Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday After Christmas (Yeldo)

Sermon / Homily on Luke 2:40-52

The Boy Jesus in The Temple

by Rev. Bryan Findlayson, Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons

Gospel: Luke 2:41-52


In his thirteenth year an Israelite child was obliged to apply himself to the Law of Moses. For this reason Jesus' mother and father take him to Jerusalem, to the temple, to fulfill his ritual obligations. So, Jesus submits to the Law of Moses, but he also demonstrates a higher obligation "to one whom he recognizes as Father, for he is the Son of God, declared so by an angel", Danker.

The passage

v41-42. A Jewish boy reaches manhood at age 13, and it is the responsibility of the boy's father to introduce him to his religious obligations before he comes of age. Jesus, now 12, is taken to the most important of the Jewish religious festivals. It was expected that Pentecost and Tabernacles be attended as well as Passover, but the Jews of Galilee, due to distance, tended to attend Passover only. The significance of the Passover, Israel's deliverance through sacrifice, is not lost on Luke.

v43-45. A pilgrimage to a religious festival was usually undertaken in a large group of family, relatives, neighbors and friends. The women and children would travel as one group, followed by the men. They would not all come together again until they met at a prearranged meeting place on the journey home. It was only then that Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was not with the other parent, or with their "kinsfolk."

v46. It was at the end of the first day, after leaving Jerusalem, that Joseph and Mary discover Jesus missing. On the second day they return to Jerusalem, and on the third day they find Jesus in the temple. During festival and on the Sabbath, the teachers sat in the Temple precinct to teach their traditions and answer questions. It was in one such group that Joseph and Mary found their son "listening" and "asking questions."

v47. The members of the teaching group were "amazed" at Jesus' "understanding." The word "amazed" is used, particularly by Mark and Luke, as a preliminary response by the crowds to a powerful working of the Spirit of God in word, or sign. In this case, it is a Spirit-filled word. So, even at the age of 12, and prior to the descent of the Spirit upon him, Jesus fills the crowd with wonder and awe.

v48. Jesus' parents are similarly awestruck, quite unable to understand what is going on. Their only response is to chastise Jesus, and rightly so.

v49. Jesus responds by telling his parents he must be about his Father's business, the Word business. Most translations have "Father's house", meaning the temple. As for "my Father", he certainly doesn't mean Joseph. He may be claiming that God is his father, although the "my" probably just reflects his messianic claims; Jesus is "the Son of God." "Son of God" is primarily a messianic title, and by claiming the title Jesus is not necessarily revealing his filial relationship with God the Father, nor is he denying his human kinship.

v50. His parents simply do not understand what he is up to. Given his miraculous birth, he is obviously a candidate for messiah, Son of God, but why "must" the coming Davidic messiah (a worrier king) be in the temple discussing theology?

v51. As far as his parents are concerned, the young Jesus is way out of line. Jesus rightly submits to them and returns with them to Nazareth. Mary is left to wonder about it all.

v52. Meanwhile, Jesus continues to grow in wisdom, as well as stature and moral integrity.

Conflicting obligations

Of first importance we are bound to hear Luke and so be reminded of Jesus' messianic credentials. We follow no ordinary man. Yet, there is an interesting side issue in this passage which touches on the human condition.

Clearly, Jesus is out of line when he heads off to the temple to do his own thing. Without considering his parent's he gets caught up in his "Father's business", wrestling with the divine truth that in years to come will be the center of his messianic ministry. Yet, although his intentions are worthy, the social consequences are anything but worthy. His parents are rightly miffed. Jesus tries to calm the waters with an explanation (always taken by the accuser as an excuse), but then immediately submits to his parent's authority. As Luke puts it, Jesus was "obedient to them".

This incident reminds us that Jesus shares our human condition, although unlike us, he did not sin. In the story we see Jesus caught in a classic bind where honour to one causes offence to another. Only in a sinful world are we faced with such a problem. Of course, Jesus handles the situation as the law demands, when corrected, he obeys.

So, this simple human story should remind us to be forgiving of our daily blunders. We do well to remember that in a fallen world the options we face will often conflict and our chosen path will end up less than perfect, always compromised. Unlike Jesus, perfection is beyond us. Thankfully salvation rests on God's grace, not on our capacity to rightly handle life's myriad choices.


Consider examples of conflicting choices you have faced in your life. 

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 1st Sunday after Christmas

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