Luke 2:41ff NKJV 41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And [l]Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
I want to talk to you about the kind of intensity, about the kind of focus and passion and devotion with which Jesus lived. Here is Jesus, at age 12, strategically and purposely putting Himself in a situation where He could learn and grow. He didn’t stay behind to school the teachers in the Temple. He wasn’t teaching them. He stayed behind to learn from them. He listened and asked questions in order to learn, in order to grow, in order to get ready for what was ahead. What were y’all doing at age 12?
We read in Luke 2:52 that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Cognitive, physical, spiritual and social development were processes for Jesus, just as they are in our lives. Jesus had to experience life just as we do in order to identify fully with us in our humanity. He grew in stages and phases, something He willingly submitted Himself to. Though He was fully God, He was also fully man, and being fully man, He increased or grew as we do.
This concept can be difficult to understand for sure. Maybe this will help; Picture a star athlete, let’s say a basketball player, whose seasoned skill has won him the reputation of being the best of the best. Perhaps it is the winningest place of all-time, the highest paid player in the history of the game. Picture that individual in a game with elementary school kids. His goal isn’t to dazzle them with His skills, but to play with them on their level. So, though he is capable of executing well beyond their abilities, he denies himself the ability to use his skills in order to experience a game on the elementary level. He willingly limits himself in order to be part of the game where the nine-year-olds are. Maybe he even agrees to play on his knees so that he can view the game from their perspective. There is no fancy dunking, no behind the back dribbles, no one step for their every three to four steps. He plays where they are. That’s a way to describe how Jesus restrained Himself from exercising the rights and authority He had as God and condescended to come and do life on our level. That is an overly simplistic description of a theological truth that cannot adequately be described, but hopefully it is helpful.
Jesus submitted Himself to a learning process, a growth process. He went through the stages of learning to walk and talk and dress Himself. He was submissive to His parents. He was under their instruction. Maybe He even had to study to get His license to drive a camel. I don’t know, but there were social skills to develop, manners to learn, and life skills to acquire. He gave Himself to the learning of the Torah and in this story, as He was twelve, about to turn thirteen, the age at which Jewish men were viewed as moving into manhood, Jesus purposely positioned Himself in a place to gain spiritual wisdom, and when His mother questioned Him about that decision, Jesus made a distinction, perhaps for the first time, between His earthly father, Joseph, and His Heavenly Father. Mary said in verse 48, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father (“father” with a lowercase “f”) and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s (“Father’s” with a capital “F”) business?”
The angel had told Mary that Jesus would be the Son of God. Jesus was reminding Mary and Joseph of this fact. Yes, they were His earthly parents, but He was first and foremost the Son of God. As Jesus was emerging into adulthood, He was turning His attention to the growth needed to do the business for which He had been sent, and in that moment, the best preparation for that business was in the Temple where He could listen and ask questions. Oh, there would come a day when Jesus would ask questions of the Temple leaders again, but He would ask questions then that only He could answer. Time and time again later in His ministry He would ask questions that would stump the religious leaders so that through that traditional method of question and answer, He would cut through their religious hypocrisy and expose their hearts. That wouldn’t happen for another eighteen years, so for now, He was asking questions in order to learn, in order to prepare for the Father’s business.
What I want to point out is that Jesus purposely placed Himself in the atmosphere that would be most conducive to prepare Him to do what the Heavenly Father had commissioned Him to do. He intentionally sought to learn about spiritual things. He said it was so important that He “must” do it. He was driven to know more about the things of God.
It should not be lost that this question and answer session that took place in the Temple, took place during the Passover. Could we surmise that Joseph had taken this almost-adult Jesus into the Temple with them so that He could observe the sacrifice? Could this moment have been a graphic object lesson of where His life would be headed as He would willingly become the Lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the earth? During this particular trip for the Passover, did Jesus actually get to see Joseph slaughter their family’s lamb? Did He see the priests catch the blood in the gold and silver basins and then apply it to the altar? After viewing that graphic sacrifice, did the questions about Passover, what it meant, and what it meant for His life become more pressing? Did viewing the sacrifice generate the questions He had to ask in order to fully embrace the mission of the cross? Is that what He wanted to mull over with the religious leaders?
