Pastor Scott Andrews | October 15, 2023
A topic that has always fascinated me is this: when did Jesus know He was the Son of God – even God in the flesh? He is eternally the Son, so He’s known for all eternity, but when did He know after the incarnation? We’re getting closer to the holidays, so we can break out meaningful Christmas songs like, Mary Did You Know? Here’s a better question – Jesus, did You know? When did You know? I mean, was He outside playing one day and realize He always did what Mom said, while His friends didn’t? That His little brothers, James and Jude, were brats, and He wasn’t? That one day while playing in the sandbox, Mom told Him about Gabriel and He thought, that’s cool – I must be God. Did He always know? Was it a gradual realization? Was it instantaneous one day when Joseph was spanking James, and He realized, I’ve never been spanked? Never even been in time out?
And what would it have been like for His siblings to have an older brother who not only thought He was always right – He was always right? Can you imagine regularly hearing, “Why can’t you be more like Jesus?” Think about it, the brothers were sinners – everyone ever born is a sinner, except one. Imagine that One is your older brother. Is it any wonder they didn’t care much for Jesus, they thought Him out of His mind, they tried to bait Him into going to Jerusalem to declare His deity? Is it any wonder they didn’t accept Him – they resented Him – until after the resurrection? That’s interesting, the same way people deny Jesus today, you see – because He is infinitely light and glory and perfection, which highlights they are not.
I’m not the only one to contemplate this issue, when did He know. The early church dealt with the person of Jesus through the first several hundred years of its history. Councils were called to grapple with questions regarding His personhood. Heresies were condemned: Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Apollinarianism, Subordinationism, etc., etc. Creeds were written to help keep the church on track: Nicene Creed, the Creed of Constantinople, the Chalcedonian Formula, etc. – almost all those creeds were written to deal with heresies about the person of Christ. You see, even most cults today – if not all of them – somehow mess with the person of Jesus Christ.
In an odd way, the early church also tried to deal with this when did Jesus know question. Apocalyptic gospels were written in the second century with fabricated, legendary stories of Jesus’ childhood. A summary reading makes it clear they aren’t actually gospels, as they give inaccurate, even inappropriate caricatures of Jesus. For example, there is one called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which tells of Jesus’ boyhood. One author says such gospels include a “combination of these exceptional powers and the impulses and temperaments of a preadolescent which result in both comedy and calamity.” Again, the Infancy Gospel includes the following:
- Twelve-year-old Jesus brings twelve clay pigeons to life.
- He strikes the son of a scribe dead.
- He strikes a young boy who accidentally bumped into Him dead.
- He strikes His accusers blind.
- He laughs as a heavenly redeemer heals those He had blinded.
- He raised a playmate to life who perished in a fall.
- He heals the foot of a boy injured with an ax.
- He stretches a piece of wood that Joseph cut too short.
Other stories include changing rude children into goats and restoring them when they repented. On and on these apocryphal stories go – and as ridiculous as they are, they are attempting to demonstrate that Jesus knew something. But again, my question, when did Jesus know?
Last week, we looked at Luke 2:40 as we closed, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” I told you chapters of systematic theologies and creeds have been written to deal with the truth in this obscure verse. I suggested we must be very careful in our conceptions of Jesus to not erase His humanity, nor diminish His deity. He was fully God when He took on flesh, and He was fully man. Two natures, one person. But the verse here stresses the humanity of Jesus. He continued to grow and become strong. How does this inform the questions: did Jesus know, and when did He know?
After the sermon last Sunday, John LaShell, a retired pastor and one of our elders wrote an email that I asked to share – it is excellent. He wrote:
“The incarnation enabled the second Person of the Trinity to bring together two sets of experiences and activities (two natures in one Person) that otherwise would have been incompatible with each other. The eternal Person, the Son of God—” [remember, He was always God, but He took on human flesh, became a man, such that He…]
· Experienced ignorance and simultaneously knew all things actual and possible.
· Experienced growth in knowledge and wisdom while simultaneously being unchangeable.
· Experienced weakness while simultaneously holding the universe together. [That’s what Hebrews 1 says – He, Jesus, holds all things together by the word of His power. If He ceased being God for one moment, this universe would have ceased to exist.]
