December 27, 2015
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Today is the last sermon in this Christmas series that we called Good News. This is episode seven if you’re following along. What we tried to do is to demonstrate that what happened a long, long time ago in a place far, far away still impacts your life today. This baby still makes a difference in your life today. I want you to put your thinking caps on. We’re going to tackle what many consider to be an incredibly difficult topic in the Bible. We will look at Jesus’ childhood. If you’re new to church or new to Christianity, we’re going to ask this question how is it possible that Jesus is both 100% God and also 100% man at the same time. Don’t dismiss this too easily because just last week a group of pastors from the Columbus area were at our church and this was the topic of discussion. They were asking the question, how is it that he can have all of the attributes of God and still be a young man and have to learn and grow. This frankly is one of those challenges that the church has been wrestling with for a long, long time. Let me put it to you this way. If you were Jesus’ next-door neighbor you would really, really have problems with this because you watched that kid play in the streets. You saw the way that he hung out with his family. Now as a grown man he’s making claims to be the Son of God. You’d be thinking, “I’m not sure I believe it because he’s just a regular kid like everybody else that I’ve seen.” Until you see his miracles. Until you see his death and resurrection.
I want you to write these dates down right now, February 6th and 7th. On those days our church is going to do, for the first time ever, what we’re calling Calvary Spring Training. We are going to go a mile deep in the subject of who is Jesus and how did he become the guy that everybody worships still 2000 years ago. We are going to bring in an expert for you, so mark your calendars right now for Calvary Spring Training.
I did a lot of research about this topic and I think I found one of the most succinct statements about it, which ironically comes from the Episcopal Church. Here’s how they refer these two truths at the same time. “The eternal Son took a real and complete manhood, one in all respects like ours, although wholly free from sin; and that although his manhood was endowed with grace to a unique degree, he submitted it to the limitations which necessarily pertain to truly human life and experience.” The Jeff Struecker translation is, “Though he was completely God he submitted himself, humbled himself, and became a man.” Today the passage that we will look at from Luke chapter 2 perhaps describes this better than anywhere else in the Bible. We see that Jesus had to grow up. Therefore he had to learn and had to grow like any child would learn and grow though something is different about this child because he is the only man to ever live without sin.
I. Make a faith goal next year
I’m not talking about one of those – I’m going to lose weight New Year’s resolutions. Where you go out and join a gym but you know before you even join that you’re going to dropout after six weeks. I’m talking about making one of those goals that you’re serious about and going to stick with this year. Let’s learn a little bit about how Jesus had to grow up. Can I remind you of something? If you don’t have a plan to grow in your faith next year, you won’t grow in your faith. To fail to plan is to plan to fail.
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
This passage that we’re reading takes place when Jesus was twelve years old. Last week if you were here with us, Jesus was a baby. Now he’s 12 years old and we don’t really have any idea what happened between last week and this week except one clue. When Jesus was born the king of Israel, King Herod, wanted this kid dead and so he annihilated all of the children in Jesus’ hometown. In order to save Jesus’ life Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. They spent a period of time, we don’t know how long, in Egypt. It’s not until after King Herod is dead that they make their way back to Israel. They end up in a region called Galilee. That’s about all we know that’s happened between the time of Jesus’ birth and what we’re reading today.
We do know this Joseph was a good Jew. Every good Jewish man had to go three times a year to Jerusalem. No matter where you lived, you stopped what you were doing and went to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple. Most of the time whole towns went in caravans together and the entire family went. Bob Stein, who wrote the commentary on Luke, says, “Since Joseph and Mary were traveling in a caravan of pilgrims, they assume that Jesus was with the other children and did not even notice that he was missing until evening when the people in the caravan would come together again as family units.” Here’s what Mary is thinking, “Worst mother ever! I can’t believe no matter how hard I look he’s not with us. He’s not with the other kids. He is not hanging out with other families. He’s missing! I just lost the Son of God! God gave me the responsibilities to take care of his Son and I just lost him.” Really we don’t know what’s happening with Mary. We don’t know really what’s happening after this story. We don’t even know what’s happening with Jesus for 18 more years.
