Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

First Sunday After Christmas (Yeldo)

Sermon / Homily on Luke 2:40-52

Age 12 and Not a Smart Aleck?

by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington

Gospel: Luke 2:41-52

Today I come before you as your Bible teacher. This sermon will be a Bible teaching sermon. This will be an unusual sermon in that there will be no examples, no illustrations, no stories, and no applications to your own life. You must make your own applications. Today, I am simply a Bible teacher.

First, three paragraphs of commentary as an in introduction.

As some of you remember, our sermons are based on a lectionary, a system of Scriptures for preaching and reading the Bible. 900,000,000 Christians belong to churches that use this lectionary system.

A second introductory comment.

The author of the Gospel of Luke is Luke and most people think that this is Luke, the physician, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. Luke writes two books; Luke and Acts. Luke said in his introduction that he had been following the life of Christ closely for some time that there were many other gospels in existence, but he wanted to write a more orderly account of the life of Christ for the most excellent Theophilus. Many people feel that Theophilus was a Roman official of upstanding position, a Gentile, a non-Jew, and therefore Luke will explain to him many of the customs of the Jewish religion that he wouldn't have had to explain if Theophilus had been a Jew. Luke also indicates that there were many other gospels in existence; perhaps the Gospel of Mark that we know was a reminiscence of Peter. Perhaps he was referring to the Gospel of Thomas that had numbers of exaggerated stories of Jesus' childhood. In the Gospel of Thomas, not included in our Bible, Jesus was more of a "boy wonder" and an "exhibitionist." In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus made birds out of clay and breathed into them and they flew away; his robe he wore at infancy magically grew longer on him as he grew taller. Luke has none of this. Luke includes none of these fabricated legends found in other gospels about the infancy and youth of Jesus

A third introductory comment.

Most scholars conclude that Luke wrote during the reign of the Roman emperor, Domitian, in the early 80s. Domitian was the first Roman emperor to mandate that the emperor be to be worshipped as God or Lord. There was a ceremony that every person in the Roman empire was required to do as an act of obedience and that was pinch some incense and say, "Caesar is Lord!" Christians refused to do this and were summarily executed. That is what the book of Revelation is all about. In this Gospel of Luke, the author will emphasize that God is Lord and that Jesus is Lord. To call God and Jesus Lord is not a mild statement but is sedition, a betrayal of the Roman emperor. Luke is writing to a Roman official. (omit to shorten)

So, with that introduction, we approach the nine infancy stories that are found in the Gospel of Luke and only in the Gospel of Luke. These stories climax with the seventh story, the story of Jesus in the temple at twelve. These nine stories are uniquely Luke and reveal the uniqueness of this theology. They are like a prelude to his symphony.

Beginning with first chapter and first verse of Luke, he is building an argument or story line with Theophilus, the reader. Luke wants Theophilus to have a certain reaction, like "Whoooaaa!!! Wow!!! That is impressive." Think like you are Theophilus hearing this story for the first time. Let me explain.

The first story is about old Zechariah and Elizabeth and she gets pregnant while old and barren. The reaction? Wow! The second story is Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit and declaring that this child will be the Son of God. The reaction? Wow! The third story is that Mary visits her old Auntie Liz who is now pregnant and her baby kicks the belly when Mary enters. The reaction? Wow! Old Zechariah comes out of the temple, his baby has been born, old Zechariah can't talk and suddenly he talks and announces the baby's name. The reaction of the crowd? Wow! The angel choir is singing above the shepherds and announce, "For you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord." This is the first time Jesus is called, Lord. The reaction? Wow! The shepherds go into the cave and discover it is exactly as the angel told them. What is the reaction? Wow! At eight days, Jesus is brought to the temple to be circumcised as was custom, and Old Man Simeon was there, picked up Jesus and declared that he could die now in peace because he had seen the Messiah. The reaction? Wow. The next story is a story of an eighty four year old widow, who had been in the temple for ages, and she too recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah. The reaction? Wow!

Now we come to the ninth story in Luke.

He has told eight impressive stories about the birth of Jesus, the stories all coming from Mary. Each of the stories are to evoke a "wow" in the reader. Yes, this is an impressive beginning to the story.

