The Child Who Knew His Destiny (Luke 2:39-52)

By Donald Whitchard

Deuteronomy 6:1-10, Leviticus 20:9, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 2:38-52


Summary: The only glimpse we get into the childhood of the Lord Jesus was when He was twelve and went with His family to Jerusalem for Passover.  It was at this time when He knew that He was now to go about doing “His Father’s business.”


So, when they had performed all things according to the Law of the LORD, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. Jospeh and His mother did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So, when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking Him.

Now, so it was, that after three days, they found Him in the Temple, sitting amid teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers 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.’ He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 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, and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:39-52, NKJV).

In the Sovereign will of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke wrote about an incident in the life of Jesus that dealt with His upbringing.  At the age of twelve, Jesus was fully aware of Who He was and what He had to accomplish in the coming years where He would be ministering and teaching to fulfill the mission of redemption for our sins, planned before the foundation of the world (Isaiah 53:1-12; Ephesians 1:3-12).  Luke makes it clear that Jesus was as much human as He was Divine.  He looked like any other Jewish child.  He lived a life like everyone else did, except without the curse of sin upon Him.  As He grew, He learned the skill of carpentry from Joseph, going with Him to job sites, working on a variety of projects.  He probably helped His mother with fixing meals for the family.  He played with His half-brothers and sisters, laughed at harmless pranks and jokes, played games with His friends, attended the local synagogue with His family every Sabbath, learned to read and write in His native language of Aramaic, and learned to speak Greek, Hebrew, and Latin for purposes of business and conversations as the occasion called for it.

He read and memorized Scripture, learned about the history of Israel from Joseph and the local rabbis, and at times encountered Roman soldiers patrolling the region.  He did not, however, possess the disdain for them that His peers had towards them, seeing them as the enemies of God and Israel.  Luke tells us that the grace of God was on Jesus as He grew up.  He developed a special, personal, and unique relationship with His heavenly Father during this time.  He merited favor with God and was under His Divine protection, all the while remaining obedient to His earthly parents Mary and Joseph.  This episode in the life of Jesus is singled out because of the significance of His age and the expected responsibilities that came with it.  Jesus had reached the age where He was to assume the duties of a “Son of the Law.”

He would be expected to have learned a trade, and when the time came for Him to have a family, He would also undertake the responsibility of teaching His children the laws of God written down by Moses in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:1-10).  In ancient times, the concept of being a “teenager” was unknown.  Responsibilities were placed upon boys who had reached the age of twelve and were seen as men under the Law of Moses.  It was not unusual for young men to be married by the time they reached eighteen, and for young women by the age of fourteen or older.  There were no excuses for immaturity, indecisiveness, or avoiding expected duties.  Laziness or any act of disobedience towards these societal expectations resulted in disciplinary action from the elders of the town (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9; Proverbs 20:20; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Once a year, all Jewish families went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover, bringing with them a lamb for sacrifice, a symbol for the remission of their sins.

The Temple was the only place where these sacrifices could take place, and were under the supervision of the High Priest, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees.  Posted within the courts of the Temple were vendors who would exchange the regular currency of Greek drachmas or Roman denarii for the “acceptable” currency of shekels for the Temple offering.  If a family did not bring a lamb of their own for sacrifice, then those shekels could be used to purchase an animal from vendors for a “nominal fee” and to pay the required Temple tax for its upkeep (Matthew 17:24-28).  All of this was nothing more than a money-making corrupt racket that Jesus would grow to hate and condemn during the time of His ministry (Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22).

When the time came for the Passover celebration to end, Luke writes that Jesus stayed behind in the Temple while His parents thought that He was with the other young people in the caravan that was heading back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph headed back to Jerusalem to look for their missing boy, whom they believed was lost and frightened among the crowds and dangerous streets.  After some time, it occurred to them that if Jesus was preparing for His initiation into manhood (what contemporary Judaism refers to as a “Bar Mitzvah”), then the obvious place to find Him would have been in the courts of the Temple.  They found Him sitting among the teachers of the Law and Prophets, listening to, and asking them questions, demonstrating His keen knowledge of the Scriptures, but also desiring to hear the interpretation of God’s Word from the elders as well.  Not only did Jesus know that He was being ushered into manhood and the responsibilities that came with it, but also aware of Who He was in terms of both His Divine and human nature.

He was aware of His mission that would begin at the appointed time.  He knew that God was His Father, but He also loved, respected, honored, and obeyed the parental authority of Mary and Joseph.  The time would come when His parents knew that He was not only their child who had been entrusted to them by the LORD, but that He would be their Lord and Savior as well.  From this time forward, Jesus continued to grow in Spirit and knowledge, earning favor with both God and humanity.  He would live a normal life as a carpenter in Nazareth until, in God’s perfect timing, His mission would commence when His cousin John undertook the role of the One crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the LORD as declared in the Scriptures.

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Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

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