41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” d 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
During the Christmas season, there are times when you have to say, “You don’t need to know.” You come home from a trip to the store with some bags and of course the kids notice and ask, “What’s in the bags? Anything for me?” “You don’t need to know.” A spouse opens up a gift that seems pretty expensive and blurts out with a bewildered excitement, “How much did this cost?” “You don’t need to know.” Some family members who said they weren’t going to make it for a visit during the Christmas season show up unexpectedly, and you say, “What in the world are you doing here? I thought you couldn’t make it this year. How did you work this out?” “You don’t need to know.”
There are also times when that seems to be the response from God. Certain things in the Bible often raise questions for me. Doesn’t that happen to you? I want to know more about the circumstances, people, or a doctrine so that I can understand my life, the good and bad, better. I want to know how to figure things out or what to tell people who are bothered by questions or problems they are having, but it seems like God is content to say, “You don’t need to know” to some of the questions we might have.
Can you understand why that is the case? I’m not God and I cannot begin to understand everything he does or everything he knows. How could I understand all the bad things happen in this world, to those close to me, to me?
There are some examples in Scripture of some who wanted answers and thought they deserved better from God. And from what those sections describe, I don’t need detailed answers for every single bad thing that I see on the news or experience in my life. I need the simple, straightforward, universal answers. I need to be reminded that I’m not God. I’m not the one who is in control of all things. If there are problems and pain all I need to know is that the cause is a world that is dark with sin. Sin is at the root of every single bad thing that happens. And sin is not God’s fault, it’s mine, yours…ours.
And if I want to find the answer, the solution to sin, there’s only one simple, straightforward, universal answer for that. It’s Jesus. That little baby of Bethlehem wasn’t born so that we could have an entire category of music that takes over the radios from Thanksgiving to New Years. The eternal Word did not take on human flesh so that we could have a time of year to be off from school, get together with family, share some memories and eat way too much. The Son of God who came from heaven down to earth did not take up residence here only for us to have a brilliant and inspirational life coach. Or any of that other stuff that people want Jesus to be.
He came here to be the one answer for our sin. He came here to destroy the devil’s work. He came here to make peace for sinners and his Father. He came here to open the gates of heaven. He came here so that we could have good news that no one can take away from us. He came to bring us out of our own darkness so that we could live in the light and also shine with his light for others.
How’s that for keeping things simple, straightforward, and universal? Every page of Scripture is an answer to what is wrong with me and this world: it’s sin. It’s the darkness we make by doing what God forbids and not doing what he commands. And every page of Scripture is an answer to what takes the darkness of sin away: it’s Jesus. He’s the light that dawned on Christmas and has been shinning brightly through the Word ever since.
But then we arrive at this sixth day of Christmas, and those questions start coming back again. If the entire Bible is written by God and given to point people to our Savior, then why don’t we have more about Jesus from 0-30 years-old? What was it like to teach baby Jesus to walk, to talk, to eat solid food, to potty train? What was his first day of school like? Did he always get straight A’s? What was it like to be friends with the Son of God? What did it look like for a perfect Jesus to make it through the tumultuous teenage years? Did his voice ever crack? Did he play an instrument or sing in the choir at synagogue? What was his favorite sport? Did he hit a home run every time he batted? It’s astonishing how little information we have about the upbringing and growth of Jesus, isn’t it?
Wouldn’t this time period of Jesus’ life help struggling parents what to do with their kids? Wouldn’t this part of Jesus’ life help struggling kids how to have respect and obedience for their parents? Wouldn’t this time of Jesus’ life be helpful for a lot of things? Why not more? All we have is a very brief mention of Jesus at 8 days old being circumcised, Jesus at the temple when he was 40 days old meeting Simeon and Anna, Jesus as maybe a 6 to 20 month-old kid when the Magi come for a visit (more on that next week), and then this section in front of us today when he is 12.
God is content to say, “You don’t need to know.” And the reason why we only need these few events and details of Jesus childhood is because of what Jesus was here to do. Jesus was not here to write a book for struggling parents or children. Jesus was not here to come up with a teenager’s guide to high school. There are some sections of the Bible that can help people in all sorts of circumstances, but the main thing is to know who Jesus is and what he does for us.
