“A Lifetime of Spiritual Growth”

a sermon based on Luke 2:41-52

I chose this text for Father’s Day, because this is the first time Jesus uses “Father” language in referring to God. This twelve-year-old boy says to his anxious parents: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?” (Luke 2:49)

I’m sure from Jesus’ perspective -- since he knew all along where he was and what he was doing -- there was no need for worry. (Right?) He could take care of himself. He was, after all, 12-years-old! It was only his Mom & Dad (who had left him behind) who had the problem. Like, Duh!

The break-down of communication between this precocious pre-teen and his parents might ring true to some of you who have raised children of your own, but the thing that struck me is that Joseph probably thought he was Jesus’ father… and their house was Up North in Nazareth, not down here in urban Jerusalem!

There is an apparent rudeness in Jesus’ dismissal of Papa Joseph… and yet, there is also an affirmation (of sorts). You see, for Jesus to use the familial term “Abba/Father” to address God is a sign of how significant Joseph’s parental role had been in Jesus’ upbringing. We give Mary a lot of credit, of course, but Jesus must have learned much from Papa Joe, too.

And the way they “lived their faith” as a family back at home must have seemed interesting and exciting to young Jesus.

Otherwise, if it had been a dull drudgery (a resistant obedience) that brought Jesus to the Temple, you’d bet he’d be the first one tugging at his parents’ sleeves to get on! Get along HOME! Instead (according to this story in Luke‘s Gospel), his parents find him three days long “sitting among the teachers of the Temple, listening to them & asking questions.”

And for a 6th grader, a boy of 12 (Luke tells us): Jesus showed amazing understanding in his answers.

To my way of thinking, this is a perfect example of the “nurture and admonition” which our parents vow to supply to their children when we baptize them -- vows in which we, the members of this congregation, promise to give them assistance. Mary & Joseph saw to it that Jesus was raised in a faithful home; that he was habitually at the synagogue school and that he learned his Bar Mitzvah lessons, such that he made a memorable impression on the Rabbis & Teachers in the Jerusalem Temple on that occasion so long ago.


Our passage ends with the statement that “Jesus increased in wisdom & stature, growing in size and in years, in divine and human favor.” That’s a good report about him, but what does it have to do with us?

First, it indicates that Jesus himself went through the same stages of growth and development that all of us must go through as we mature. As I say in my sermon title, it’s a lifetime of spiritual (and physical) growth.

Second, these references to Jesus as a child -- as a self-absorbed 12-year-old no less, who thought nothing of the anxiety of his parents as he enjoyed himself in the Jerusalem Temple! -- makes Jesus seem “more human” than most stories about him.