Mar 17 2013 - Luke 2:36-52 – About the Father’s business
Of all the gospel writers, Luke alone tells us anything of Jesus’ childhood. Year by year, Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old he went up with them. When they left to return to Nazareth, Jesus was not with them. Among the crowds of pilgrims they did not notice his absence until nightfall. They then had to return to Jerusalem to search for him. Eventually they found him in the Temple, talking with the Jewish teachers and asking them questions which astonished all who heard him.
What was Jesus talking about with the teachers in Jerusalem? Luke does not tell us, but it might not be entirely fanciful to imagine that he was talking about the Passover. This is the festival he had come up to Jerusalem to observe and this would have been the subject on the lips of many in Jerusalem at this time. Was he seeking to tease out from these teachers something of their understanding of the significance of the Passover? Did he prompt them with questions of how God might again rescue his people from slavery and captivity? Luke tells us that “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). Was he speaking to the teachers and the listening crowd of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world?
Now that Jesus had been found, days of anxiety turned to relief and a measure of anger as Mary scolded Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you” (2:48). Jesus’ puzzling reply was, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (2:49). [An alternative reading with substantially the same meaning says “in my Father’s house”.] Mary speaks of the anxiety shared by her and Joseph, the child’s father. Jesus speaks of his true Father, the one whose will he had come into the world to obey.
In the first century, a son would commonly learn his trade from his father and would first help in his father’s business and then succeed to his business. Jesus himself learned from Joseph the craft of being a carpenter (see Mark 6:3). But he was also beginning to learn the business of his heavenly Father. This was the business that would dominate his life and shape its course. This would not be the last time that Jesus would be found in the temple, conversing with the leaders of Israel and astonishing all who heard him.
Jesus came into the world to accomplish the purposes of his heavenly Father. Even when it came to facing the horror of the cross, a horror from which he longed to be delivered, Jesus’ prayer was “Not my will but your will be done.” But already we see that the sword has begun to pierce Mary’s soul.
And Jesus calls us to follow him. He calls us to put the Father’s business of bringing heaven to earth before our own plans – even before our own family and friends. Not that the latter are to be neglected, for in this also Jesus sets an example for us to follow for we read, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them… And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (2:51-52).
Lord Jesus, help me to learn of you and to follow you. Help me to be about the Father’s business today. Help me to grow in wisdom and in every good quality I see so clearly displayed in you. So help me to bring blessing into the lives of those around me that they might praise your name.