That’s why this section of God’s Word that gives us such a brief glimpse of Jesus tells us everything we need to know: Jesus was taking care of business, every day and his Father’s way.
We hear that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover every year. And that’s exactly what we need Jesus to do for us. He needs to keep the law that God gave in the Old Testament 100% perfectly. Those ceremonial laws for Jewish worship were given by God for the people of Israel, so that they would be a light to the dark nations around them, so that foreign people would notice that there is something different about Israel and their God. The problem was that the people of Israel did not always follow these laws very well if at all. And that leads to the other reason for all of these special worship and festival laws and customs. They were also given by God as a promise that the Messiah was coming to forgive, deliver, save, and restore people.
These two little verses that seem so insignificant tell us so much about Jesus’ childhood and his life as our Savior from sin, death, and hell. Every day he was following God’s laws. Every day he was obeying his parents without a single sideways glance or disrespectful grunt. Every day he was putting God first. And he was doing that every day for all the 4, 5, 6, 12, 18, 24, 33, 42, 58, 67, and 92 year-olds who fail every day to obey God and those in authority, for those who fail to keep God as the number one priority, for those who fail to worship the Lord every week, for those who fail to keep God’s name holy, for those who fail to love their neighbor as themselves. Every day Jesus was taking care of business, he was living as our perfect substitute who walked this world in our place so that some day we could walk in his place in heaven.
He was also taking care of this very important business his Father’s way. When Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not with them, they react like every parent. They search the big group of relatives and friends. When that’s not successful, they take off for Jerusalem because this is worse than that Home Alone movie when the little boy, Kevin, is left all alone. Kevin was in his house. He knew the territory. He knew the neighborhood and the neighbors a little bit. Jesus was in Jerusalem, not Nazareth where home was. This is a huge city for a small-town kid. I think we call understand the parents’ angst.
But the child was not lost. He was not missing because of a conniving scheme to get away from mom and dad. 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 to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” You can here a little bit of an irritated mother in Mary’s words. She knows who she is talking to. She’s seen him every day of his life as the perfect Son of God. But this seems like a stretch to her. Jesus had not done something actively against them, but these words still seem to show her shock and anxiety that her son could go three days without his parents.
But this is where God doesn’t want to keep us in the dark. This is where we need to hear the child Jesus explain who he is. Mary says, “Your father and I…” to which Jesus responds, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph are focused on their relationship to Jesus as his parents, his caretakers, his nurturers, his providers, but Jesus knows the whole time that his relationship to the Father in heaven is the priority. It’s not that Mary and Joseph don’t matter. Far from it. But he knows why he’s here. Jesus was here to take care of business his Father’s way.
Almost all the English translations say “my Father’s house,” but interestingly the Greek word for “house” is not in the text. Literally, Jesus says, “Didn’t you know that it is necessary for me to be about my Father’s things.” God’s business was that Jesus would fulfill all of the prophecies and laws for us. God’s business was to save the world through Jesus the Christ, his one and only Son. God’s business was to put perfect Jesus in your place so that our sins would be removed from us and eternal righteousness would be put in their place.
And so that’s why Jesus gently, lovingly, and respectfully reminds Mary and Joseph whose he is. He is God’s Son. And in so doing he reminds them what his business is here in this world. God lets us in on a little detail that Mary and Joseph don’t understand what he was saying to them. It had to be difficult to raise the Savior, who doesn’t have the same life goals as normal children, but who also has to be a normal child to understand us and what we go through.
This is why Jesus quickly gets up and proceeds to go with them back to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph are his earthly parents and there is a commandment about parents and authorities that we break far too often that Jesus needs to keep perfectly for us, because he is our Savior who is here to take care of the business of our salvation.
There are definitely times when we want to know more, we want God to let us in on some more information about the Bible, about our lives, about this world, about so many things. But for all those times when God says “You don’t need to know” we have this beautiful section of Scripture recorded for us. God says this is Jesus. This is the one you need. He is the one who took care of your business every day of his earthly life and just the way God needed him to do it so that we could be saved eternally. I don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough for me to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for my entire life and for eternity. Amen.