2nd Sunday of Christmas “Did Young Jesus Know?”
January 2, 2022 Luke 2:41–52
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
This morning we’re asking a question; one which I’ve been asked a number times;
one which may -or may not- have ever crossed your mind: ‘did young Jesus know?’ —
/did he know he was God-the-Son, /did he know he was the promised messiah, /did young Jesus know what his mission was, and how it would lead to the cross? We can come up with a lot of questions; and it’s true that we can ask more questions than the Bible gives answers. But that’s the key = the only sure answers we have are those in Holy Scripture. It’s by
God’s Word that we are able to know what we know.
I think that is also the key to answer our question ‘did young Jesus know?’ Jesus could know what the Scripture says = and that was enough; that makes him like us. We confess
-with scripture- that Jesus was ‘fully man’; he humbled himself, & did not always or fully make use of his divine nature as God. He truly lived as one of us; & therefore he was considered the perfect substitution for each of us under the Holy Law of God.
A similar question is: ‘how much did he know’? It’s really hard for us to compare
12-yr.old Jesus to our 12 yr.olds, because Jesus was unhampered by sin. Altho we’re told that he was tempted in every way as we are, & did not sin. Still, without a sinful nature, and without any disobedience in the mix, we would imagine that Jesus had a distinct advantage over the normal 12 yr.old.
A clue to an answer for us is in our gospel reading, in verse 52. It said: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” To ‘increase’ means that he didn’t have it all to begin with; he grew up and expanded in wisdom & stature & favor. Whatever amount of those things he had before age 12, there was room for more. We confess that God is ‘omniscient’; all 3 persons are ‘all knowing’. So, The Son of God was born ‘all knowing’; but he didn’t make full use of that automatic divine knowledge or power. He became like us; he grew, and learned to trust His heavenly Father just as any ordinary human being. He depended on his Father for food & clothes & shelter in the same sort of ways that God graciously provides for you & me. Jesus made himself dependent upon the Holy Spirit to work in him knowledge & wisdom by the written Word of God, just as the HSp works in us.
So, when Jesus was a boy, did he know he was God? Let’s say: he learned to know. In the same way we are baptized & reborn as a child of God, so we learn to know that, and grow up to live as obedient children of God; altho we might doubt that at times because of our sinful nature. Jesus could know whatever the Scriptures said, and he would know whatever his parents had told him. And how much was that? Well, we don’t know much, but we do have some clues from the Bible.
Based on how faithful Mary & Joseph had been before Jesus was born, we ourselves can certainly conclude that they were helping each other be good & godly earthly parents; they did what any believing parents should do so that their children know /who God is, /what God has done, /& what God promises to do for us. There was no reason for secrets. We have told some stories to our children about where they were born, what their birth was like, what trips they made as an infant, or what towns they lived in. It’s a guess, but surely Jesus heard about the angel visits, the miraculous conception, the trip to Bethlehem, the shepherds, the star & the magi.
What we know for certain from Luke 2 is that Joseph & Mary were obedient to the Law of God, & they showed young Jesus what it meant to be obedient. We should find that interesting. Think of it: Joseph & Mary did not conclude that -just because they had this special assignment- that they ‘were special’, and could ‘opt-out’ of keeping all the Laws & statutes of God. I mean, why should they go to the synagogue every week on the sabbath? They could stay at home & worship Jesus in person! Why should they make the expensive & hard effort to travel to the temple for the festival times when they were already fully blessed having the Son of God live in their home?
And from what we learn in Luke 2, why bother to go & learn from those other teachers when their own 12 yr.old knows as much & more than them? Why? Because Joseph & Mary were humble, and faithful, and obedient to do what is right; they had no excuse to be lazy or disobedient. They were not chosen because they were ‘special’; they were chosen because God is gracious and was counting on them to be faithful & obedient = just like for us.
You & I can be tempted with making excuses. We might think that we know enough ‘about God & Jesus & all that stuff’ from Sunday School, so all we need is a little refresher on Christmas & Easter.
We boast to others that we had a really tough confirmation training, so we really don’t need to go to church every Sunday like the 3rd Commandment says. We also might think that we have more knowledge or wisdom than the pastor has; and since he can’t teach us anything new, so why waste the time going to Sunday worship. Wow! I hope those are not examples of thoughts we’ve had; altho, I have heard people share thoughts like that.
The actions of Mary & Joseph show better thoughts that those; they did not think of themselves more highly than they ought. Jesus’ earthly parents dutifully made the journey to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised when he was 8 days old, because that’s what God’s Word said to do. They made the journey again to the temple when he was 40 days old for the rite of purification, because that’s what was expected of God’s faithful people to do & to teach their children.
God’s expectations for them are the same for all of us. He has a very high priority for our children’s eternal spiritual welfare. We are thankful for every parent who has heard God’s call for their child’s baptism and training up in the Scripture. We commend every parent for whatever efforts they have made to nurture their children in the fear of God, and in obedience to the teachings of their Savior & Lord.
