After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Luke 2:46-47
Not much is told of Jesus’ childhood. He came to earth as a baby. Like all of us, He learned to eat, to walk, to talk, to play. I wonder when He was fully aware that He was the Son of God; that He WAS God in the flesh.
The second chapter of Luke swings from His birth, to His presentation at the temple as an infant, to His family at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem when He was twelve.
The Jewish faithful traveled in large groups of family and friends each year from their hometown to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration. You can picture the children as they journeyed with cousins and friends…laughing and playing along the way. At some point on the way back home, Mary and Joseph realized Jesus (age 12) was no longer with them. Imagine their panic as they frantically bounce from family member to friend asking if He was with them.
After three days they find Him. The entire time He has been planted in the temple, sitting at the feet of the various teachers listening and asking questions. We are told the people are astounded at His understanding at such a young age.
When His distressed parents find Him and question Him, He says, “Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Twelve was the traditional age for young boys to start learning their fathers’ trades. While Joseph was a carpenter and Jesus was likely learning this skill, His true calling and business was that of His Father in Heaven. We are told that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” This is all we learn about Him until He begins His public ministry 18 years later.
Questions: For fun, think about yourself at age 12. What were you doing? What were your priorities? What would you sit hours for?
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2
Matthew introduces us to three sets of people – the stargazers, the Jewish religious leaders, the secular king -- with three different responses to the birth of Jesus.
The magi travel from afar, following a star in search of a king. They enter Jerusalem, the natural place to get more intel on where to find this king of the Jews. Surely the current king of Jerusalem, Herod, or the Jewish religious rulers would know where to look.
The religious leaders, who studied, memorized, and taught the Scriptures constantly; the ones who knew all the prophecies by heart instantly respond, ‘Bethlehem’ when asked about the birthplace of their Messiah.
And while they pass this information on to Herod and the magi, they stay put. The journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is approximate six miles on relatively flat terrain, walkable in a couple of hours. Six short miles for what they have been anticipating for hundreds of long years. Yet, they don’t go. They are content in the lives they have built in the waiting. They aren’t even curious enough to go check it out. They miss Jesus.
Meanwhile, King Herod is filled with anger. He is not going to stand for any other king threatening his societal and political power and position. His plan is to destroy this child, even if means killing every male child two years old and younger in the land he is in charge of leading.
The magi go. They were paying attention. They saw the star. They sought out its significance. They searched for the king. They traveled a great distance. They worshiped and brought gifts. They weren’t about to miss Jesus, even though they didn’t fully understand what His birth meant.
Three characters. Three responses to the birth of the Messiah.
Questions: Where do you find yourself? How do you see these different responses play out in our culture today?
…And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14b
John continues with the Word – Jesus, the Son of God – now dwelling among us.
…and we have seen His GLORY…The glory of God no longer dwelling behind the unapproachable temple curtain. Now a living, breathing, walking, human tabernacle with no separation.
…glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.
Grace: Unearned or undeserving kindness and favor. Unmerited mercy. Receiving something beautiful we don’t deserve and couldn’t get on our own.
Truth: That which is, has been, or shall be. True state of facts or things.
Scholar G. Campbell Morgan says, “God is grace and truth. Not one without the other. Not the other apart from the one. In His government there can be no lowering of the simple and severe standard of truth, and there is no departure from the purpose and possession of grace.”
Grace without truth corrupts and leads to a false license to keep sinning. Truth without grace condemns and fosters legalism.
Jesus came to show us how both coexist. He shows us in how He lives, and He shows us in how He dies. Truth: sin carries a penalty of death. Grace: Jesus takes that penalty for us. A convergence to come on the cross.
Jesus comes fully God and fully human, and Jesus comes full of grace and full of truth.
Questions: Does the idea that Jesus is both grace and truth help you understand why He had to come, and why He had to die for us? Which part do you think people struggle the most with: grace or truth? Why?
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… John 1:14a
Matthew’s gospel tells us of Jesus from the seed of Abraham; the royal line of King David. Mark tells us of Jesus from Nazareth; the humble carpenter’s son. Luke tells us of Jesus from Adam; the man sin entered through to be saved by the only man who can defeat it. But John…John tells of Jesus from Heaven; Jesus as God. John takes us back to the beginning of all things.
