The Childhood of Jesus: His Formative Years
(Luke chapter 2, verses 25-52)
Last week when we ended the first half of our analysis of Luke chapter 2, we ended at verse 24, where Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, dedicating him as their firstborn son. Today as we begin at verse 25, we find ourselves being introduced to a gentleman named Simeon, who announces the destiny of Jesus to his astonished parents and everyone else who was there. So let's start right there to begin today's conclusion to Luke chapter 2.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 'Sovereign Lord as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.' The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.'” (Luke 2, verses 25-35)
Luke is the only Gospel writer that records Simeon's saying what he said about Jesus, so we can see that this was an extraordinary prophecy for Mary, Joseph, and about the baby Jesus. Up until John the Baptist's coming, the word and the rule of God had been proclaimed through the Law and the prophets (Old Testament), but now with the arrival of Jesus the King, which was heralded by those same prophets and John the Baptist, the Word and rule of God is proclaimed and encountered in a new way. Jesus is the Word; Jesus is the King; the long awaited Kingdom has now arrived. For those who believe in Jesus, a tremendous shift occurs: No longer do we live merely in the era of promise with the Law and the prophets awaiting the consolation of Israel. This is the very thing the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about. Now we live in the era of fulfillment when the kingdom of God is preached as present and powerful. But, it is not yet consummated, because Jesus has yet to return for his Bride, which is his Church. That's us, people, so your waiting for His return will not be in vain, you can be sure of that!
Then Simeon says, “...my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people...” It is notable here that Simeon knew exactly who the baby was that he was holding. Notice that he received no prompting from either Mary or Joseph as far as what the visiting angels had told them just over 9 months previous to this. The Bible says in this passage that Simeon was “moved by the Holy Spirit”, and the fact that Simeon knew the destiny of Jesus before his parents knew constitutes written proof of this. Then Simeon calls the baby Jesus, “a light of revelation to the Gentiles”.
As you recall from our studies of the writings of the apostle Paul, it was Paul who ultimately took the Gospel to the Gentiles, after his former compatriots the Pharisees forced Paul out of their ranks after his conversion on the road to Damascus (see Acts chapter 9). In the very next sentence of Luke chapter 2, it says, “The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him”. To put this in modern English, Mary and Joseph were awestruck and totally blown away by what Simeon was saying about their infant Son. And, rightfully so, as it would turn out.
Finishing out this portion of today's text, Simeon prophesies further when he says to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” The “rising and falling of many” is referring to the salvation that the baby Jesus would bring to the world. Some will rise to eternal glory, others will fall to eternal shame and condemnation. Dictators will fall into the latter category, and so will many politicians. That's not just here in America, but globally! Jesus, Simeon prophesied, will be “a sign that will be spoken against”. Jesus' very name is hated by many, many people around the world. That includes those who profess to love him, and yet routinely disobey his commandments. That's what Simeon meant by “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed”. Luke mentions this again, although indirectly, later in this gospel when he quotes Jesus' response to the Pharisees, the religious leadership of that time: “He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight'.” (Luke 16; 15) And that, my dear readers, says a whole lot about the apostle Luke. So now let's move on to the next part of today's lesson.
“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until the age of 84. She never left the Temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required of them by the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2, verses 36-40)
So here we are witnesses to another person coming on the scene in the form of Anna, an elderly woman like Simeon, who is confirming what the visiting angels and Simeon had told Mary and Joseph about the ultimate destiny of their newborn child. Anna, even though she had just walked up on the conversation, also confirmed the identity of the child that Simeon was probably still holding, calling him the Christ, or anointed One, “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem”. The birth of our Savior was the first part of Jerusalem's redemption, the second part was Christ's death and resurrection, and the third part did not occur until May of 1948, when Israel once again became a nation after waiting for nearly 2,000 years. The fourth and final part, His 2nd coming, has yet to be fulfilled, but it is likely we will seen this occur in our lifetimes. In fact, we may not have long to wait at all, so live your lives accordingly!
Last but not least, the apostle Luke tells us that the young Jesus “was filled with wisdom”. Jesus was evidently considered to be what we would call a 'child prodigy' today. Is it any wonder, considering that he was in fact the Son of God? In point of fact, this wisdom was a family trait both then and now. One of Jesus' ancestors, King Solomon son of David, when asked by God what his one wish would be if he could make one, replied to the Lord that he wanted great wisdom. After all, if you already have maximum brain power, getting everything else one could want becomes so much easier. Because of this, God was delighted with Solomon's choice and granted his request. God wants to do the same for you as well, so why not go ahead and ask him? When you're finished with that prayer, let's conclude today's lesson beginning at verse 41.
“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was 12 years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind at Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the Temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.' 'Why were you searching for me'?, he asked. 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor of God and men.” (Luke 2, verses 41-52)
As I wrote earlier in this lesson, once again the apostle Luke depicts Mary and Joseph as being devout Jews following the Law to the very best of their abilities. But more than that, Luke shows that the parents of Jesus were consistent with their faith and their giving year after year. We would do well to do the same. But then something unexpected happens. We have what appears to be a case of disobedience on the part of the boy Jesus. But that's not what occurred at all, as we see just a couple of verses later when Jesus answered his parents with, “'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” The most likely scenario here is that, although Mary and Joseph did not fully comprehend what the young Jesus was trying to tell them at the time, I'm sure that hours or maybe days later they each remembered what the visiting angels had told them back before Jesus was born. Let's not forget that 12 years and nine months had transpired from that time until when these events occurred. So Jesus was talking about his heavenly Father, not his earthly one. He was talking about the One from whom he was conceived.
The other thing that I feel is noteworthy here is the tremendous patience shown by Joseph when he and Mary had found Jesus after a 3-day search on foot. Imagine yourself in such a position. What if you lost a child for three days? Wouldn't you be besides yourself with worry as well as impatience? Plus, as I wrote above, Jesus' parents were completely stumped by the answer he gave them. They likely didn't figure out what Jesus meant by his response until some time later. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor of God and men.” The Bible doesn't really say much else about Jesus' early years. Presumably this information has been covered over by the sands of time. That's all I have for chapter two, so next week we'll be covering Luke chapter 3. Until then, have an excellent week in the Lord!