4501 Waller Rd E
The Second Sunday of Christmas
January 3, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor
THE BOY JESUS - ATYPICAL ADOLESCENT
To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and
ever, Amen. On this 2nd Sunday after Christmas, we will meditate on events recorded in Luke
chapter two, beginning with the 40th verse, as follows:
And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon
Him. 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
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. So far the Holy Word.
In the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Whose person and work was anything but typical, Dear
For Christians, sticking to the Word of God is essential. It's the sine qua non. If we stray from what
God's Word tells us, we're likely to end up with all sorts of errors, even ridiculous ones.
I ran across an example recently. It was a sermon by a liberal Roman Catholic priest. His text was
the passage I just read to you and the theme he took was, "Jesus, A Typical Teenager." That
surprised me. First of all, I thought, Jesus wasn't a teenager when Mary and Joseph brought Him to
the Temple - he was twelve. But beyond that, how could you possibly read this text and conclude
that the Boy Jesus was "typical"? Well, the writer said, Jesus rebelled against his parents when He
decided to go back to Jerusalem on His own. "Typical teenager." And when they caught Him and
rebuked Him, what did He do? He talked back to them, and questioned the authority of His parents.
"Typical teenager!" he said.
And he went on in the same vein, elaborating on his them that Jesus was a typical teenager. The
only problem? Each of the writer's conclusions was completely wrong, the exact opposite of what
the Holy Spirit intends to teach us about our Savior in this passage! In fact, if you read the text
carefully you'll realize that, far from being typical, in many ways Jesus was completely atypical.
That is, the opposite of typical. He was totally different, a Boy unlike other boys who grew to be a
Man unlike other men. And as we'll see, that's a very good thing for us. Because only a person who
was atypical in the extreme could serve as the Savior of mankind! That's why our theme this
morning is a sort of play on words:
THE BOY JESUS - ATYPICAL ADOLESCENT
I. His growth was atypical.
II. His abilities were atypical.
III. His goals were atypical.
At least one thing about Jesus' life that was blessedly typical was that he grew up in a typically
devout, believing home raised by devout, believing parents. Verse 41 says, "his parents went to
Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover." Passover was one of three major festivals that
all believing Jewish families were expected to attend. During Passover the roads were thronged with
people; often whole families - even whole villages - would travel together to Jerusalem. Mary and
Joseph did this every year, and no doubt Jesus accompanied them. But this year was especially
significant because Jesus was 12, and at age 12 a Jewish boy became a "son of the Law," which, by
the way, is what bar mitzvah means. He was subject to the Law of God, responsible for knowing its
teachings and living according to them. All this was typical of any adolescent Jewish boy. But
Jesus wasn't typical.
In several important ways, the Boy Jesus was A VERY ATYPICAL ADOLESCENT. For one thing,
His growth was atypical. The first and last sentences of today's text tell us some important things
about this. Verse 40 says, "and the child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and
the grace of God was upon him." And verse 52: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in
favor with God and men." Those words, grace and favor, are the same word in Greek. They indicate
the approval of God. Jesus physical growth may have been typical of any adolescent. But his
spiritual growth was atypical in the extreme. As Jesus grew, he was like a vessel being filled to the
brim with godly wisdom, and the approval of his heavenly father. He was fulfilling the prophecy of
the psalmist, "You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips." -Ps 42. It may
have been Jesus as a youth that John was recalling in the first chapter of his gospel: "The Word
became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
father, full of grace and truth." -- Jn 1:14.
Does that sound typical to you? Think back to your own adolescent and teen years. Were you like
a vessel filled up to the brim with godly wisdom and grace? Or were you like a cracked clay pot?
God kept pouring grace and mercy and blessings into your life, and you kept squandering them. It
all leaked out because of your sinfulness and foolishness and rebellion! Sadly, that's all too typical
of us sinful human beings, and not just in our teen years, either. And that's why we needed a
Savior who was ATYPICAL. Like the Passover Lamb, we needed a Savior who was perfect and
without blemish, for All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own
way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6. At every stage of His growth
- child, youth and adult - Jesus was perfect and without sin. For our sakes He needed to be. And
for our sakes He was!
The Boy Jesus truly was AN ATYPICAL ADOLESCENT. Another thing that our text makes clear
is that His abilities were atypical.
The text says, When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind
in Jerusalem. And now comes a rather painful scene. At least it's painful for a parent. You who are
parents - do you remember how you felt when one of your children got lost, even for half an hour?