We come to the ninth and last story. It is a great story. It is a boyhood story. How I loved by boyhood, and the word, boy, stands out. Jesus is no longer an infant, no longer a child as he was in the previous story when he was deliberately called a child. In this story, Jesus has become a boy.

We will now examine the details of the story for today, appointed by our lectionary that is used by 900,000,000 Christians around the globe today. Jesus, age twelve, in the temple. You can read along in your bulletin and circle the words as we work through them.


Jesus went to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was important to Jesus. He was nearby at his birth in Bethlehem. He was circumcised in Jerusalem. He went there every year for the Passover. The author knows that Jesus will come back as an adult and be killed in Jerusalem as the people reject him. Jesus will wail and cry over Jerusalem, knowing that the residents of the Jerusalem were forever killing the prophets.


It was Passover time and Jesus was going to the Passover in Jerusalem with his family and friends. Passover was seven days and a grand vacation from school and work. The Jews had three great religious festivals, Passover, Booths and Weeks; just as we have three great festivals in our Christian faith, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost.


Jesus was twelve years old and no longer regarded as a child. At eight days, Jesus was circumcised, as required by law. The foreskin of his male penis was slit to remind him he was a Jew. That was their custom. Then, at twelve, there was a second custom, a Jewish bar mitzvah. There was both an infancy ritual and a puberty ritual; just as in our church, we have baptism and confirmation. Jesus himself was now under the Jewish law; he was no longer regarded an infant or child. He was now a boy. At age thirteen, he will be considered a young man. This reveals about Jesus that he is no longer an infant or child. He is now of age, of discretion, of thought, of greater responsibility. He is twelve and just been through the bar mitzvah. In the previous story Jesus was labeled a child; now he has outgrown his childhood and is no longer a child


Jesus went to this Passover "as was his custom." Luke explains many of the Jewish customs to the Roman Theophilus. Luke uses the phrase, "as with his custom" often in the early chapters of this book. It was the custom that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day; it was the custom that he attended Passover; it was the custom that he worshipped on the Sabbath. Jesus' parents realized the value of religious customs in their upbringing of their son. The same is true today: parents who see ourselves as Christian use our many religious customs to teach the Faith.


In the previous stories in Luke, Jesus was referred to as an infant and then a child. In this text he is referred to as boy. As the English language has three words for infant, child and boy, so does the Greek language. In the previous story about an old widow, Jesus is clearly referred to as a child but now in this story, a boy. He has outgrown his childhood.

Relatives and friends.

His parents thought he was with "family and friends." I like the concept found in this text about family and friends. Both are important to rearing a child. Initially, the parents were not worried about Jesus when he was missing because they felt he was in the safe care of other family and friends. We never rear a child alone, two thousand years ago or today. It takes the security of family and friends to rear a child.


Jesus was missing for three days. Not one, not two, not four, but three days. Three days is important in this gospel because Christ was in the grave for three days, the temple was supposed to be destroyed rebuilt in three days, and Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days. Luke knew the way he was going to use the concept of "three days" later in the gospel. "Three days" are important to the story.


His parents found Jesus in the temple. This temple in Jerusalem will be important in the future stories about Jesus. When Jesus comes back as an adult, he will cleanse the temple of the moneychangers, teach at length in the temple, and will argue with the religious leaders in the temple.

Sitting, listening, questioning.

Jesus was sitting among them, listening, and asking questions of religious teachers. His position is that of a humble pupil and not of a learned teacher. In a famous picture of this scene by Hoffman, Jesus is portrayed the learned teacher and the teachers are learning from him, but this picture by Hoffman is not accurate. Our bulletin cover today is a medieval portrait of Jesus in the temple, portrayed as a great teacher who is seated above those around him. But in Luke and Mary's reminiscence, Jesus is portrayed as sitting, listening and asking questions.

Amazed and astonished.

The teachers were "amazed and astonished" with Jesus and his answers. Throughout the whole gospel, people will be constantly amazed and astonished at his words and works. People were astonished and amazed at his teachings; astonished and amazed at his healings; astonished and amazed at his resurrection. Disciples today continue to be astonished and amazed at how relevant and wise are his teachings two thousand years later. We too are astonished and amazed when we experience healing. We too are amazed at his victory over death. We, too, continue to be astonished and amazed at God's miracles in our own lives.

