A CHILD GROWS UP
By Dale D. Meredith
February 18, 2018
University Baptist Church
790 Dodge Road
Getzville, NY 14068
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Good News Bible, The Bible in Today’s English Version, copyright ©1976 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.
6 You do not want sacrifices and offerings;
You do not ask for animals burned whole on the altar Or for sacrifices to take away sins.
Instead, you have given me ears to hear you,
7and so I answered, “Here I am; Your instructions for me are in the book of the Law.
8 How I love to do your will, my God!
I keep your teaching in my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)
BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS
On our calendar Easter occurs so soon after Christmas that it almost seems that Jesus did nothing else of importance. He was born and then crucified, buried and raised to life. His birth was important. His death, burial, and resurrection are important. However, they are not the only important things He did.
Wednesday was Ash Wednesday which began the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. The 40 days of Lent are for reflection, repentance, and preparation of the new life of Easter. Sundays are not counted because they are not fast days. Sundays are celebration days. The church meets for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, to remember the resurrection of Jesus which occurred on the first day of the week. Traditionally Lent is said to represent the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry.
During the Sundays of Lent I would like for us to reflect upon the life of Jesus and the importance of His life. We will begin today with His birth and conclude with His resurrection on Easter.
You may be wondering how Psalm 40:6-8 fits the birth of Jesus. Hebrews 10:5-9a records that before His birth, Jesus, the Son, quoted Psalm 40:6-8 to God, the Father, and then said, “Here I am, O God, to do your will.” This indicates that God’s will for Jesus was all His life: from birth to resurrection and including all the time between. The time between His birth and resurrection He taught us how to hear God and do God’s will. Not only did He teach us, He also showed us how to hear God and do God’s will. This is important because, as Luke (1:4) wrote, we need to “know the full truth” about what we have been taught. Let’s look for a moment at the birth of Jesus.
BIRTH OF JESUS
The story of Jesus’ birth is very familiar (Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20). His mother was Mary, who learned from an angel that she would have a baby and name him Jesus. The angel said that she would have the baby because (Luke 1:35) “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you.” Mary accepted the message and replied (Luke1:38), “Let it happen as you said.” His father, so the people thought (Luke 3:23), was Joseph, a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), who was a descendant of King David. After he learned that Mary was going to have a baby the Lord instructed him in a dream to take Mary as his wife because the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). When Joseph awoke he married her (Matthew 1:24-25). They were sensitive enough to hear God and dedicated enough to follow God’s instructions.
The angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and God’s power will rest upon you.” This creative power of God sounds like Genesis 1:2 which says “the power of God was moving over the waters.” The creative power that that brought the universe into existence is the same creative power that brought the Messiah into the world.
Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem because Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to register in a government census (Luke 2:1-7). We will participate in a national census in 2020. We will just have to fill out a paper form and return it to the government. Because of the many people that came to Bethlehem for the government registration there wasn’t any room in the homes or an inn so Joseph and Mary had to stay in the stable and Jesus was born there.
When Jesus was born the angels appeared to shepherds and told them about the Savior (Luke 2:8-12). The angels sang praise to God and told the shepherds how to find the baby. The shepherds were doing their ordinary work and they find themselves in the presence of God. Their sheep were probably being raised for the Temple sacrifices. The shepherds were responsible for the sheep the all year. They were unable to observe the strict religious rules and thus could not themselves worship at the Temple. The Messiah came for all. The shepherds were sensitive to the voice of God through the angels and went to worship the Christ child. We must be alert that we don’t miss God when he appears to us.
Matthew (2:1-11) wrote that some scholars who studied the stars interpreted the appearance of a particular star to indicate the birth of the king of the Jews and came to worship the child. Years later the apostle Paul would write (Romans 1:20), “Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. So those people have no excuse at all!” We must be careful that we don’t miss God’s revelation to us. There is no conflict between the study of the Bible and the study of the universe when both are interpreted correctly.
Leviticus 12 contains instructions for the parents after the birth of a child. Therefore, one week after His birth the baby boy was circumcised and named Jesus. Then forty days after His birth they presented Him to the priest at the Temple because “Every first-born male was to be dedicated to the Lord” (Exodus 13:2, 12). They then offered a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons (Luke 2:24) because they could not afford to sacrifice a lamb. They completed all that was specified according to the Law of Moses.
While at the Temple a man named Simeon came in, saw the baby, and proclaimed that he had now seen the salvation of the Jews who would reveal God’s will to the Gentiles and bring glory to God (Luke 2:25-35). At that time a prophetess name Anna spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free (Luke 2:36-38).
When I was about 9 or 10 years old there was a woman at our church who began to call me “professor.” I don’t think that it was an accident that for 37 years I served as a professor at The Universities of Illinois and New York at Buffalo. Some can see God’s intention in our lives before we can. We must be attentive to what God says to us through pastors, teachers, and other spiritual leaders.
JESUS AT NAZARETH
Joseph and Mary returned to their home in Nazareth in Galilee about 90 miles north of Jerusalem. There Jesus grew and did what other boys did. His father was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Therefore, Jesus became a carpenter and became known as the carpenter (Mark 6:3). My father was a farmer and I remember how he made sure that I knew how to farm. Some of my earliest memories are of him letting me “help” and explaining why certain things were done. As soon as I began to add and subtract he included me in the record keeping and tax preparation for the farm.
