The Gospel of Luke
Part 8: Jesus' Boyhood

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)


Last week we focused on the events around the birth and dedication of the baby Jesus. What the angels told the shepherds made it clear to them and to us that the baby they would find was the promised Messiah, that the baby was God and that the baby was the Lord, our master.

The other thing that we saw is that God measures greatness by obedience, like the obedience of Joseph and Mary and the obedience of Simeon and Anna. Our true greatness is up to us; we can obey God or not. Greatness is not limited by our position, or our wealth, or our influence. 2000 years later, millions of people still read about Joseph and Mary and Simeon and Anna. Their greatness lasts,

So we left Luke’s story with the baby being dedicated and circumcised in Jerusalem.

Today: - The next thing Luke tells us is.

When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. --Luke 2:39
What is the rest of the story?

They did return to Nazareth, but not immediately, and not directly. Mathew tells us the rest of the story. Why do you suppose Matthew tells us the rest of the story and Luke did not include it?

Remember that Luke is writing for believers, and the Old Testament prophesies being fulfilled were not as critical to the early Church believers.

Matthew fills in the facts that a Jewish audience would want to know, the ties to the Old Testament prophesy. Matthew adds some detail not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Matthew tells us about the Magi coming to Jerusalem searching for the newly born King of the Jews and about how when Herod heard about it, he tried to find and kill this threat to his power and authority. Here is what Matthew tells us about all that. I am not going to dive deeply into the story as told by Matthew, because we are focusing on Luke. But I want you to remember the events that happened at this point in the life of Jesus.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. --Matthew 2:1-12
So all of this was going after the birth of Jesus, but it is not certain whether it was immediately after the birth or as much as two years later, because here is what Herod did next.
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.” --Matthew 2:16-18
Since Herod had all the male babies two years old and younger killed, apparently he was not taking any chances about exactly when the Messiah was born. The fact that he kills up to two year old babies, seems to support the premise that the magi may have arrived when Jesus was a year old or more, rather than at the time of his birth. If they arrived at the time of the birth, it seems more likely that Herod would have killed just the newborn babies.

So our traditional pictures with the magi at the manger scene are not likely accurate. They should be shown visiting a toddler.

But there is another very significant event that Luke omits. Matthew tells us:

And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” … But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” --Matthew 2:12-23 (excerpted)
Notice how Jewish Matthew relates everything, how he ties everything back to the Old Testament prophesies.

So according to Matthew’s details, they may have considered going back to Bethlehem or Jerusalem, both of which are in Judea and was the area of Joseph’s family, but instead, at the guidance of the angel, they returned to Nazareth, just a Luke tells us they did. It is just that Luke left out the stuff about the magi and Herod killing the babies and the little detour into Egypt for a few years.

A common question at this point is how old Jesus may have been when the family returned from Egypt. The best information that we have is that Jesus was born while Herod was alive and Herod died around 3 to 4 BC. When the family came back from Egypt, Archelaus, the son of Herod was in power in Judea so they came back after 3 or 4 BC. The other thing we will learn is that when Jesus was 12, they lived in Nazareth, so they could have spent as little as a few months in Egypt, or they may have spent a few years. We do not know.

So now let’s pick up the story of Jesus, as Luke tells It, starting with Luke 2:40. They had made their way back to Nazareth.

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. --Luke 2:40
Let’s summarize what we can learn about the boyhood of Jesus. In reality, between the details of the birth of Jesus to the time he starts his ministry, we have little detail. Why do you suppose that is?

Details of the period of his youth are not relevant to his purpose here on earth. Those details would not help in our relationship with Him.

Here is what we are told. We know that He grew up in Nazareth. These verses do not say that specifically, but in earlier verses we were told that Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth.

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. --Luke 1:26-27
And we just looked at several verses that said they returned there. And we know that they had journeyed to Bethlehem to register in the census.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. --Luke 2:1-5
They did not move to Bethlehem, just traveled there to register.

Then they went to Jerusalem to dedicate the baby Jesus. Again, it is clear that they did not move to Jerusalem, they just visited there to dedicate the baby. When that was done, they went back home to Nazareth, via Egypt.

When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. --Luke 2:39-40
Verse 40 told us that He grew physically, mentally and spiritually.

