The Child Jesus. Luke 2:21-52
We do not know many details regarding the boyhood of Jesus. In fact, a large part of what we know comes from what is included in the verses we have just read.
He was circumcised on the 8th day of his life in Bethlehem according to Jewish law. (v.21)
He journeyed to Jerusalem about 33 days after his birth for Mary to give her purification sacrifice and the events that followed. (v.22) (More on that later)
The Gospel of Matthew tells us in ch.2 that the Magi (wisemen) from the east showed up to see Jesus when he was about 2 years old in the house Mary and Jospeh were staying in in Bethlehem.
From that same chapter, we know the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flea to Egypt in order to keep the child safe as Herod had ordered all children under 2 years old to be killed.
v.19-23 of that same chapter tell us that they returned to Nazareth following the death of Herod after some time.
Then, we do not see the child Jesus again until the events at the end of Luke 2 when he is 12.
There are three scenes before us in Luke 2:21-50 that give us insight into Jesus as a child.
v.21- His circumcision in Bethlehem.
v.22-40- The “days of Mary’s purification” being complete and her making an offering according to the Law of Moses. This is 33 days after Jesus birth.
v.41-52 Jesus teaching in the temple when he is only 12 years old.
Luke very simply sums up the child hood of Jesus in vs. 40 and 52 by saying
40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
As we examine the three events in Christ’s childhood you will find there are two factors that keenly contributed to Jesus “increasing in wisdom and stature with God and man.”
Righteous and responsible parents. (v.21-24 & 41-52)
Revealed purpose. (v.25-40)
1.) Righteous and Responsible Parents. (v.21-24 & 41-52)
1.) Righteous and Responsible Parents. (v.21-24 & 41-52)
The two main ingredients that make for good parenting are righteousness and responsibility.
A.) Righteousness Parents (v.21-24)
There are two ways in which Mary and Joseph exhibit that they did their best to live righteously before the Lord.
1. Obeying the angel’s instruction in naming the baby “Jesus”. (v.21)
In Luke 1:26-38 the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would have the Christ child. Matthew 1:18-25, tells us that at first Joseph had thought Mary had been unfaithful, but because he was a “righteous” man, he wanted to divorce her privately in order to save her from public shame and embarrassment. But then, the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a dream
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
In Luke 2:21 we see the young couple being obedient to the word of the Lord, naming the child “Jesus.”
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
Think about that, every time they called his name, it served as a reminder of them obeying the Lord and that God had kept his word in sending a savior to his people.
2. Obeying the law of God. (v.22-24)
22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
The normal way of God speaking to man is not in special revelation from an angel or the audible voice of God. The regular way in which God speaks and reveals his will is in and through His Word, the Bible.
Mary and Joesph had been obedient to their special revelation, but not it was time for them to be obedient to the “regular” revelation of scripture. In this case, the laws concerning ritual purification after giving birth.
Leviticus 12 is what gave instruction to the Jewish people for regaining ritual purity after the birth of a child,
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
6 ‘When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Then he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female. 8 ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”
Mary and Joseph followed the Mosaic Law to the letter. Circumcising Jesus on the 8th day and then taking him to Jerusalem for Mary to give her sacrifice and to present Jesus before the Lord in the temple.
During the first 40 days after giving birth to a son (80 if a girl) a mother was considered unclean. She could go about normal activities but she could not take part in any religious ceremonies or go to the temple for any reason. She was religiously/ceremonially unclean. After her time of uncleaness was up, she was to take an offering to the temple. That offering had to be a lamb or, if they could not afford that, two young turtledoves or pigeons would allowed. Mary and Jospeh being poor, couldn't afford a lamb.
After Mary made her sacrifice of purification, they would then ceremonially present their child to the Lord. This was also in accordance with the Mosaic Law.
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”
11 “And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s. 13 But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 So it shall be, when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ that you shall say to him, ‘By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 15 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
The setting apart the firstborn to the Lord wasn't for priestly duty, that belonged to the tribe of Levi, but for dedication of his life to the Lord. In return for not being set apart for priestly service, every family had to pay a redemption price for their son.
15 “Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to the Lord, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.
That, no doubt was a significant amount of money to Mary and Joseph. The law of Moses was complicated and hard, but Joseph and Mary obeyed it in every letter.
