1st Sunday after Christmas
Perfect Son and Perfect Substitute
Text: Luke 2:41-52
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. “What do you mean you don’t know where he is? No, he isn’t with me. I thought he was with you. Why did you let him out of your sight? Why did you let uncle Jacob watch him? Where did he go? Where is he?” Most parents know that feeling. Even if it’s only for a minute that you can’t find your child, the experience is terrifying.
For three days Mary and Joseph had their stomachs in knots as they searched high and low for Jesus. They had been in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of the Passover as they did every year. Now they were making the 90 mile trek back home to Nazareth. As they were traveling with a big group of family and friends, they had assumed that their 12-year-old son was with some other relative or friend, perhaps playing some game as they made the 3-5 day journey.
One whole day into the trip they finally realized that Jesus wasn’t with them. They rushed back to Jerusalem. They spent two more days searching the city for him. Where was he? Finally they checked the temple. There he was, a 12-year-old boy, sitting with the teachers of the law, listening, asking questions, and even doing some teaching himself.
Mary’s reaction seems to be normal. (Although if I were the parent, I would drag my child by the earlobe out of there and ground him for life.) Mary seems to be relieved, yet frustrated as she says, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Jesus’ reaction however does not seem to be normal. “Why were you searching for me?” Now if I were the parent, I wouldn’t be very happy with that response. “What do you mean, ‘Why were you searching for me?’ Boy, you must be out of your mind! We’re taking this out back right now!” Of all the recorded moments of his life, doesn’t it almost seem like this is the one time Jesus slipped up? Modern parents have an impression of disobedience and defiance from this incident.
But Jesus clears everything up and gives some perspective on this incident with his next statement. “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Wait a minute! Why didn’t they know he had to be in his Father’s house? And why would they have searched all over for two to three days instead of going to the temple first? Where else did they expect Jesus to be? They knew what the angel Gabriel had told them about Jesus. They knew full well he was conceived of the Holy Spirit. They knew the mission Jesus was on. So why did they act surprised by their son being in the temple, loving the Word of God, and even teaching the Word of God? Why didn’t they allow Jesus more time in the temple on this trip? Why didn’t they want to spend more time in the temple on this trip?
It becomes clear that Mary and Joseph had lost perspective a bit on Jesus’ purpose. We see that also as verse 50 tells us, “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Mary and Joseph were looking for Jesus to continue being that perfect human son. He was. But Jesus also had clearer priorities. First and foremost Jesus was the perfect Son of God.
Even though he was only 12 according to his human flesh, Jesus was still the perfect and eternal God. He knew his mission for coming to save mankind. He knew he had to fulfill all the Scripture, such as Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” What a fascinating moment then as Jesus fulfilled those words while the one called the Word made flesh was teaching the teachers of Israel about the Word of God! We could likely assume that he was even teaching them about the Messiah—which he was! Jesus the Perfect Son of God had the perfect priorities for his life. His heavenly Father came first, then his earthly mother and father came second.
This reminds us how Jesus is also our Perfect Substitute. We needed Jesus to come and do perfectly all the things that we cannot do perfectly. This incident in the temple is a good example of the many things that we often fail at.
How often do we find ourselves a little confused like Mary and Joseph? They certainly knew who Jesus was, but they seem to have lost track of proper priorities and perspective. Don’t we do the same? We know who Jesus is. We know that Jesus is important. But quickly other things become more pressing and more important.
Do you think Mary and Joseph were in a hurry to get back to their own homes and be done with traveling? Do you think Joseph was hurrying back because he had a couple carpentry projects to get done? What do you prioritize ahead of the Lord in your life?
Look at the zeal Jesus had for being in the Word of God. Do you find yourself with that same zeal? Do you crave learning more about what God says? Can you hardly wait for the next time you get to open up your Bible? I don’t know about your home life, but I can definitely tell from our attendance numbers on Wednesday night and on Sunday mornings that a lot of us need a lot of encouragement about being zealous like Jesus for the Word of God. Forty out of 200 members isn’t exactly ideal for Sunday morning Bible study.
Similarly, look at the zeal Jesus had for being in his Father’s house. Nothing was more important to him, not even his own parents. Do you find yourself with that same zeal for God’s house? I think our worship attendance numbers also tell a story. On Christmas Day, the festival of the birth of our Savior, we had 61 in worship. About 10 were visitors and 13 were staff family members, meaning we only really had about 30 members in worship that day.