· Experienced being rejected and reviled on earth while simultaneously being worshiped by angels in heaven.
· Experienced being forsaken by God, while simultaneously enjoying the fullness of the Father’s love.
· Experienced a limited, local presence, while simultaneously over-filling the universe.
· Experienced the weight of sin and sin’s punishment while simultaneously being too pure to have anything to do with evil.
· Experienced human emotions, a human will, and a human consciousness, while simultaneously having a divine consciousness. [That one answers my musings.]
· Experienced normal human bodily functions while simultaneously being unchangeable Spirit.
That’s a great list. Here’s the point – such thoughts try to grapple with the hypostatic union – that Jesus was two natures in one indivisible person – one of the most glorious and stunning of all biblical doctrines. Did Jesus grow and mature as a man? Yes? Was Jesus, from His infancy, divine – the Son of God, and God the Son? Yes. Somehow, we must hold these truths in tension, without doing violence to the person of Christ.
Which brings us to our critical text this morning – the verses after Luke 2:40. It’s interesting – only Matthew and Luke tell us a little of Jesus’ birth and infancy. We may wish for more, but we must not add to the Word of God. I’ve often thought, I can’t wait to get to heaven and watch a video of Jesus’ life – from birth to ascension. While The Chosen may try to depict the life of Christ, introducing characters and personalities – in some cases, new stories – I can’t wait to watch the real, unedited version. Do you think we’ll be able to? I hope so. In fact, I can’t wait to watch the part where Jesus is walking with the two on the road to Emmaus and, starting with the Law and Prophets, told them how all the Scripture pointed to Him – and the events of the gospel.
Luke contains more infancy narratives than the other gospels combined. Luke 1-2 serves as an introduction to the life of Christ – further, it’s ten percent of the book. And, we only have one inspired, inerrant narrative about the boyhood of Jesus. Not only that, it’s the first time in this Gospel or any Gospel that Jesus speaks. And what He says is the crux, the purpose of this story. You see, the story fits Luke’s purpose well – that everything we’ve been taught about Jesus, His person and His work, is true and can be trusted. Oh, and by the way, Luke also, in part answers the question, when did Jesus know? He at least knew here. So, let’s read the text – Luke 2:41-52.
We have an incredible story here – one, that upon first glance, may cause some consternation – was Jesus being disobedient to His parents? Or, was Jesus being obedient to His Father, and His mission? Let me give you the outline of the text as we make our way through it:
- The Family’s Trip to Passover (41-42)
- Jesus Missing (43-45)
- Jesus Found (46-50)
- The Family’s Return to Nazareth (51-52)
In those first two verses, we find the family – Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (perhaps other children – we don’t know), the family made its way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Once again, we see the family obeying OT Law. The OT, in Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 actually required men to go three feasts or religious festivals in Jerusalem every year: Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths. But the dispersion – that is, Israel spread out over the then known world, plus poverty, prevented many from going three times. So by this time, especially among the poor, one of the three festivals was chosen, and Passover was most popular.
You may know, of course, that Passover was a celebration to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt. After being in Egypt over 400 years, eventually reduced to brutal slavery, God sent Moses to deliver them and lead them to the land of promise. Of course, Pharoah didn’t want to lose his labor force, so it took ten plagues to convince him otherwise. The tenth plague was the most difficult – the death angel would pass through the land and kill the firstborn of every household throughout the land.
The Israelites were spared. Each family was told to take a spotless lamb, slaughter it at twilight, and spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and the lintel – the header of the doorway. And when the death angel saw the blood, he would pass over the family inside. Of course, we know all these lambs pointed to Jesus, who would become our Passover lamb – the lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world and deliver us from the wrath of God. This feast would be observed annually in the month of Abib/Nisan, the Israelites first month, corresponding to our March/April.
Well, by the first century, Passover became understandably the most popular feast. It is thought the city of less than hundred thousand would swell to a quarter million people teeming in the streets. It was followed immediately by the feast of Unleavened Bread – all total, eight days. Together, they became known as Passover. Many would only come for the first couple of days and return home before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Joseph and Mary, we note, stayed for the entire festival, following the Law.