In the BEGINNING was the Word…Here all along. The beginning of the beginning. Before creation or time.
…and the Word was WITH God…Community. WITH-ness. God the Father WITH the Word.
…and the Word WAS God...Not only with God, the Word WAS God.
…and the Word became FLESH…This. Oh man! The Word that always was. That was WITH God. That WAS God. All the holiness squeezed into skin. Flesh temporarily constraining glory that eyes couldn’t otherwise take in.
…and DWELT among us…Closer. Personal. Interacting in mundane daily life. The original word dwelt is translated “pitched a tent” or “tabernacled.” The Word – Jesus – stepped out of heaven and pitched a tent here on earth. It’s a temporary dwelling. He won’t be here long. Only about 33 years. He is coming with an assignment.
That He would come to earth as one of us is mind-blowing. God is so big and mysterious and unfathomable, but in Jesus, we have a visible expression of the invisible. He comes in a form and language we can understand. We can see how God chooses to spend His time, how He lives in the ordinary and extraordinary, what He says, how He interacts with humanity…all in a way we can grasp. We get a glimpse of what God looks like and how much He loves us. Jesus – Son of God – God in the flesh.
Question: What is most incredible to you about God coming down to earth in human flesh?
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar…….and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. Matthew 1:2-6 (excerpts)
Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and is written for a Jewish audience. He wants to convince them that this baby, Jesus, was the Messiah they had been waiting for. The God-ordained, God-breathed, and God-organized books of the New Testament opens with the human genealogy of Jesus.
Not unlike today, the Jewish people were proud of their culture and heritage, eager to point out those in the family line who make them feel like someone. The genealogy of Jesus is no different. Before getting into the messy family tree, Matthew name-drops David and Abraham. They were big deals! Abraham, the origin of the initial promise & father of Israel; and David, the greatest king of Israel.
But in God’s graciousness to us, this genealogy also includes some not so lovely stories. Women (not normally included in genealogies) and relatives that at one time in their lives might have been considered major skeletons to hide in the family closet; those whose colorful pasts we might like to forget, but never forgotten by God. Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law, Judah (the leader of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel), to get her pregnant. Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho. Ruth, the Moabite widow. And Bathsheba (“wife of Uriah”) who had an affair with King David.
Before the Redeemer is introduced to the world by Matthew, His family is remembered – the good, bad, and ugly. Not only did Jesus come down from perfection, squeeze all His holiness into human flesh, and enter sin-filled humanity…. He did so in the midst of a messy family tree. Because the truth is, without Jesus we are all messy. We all have blemishes in our past and in our present. But God – through the human birth of His Son into this family -- can redeem ALL things in beautiful and glorious ways according to His perfect plans.
Questions: Why do you think these specific people were chosen to be called out and even remembered in the family tree of Jesus as recorded by Matthew and breathed out by God?
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:30-33
Meanwhile, something incredible is happening in the life of a young girl named Mary, who also happens to be Elizabeth’s cousin.
Mary, who is currently engaged to be married to Joseph, is confused by the words of the angel. How can this be, she wonders aloud to the angel, since she is a virgin. But the angel tells her it will be the Holy Spirit who allows her to be pregnant and her son will be the Son of God.
When Mary learns from the angel that her much older cousin, Elizabeth, is also pregnant, she sets out to visit her. When your life is turned upside down, a trusted friend is just what you need. As Mary walks in the door, Elizabeth’s child, John the Baptist, leaps in her womb. Though not even born yet, John is filled with the Holy Spirit as the angel promised, and he recognizes the One he will prepare the way for while both are still in the womb. God is working out a mighty plan. I imagine the angels in heaven are also doing a few leaps watching everything unfold!
Finally, the ONE long-awaited for is on His way. You can feel the excitement and anticipation. Mary, with Elizabeth, sings a beautiful song and prayer to the Lord for what He is doing in their lives.
Mary doesn’t understand everything and she is thrust into a situation in a culture where she will be shamed over her unwed pregnancy, but she trusts God. Instead of fear, she praises God as His plan plays out in her young life.
Questions: Do you recall ever hearing how John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Jesus in the womb of Mary walked in the door? What do you think about the power of the Spirit to move in this way? Ask the same Holy Spirit to move in your life!