Now, Joseph & Mary did have to go beyond the ordinary in their obedience. They had to flee to Egypt for a time; and then they obeyed the Lord & returned from Egypt to their hometown of Nazareth, where -in vrs.40- we heard, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”
As a side-note: that phrase, ‘favor of God’, is the same phrasing use by the angel Gabriel -in chpt.1- when he told Mary that she had ‘found favor with God’, and had been chosen to bear the Son of the Most High, who would be the promised Savior. You, each one of us, have a slice of that same favor when we were called by the gospel, and given a new & miraculous spiritual birth into the grace of forgiveness. The fact that you believe in the Lord’s Christ as the world’s one Savior is the sign of God’s favor; it is God’s calling to a new & obedient life as we are moving us into a heavenly home. Until then, you & I have the same path to follow as did young Jesus: ‘to increase in wisdom, …and in favor with God and man.’
Back to our Q: ‘did young Jesus know’? As every human baby grows, toddles, walks, talks, & learns to read & write, so did human Jesus. And just as Mary & Joseph would’ve marveled at each stage, & treasured those things in their hearts, so do we. Since we hear that Jesus ‘grew and became strong’, we conclude that he was healthy, vigorous in body, mind, & spirit. Altho not all children have all those same blessings, it was pretty normal & average.
Jesus did not have super-human strength as a boy, and we are not told that he had any deformities that made him handicapped. We can assume that he did know what it was like to skin his knee, and have a cold or the flu, and even made fun of by other children, because those things are normal for living in this fallen world. And so, from 40 days old until the age of 12, we know Jesus is growing up and being raised by parents whose aim is to be righteous and godly in their lives & with their household. So young Jesus knew how to be human.
Here’s another Q that comes to minds: Did Jesus’ parents know he was God, as they were trying to raise this child in the law and tradition of their faith? Certainly, the angel had clearly told Mary her child would be called the Son of God.(Lk 1:35) But this is so unique in the history of the world, that we wonder if Mary really understood ‘what child is this?’ And yet, we hear of no special rules they were to follow. This child was exceptional; & yet was to be raised in a normal godly way. That was probably a relief; that was something they could do.
Still, on the night Jesus was born, the shepherd’s visited & talked of the angel’s message; some months later, the magi visited and worshipped baby Jesus; then in the temple, Simeon & Anna rejoiced in seeing this child. So, Mary & Joseph knew Jesus was the Promised One; and Mary treasured up those events & pondered them in her heart.
But apart from those few times of showing how special Jesus was, otherwise, they would’ve gotten pretty used to him being normal. For 11 years, everything was normal as they went to the temple for the annual Feast of the Passover. Maybe even their relatives had stopped asking Mary & Joseph about when their miracle-child was going to become something special. But there was no way for them to predict how or when Jesus would fulfill the other prophecies of the Messiah. Later, when Jesus was grown, Mary assumed Jesus could do something to help when that wedding reception at Cana ran out of wine; but he had told her it wasn’t time.
And then there was that time, in Luke 8, when Mary & the family came to take Jesus home because his ministering was wearing him out; and Jesus refuse to go. How much did Jesus’ parents know? Like us, they knew who he was; but they didn’t know how everything would unfold & be fulfilled with Him.
Have we answered the main question yet? ‘Did young Jesus know?’ When Jesus was growing up as a child, and then as a youth, did he know that he was God? Did this young boy know what was in store for him? Certainly he could know what the OT prophets foretold of the Messiah. And so, wouldn’t that be too much of a burden on a 12 yr.old’s shoulders?
Well, as we hear from Jesus himself, it’s not the age of the shoulders that mattered,
but the strength of his trust in the Father. He says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Trust is not by ‘age’, and wisdom is not by brains; faith & wisdom is from the Holy Spirit and thru the Scriptures. Even at 12, he knew he needed to be at the temple; it was exactly where he belonged. At this point, He knew.
We also conclude that Jesus was not being disobedient to his earthly parents; he was not responsible for their own wrong assumptions that he had stayed among their relatives after the Festival. Jesus knew His Father, and as the obedient Son of His Father, his business was learning, listening, and answering the spiritual questions & truths of His Father. Altho it was not yet time for his baptism, and his public anointing with the HSp; & it was not yet time to gather his disciples & preach in the synagogues, young Jesus did know that he was the Son of God.
As the only Son from heaven, full of God’s grace & truth, he knew that the business of salvation was in front of him. It had been long-promised, and the time for that mission was nearer than ever. Jesus knew; and he was eager for that mission to get underway.
And so, that’s the answer to the question; or maybe we should say ‘answerS’.
Jesus knew, and yet he learned & grew up. He knew, but he did not take any special advantage of being God. Even tho he was ‘omniscient’, all-knowing, he became one of us, who could know everything that’s needed thru God’s Holy Word. This was an important part of him fulfilling what the Messiah needed to be. During his time on earth, he was one of us.
We call this his state of humiliation, when he didn’t always use his divine power as God, but humbled himself and became obedient under the Law – for us. When the time was right, he used his godly powers; but only when it served his purpose of saving us, and never to make things easy for himself. That’s why we hear about him today, there in the temple, asking the teachers questions, and learning from Holy Scripture. It’s so that we can see that Jesus was being everything we needed him to be: human enough to be under the Law; God enough to bring to us the saving Gospel, and to win our salvation.
This reminds us of Hebrews 5 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience thru what he suffered.” Thru Paul, in Phil.2, we are taught that Jesus became obedient to death, even death on a cross. as full and final payment for the sins of the world. That’s what the Scriptures promised the Messiah would do. That’s what Jesus knew he must do. And that’s what he did for you & me. God became flesh and dwelt among us. For a time he increased in wisdom & stature; and yet he was -and is- always full of God’s grace & truth for us.