

Do you go to Jesus for your wisdom? The Book of Colossians says that ALL of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus! All of them.

He is the place to go for wisdom! Even as a child.

V.47, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Everyone, that is, except his parents!

They had something else on their mind.

Have you ever lost a child at a mall or a ballpark?

I lost Drew once at an outdoor wedding on a big estate. I couldn’t think of anything else. My heart was pounding. And I don’t know if I was more scared or angry.

You’re scared until you find them, and then you’re angry! V.48

“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.’”

You’ve got to sympathize with them. They’re not used to having trouble with this boy!


This, I think, is some of the first “sword in the soul” fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy from verse 35.

This hurt. And Jesus, for all His perfect sympathy at other times, isn’t sympathetic here. And that probably hurt some more. V.49

“‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?’”

Now, I never noticed this before until this week, but these are the earliest recorded words of Jesus Christ.

This is the first thing that He ever said that was preserved for us through the ages.

“‘Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?’”

Or if you have the King James Version, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”

Jesus knew something, in His wisdom, that his parents hadn’t gotten yet, but obviously should have.

And that’s how special a child He really was.

He was a child [#4] OF GOD–IN A UNIQUE WAY.

Jesus was a child of God in a unique way.

He called God, “My Father.”

And no one else in the Bible had ever done before.

Jesus at age twelve understood Who He really was in a profound way.

He understood Himself to be the Son of God.

Not just A Son of God but THE Son of God.

God was to Him, “My Father.”

And that’s actually the most amazing thing in these 30 verses.

Not Simeon. Not his prophecy of salvation and division and pain.
Not Anna. Not her proclamation of redemption in Jesus.
Not even Jesus’ wisdom and grace exhibited among the teachers of Israel.

But Jesus’ own understanding of His identity–The Son of God in a unique way.

“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s House?”

This is where I belong.

I have to be about My Father’s business.

I am the Son of God.


What do you do with that?

Mary and Joseph didn’t know what to do with it. V.50

“But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 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.”

Did you notice all of the responses to Jesus throughout this chapter?

Most of them are “marveling” (v.33), being “amazed” (v.47), being “astonished” (v.48).

Jesus is astonishing.

But there is also Mary’s “treasur[ing] all these things in her heart” (v.51).

Mary didn’t get it all, but she was trying. She was pondering. She was meditating and chewing on this.

Who is this child I have given birth to?

What did that angel mean when he came to me in Nazareth?

This is one special child!

A child of promise and salvation. For all who trust in Him.

But also a child of division and pain. He parts all people into 2 groups: for or against. And it hurts sometimes to be belong to Him.

A child of wisdom and grace. Growing like no one ever did.

A child of God?! He calls God, “My father.” And He obeys us, but He really obeys Him!

Who is this very special child?

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you astonished by this Jesus?

Are you following this Jesus?

Do you love this Jesus?

I think it’s amazing that this last story took place at the Passover.

You know what the Passover feast symbolized don’t you?

When the angel of death passed-over those Israelites whose doors were bloody with the blood of a blameless lamb.

Twelve year old Jesus would have been there in Jerusalem when Joseph slit the throat of a little lamb and they all celebrated the bloody salvation that God had provided for His people.

And it was then that Jesus stayed back and talked theology with the teachers in the temple.

He knew. I wouldn’t be surprised if He knew then what was coming in just a few decades.

The cross.

“Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?”

I am glad He was.