There aren't many worse feelings than that; it's the definition of panic. Joseph and Mary assumed
that Jesus was somewhere with their large crowd of friends and acquaintances who were traveling
back to Nazareth. In fact, they'd gone a whole day without seeing him before they realized he wasn't
there. Then it took another whole day to travel back to Jerusalem, and they didn't find him until the
Where did they find him? In the Temple. The last place they looked. And doesn't that seem
strange, by the way? Shouldn't the Temple have been the first place they looked for Jesus? Martin
Luther draws a valuable application here. He says the first place - the only place! - you should look
for Jesus is in His Temple, which is the Word of God, the Bible. But that is often the last place
people look for forgiveness and salvation. They'll look every place else. They'll search among their
friends and acquaintances; they rummage among the baggage train of human wisdom and
philosophy, of human emotions and feelings, trying to find some kind of redemption. But the only
place to find Jesus is in His Temple. The only place to find God's forgiveness and God's grace and
God's salvation is in God's Word. Luther says, "Where should we then go? We must also come
into the temple, that is to say we must cling to the Word of God, which is secure and will not fail us
and where we will certainly find Christ. I must therefore always be with the Word, if I cleave to it. If
the Word of God goes conquering through death and remains alive, I must also pass through death
to life, and nothing can hinder or destroy me, neither sin nor death, nor the devil. The comfort and
boldness I derived from the Word of God cannot be engendered by any other doctrine, for none
can be compared with it."
Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the Temple, and what they saw there left them stunned.
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. This wasn't a typical 12-year-old! People were astonished by His abilities.
The word "astonished" is almost comical in the Greek language. If you've ever seen those cartoons
where the character's eyes pop out of his head, that's almost the exact meaning of this verb.
Everyone who saw Jesus was filled with a sense of awe and fear by what they saw in this young
boy. Four things astonished them: his listening, his questions, his understanding and his answers.
That's significant. Because you know it's not difficult to ask hard questions. What's difficult is to
answer hard questions, and this Jesus was able to do. He eagerly soaked up the discussion of
God's word, and showed by his answers that he had a deep understanding of it. Do those sound
like the abilities of the typical adolescent to you? I've had plenty of 12-year-olds in confirmation
class, and I can tell you that none of them were anything like that!
The onlookers were astounded, and so were Mary and Joseph. We can imagine the relief Mary felt
at finally finding her Son. As parents, I think we can also understand how the first words out of
Mary's mouth were a rebuke. "Son, why have you done this to us? Look, your father and I have
sought you anxiously." And Jesus' answer brings us to the third and most remarkable aspect of
this totally atypical adolescent. His goals were atypical. Jesus said to them, "Why did you seek
Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"
These are the first words we hear in Scripture from Jesus' lips, and they are words worthy of the
Son of God. They express not rebuke, but merely surprise. "How could you not expect to find me in
the Temple? Where else would I be, except in My Father's house, studying and learning and
teaching My Father's word?" Jesus didn't rebel against Mary and Joseph, far from it. Verse 51 says
that He was continually subject unto them. He kept the Fourth Commandment as no other child has
ever kept it. But Jesus' words reveal that His goals and aspirations were not those of a typical
adolescent, unformed and childish and immature. Even as a boy, Jesus knew that His life had
different goals. Not to follow the trade of carpentry that His stepfather Joseph taught Him, but to
undertake a far greater mission, a mission given Him by His true Father, His Heavenly Father. His
goal was nothing less than the redemption of mankind. And He knew that to accomplish that, he
had to be about his father's business. It's the reason why He came to earth in the first place, as Paul
tells us in Galatians: When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the
adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5. Because we sinners have disobeyed God's word, and broken His
Commandments, Jesus needed to perfectly obey the word of His Heavenly Father, and perfectly
fulfill each of His Father's commandments. He did it for us, so that we might receive his perfect
righteousness by faith. Jesus knew his mission even then, a mission he would later articulate to His
disciples on Maundy Thursday: What shall I say? `Father, save Me from this hour '? But for this
purpose I came to this hour. John 12:27. From the beginning, from earliest childhood - yes, from
eternity! - Jesus' goal was to save us. And that goal he achieved when he shed his blood on
Calvary's cross to wash away all our sins. That victory he gloriously announced when he rose
triumphant from the grave the third day. And it is our Savior's victory, and the achievement of
every one of his goals, that you and I will be celebrating for unending ages of happiness in heaven!
There was something about Mary that was atypical, too. Did you notice? Not her astonishment;
anyone would have been astonished. Not her lack of understanding; a lot of the time we're as much
in the dark as she was. No, what was atypical about Mary was her faith. Verse 51 says, "His mother
kept all these things in her heart." Just as at her son's birth, Mary stored up and treasured every
new piece of information that was revealed to her about Jesus. She didn't understand it perfectly.
There were many things she didn't understand it all. And yet she believed the Words the Angel
had spoken to her, that her Son would save His people from their sins. So she treasured up in her
heart everything the Lord revealed to her about this miraculous Boy. This ATYPICAL BOY, whose
growth was atypical, whose abilities were atypical, and whose goal - to save us all from our sins -
was completely atypical. May God grant to all of us the kind of faith Mary had. Let us treasure up
in our hearts every precious truth the Bible reveals to us about Jesus, our very atypical Savior!