When Jesus turned twelve, the family went to Jerusalem according to the custom of the Feast. It’s somewhat ambiguous – we don’t know if this means they didn’t take Jesus till He was twelve, or when He turned twelve, they went as usual, meaning He’d been there before. You see, tradition had it you became a man at thirteen, and would then be allowed to participate in the Passover as a man. You would go with your father when the lamb was slaughtered, and the blood would be caught by the priests in basins who would them throw the blood at the base of the altar. It’s said there was so much blood, it would flow out channels on the Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley below, and the brook would turn red.
Anyway, at twelve, you would take the boy through the ropes, so he would be prepared the next year. Later, the tradition became known as Bar Mitzvah, when the 13-year-old would become a son of the commandment or a son of the law.
So, Jesus was there observing all that was going on. Did He know that later, His own blood would be shed for the sins of His people so the wrath of God would not come upon them? I think by this time, yes. As both man and God – the God-man, Jesus would later be crucified at Passover – again, the lamb of God. What must have been racing through His mind as He watched these lambs being sacrificed – all pointing to Him? Whatever it was, it caused Him to stay behind in the Temple at the end of the week.
In verses 43-45, Jesus goes missing. After the full number of days – that is, both Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the family made their way back to Nazareth. Jesus stayed behind, but the parents didn’t know. You see, back then, you would travel in a caravan for protection from highway robbers. It could be a large group – the extended family from Nazareth, maybe even most of the village. Later, it was the custom for the women and children to travel ahead, and the men would bring up the rear. Jesus, being right on the cusp of manhood, could have been with Mary and the children – while Mary thought Him in the back with the men.
This very thing happened to Tana and me once. We had our three boys on a camping vacation and stopped at a Walmart for supplies. We split up to buy what we needed. I went back to the van when we finished – she did the same – only to find that Timothy, our youngest was not with either one of us. We each thought he was with the other. We ran back to the entrance as a Walmart employee was walking out a sobbing little boy. The thought of it now causes me to shudder.
That’s what happened here. The 80-mile trip from Jerusalem to Nazareth would take 3-4 days. After the first day of 20 miles or so, they stopped to camp, and realized Jesus was not with them. They made a quick search through their friends and relatives – no Jesus. So early the next morning (you couldn’t travel at night) they made the hasty trip back to Jerusalem, day 2. Then on day 3, they made the search through the city – now empty of most pilgrims, but still a city of almost a hundred thousand.
So, now that you parents are hyperventilating, lets move to point 3, Jesus found in verses 46-50. After three days – the trip out, the trip back, and the third day searching – they found Jesus in the Temple. He was sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. As you may know, the temple complex covered the temple mount of about 35 acres. Yes, there was the temple itself, but there were lots of other buildings, to include Solomon’s colonnade. On the south side of the mount were what were the called the teaching steps, where many rabbis did their teaching. Perhaps it was there. You see, the temple was where the brightest and leading teachers of the day would gather to teach. Followers would gather around them – and the teaching format was in the form of dialogue/disputation. The teachers would both ask and answer questions.
This is the only time we find Jesus in the position of learner, and the only time the teachers are impressed with Him. Eighteen years later, the tables will turn – He will be the one asking and answering questions, He will be doing the teaching, and the atmosphere will be less than cordial. It will take no time at all when He enters His public ministry for the religious leaders to be opposing Him. By Mark 3, they’re seeking to kill Him.
But here is a twelve-year-old boy. By the way, as we make our way through chapter 2, Luke uses three different terms to refer to Jesus, demonstrating that He was growing up. Just like we have infant, toddler, boy – that’s somewhat the same terms used here. From infant, to young child, to boy. And as this boy on the cusp of manhood sits in the position of learner, we find a couple of things. First, He is in the midst of the teachers. It’s almost as if they are gathered around Him; because second, they were amazed at His understanding and His questions. Again, He is not yet in the position of teacher, but His understanding demonstrated by His questions and answers amazed them. This was a boy from Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, no less – and they had never seen anything like this boy – His questions and understanding while never having been to any of their rabbinical schools.
Think of it. We have a tendency to think that with our growing knowledge and technology, we are obviously the smartest people who have ever lived. After all, people started as cavemen, right? And slowly but surely, through the processes of evolution, we got smarter and smarter. Look around – are we really getting smarter?