The next time he shows up on the scene Jesus is a grown man and is a rabbi. Now we do know a few things about this. I’m not an expert on this so I asked the expert around here, the head of our school, Dr. Ricky Smith who studied what it takes to go from a Jewish boy to a rabbi. Let me just tell you Jesus put a lot of hard work into becoming a rabbi. It happens in three stages. The first stage goes from the ages of 6 to 12. All Jewish children went to school but they went in the local synagogue. They used as a textbook the Jewish law. They would learn to read and write from the Jewish law. At the age of 12 years old most children would graduate from school and they would go take on the responsibilities of their father. In Jesus’ case it would be Joseph the carpenter. By the time they’re 13, every Jewish boy had to go through a ceremony called the Bar Mitzvah. At 13 years old the Jewish boys had the responsibility to fulfill the law themselves. They could no longer rely on mom and daddy. Now they have to act according to the law. So it makes sense that Joseph would take Jesus with them at 12 years old to teach Jesus how to follow the law because next year Jesus has to follow it himself. Here’s the first big cut in being a rabbi. Only the best of the best would continue in school the rest of them would go to work on the farm.
From the ages of 13 to 15 is the second stage of becoming a rabbi. This is the stage where you would go through formal religious training in the Temple or in the synagogue. At this stage during these couple of years a Jewish child would memorize the entire Hebrew Bible. By the time they’re 15 years old, a child within this stage of training would have memorized the entire Hebrew Bible and would move beyond memorizing it to being able to discuss complex topics and answer complex questions. Here’s the next cut. Not everybody made it beyond this stage. For the best and the brightest, you’d go to this last stage of becoming a rabbi. It lasted for 15 years. You started at age15 but you don’t graduate until you’re in your 30s. A rabbi handpicked you and you would walk in his footsteps. You would eat what the rabbi eats. You would study the way the rabbi studies. You would sleep the way the rabbi sleeps. For 15 years you would model your life after the rabbi. Any idea what this stage of becoming a rabbi is translated to in English? It’s called discipleship. It’s what we say as a church we’re all about. Making disciples is literally training somebody to be like you, so that they can train somebody to be like them, and so that they can train other people.
Here’s what I’m trying to tell you. If Jesus the Son of God had to put this much hard work into developing and growing his faith, don’t you think you should too? Do you have a goal for your faith in 2016? You know your strengths and your weaknesses. I don’t. Do you have a very specific goal for your faith in 2016? To fail to plan is to plan to fail. If Jesus had to work that hard at his faith, maybe I should and maybe you should too.
II. Don’t let anyone come between you and Jesus
When Mary and Joseph went back to find him now is where we start to realize there’s something special about this kid. He’s not playing on the Play Station. He’s not out in the yard kicking a soccer ball. He’s in school learning.
45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” 49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.
Picture this. A day’s journey is about 20 to 25 miles. So Mary and Joseph have walked 20 to 25 miles when they realized Jesus wasn’t with them. They started frantically searching everywhere and couldn’t find him. Now on the next day when the sun comes up they have to go back and try to retrace their steps to find him. Twenty to twenty-five more miles of walking just to get back to Jerusalem and to figure out what happened to him. Ladies, every possible tragedy is going through your mind on the walk back to Jerusalem. Guys, you’re thinking, “Do you know what I’m going to do that boy when I see him.” Twenty to 25 miles later they end up in Jerusalem on the second day. Now they spend an entire day looking for him and it’s obvious they don’t think he’s in the Temple. When they find him the way that it is described in the original language it’s kind of like the great contrast. Mary and Joseph are frantically searching for Jesus. Jesus is just chilling out at the Temple and hanging out with the priests. It almost gives us the impression like Jesus is sassing his parents. “Mom and Dad, what’s your problem? Of course I’m going to be in the Temple.” That’s not what’s going on here. In fact Luke, the doctor, is describing Mary is almost hurt that she can’t find Jesus. He uses a medical term. Jesus is equally hurt that Mary wouldn’t think to look for him in the Temple. Jesus didn’t let anything, not even Mary and Joseph, come before his relationship with his Father in Heaven.
This is the second point in the sermon and I’ve worded it negatively on purpose. I could’ve just simply said, “Make Jesus your most important relationship in 2016,” but I didn’t. Here’s why. I’m not a prophet but I’m going to make a prediction. If you work in 2016, work is going to crowd Jesus out of your schedule if you let it. I’ll take it a step further. Your family will start to crowd your relationship with Jesus out if you let it this coming year. You’ll hear me say something a pastor would never say. This church, if you let it, next year will crowd Jesus out of your schedule. Don’t let this church, don’t let your family, and don’t let anything come between you and your relationship with Jesus. Take a lesson from a 12-year-old boy who had his priorities straight. Nothing comes between me and my relationship with my Father in Heaven. Maybe one of the goals you need to set for yourself is to put work, family, or even put this church back into its proper place. Don’t let anything come between you and Jesus in 2016.
