Luke 2: Knowing Jesus Better

There's a lot of important detail in the second chapter of Luke beyond the familiar Christmas story we all know.

We can know God by knowing Jesus.

We can know Jesus by knowing the Bible.

How can we be sure this is so?

Because Jesus said in John 14:9, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

      In other words, if you want to know what God
                  is like, just get to know Jesus.

The portrait of Jesus at right was painted by 8-year-old artist and child prodigy AKIANE. 
WHOFIRST.COM for details.

There's a lot of important information in the second chapter of Luke beyond
the familiar Christmas story we all know.

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What do we know about Jesus from the Bible and from other historical writings?

We know He was born to a young virgin named Mary, who agreed to bear her first-born child at the request of an angel who visited her before she was scheduled to marry. We know Mary was betrothed (engaged) to a young man named Joseph, who also -- somewhat reluctantly at first -- agreed to go along with the divine plan. We know that following the birth of Jesus, his parents settled the family in Nazareth, a town approximately 65 miles (105 km) north
of Bethlehem (which is just 5 1/2 miles or 8.9 km from Jerusalem), where the birth event occurred.

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

The passage as it continues from here is where we want to focus our attention.

41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He became twelve, they went up according to the custom of the Feast; 43 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, 44 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. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 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. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 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.” 49 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?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 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. 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

What can we discover in this passage from Luke chapter 2?

First, we know Joseph and Mary were a good observant Jewish couple, because they made the trip south to Jerusalem every year at the time of Passover.

Further, we know this was not a small journey casually undertaken. Many people made the trip together. Verse 44 refers to their "caravan." They were making a 65-mile trip on foot; people chose to travel in large groups for safety, for company and companionship, and to share their resources. (Think of the pioneers who settled the American west, traveling in wagon trains.) In the case of the caravan leaving Jerusalem to return home to Nazareth, the group was sufficiently large that it was not until the second day on the road home that Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not with them.

Once the parents actually got back to Jerusalem, it took three more days to locate Jesus. This particular detail is one which has always seemed surprising. They knew they had given birth to a very special baby, the Messiah, because the angel appearing to Mary had told them so. They had further confirmation of this fact from the group of shepherds who came to the stable to see the newborn Messiah. They had confirmation again in the temple at the time of the baby's circumcision, when  "righteous and devout" Simeon and then the prophetess Anna both announced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They would have confirmation yet again when the three magi came to visit (in Matthew chapter 2) and present the approximately two-year-old Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The most surprising detail? The Bible tells us in Luke's gospel that it took three days for Mary and Joseph to get around to looking for Jesus in the temple.

When the parents finally found Jesus, they were "astonished." Was this astonishment because they were so glad to find him at last? Because He was found in the temple rather than somewhere else? Because He was "sitting in the midst of the teachers" and impressing them with His command of the Scriptures? Perhaps they were astonished for another reason which the text does not disclose.

Mary must have been surprised, though, because we immediately see her lapsing into overburdened-Jewish-mother mode: "Oy, my son...oh, my precious son... why have you mistreated us so badly? How could you possibly do this to us? We left, then we missed you, then we came all the way back for you, then it took us three whole days to find you here in the could you do this to us"? etc. etc.  :o)

Then it was Jesus' turn to register surprise: "Why were you looking for me [all overJerusalem]? Didn't it occur to you that I had to be in My Father's house?" (Some translations say "must be about My Father's business.")

With the next verse it's OUR turn to be surprised: Mary and Joseph didn't understand what Jesus meant when He said "I had to be in My Father's house." The Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, wanted to spend time in the temple, the synagogue, the earthly house of God, and His earthly parents didn't quite know why.

But there is something else we need to know about this time in the life of Jesus... something that is not in the Bible, but is easily found in the pages of history.

When Jesus was twelve years old -- the same age as in the Luke 2 passage -- there was an uprising among the Jewish people in the region of Galilee. Archelaus, ruling in succession to his father, Herod, called in the Roman army to quell the rebellion. The Romans destroyed a city near Nazareth and then crucified two thousand Jews as an unmistakable message to demonstrate the consequences of going against Rome.

Can you even begin to imagine what 2,000 crucifixions might look like? Might sound like? And although this thought is NOT found in the pages of history, it is in the Luke 2 passage that Joseph the carpenter, Mary's husband, leaves the Bible narrative altogether. His name is mentioned in other Bible passages, but Joseph himself is never again part of any Biblical scene. Is it not possible that Joseph might have been on one of those 2,000 crosses? It's very possible. Jesus was confronted, at the age of 12, with the awful spectacle of 2,000 of his neighbors and countrymen hanging dead or dying on rough Roman crosses... and maybe with the much more personal spectacle of watching his earthly father, Joseph, die on one of them also. *

Think about that possibility next time you think about the crucifixion story in the Gospels. Now think about what it really must have taken for Jesus to continue on His solitary lifelong path toward Calvary. Is it any wonder that He sweat drops of blood praying in the Garden prior to being arrested? (See Luke 22:44.)

* Re-read the crucifixion scene in John chapter 19, starting at verse 25. Jesus takes a moment to make sure the disciple John, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, will assume the responsibility of caring for Mary.  Why would He do this, except for the fact that Mary was a widow?  Granted, this was two decades or more after the Luke 2 passage, but Mary's widowhood certainly must be a fact at the time of the crucifixion.

For Jesus, however, the worst part of His terrible death on Calvary's cross was not the physical torture and pain, it was His separation from God the Father. This was something He had never before experienced.

Matthew 27:45-46 give us this description:
45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

From about 9 am until 3 pm Jesus hung on that Roman cross. His worst moments came near the end, when he knew His Father, all-merciful and Almighty God, would not look upon Him because of all the sin Jesus was bearing for the redemption of mankind. Jesus was alone and forsaken in taking all that sin and evil with Him to His death.

There is a truly amazing passage of Scripture in Hebrews 12:1 and 2, which says
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Our emphasis.)

Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before Him." That joy most certainly includes seeing you join Him in heaven. As Beth Moore has said in her study titled Breaking Free, "You might think heaven will be heaven because God will be there, but He thinks it will be heaven because you will be there."

That's worth thinking about. To be sure you will not be eternally separated from God, visit WHOFIRST.COM now.

All Scripture on this site from the New American Standard Version of the Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1977

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