Junior High Jesus
It is a fundamental teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. He must be both. He needs to be both for our sake. If he were not true God, we could announce only that a man once lived and died. If he were not true man, he could not have died, and there would be no sacrifice accepted for your sins, or mine.
We spend most of our time studying what God’s Word says about the Jesus who, as true God, performs miracles and carries out a ministry of mercy and service for three years before he is arrested, tried, crucified, and raised from the dead. It is easy and normal for us to think of Jesus as the Son of God, whose life, death, and resurrection makes it possible for us to enjoy eternal life.
We spend much less time and energy on Jesus, the human being. He was truly human as he was carried to full term by his mother Mary. His birth was normal and natural. He did not arrive in a space ship, and he did not come to earth as an adult. He came via the birth canal of a young Jewish woman, and he grew, and grew up one day at a time, just as we did, just as our children do.
John’s Gospel reminds us that the Word of God, who became flesh, dwelled among us. He did not grow up in Utopia, but rather in Nazareth. Because it was absolutely essential for Jesus to keep the law of God perfectly, he must have been a joy to have in the house, and as a classmate or a teammate. We know how we regard people, especially children, who go out of their way to be kind and caring, who avoid being selfish and self-centered. Some consider them too sweet and almost artificial. Very likely Jesus was teased by some and bullied by others. Some of the kids down the block called him names because he obeyed his parents and honored them. Jesus didn’t mind. He was on a mission. He had come to earth to live a perfect and sinless life, and if some didn’t like it, so be it. He would love them, too.
When the family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had completed their celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus was 12, they took off for home as they always did, and we are not told why Mary and Joseph felt it was OK to start the journey even though they couldn’t see Jesus in the group. It might have happened like in the movie “Home Alone,” where Kevin’s family takes off without him – we’re not sure how, but when his parents realized that Jesus was not in the traveling group with other family or friends, they turned around on a dime, and headed back to Jerusalem. It was a big city, compared to Nazareth, and they spent three days, perhaps going door to door, perhaps putting up posters or notes. They were not feeling good about a lost child. Jesus had never done anything like this! Their emotions swirled from disgust, to concern, even to panic.
The longest three days of their lives finally ended when they found Jesus – of all places, in the temple. Why is it that people always find the lost thing in the last place we look!! Maybe it’s because once we find something, we don’t keep looking!! But Jesus didn’t think he was lost. He was exactly where he should have been. He was in that place where we often leave things – in a perfectly logical place – if only we could remember our logic!
when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
The 12-year-old Jesus, the Jesus who is a junior-high boy, has been doing some things not always done by all junior highers. He had been listening. He listened to what the rabbis and teachers were thinking and saying. He asked questions. He used the questions to expand and clarify the topics under discussion – for three days! It was three days never to be forgotten by the people who were there. If Mary and Joseph had known beforehand what Jesus wanted to do, would they have let him? Would you let 12-year-old spend three days doing something he had never done before?
When Jesus is questioned by his parents, his wisdom and skill are put to a significant test. He could have snapped off the sarcastic question that many junior high and high school students ask: How did a kid as smart as me get parents as stupid as you? That would have been (whistle) Game Over! He would have dishonored his parents - busted the 4th commandment. If he had done that, this would have been the LAST story we would have about Jesus. He would have been tripped up by the Law. He would have failed to keep the law perfectly for you.
Jesus had to be truthful AND he had to be respectful. He does it by asking his parents two questions: Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Other translations put it “about my Father’s business?”
IF they knew it, they had forgotten it. Jesus refreshed their memories, and he did it truthfully, lovingly, and respectfully. He is God at work, doing what is essential for your salvation.
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
It worked – perfectly. Mary and Joseph didn’t love him less for what he had done or said. I don’t know that they loved him more, because I don’t know that ANY parents, step-parents, or foster parents can love their child more one day than another.
Mary showed her love for him, AND her spiritual maturity by filing away this incident in her heart. She might have said, “I’m not going to take a single step unless everything is explained to my satisfaction!” but she must have been confident that, in God’s own time, she would better be able to put all the pieces together, and praise God for this special event, too.
Mary and Joseph not only loved Jesus, they liked him. They were blessed to share their lives with him. They were blessed to have the responsibility of parenting, and guiding his growth. Every parent is blessed with the same responsibility. Those who are not married or have no children show special love and compassion for the children who are a part of their congregation. We are, after all, family!
Jesus’ neighbors and classmates LIKED Jesus, too. He grew in favor with human beings by NOT being a show-off. When he played on his neighborhood team, he did not always take the open shot -- he passed, too, because it is part of the game. He did not hit a home run in the stickball game every time he came to bat, because he did not always use the power that was available to him as the Son of God. He didn’t need to, because being fastest or best at anything does not win forgiveness of sins or eternal salvation.
YOU would have liked the 12-year-old, junior high Jesus. You would have liked living down the street from Jesus, who became the carpenter’s apprentice in the woodworking shop. You would have liked his honest answers about when the job would be done and what the fair price for the work is. You would have liked him because God his heavenly Father liked what he was doing, and the people who knew him liked it too.
After this story, the Holy Spirit pushed the fast forward button, and races ahead about 18 years – all the way forward to Jesus’ Baptism and his ministry of mercy and teaching. We like today’s story of Jesus the junior higher, and most of us would have liked a few more stories about Jesus the second-grader or Jesus the playmate and friend, or Jesus crafting wood in the shop. But the New Testament Gospels are not biographies of Jesus life on earth. They hit the highpoints and move us quickly to the critical part, where Jesus explains and applies the Law, and then blows us away with the Good News. The Gospels contain more details about the last seven days or his life than they tell us about the other 33 years. The Word of God is powerfully clear in proclaiming all that God has done for you.
The record of what Jesus did, is enough. He was born for you. He grew up for you. He kept the law for you. He suffered, died, and was buried for you. Your sins are forgiven and heaven is won for you. He rose for you.
Jesus loved to be in His father’s house. He loved to be about his Father’s business. And so do we. Amen? Amen.