Jesus also attended the local synagogue school where he learned to read and write Hebrew and to memorize Bible verses. He would need to do this so that he could become a “man of the Law” and assume religious responsibilities for Himself. Until then He was responsible to his father who supervised the family religious responsibilities. At the age of about 12 Jesus would become responsible for keeping the Law of Moses. Therefore, He would need to know the Law. Today the Jews have a bar mitzvah which is a ceremony to recognize that a boy has become a “man of the law.” To be eligible to the bar mitzvah the boy must pass an examination in the law. This is often an oral exam in front of the congregation at the synagogue.
Our family were regular in church attendance. My father was a leader in the church. He was a deacon and taught the adult men Sunday School class. I remember my father explaining early in my preteen years that I would have to make my own decision about whether I would accept Jesus as my Savior or not. He had made his decision to accept Jesus as his Savior and serve God. However, when ever I “heard” God calling me I would have to make my own decision because I could not live on his decision. In the spring when I was twelve I began to “sense” the need to accept Jesus as my Savior. I did accept Jesus as my Savior and announced at church that I would live to serve God. That decision has governed my life since that day.
JESUS AT THE TEMPLE AGAIN
Deuteronomy 16:16 indicates that every male was required to attend the Passover festival in Jerusalem every year. Luke 2:41 says that Jesus and His parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival every year. When Jesus was twelve years old they went as usual. Remember Jesus’ commitment before He came into the world: Psalm 40:7-8, “Your instructions for me are in the book of the Law. How I love to do your will, my God.” Jesus and his parents lived the instruction of God from the book of the Law.
When His parents started home from the festival Jesus stayed behind. They didn’t miss Him until the end of the first day of the trip back to Nazareth. That wasn’t as far as we would do in a day, because they were walking as a group of families. It wouldn’t be unusual to notice Jesus wasn’t with them. The youth would be together, and the adults would be together. The older youth would be watching out for the younger. It was like when we walked home from school each day. When Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the Temple he was talking and discussing the Law with the Jewish teachers. These were the teachers who had trained the rabbi who taught Him in the synagogue. He was debating the “college teachers.”
Again, remember Psalm 40:8: “I keep your teaching in my heart.” Jesus did keep the teaching in his heart so He could obey it, but this also would indicate that He remembered the Law and could explain, discuss, and teach the Law. At an early age He had a recognition of His purpose in life. He went back to Nazareth and obeyed His parents. “He grew and gained favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Proverbs 3:1, 4 says, “Always remember what I tell you to do, … both God and man will be pleased with you.”
I remember that as a youth I didn’t want to be a farmer or a miner like many of our family and neighbors. I had never known and engineer, didn’t know the different kinds of engineers, and didn’t really know all an engineer did but I wanted to be an engineer. The lady had called me “professor,” and I really had no idea what a professor did except teach college and I thought you had to take education courses to teach. I didn’t want to do that. I was just good at math and science, so I stayed with that. It would be several years before I even visited a college campus. I also continued to be faithful in attendance and learning at church. When I did get to college I had gained enough experience in engineering type of work as a construction inspector that I could discuss civil engineering with my professors. I discovered that none of them had ever taken an education course. I also learned than many of them were faithful in church attendance. Some of them taught Sunday School. I continued to study civil engineering and began to teach it as soon as I had my B.S. I continued to study and teach until I became a full professor. I now knew what the lady at church was talking about. I was a “professor.”
JESUS ON THE ROAD AT THIRTY
When Jesus was about thirty, He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). It was believed that a man of thirty had reached full physical and mental maturity. He was now fully ready for social and religious functions. Jesus was now considered a man and His childhood had ended.
CHILDHOOD OF JESUS
There are several important reasons for Luke to explain the childhood of the Messiah. Luke did not list his reasons. However, like a good story teller, he wrote such that we can see from the story what was important.
Jesus had humble parents who were sensitive to hear God and were obedient to God. They were faithful to provide a loving home where Jesus was taught to love and obey God. They never preached a sermon, taught a Sunday School class, performed a miracle, or drew attention to what they were doing. They were just obedient to what God called them to do.
Jesus was from humble beginnings, but also a descendant of a king that was called and blessed by God. Jesus began as a baby and developed naturally. He grew. He was faithful to obey all that He learned of God’s instructions. He was even obedient to His earthly parents until He was considered to be a mature person. He grew and developed gradually as we do. He was not impatient at His rate of development, but lived every day at the level of His development.
Jesus came into the world to do God’s will. His parents did God’s will. He followed their example and from His earliest days he obeyed everything God asked him to do. He did that by hiding God’s instructions in His heart and living by them all day, every day.
God may appear at any place and any time people are sensitive to God’s voice. Go is looking for people to be obedient in the tasks He assigns whether that be some major task that appears to be impossible or an ordinary, humble task like being good parents.
Jesus showed how we can begin at an early age to be faithful and obey God. It was important that He show us how to hear and obey God. No matter how old we are, we should follow His example.