Some have suggested, and I agree, that Adam and Eve were actually the smartest people who ever lived. Why do I say that? Because, they were created perfectly – without the stain of sin and spiritual deadness and depravity to dull their minds and senses. Could it be that we are actually on a downward trajectory – that we’re not as smart as we think we are?
Think of Jesus, the sinless God-man, who was born without sin, therefore, not born dead. Totally alive to truth in God’s world and God’s Word. I’m not talking about His deity, His omniscience which, while veiled, occasionally made its way into His thinking and understanding. I’m simply talking about a sinless twelve-year-old who had the ability in His spiritually unhindered heart and mind to be in a place to understand truth – to be wise beyond His years. No wonder they were amazed at Him. Later, people will say of Him, no one ever spoke like this man.
Well, His parents showed up, saw what was going on, and they were astonished. Stunned. But astonishment soon gives way to indignation. And Mary – not Joseph. By the way, did you know that we have no recorded words of Joseph. In fact, after this story, he disappears from the pages of Scripture, causing many to suggest he died sometime between when Jesus was twelve and when He was thirty and entered His public ministry.
But don’t miss it – Mary, who has actually been predominant in Luke’s birth narratives – says, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” Don’t you love it? Hands on her hips, Your father and I. You’ve had that happen, right? Wait till your father gets home – wait till your father hears about this. He’s going to wear you out. Mary pulls in the big gun, you’re going to get it now. And Joseph stands in the background, perhaps rolling up his sleeves, or maybe cowering in the corner.
And Jesus speaks – the first time we hear Him speak in this or any other gospel. “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Mom, if you had given it a moment’s thought, you would have known that I would be here.
There is so much here. To be clear, Jesus was not being disrespectful or disobedient. The Scripture declares throughout He was without sin. Luke will go on to make that point a couple verses later when he says Jesus returned to Nazareth and continued to be in subjection or submission to them. I think what we have here is genuine surprise. You didn’t know I would be here, doing what I’ve been sent to do?
And don’t miss that He called God, My Father. That was very unusual – you would speak of God as our Father – plural pronouns – never My Father. There’s not one instance of that in the OT. It was thought to be too familiar. In fact, the religious leaders would later seek to kill Him all the more because He called God His Father, making Himself equal with God. Exactly. And in the first words of Jesus, and in the last words of Jesus in this Gospel, He calls God His Father.
Did you not know that I had to be – the word is a divine imperative – I had to be here. Meaning, He was not being disobedient, He was being submissive – because He always did those things that pleased His Father. Oh, and don’t miss, Your father and I have been searching everywhere for You, to which Jesus said, actually, My Father knew exactly where I was, where He told Me to be.
Do you see – not disrespectful, but He’s making a point – God is My Father, and I had to be …where? Doing what? The wording is idiomatic. You’ll notice the word house is in the italics, which means it’s not in the original. Did you not know I had to be in the … of My Father. You have to supply the thought, based on context. The old translations have it, about My Father’s business, true enough. But in this context, He says, why were you searching for Me – did you not know I would be here – in the Temple – in My Father’s house? Yes, doing My Father’s business at His command.
Which brings us back to our introduction. Jesus at least knew at this moment, at 12, humanly and divinely, who He was. I personally think He always knew as God – but came to understand it as a man – as He grew in wisdom. But clearly, He knew here. So now, go back to Passover. Go back to the Temple. Go back to the conversation with the teachers. What must have been racing through His mind? He knew who He was, and what He had come to do.
Very quickly, our last point and our conclusion – the family’s return to Nazareth. Having completed the divine imperative, obeying His Father, the family returned to Nazareth where Jesus was rightly in subjection to them – the fifth commandment. And Mary treasured all these things in her heart – she’s gaining a storehouse of truth that will one day convert her to her Son. Mary did you know? Obviously not fully. She grew in her understanding of just who Jesus was. And notice, some suggest with Jesus’ response to her in the Temple, could this be the beginning of the sword that would pierce her soul.
Last verse – and Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature – He grew as a man intellectually and physically – in wisdom and physical stature, and in favor with God and with people. God was well-pleased with His Son. As we, the people, should be.