I could not say for sure, but it is clear that in order for Jesus to accomplish the business the Father had sent Him to accomplish, He had to get answers from the Scriptures, answers from the religious leaders of the day. I wonder if some of those gathered in the Temple that day were some of the same teachers Jesus would challenge eighteen years later. I wonder if some of them were in the camp of those who plotted against Him. Eighteen years later did they remember that young boy who was so inquisitive, so interested, so invested that He stayed behind as his earthly parents were making an 80-mile trip on foot to their home?
Remember, our text tells us that Joseph and Mary had a three-day search to find Jesus. Jesus had become awfully resilient for a twelve-year-old. He had learned survival skills for sure. He had to find a place to sleep and food to eat for that three-day period. Could I suggest that He was willing to assume a new level of responsibility for Himself in order to get the answers He needed to the questions of His heart. You can get pretty resourceful when you are driven, when you are singly focused, when you have a “must be about my Father’s business” mentality.
And Jesus grew from that experience. He grew in wisdom. When Luke 2:52 tells us He also grew in favor with God and man, I wonder if at that point, there was growth in His relationship with Joseph and Mary. I wonder if there was a new level of respect between them and Him, a level of understanding and acceptance of His mission. Allowing our kids to move into adulthood, to exercise a new level of responsibility, can be tough. I wonder if part of the favor with people that the Scripture reports was a recognition on His parents’ part that they had done much of their job and that now Jesus had to move in step with the Heavenly Father, even over their earthly oversight when necessary. Luke 2:51 does say that when Jesus went home with His parents that He was subject to them, that He was obedient. He knew more about His mission after those three days in the Temple, but apparently there was more He needed to learn about life and more that He would have to unpack with His parents, so He was submissive. I just wonder, however, if that Temple episode during Passover clarified things for more than Jesus. I wonder if His parents began to change the way they parented Him. You see, I believe, as we grow in our understanding of who God is and what our life’s purpose is, it will cause positive growth in the people around us.
I have to believe that Jesus intended to grow in His relationship with His Heavenly Father through those three days in that Passover context. You see, Jesus couldn’t just walk to Jerusalem on a regular basis. It wasn’t convenient to get there. He had to make the most out of the opportunity to have access to the Temple teachers while He was there. There was something so pressing on Him and stirring in His heart that He needed extra time to process it.
Here is my big takeaway. If we are going to follow Jesus, we will put ourselves in the places and spaces with the people who can help us grow to the place where we can accomplish the Father’s Business when the times comes. If we believe we must be about our Father’s Business, we must prepare ourselves. Because Jesus was committed to the Father’s Business, He was determined to be prepared for it. It shaped the way He determined to grow with God and others.
As you think about what Jesus meant when He said He must be about His Father’s Business, I want you to think of the word “necessary.” Jesus was saying there were necessary conversations He had to have, necessary things He had to learn. There was a necessary reason why He stayed behind, why He committed extra time to being in the Temple. He didn’t just stay after church for a minute. He tarried three days! He stayed in the place of learning until He had answers, until His heart was satisfied.
Do we have a sense of urgency about necessary spiritual matters? Do we even know what they are? Are we committed to doing what is necessary in order to grow so that we can go when the call of God necessitates it? Are we making the most of every opportunity to ask questions, to study to show the Word of God (II Timothy 2:15) and to sit in the presence of those who have been called of God to teach? I want to call this the “Must Principle.” Are we compelled by the “Must” principle? Do our lives reflect this kind of spiritual focus and preparation?
Because Jesus grew when He did the way He did, He was prepared for His Heavenly Father’s purposes. In Luke 4:42-44 we read, 42 Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; 43 but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” 44 And He was preaching in the synagogues of [r]Galilee.
Do you know why He was ready for the pressing and necessary call to preach the Kingdom of God? It’s because He had carefully studied. He had put in the time. He knew how to pull out Old Testament passages and tie them to His mission to help people see what God was doing in their midst. He had spent time training with the religious leaders. He had grown up in and among the people. He knew the culture. He knew how they thought. He could use contemporary illustrations to teach them spiritual truths. He could communicate the messages God gave Him because He had learned how to clearly hear His Heavenly Father’s voice.