Then we read that His parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover each year and apparently Jesus accompanied them, since we will see that when he was 12 they accidentally left him there.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. --Luke 2:41-52

But that is about all we know about the boyhood of Jesus. There is no Biblical record of anything else He said or did during this time period. There is no evidence of supernatural powers during this time, except perhaps his being able to ask questions of the teachers in the Temple and that he understood the discussions and amazed them.

The first miracle of Jesus was turning the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.

This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, a nd His disciples believed in Him. --John 2:11
This seems to indicate that this was the first miracle He ever did. Why do you think we aren't told more about Jesus' childhood?

Whatever the reason, God in His wisdom has told us what is best for us to know about Jesus. Maybe God didn't want parents continually pointing to His behavior as a child as a rebuke of their children! The bottom line is, God told us what we needed to know, and apparently we did not need to know the adolescent history of Jesus.

Verse 41 tells us that the family went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover Feast.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. --Luke 2:41
The trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about 65 miles. It took about 3 days travel time. The Passover celebration was the most important event in the Jewish year, taking place usually in late March or early April. Hundreds of thousands of Jews came to Jerusalem for this celebration. From small towns like Nazareth, families would travel in caravans with their relatives and friends. There may have been 100 or more people traveling together from Nazareth. We aren’t told where Jesus and His family stayed - maybe with friends or relatives in the city on down in Bethlehem.

Passover is the first and most important of the three annual festivals for the Jews. It commemorated God’s deliverance from the final plague on Egypt when the firstborn of the Egyptians died and the Israelites were spared because of the blood smeared on their doorposts. Passover took place on the evening of fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish year. The lamb to be slain was selected on the tenth day of the month and slaughtered on the fourteenth day and then eaten. None of the animal was to be left over on the following morning. The uncircumcised and the hired servants were not permitted to eat the sacrifice.

The Passover was also called the feast of unleavened bread because only unleavened bread was eaten during the seven days immediately following Passover. Unleavened bread reflected the fact that the people had no time to put leaven in their bread before their hasty departure from Egypt.

During New Testament times large crowds gathered in Jerusalem to observe this annual celebration. Jesus was crucified during the Passover event. He and His disciples ate a Passover meal together in the upper room on the eve of His death. During that meal Jesus said, "This is my body," and "this cup is the new testament in my blood". The New Testament identifies Christ with the Passover sacrifice.

Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. --1 Corinthians 5:7
In the verses about Jesus in the Temple with the teachers, consider how Jesus, even at 12 years old, is our example in four different areas:

1.   We need to emulate Jesus, we need to want to learn like Jesus wanted to learn.

Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. --Luke 2:46-47
Jesus sought out teachers. They didn’t come to Him; He sought them out and spent time with them.

Are you a learner?

The New Testament word, “disciple”, is from a Greek root word μαθητης  [math·ay·tes], a learner, pupil. So the essence of being a disciple is being a learner. We need to learn from Jesus, and we need to learn about Jesus, but we must realize that God often will use people to teach us.

Winston Churchill once said, “I love to learn but I hate to be taught”. What do you think are some essentials attitudes to being a good learner?

Are you willing to become an intentional learner?

There is a short account in Discipleship Journal of the famous "Greek mathematician Euclid who wrote a formidable thirteen-volume text for the study of geometry. But Ptolemy I, King of Egypt, wished to learn the subject without laboring through so many books. As a king, he was accustomed to having his way made easy by servants, so he asked if there was a shortcut to mastering geometry. Euclid's reply to the throne was terse: 'There is no royal road to learning.'

2.   The second attribute that we need to emulate is that Jesus knew how to listen.

Even though Jesus was only a child, the teachers should have been listening to Him! But Jesus left us an example here - to learn to listen.

What do you think are some keys to being a good listener?  Here are some questions to ask yourself. I know that my answers are not the correct ones.


The Importance Of Listening:

Paul Tillich commented, "The first duty of love is to listen." It is important to be a good listener. Here is a list of Bible verses related to listening.

Let’s stop here for this week. Next week is Easter weekend and we will not have connection classes.

Two weeks from now we will pick up this discussion and see some more things we can apply to ourselves about what Jesus did in this short event in the Temple at the age of 12. As adults, you would think we could at least do what a 12 year old did naturally.