The Life of Jesus Christ: Jesus as a Kid

Luke 2:40-52

This passage in Luke 2 is the only account of any of the so-called “hidden years” of Jesus’ childhood. John and Mark’s gospel begin with Jesus’ public ministry as an adult. Matthew records the birth of Jesus through a focus on Joseph and then moves directly to the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. Only Luke, who records the longest and most detailed account of Jesus’ birth and the prophecies and angelic witnesses surrounding it, shares a story from these hidden years. It happens when Jesus is twelve years old and occurs during the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem from Nazareth for Passover.

Why is it important for us to see Jesus as a kid? Why would Luke include this episode?

Perhaps the answer is in the center of this story, which is the statement from Jesus in verse 49. These words, and this is not unimportant, are the first words Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Luke. Consider the weight and import of the first words of a story’s hero and focus. In response to Mary’s very frightened and frustrated “mom” question, Jesus respond, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

There are at least three key things we need to see and expand upon in this single statement. First, notice Jesus’ compulsion. He had a divine directive and understands his place in the temple as a necessity. Second, Jesus fully understands His relationship to God the Father and sees it appropriate to be in His presence on the earth, which was in the Holy of Holies within the Temple. Finally, third, we see in Jesus’ statement the fact that His relationship and proximity to the Father takes precedent over all other relationships in His life, including His relationship with His earthly family.

We need not see this story as evidence that Jesus was being a sassy or belligerent kid. Luke makes it clear that Jesus was not being this way, in Luke’s typical style of strict clarity. We see this in the summary and response statement in verse 51. “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them.”

With this balancing statement of context, we can finally see the story for what it is meant to be, a pronouncement event. In many ways, at least in the Gospel of Luke, this event serves alongside Jesus’ baptism and His triumphal entry as three key events where He announces His identity, ministry focus and fulfillment of God’s plan/prophecy. These announcements are obviously veiled in some way to protect the timing and trajectory of Jesus’ ministry, but they are pronouncements nonetheless.

Jesus, even at this young age, clearly understood His identity. His “son of God” status was not something later “given” to Him at His baptism or later understood. He did, however, mature and “grow” in wisdom and stature. In this we see Jesus as maturing spiritually, physically and relationally. This is part of the point of the story. It is both beautiful and challenging to see Jesus as a kid, growing and learning and exploring and understanding.

He also clearly understood His mission and His relationship to God the Father. The reference to “My Father” would have been so wildly out of place and radical to the Jews of Jesus’ day. No one, even the great rabbis, would have dared to say such a thing of God. This fact might be lost on us who fail to see Jesus’ words and deeds through eastern eyes in ancient times.

Consider how critical it is for us to see Jesus as a real person, a full human. This is a major force in the Gospel accounts of Jesus because only a read Jesus can qualify as a real savior. As humans, our sin problem is a real problem, a deadly problem. It is our problem, not God’s. So it follows that only man should pray for sin. However, our sin is an offense agains the holiness of an infinite God. It follows that only an infinite God can solve that problem. Thus only a man should pay for sin, and only God can pay for sin. This is why Jesus, the eternal Son of God, entered fully into humanity, in a time and place. Leaving none of His Deity behind, He did voluntarily release some of His divine prerogatives. Fully God, fully man. Only a real Jesus qualifies as a real Savior.

Believe me friend, you and I need a real Savior.

Family Discussion Questions:
1. What do you think Jesus was like as a kid? As a ten-year-old? A teenager?
2. What does this passage - the only one in the Bible about Jesus as a kid - tell us about Jesus’ relationship with His parents?
3. What does it tell us about Jesus’ relationship with God the Father?
4. This passage contains the first words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Read Luke 2:49 again. Discuss what Jesus’ statement reveals to all who read this story.
5. Did Jesus know who He was? Did Jesus know how He related to God? Did Jesus know what He came to earth to do? Discuss with you family.

Small Group Discussion Questions:
1. Do you think the first words of Jesus in each Gospel are important to the writer of that Gospel and his theme or purpose? Find the first words of Jesus in each Gospel and read them out. Discuss with your group.
2. What does this story in Luke 2 reveal about Jesus’ awareness of His own identity?
3. What does it reveal about Jesus’ knowledge of His relationship to God the Father?
4. What does it reveal about Jesus’ acceptance of His mission?
5. Why do you think it is important for us to see and hear Jesus as a kid? What could be Luke’s purpose in including this story?
6. How do you understand Jesus’ deity and humanity? What does the Scripture say about this? (For a start see Colossians 1:15-20 and 2:9)
7. What does Jesus’ full humanity mean to us who believe and follow Him?
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