A Compelling Interest
Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)

Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, December 26, 2021
A Compelling Interest
Let us pray: Lord we are grateful that we have come to the last Sunday of 2021. We remember those whose lives have been upended by this protracted pandemic with its variants, natural disasters costing life and possessions, and those enduring and experiencing all sorts of hardships. May we be sensitive to their needs and a participant in assisting them. Let the words of my mouth be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord. Amen.   
41Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 
42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)
This text is the only one we have in the Bible about Jesus between infancy and adulthood. This brief description gives us enough to think about him growing from childhood through the teenage years, through adolescence to adulthood. We are told that "He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."
Sometimes Christians refer to Jesus’ growing-up years as a model for human growth and development. There is a Christmas hymn, “Once in David’s Royal City,” which for example, contains the stanza,
Jesus is our childhood’s pattern, / Day by day like us he grew.
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew. / Thus he feels for all our sadness,
And he shares in all our gladness.
(Cecil F. Alexander, “Once in David’s Royal City,” Chalice Hymnal 
St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1995) 165
While we can presume that the infant Jesus was weak and helpless, cried and smiled, and grew from infancy through childhood, through youth and adolescence to adulthood, the gospels themselves are almost silent on those years. It has been suggested that one of the purposes for recalling Jesus’ growth in this frame of reference are twofold -- to assure congregations that Jesus fully understands the depths and heights of the human experience and to use Jesus’ growth as a model for understanding how we grow in statue with God and humanity embodying the practices as His faithful followers.
Consider what it means to use Jesus’ growth as a model for understanding how we grow in stature with God and humanity.
Monday, December 27, 2021
Luke’s story of Jesus in the temple at the age of 12 is the only incident in the gospels about the life of Jesus between infancy and the beginning of his ministry. When recounting the lives of major figures in antiquity, ancient literature often included stories of unusual births and remarkable childhoods. Ancient people regarded such stories as evidence that the gods had a special guiding role in the lives of such figures. Luke’s birth and childhood narratives play this role (among others), assuring listeners that the hand of God guided Jesus from the beginning. 
By noting that Mary and Joseph went every year to Jerusalem for the Passover, (Luke 2:41-52) implies that Jesus grew up in a faithful Jewish household. The emphasis on Jesus in the temple and His interaction with the teachers of Israel plays a similarly important role. Jesus was immersed in his faith tradition, Judaism, since his youth. He speaks as an insider with a thorough knowledge of His beliefs.

These facts are important because by the time Luke wrote (80-90 CE) tensions had developed in the congregation of believers in Christ. As the ministry of Jesus unfolds, Jesus has considerable conflict with Jewish religious authorities over how to interpret God’s presence and purposes. Today Christians often find themselves in disagreement with other Christians. One Christian group sometimes proclaims
the Christian way and condemns as unchristian those who hold to other interpretations. If you are confused as to what might be authentically Christian, then this is a good place to begin.
Before the age of twelve nothing is told about Jesus except his birth. This incident, which alone breaks the silence, is connected with his twelfth year, the completion of which was an important hour in Jewish history - the hour of transference from pupilage to a certain measure of responsibility. These are the first recorded words of Jesus in the gospels - Jesus' response to his mother (verse 49) when she and Joseph found him in the temple.  One way to understand it is to see it as an awakened consciousness about (1) the supreme relationship of the life, (2) the supreme interest in life, and (3) the supreme necessity of life. 
Consider what it means that Jesus was awakened by his faith tradition to the supreme relationship, supreme interest and supreme necessity of life.  
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
This is the only inspired incident that God has given us of Jesus' experiences during His boyhood. Luke stressed Jesus' wisdom and His conscious awareness that He was the Son of God so his readers would have confidence in Jesus' identity.
Already early in life Jesus values the pursuit of comprehending God, as He increases 'in wisdom and stature' (Luke 2:52). His approach to knowing God and seeking understanding pictures how we should pursue the same, even at a young age.
Jesus' understanding and His answers amazed them all (cf. Luke 4:32Luke 9:43). One suspects that some of these rabbis remembered this incident when Jesus later became a popular teacher Himself. Obviously Jesus already had unusual wisdom and insight into the Scriptures, which were the center of these discussions.

Mary and Joseph were understandably anxious about their Son's safety when they realized that he was not with them. (cf. Luke 2:35;Luke 16:24-25Acts 20:38
Romans 9:2). When they found Jesus, His participation in conversation with the rabbis astounded them.

Consider what it means that parents begin early exposing
their children to their faith tradition.  
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Consider a few of the implications of this passage in rearing children about a higher authority to whom they owe allegiance.  
Firstly, the supreme relationship of His life is GodJesus was brought up in a faith tradition that acknowledged a higher authority to whom allegiance is owed. 

