The Boy Jesus

by Rev. Jared Melius

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© Concordia Publishing House

In the face of numerous adjustments to our lectionaries over the past generation, our churches still encounter one very important passage nearly every January—the account of Jesus as a young boy in the temple (Luke 2:41–52). This is a blessing. Aside from various accounts of our Lord’s passion and crucifixion, not a single text captures so succinctly the mystery of God becoming man. Let’s take a look. Read Luke 2:52. What might it mean that “Jesus increased in wisdom”?

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Jesus learns and grows in wisdom and stature (v. 52). This means that, except for sin, He is not different from the other boys. He learns. He goes to school. He has to study for His math tests, and it is not certain that He got straight A’s. Getting a B or a C is not sinful. Now, of course, if Jesus had used His divine knowledge—He is the author of math!—then He would get A’s. But He doesn’t do it. That is the mystery. He is God, and yet He grows. Thus, it is obvious that He does not always and fully use His divine power or knowledge. In fact, since His conception by the Holy Spirit and until the resurrection, He hardly ever uses His divine power and knowledge, and He never uses it fully.

Read Luke 2:41–46. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple, what is He doing?

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His parents found Jesus sitting, not standing. He was asking questions, not teaching. We might have thought Jesus went to the temple to display His divine knowledge. Not so. He went to learn! Now, it is true that verse 47 describes everyone’s amazement at Jesus’ “understanding and answers,” but that does not mean He was teaching. It means that He was an exceptional student. Imagine that. The Son of God learns. So then, what do you think Jesus was learning?

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He learns the Bible (our Old Testament). Certainly His pious father Joseph had already taught Him the catechism, but, likely illiterate and poor, Joseph could not
have taught Him the Bible. Thus, Joseph takes Jesus to the temple where the Scriptures are open and taught (v. 46). Of course, according to His divine nature, Jesus
already knew the Bible. He wrote it. However, according to His human nature, He learned it, and He grew in understanding of it as He grew in years.

Consider Luke 24:27 in its context. Also scan Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; and Job 19:23–27. What is the central teaching of the entire Old Testament?

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The whole Old Testament testifies to Jesus and His work. What a mystery to consider this Epiphany: That while Mary and Joseph fret for those three days, our Lord learns about Himself. He learns—at 12 years old—the price that He is to pay for our sins. He learns of the mocking, the pulling of the beard, the stripes, the temptation of the devil, and so on. He learns what it means to be our Redeemer.

Finally, it bears noting that He never shrinks back. He returns in humility with His parents and waits. He is not afraid. He does not complain. He trusts His Father and goes forward willingly under the guilt of humanity. He is glad to pay this price to purchase us for Himself. Blessed Epiphany!

Did You Know? Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest festival in the Church, even older than Christmas!

About the Author: Rev. Jared Melius is pastor of Mount Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, Colo.

January 2011

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