Your father.

His mother speaks to him first, "Your father and I have been looking for you." This is the key line. YOUR FATHER and I have been looking for you. She is assuming that Joseph is the father. She seems to have forgotten the visit of the angel so long ago or they have gotten so used to life that Mary is the mother and Joseph is the father. This sometimes happens to those of us who are adoptive parents; we sometimes forget that we aren't the biological parents of the child. Mary erroneously states that Joseph is the father of Jesus.


His mother indicates to Jesus that she has been "anxious" over his behavior. The translation has been softened. Luke is the only gospel writer who uses this word and it needs to be translated "anguish" as it is in other places in Luke. Anguish has more pain than the word, anxious. The parents were deeply distressed and in pain that Jesus had treated them so. Lots of us have anxious moments with young people and anguish over them. We could preach a long sermon about over anxious parents who waste time and energy being overly anxious.

Jesus first words.

This is the first time we have heard him talk in the gospel. That moment is important. What is Jesus going to say? His saying or teaching will be crucial because it is the first theme from his lips.


Jesus said, I MUST be in my Father's house. The word, "must," or "dei" in Greek. Luke uses that word all the time, nine times, the word, "must." This is the first time: I must be in my father's house. Soon Jesus will say in chapter 4, I must preach the gospel. Then we will hear that he must heal the sick. He must do the ministry entrusted to him. At the end of the gospel, we hear four times that he must suffer and die on the cross. Must. It is his God's given destiny. In the first of his use of the word in Luke, Jesus MUST be in MY father's house.

My Father's house.

Jesus said, "Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" The first thing that Jesus says about himself that God is his Father. My Father is not Joseph but my Father is God. This same concept was found on the lips of the angel to the Virgin Mary when he said that Jesus to be the Son of the Most High and the Son of God. The same words will be spoken in the next scene eighteen years later with John the Baptist when Jesus as baptized. God spoke from heaven, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." These same words are spoken in Luke 10, "No one knows the Father except the Son. No one knows my father, the same words, MY FATHER, except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father who sent him. The Son reveals the Father." So this fundamental truth of this story at age twelve is found in the first chapter of Luke, the baptismal story, and in Luke 10 about the Son revealing the Father and Jesus calling God, MY FATHER. Jesus' awareness of his identity as the Son of God was in him by the age of twelve; it didn't happen eighteen years later in his baptism.

Did not understand.

Often in this and other gospels, the disciples do not understand the saying of Jesus. You would have thought the disciples would have understood; you would have thought Mary and Joseph would have understood because of the visitation of the angels some twelve years before. But like most disciples, they don't understand at the moment and only later do they come to understand. That is the way it works with most of us.

His mother treasured.

Mary is the person who is recalling all of these nine stories. As the gospels were being written down, it was important that the source of these stories were eyewitness of the events, people who had seen and heard Jesus first hand. The authors were thinking of adult stories. Someone finally asked, "What about Jesus' birth and childhood?" Mary then became the source for these stories. Mary became the eyewitness.

Wisdom, stature, favor.

The last story of Luke's nine infancy stories concludes. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. This is a quotation from I Samuel 2 about Samuel. Luke adds the word, wisdom. Jesus, in the next epoch of his life, will grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and other people. Jesus grew in wisdom his whole life. That is what all of us want to do: grow in God's wisdom.

An 18 year old gap.

We don't know the details of Jesus next eighteen years. We can draw some conclusions. That is, we know that Jesus was part of a large family. The boys in the family were named Jesus, James, Joses, Judas and Simon, and there were girls, perhaps several girls. Theirs may have been a family of ten or twelve children. We know that Joseph, Jesus' father, was a carpenter by trade and Jesus became a carpenter. We know that carpenters built houses, furniture for those houses, and farming tools like yoke for oxen and harnesses. We conclude that Joseph died during these years; that is, we hear nothing about Joseph after this but we do hear about Mary. Joseph is conspicuously absent. If Joseph died, Jesus would have been the oldest child and the new head of the family. My own mother was like that; Grandma Pete was busy having babies and my mother actually raised her siblings. We can think of Jesus as the oldest child in a family with the father gone.

During these years, Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and in the eyes of other people.


See Also:

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

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