Jesus said in Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must suffer many things,” He said. “He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
He said those things as easily as you or I would say, “I want a double cheeseburger meal with large fries and a Diet Coke,” for example. He said those things resolutely, confidently, and without flinching. He said His suffering was necessary. He said His rejection was necessary. He said His crucifixion was necessary, so that He could be raised to new life on the third day. His suffering was necessary so that you and I could have eternal life. Wow. Some of His necessary life’s work was hard, wasn’t it? Where did He find the strength to go through with all of that?
I submit to you that Jesus could accomplish the hard things because He had conquered the necessary things along the way. He had drawn near to His Heavenly Father on purpose. He had studied the Scriptures. He had taken extended time alone to pray and spiritually refocus, and in that growing process, in the process of acquiring Heaven’s wisdom, He was able to move through the demands of His life deliberately with a perfect understanding of God’s eternal plan and perspective. And He knew what He had been called to do was going to be worth it. Because He got the necessary right, He could take on the hard and sacrificial assignments with ease.
My friends, there is a lot we are doing. There is a lot we can do, but I’m not sure that everything we are doing or could do is a “must.” Some of us want to tackle the hard stuff for the Kingdom, but we have never conquered the necessary. We haven’t acquired the basics. We haven’t sought to even know what the Father’s Business is. Many haven’t taken seriously the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
What have you been learning? How have you been seeking to know the Father’s Business for your life? As we learn what is necessary to know about Jesus and about the Word of God and about being a Christ-follower, then the tasks and burdens of life and the call of God will become lighter. Then the work of God becomes a delight. Then the preaching of the Gospel and even the moments of suffering, when we know they serve the purposes of God, become a joy. What I am trying to say is that the hard stuff becomes easy stuff when we have first done the necessary stuff. It is in that necessary drawing near to Christ through Bible reading, prayer, worship, meditation, and fasting that we gain the power needed for greater things.
We’re often distracted, though, aren’t we? Our plates are full. Our lives are busy. There are deadlines and demands for which we are responsible that have little to do with the Father’s Business. They are just the stuff of life. It’s hard to focus right now with the chaos that has been created by the Corona Virus, by the changes in the way we do life, by changes in the way our kids get an education. The political process is only going to intensify. There is a lot happening to distract us from the most important things for sure. What I am challenging you to do right now through this message is to examine how much of what you have given your time, money, and mental health to that is necessary? And how much time could be spent sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning of Him? Maybe we have convinced ourselves that some things are necessary when in fact, they aren’t at all and we have been giving time and energy to chasing rabbits. Maybe we’ve been living the distracted life instead of the “must be about my Father’s business” deliberate life.
Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of two sisters. One did what was necessary and needed in the moment. The other was distracted by what she perceived to be important.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
So, Martha was distracted from the necessary, and when she became distracted from the necessary, she became worried and upset about many things. Mary knew there was nothing more important than being fully present with Jesus when He had instruction to give. Where do you find yourself today? Are you worried and upset about many things? Are you exhausted when you think about the call of God to be a disciple of Jesus, to be a witness in His name? Have you been running on empty because the pressures of life have kept you from what is necessary?
I’m not telling you to ignore the cultural conversations. I’m not asking you to pretend that there isn’t a new virus that has wreaked havoc on our way of life. I’m not even asking you to roll with the punches and just accept that you have to homeschool your kids right now. But don’t allow those things to become distractions from what is necessary. What is necessary is time with God. What is necessary is the Father’s Business. And the hard things we will be called to do as Christ-followers will be far easier when we have committed to the necessary thing. What is it that you MUST DO today, right now, in order to say you are tending to the Father’s Business in your life?
I believe Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man because He stayed faithful to the necessary. There was a wholeness about the way He developed because He honored knowing and doing the will of God above all else. How can you position yourself in the places and spaces with the people who can help you press into the necessary in order that you can accomplish the supernatural will of God?