Application: As parents we have tremendous influence on our children. What a blessing to your children to have believing, righteous, obedient parents. It is our obedience to the Lord that sets the context for a child growing up to see their own need of obeying the Father and living righteously before him. The way in which we model faithful obedience to the Lord matters far more than any material thing we can give them.
B.) Responsible Parents. (v.41-52)
The last scene of Luke 2 shows us that Mary and Joseph were responsible parents. Now at first reading you may think, “they left their 12 year old child behind in a major city” but bear with me and you’ll see their responsibleness shine through.
1.) Religious devotion. (v.41-42)
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.
Notice, Jesus is 12 years old and they have been laking the trek from wherever the home was to Jerusalem to worship the Lord at passover every single year of his life. According to the Mosaic Law, all Jewish Males were required to go to the temple three times a year to worship at Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:22-23, Deuteronomy 16:16) Women were exempt from the law but could go if they desired. Notice it said his “parents” that means they were both faithful in their worship.
Application: Both parents led and taught Jesus how to be faithful in worship. In a Jewish family it would have been Joseph taking the primary role in teaching Jesus about the Lord and Mary would have come alongside him reinforcing that teaching to her son. It’s a sad state we have this reversed in our day; where Mom has become the primary spiritual leader while dad is asleep at the wheel. Wake up Dad and train your children to serve the Lord with their life!
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
2.) Responsible in responding to their failings. (v.43-48)
43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And 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.”
I love the humanity of Jospeh and Mary that shines through in this passage because sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can view the people in the Bible as if they are super human; but, they’re not.
Because the journey was long and expensive, it was not uncommon for families and neighbors to travel to Jerusalem in large caravans. Jesus, in his humanity was just like any other boy his age, so his parents just assume as the caravan leaves that his mixed in playing with his friends in the caravan. They were so sure of this in fact, that they didn't even bother to look for him until nighttime.
Could you imagine Joseph and Mary squabbling and maybe blaming each other. “I thought you knew where he was”, “well, I thought you knew where he was.”
They return to Jerusalem, another days journey and then proceed to search for him all over the major and crowded city for another three days.
Picture their distraught state. I mean, who loses the Son of God!
They may have lost him, but didn’t stop until they found him. Which is responsible parenting in and of itself.
Application: Sometimes responsible parenting is seen better in how you respond to your failings than your successes. They responded to this danger with parental care, urgency and love.
When they finally find Jesus, he is in the temple for worship and teaching. v.46 tells us Jesus was siting among the teachers listening to them and asking questions. Essentially Jesus was holding court with the scholars of his day. v.47-48 tell us everyone, including Joseph and Mary, are astonished.
But, even though they were astonished, Joseph and Mary do what any parent would do, they scold Jesus.
“Son, we love you. But how dare you do this to us.Do you know how scared we were?”
Jesus, simply responds that he was doing what His Father wanted Him to do, which was to worship God independently of his parents.
Application: Mom and Dad, you aren’t going to get every thing right. You might lose your kid in a crowded city. But the way you respond to your failing is more important than your failing. You might lose your temper, how do you respond? You might punish the wrong kid, how do you respond? Own your failings, in doing so, you are training your children to do the same thing. Mess up in your walk with God, talk to your children about it. SO they can learn to worship God on their own, and know it’s ok to mess up.
2.) Revealed Purpose. (v.25-40)
2.) Revealed Purpose. (v.25-40)
vs. 25-40 introduce us to two dear saints of God serving the Lord in the temple. Their names were Simeon and Anna.
A.) Simeon. (v.25-33)
1.) His person. (v.25-26)
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Luke tells us that Simeon was a devout man, dedicated to serving the Lord and that he was full of faith.
He was waiting for God to fulfill his promise to console Israel by sending a Savior/Messiah.
He absolutely believed God’s Word and that God would fulfill His promise to Israel.
Not only was Simeon full of Faith and devout, but Luke tells us that he was “the Holy Spirit was upon him.”Which was a rare thing in this day.
Talk about the ministry of the Spirit in the Old Testament. How he came and went upon people and did not dwell with them yet.
The Holy Spirt was empowering him to serve God, perhaps even in old age. (Which is an assumption, we don’t know his age).
2.) His prophesy. (v.27-35)
The moment he saw the Baby Jesus in his mothers arms, he knew this was the long awaited comfort of Israel, the promised Messiah. HE took the month old Jesus out of Mary’s arms and full of the Spirit began to prophecy.