But that’s just one day. So what about every other Sunday? There was a point in Christ the King history when we were growing fast and our worship average on Sunday morning was higher than our total number of members. Now our Sunday morning average attendance in worship is about 70% of our total membership. Most churches in America average 30-50%, but that still isn’t great. In other words, more and more are joining Christ the King all the time. But less and less by percentage are coming to worship every single week.
These are some group statistics I’ve shared. What about you or your individual family? Do you have the zeal Jesus had for the Word of God and for his Father’s house? Do you have proper priorities in life? Or is your perspective a bit cloudy like that of Joseph and Mary?
Thank God that Jesus is the Perfect Son of God and thus also our Perfect Substitute. Where we fail, Jesus was perfect. Where we are sinful, Jesus was sinless. Everything God requires of us, Jesus did. Then he carried on as the Perfect Son and Perfect Substitute by also taking our place in suffering and dying for our sins. He brought us forgiveness for all of our shortcomings and for all of our misplaced priorities.
About two weeks ago my son wasn’t feeling great on Saturday. So he said he didn’t think he should go to church on Sunday. I clearly remember telling him what I learned as a child, “I don’t care if you are sad, mad, tired, or sick. We go to church on Sunday—every Sunday—because we love to worship our Savior. Always.”
Being zealous like Jesus for the Word of God and for the house of God isn’t something to be clubbed over the head with though. “Come to church or else!” This zeal is a mindset and a mentality. When we hear that Jesus is our perfect substitute, what else would we rather do than learn about him in the Bible? When we hear that Jesus is our perfect Savior who took all our sins away, what else would we rather do than worship him at every opportunity we get?
This morning see the Perfect Son of God and your Perfect Substitute and be thankful that he did it right, he took your place, and he forgives you. When you truly understand that, the zeal to learn more and worship more will come naturally.
One more thing comes to mind in this story of the boy Jesus in the temple. What do you think it was like living with Jesus as he was growing up? It must have been annoying for all of his childhood friends. “Oh great, they have Jesus on their team. He’s going to rush for 24 touchdowns again this game. He’s going to hit a home run every at bat with his eyes closed.” (haha) It must have been great for his parents though. No whining. No complaining. No temper tantrums. No fighting. No sassiness. Not that my children would ever do that!
Yes, Jesus was that perfect even as a child. Verse 51 says: “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them . . . And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke assures us that this incident and all others in his life were all the same—full of perfection. Jesus was first and foremost the perfect Son of God. But Jesus was still also the perfect son of Joseph and Mary.
Once more, this again makes Jesus our Perfect Substitute! For all the times that we have failed in life to be respectful and obedient to our parents, for all the times that we have failed in life to be respectful and obedient to those in authority, for all the times in life that we have failed at being respectful and obedient to any of those over us—at home, at work, or in society—Jesus was perfectly respectful and obedient every time.
Again we see what a great Savior we have. In every way Jesus was just what we needed. He was the perfect Son of God. He was the perfect son of Joseph and Mary. He was the perfect citizen. He was the perfect human being. And he took all that innocence and died for those who were guilty. This life and death make Jesus our Perfect Substitute and Savior!
Next Sunday is Epiphany. We’ll hear about the Magi, or Wise Men, who came from afar to visit Jesus and worship him. We know this happened sometime within his first two years. We also know that Jesus began his ministry around the age of 30.
For 28 years of Jesus’ life we don’t know anything. We call this his “silent years.” Except, there is this one story of Jesus in the temple at age 12. Why don’t we know anything else? Why do even know this one story? We don’t know.
But maybe, just maybe, the Lord gives us this one story from Jesus’ 28 silent years as a reminder. Yes, Jesus was perfect. He was perfect all the time. Even as a child Jesus was carrying out our salvation as the perfect Son of God, perfect substitute, perfect Savior. Wow!
Our reaction is much like that of Mary. We heard in Luke 2 that Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. What do we hear today in Luke 3? “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Be like Mary. Treasure this—Jesus is the perfect Son of God, our perfect substitute, and our perfect Savior.
Posted on December 30, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Bible Study, Boy Jesus in the Temple, Church, Jerusalem, Jesus, Joseph, Luke, Luke 2, Mary, Nazareth, Sermons, Worship, Zeal, Zealous. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.