Having a faith tradition that shares basic principles and practices about life and living is a starting point for growing in wisdom and statue. I have shared with you before that everyone has some kind of faith. Ideals somehow are part of the human experience. There is that which seemingly instinctually pulls and tugs at you. There is an inclination that consumes your choices and directs your decisions. 
What purpose does your life fulfill? What end does it achieve? To what goal does it strive? Toward what aim does it drive? We are all driven, guided, inspired, and motivated by something or someone.

I am aware that there are those who reject all faiths and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless, without purpose. Some see life as “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” (Shakespeare Macbeth Act 5 scene 5). It has been said that life without a purpose is just a waste of time. People set goals for which to strive. The person with no purpose in life is lost. Emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, truth and value send life and lives into an abyss of cynicism and pessimism.

Consider what it means to purge human existence of meaning,
purpose, truth and value.  
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Idealism overrides nihilism with meaning, purpose and significance. According to a great philosopher of the French Renaissance, Michel de Montaigne, “The person which has no fixed purpose in life is lost.” Idealism overrides the reality of nihilism with hopeful optimism. 
You can dedicate yourself to a life of meaninglessness or a life of purposefulness. A spiritual guru said, if you think you are too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito
Jesus began as a child to embrace the reality of His personhood and purpose. I presume that His parents told him about His birth and the expectations that accompanied His entrance into the world. I know my parents did that with me. You have heard it said, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.(William Ross Wallace)
In our faith tradition we dedicate babies and young children reminding parents that they should let the child know about the prayer that was offered on their behalf and the dedication of their life for a noble purpose. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the observance of the major festival of their faith tradition, the festival of the Passover is a reminder that the Lord delivers people so that they can worship the Lord of life and not those who laud over people and oppressed them. Something in that experience spoke to Jesus. There ought to be something about your faith tradition that speaks volumes to you about life and living and your purpose and role in the world. 
Consider what it means to share with children the circumstances and expectations of their life.  
Friday, December 31, 2021
Secondly, the supreme interest of Jesus’ life was His father’s business. The irresistible attraction of the Son in the affairs which connect him with the Father. Whose business claims your focus, your energy and your time? Given what your faith tradition says about God, what do you think is the business of God that should engage you?  The Judeo-Christian heritage depicts God being compassionate, good, just, righteous and true. Jesus’ father is one whose business is about deliverance, forgiveness, promoting justice, redemption, reconciliation and salvation.  
The compelling interest of Jesus' life caused Him to see possibilities in ordinary people. He could see that a little group of untutored fishermen had in them energies which could turn the world upside down (right side up). When He looked at a person, He was not looking at the surface which was all that others saw; He saw the whole person, the good, the bad and the ugly, the right and wrong, the aspirations, desires, hopes and dreams. Jesus viewed each person connected to the source of their existence and ignited in them the latent potential that lay dormant. He awakened in people the business that should engage them, the business about which God was concerned. It was not only that he made people think that He understood them so deeply as to be aware of them totally but made them feel also that He understood what they ought to be, and more importantly, what they could be. When Jesus stood by them, they felt that anything was possible. The business of fulfilling your godly potential is to be about your father’s business.    
Consider what it means to be awakened to being a part of the business about which God is concerned in the world.  
Saturday, January 1, 2022
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2022
Thirdly, the supreme necessity of life was being faithful to God. The basic necessity of life is being faithful to God, a higher authority, who defines the meaning of your life and the morality that shapes your beliefs, significance and values.
God can be experienced in every act of faithfulness which waits to be performed. Much of Jesus' life in Nazareth must have been made up of work in the carpenter shop and of the routine relationships of the little town. He would experience God in the synagogue worship, and in His own communion with His Father. But these were not the only moments in which life was filled for Him with a complete value and worth. When He put into His work the thoroughness which made Him not only honest but complete; when in the midst of the neighbors of Nazareth He spoke, as every man may be called upon to speak, truth in the face of falsehood; when He championed some cause that was unpopular; when He defended someone who was weak against the cruelty of the strong - in those acts as surely as when He knelt in prayer, He could be a shining witness of the spirit of God. 
As we begin this a new year let us resolve to focus faithfully on the business that claims God’s attention and resolve like Jesus to grow in wisdom and stature in our faithfulness to God as the compelling interest of our lives.
Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, and mystic.
He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of St. Clare,
the Third Order of St. Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land.
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; / where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; / where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. / For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Lord we close a year and begin another year with gratitude for the privilege we have had to be about your business in the world. We continue to pledge our loyalty to you without any reservation or hesitation whatever and ask for strength to continue to be about your business in the world.  Amen  
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