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
His prophecy began with him giving thanks for keeping his Word, apparently God, through the Holy Spirit, had made a direct promise to Simeon that he would not taste death until he saw the Messiah. Simeon basically said “God thank you, now I am ready to die in peace.
Now, listen to the last part of Simeon's prophecy, for in it, he reveals the purpose for Christ coming.
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Jesus purpose, as told by Simeon was to be:
The light of the world.
To bring salvation to gentiles as well as Jews.
To be the savior of the world
Mary’s heart would be pierced by grief in order that people may be saved.
Simeon saw the salvation of the world in his arms and caught a glimpse of Calvary where Jesus would die for the sins of mankind in oder that they have the opportunity for eternal salvation.
B.) Anna (v.36-38)
1.) Anna’s person. (v.36-37)
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Anna is a picture of what true devotion to the Lord looks like. She is a prophetess, which was not unusual to the Old Testament Israel. From time to time God would raise up women who would speak his word on his behalf.
Now, this doesn’t mean however, that this passage somehow justifies God being ok with women preachers. People often do that with Anna and a lady named Deborah in the book of judges. BUt notice, she never lead Israel in worship- that was a job reserved for male priests. Plus, there are clear passages in the New Testament that prohibit women from serving as pastors and elders and we must interpret historical narratives in light of that clear teaching. Anna was a prophetess, which is not the same as a female preacher.
Anna is also of “great age”. She had been a widow for 84 years. Which means she was married young and widowed young and never remarried. It is likely that Anna is well over 100 years old if she got married around 16 years of age which was pretty traditional.
2.) Anna’s witness (v.38)
38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Notice what Anna did when she saw the Christ child, she praised God and told everyone.
Friends, that’s what we’re supposed to do when we believe the gospel. Praise God and share it with everyone we meet.
Application: A word to older people. Be an Anna. Don’t become bitter but remain thankful to the Lord. Never stop telling people about Jesus. Christianinty isnt a young p[eoples religion, its for all people. As you age, God has given you the gifts of gravity, stability wisdom and faith. The church needs that. The next generation needs to learn that from you.
Anna knew that others at the temple and in Jerusalem needed to hear that the Messiah had come, so she gossiped the gospel to everyone who would listen to her. She likely heard Simeons prophecy and knew this child would one day pay for the sins of mankind.
C.) The importance of revealed purpose.
Jesus knew his purpose, both in super natural ways and in natural ways.
It is highly likely, that as Jesus was growing, Mary and Jospeh shared with him the events that happened this day in the Temple. They know doubt shared with them all the things that Simeon and Anna had told them regarding the purpose for their child.
Jesus knew he had come to be the savior of the world. That was his purpose in his earthly life. Your kids can’t be a savior, they need the savior, but, our children do better when they have a general sense of God’s purpose for their lives.
33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.
They didn't understand all that was being said to them about the infant Jesus, isn’t that an encouragement to you if you’re a parent? We don’t have to know all the details of our children's future in order to tell them they have a purpose in life.
Our children were made to know and love God through faith in Christ. They were given to you in order that you might shepherd them to Christ. Tell your children everyday that they are loved by God and that HE has a plan and purpose for their life.
It makes a huge difference in the lives of our children and as they enter adulthood for them to know that their life has purpose, meaning and value.
Do you know why people shoot up schools? They’ve been taught that life is meaningless and has no value.
Do you know why we want to change our gender? Because we’ve been taught that life is meaningless and has no value accept whatever makes me happy.
Same with drugs, abortion, homosexuality etc etc
Teach your children that their life has purpose to God.
13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.
Isaiah 44:2 (NKJV)
2 Thus says the Lord who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you:...
Isaiah 49:5 (NKJV)
5 “And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,...
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Young person, your life matters to God. It has purpose, meaning and value. You are not worthless and unimportant to Him!
From the childhood of Christ we learn that our children need two things in life:
Righteous and Responsible Parents
These were things used in the upbringing of Jesus that helped him increase in “wisdom and stature before God and man.” Can we really ask anything more of our children?
You may be thinking, it’s too late, I wasn’t righteous or responsible. I dint teach my children they had purpose in life. That is the beauty of the Gospel. While you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to confess your unrighteousness before holy God. There is no failure that Christ can’t overcome if we confess and repent of our sin and trust in him for salvation and seek his righteousness alone.