III. Grow in your walk and your witness
This is where we get now to the Paul Harvey part of the ‘rest of the story’. This is where we find out how Jesus grew up and the kind of man that he became. When we read about him again in the book of Luke, he is a grown man and his message transforms the world. His message is still transforming the world today. Eighteen years pass between now and the next time we read about him. When he comes on the scene again he is an unstoppable force.
Luke 2: 51-52
51 Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart. 52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
Over these next 18 years we don’t really know what happens except we know when he shows up he’s a rabbi. God didn’t just send his Son to earth as a grown man and does these miracles. God put him on earth to go through this deliberate process of being like you and I. So he had to grow up and he had to learn and develop the way any young man or young woman has to learn and develop. When he shows up his witness and walk are earth shattering. The fact that Jesus even went to school for me is mind blowing. The fact that he had to spend thirty years of his life learning his faith is mind blowing. The next time that we see him, Jesus shows up and he transforms the world.
The reason why Pastor Ryan said that the hour before this is more important what we do in this room is not that we don’t want people to come and corporately worship Jesus. Of course, we do. It’s that the hour before this, what we refer to as Life Groups, is where you get a chance to ask complex questions. It’s that hour when you get a chance to answer difficult topics. It’s that hour where people get to know you and deeply invest in your life. I promise you, you will grow more in your walk and in your witness if you spend an hour with other people in some kind of Life Group then if you only spend an hour in this room each week during 2016. If you only have one hour to give, we would rather you go to a Life Group then come to this service but truthfully all of you have more than one hour.
I hope by now y’all have heard the name Zaevion Dobson. If you haven’t, let me show you a picture of him. Let me tell what happened to Zaevion Dobson last week. He was finishing up high school right before taking a break for the Christmas holidays. He went to hang out with one of his friends. They were playing video games and decided to go talk to a couple girls down the street. Now these girls had nothing to do with this and Zaevion had nothing to do with what happened next but while he’s on standing on the front porch talking there was some gang-related violence. People drive by and they randomly shoot at Zaevion and these two girls. Any normal person as the bullets start flying would dive for cover or would run for their life. That’s not what Zaevion did. He literally falls on top of these two girls and becomes a human shield for them. In the process these two girls are untouched by the gunfire but Zaevion is killed almost instantly. The two girls that survived were Faith Gordon and Kiara Rucker. Faith said this about Zaevion, “You’re my hero, I’ll never forget you.” Kiara said, “If it wasn’t for Zaevion, if he would have just ran off the porch, we would have probably been shot.”
Here’s the answer to the question, why would God have to go through the process of growing and developing? It’s because he humbled himself. He submitted himself. He did it so that he could become like us so that he could become a shield for us for the consequences of sin. If you’re new to Christianity, here’s one of the challenges that you’re going to have to wrestle with today. One of the challenges about faith is that this young boy, who seems to be like every other child in Galilee, becomes a man he becomes the representative for all of humankind taking off upon himself the sin of us all as he dies on the cross and three days later is raised again. You have to trust him in faith. You see it’s not until you start to exercise faith that he becomes your Savior. If you think you need the answers before you can trust him then you’re really not even exercising faith at all.
I’m going to challenge you to take the next steps. Maybe for some of you in this room that next step is that you know you’ve got a goal that you need to set and you need to work on it next year. Maybe for some of you in this room there is already something crowding Jesus out of your life and you need to put that thing or that person back into its proper place so that Jesus is your first relationship next year. Maybe somebody is realizing for the first time the need for faith in Jesus. Going to church or being a good person doesn’t get you into Heaven. It took God sending his Son to earth as a humble teenage boy, living a perfect life, and then dying on the cross in your place so that your sins could be forgiven.
- Today I am making a goal to work on a specific area of my faith next year. I ask the pastors of our church to pray with me about this goal this year.
- Some things or some one has been crowding Jesus out of my life. Today I resolve to put my relationship with Jesus first in 2016.
- I need to start a relationship with Jesus. Today I turn from my sin and trust Christ as my Savior for the fist time.
- Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, what were your resolutions last year? Did you accomplish any of them?
- Why don’t most people stick with a resolution?
- Have you had a time where family or friends came before your relationship with God? If so, explain.
- Read Hebrews 10:24. Walking with Jesus is a private act that should be done in relationship with others. Is someone investing in your life right now? (Do you have a spiritual mentor?) Are you investing in someone’s walk with Jesus right now? (Are you currently a spiritual mentor to someone?)
- Do you have a specific area of your faith that needs to grow in 2016? Please ask the group to hold you accountable to work on that goal this year.
- Pray for each other that we would motivate others to grow more like Jesus this coming year.