Jesus in transition

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52

Title: Jesus in transition


  • Introduction
  • Foreshadowing
  • Identity, belonging, purpose
  • Conclusion


Recently I had an eye exam and was told I needed transition lenses, which are sort of a modern take on bifocals

–         Switching to transition lenses is really weird – it’s a transition in itself

–         With transition lenses you have to turn your whole head to keep things in focus. It takes a bit of getting used to


I’m telling you this for two reasons:

–         Firstly, if I seem to be looking at you funny, don’t be offended – I’m just getting used to these new glasses

–         And secondly, it relates to this morning’s message – Jesus in transition


Please turn with me to Luke chapter 2, verse 41 – page 77 toward the back of your pew Bibles


Today we continue our series on intergenerational relationships by focusing on Jesus, as a 12 year boy, interacting with adults in the temple in Jerusalem

–         In Jewish culture of that time, a boy became responsible for keeping the Law at 13 – so 12 was an age of transition as he prepared for manhood and the responsibilities associated with the Law, also a time of viewing oneself (in relation to God and the world) differently

–         And, as we’ll hear shortly, it wasn’t only a transition for Jesus, it was a time of transition for Jesus’ parents as well

–         From Luke 2, verses 41-52 we read…


41 Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they went to the festival as usual. 43 When the festival was over, they started back home, but the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. His parents did not know this; 44 they thought that he was with the group, so they travelled a whole day and then started looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 They did not find him, so they went back to Jerusalem looking for him. 46 On the third day they found him in the Temple, sitting with the Jewish teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his intelligent answers. 48 His parents were astonished when they saw him, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried trying to find you.”

49 He answered them, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand his answer.

51 So Jesus went back with them to Nazareth, where he was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favour with God and people.


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate the gospel for us


On the wall here we have an example of foreshadowing

–         The picture of a cave man, from the past, holding a stick foreshadows present day man who holds a cell-phone


Foreshadowing is a literary technique where the author plants little clues at the beginning of a story to hint at what is to come later

–         Foreshadowing helps us make the transition from ignorance to meaning

–         It creates a point of reference helping us to join the dots so we can accurately interpret the story


Many of the characters of the Old Testament foreshadow Jesus

–         Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers but then later saves them, foreshadows Jesus who was betrayed by his own for our salvation

–         Moses, the law giver, foreshadows Jesus who fulfils the law

–         David, the shepherd king, foreshadows Jesus the good shepherd king

–         Elisha who heals Naaman, the gentile leper, foreshadows Jesus who not only healed lepers but came that people of all nations would be cleansed

–         We could go on but you get the point: the Old Testament foreshadows Christ


We notice quite a bit of foreshadowing in this morning’s account of the boy Jesus in the temple


Luke 2, verse 41 tells us how every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival


The Passover remembers one of Israel’s great transitions – their exodus from slavery in Egypt

–         This little vignette of Jesus going to the Passover festival foreshadows Jesus’ death on the cross at Passover time


Travelling from Nazareth to Jerusalem is a journey of about 5 days each way on foot – so that’s at least 10 days on the road

–         Add to that another 8 days for the festival itself and the round trip took nearly 3 weeks – that’s a big commitment to make every year

–         Living as far away from Jerusalem as they did Mary & Joseph weren’t legally required by the Law to attend the Passover festival every year but they freely chose to do so – foregoing 3 weeks income to be there to honour the Lord

–         This shows us that Jesus’ parents, Mary & Joseph, were devout people – they were very committed to God and his law


With the festival over, Mary & Joseph head back to Nazareth

–         Because they were travelling in a large group with extended family & friends they didn’t realise Jesus was missing until the end of the first day

–         You can imagine their worry and anxiety – anything could have happened to their boy


It takes a day for them to return to Jerusalem and then on the third day they find him in the Temple

–         Here we observe a foreshadowing of the resurrection – for Jesus would be raised from the dead on the third day


Mary & Joseph are astonished (or surprised) to find Jesus sitting with the Jewish teachers, listening to them and asking questions

–         How is a small town boy (a carpenter’s son) able to foot it with these heavy weight theologians from the big city?

–         It would be like losing your 12 year old child at the stadium after a test match, only to come back and find him discussing the game with Steve Hansen and Kieran Reid (the All Blacks coach & captain)


‘Listening & asking’ suggests humility and respect on Jesus’ part, so we shouldn’t imagine a precocious or arrogant child setting his elders straight

–         The 12 year old Jesus doesn’t know it all – rather he is hungry to learn


Apparently the teachers asked Jesus some questions too – not because they expected to learn something from the boy – but because questions encourage people to think for themselves – that was their teaching method

–         And all who heard Jesus were amazed at his intelligent answers

–         In other words, Jesus’ response showed a deep understanding of the Scriptures – far deeper than one would expect from a 12 year old


This picture of Jesus discussing theology with the teachers of the Law foreshadows Jesus’ ministry when he will amaze people with his wisdom and insight in teaching the ways of God


We all have foreshadowing in our lives don’t we

–         Things that happened to us in our childhood which anticipated an even deeper reality in adulthood

–         Some of that foreshadowing may have been helpful – it may have set you on a good path

–         By the same token some of it may have been detrimental – history has a nasty habit of repeating itself

–         Whatever foreshadowing you’ve had in your own life, whether good or bad, Jesus understands

–         He is able to join the dots and make sense of your life – give your life meaning


Identity, belonging and purpose:

I have here a tripod

–         This tripod is used to support a video camera

–         For this tripod to stand on its own it needs at least 3 legs

–         With just one or two legs someone needs to hold it, otherwise it will topple over and the camera will be broken

–         To make this tripod stable it helps if each of the legs are evenly matched

–         If one leg is shorter than the others it is more prone to tipping


Three things we human beings need to stand are: identity, belonging & purpose

–         Identity, belonging & purpose are like the three legs of the tripod supporting our soul


Identity answers the question: Who am I?

–         Belonging answers the question: Where do I fit?

–         And purpose answers the question: Why am I here?

–         Who, where and why?


As human beings we go through a number of transitions or changes in our life

–         And these transitions are not always easy – they may leave us feeling like a fish out of water, at least for a little while

–         The transition from the security of the womb to the outside world

–         The transition from home to kindy and then kindy to school and eventually from school (or university) to the workforce

–         The transition from childhood to adulthood – otherwise known as adolescence – this is a challenge for both teenagers and their parents

–         Some people make the transition from being single to being married or perhaps from being married to being divorced

–         Having children is one of life’s most profound transitions

–         A number of you here have made the transition from a different country and culture to come to New Zealand

–         Others have made the transition from full time paid employment to retirement

–         Grief is a kind of transition – as we come to terms with loss and adjust to a new normal


The point is: we go through lots of transitions in life and these are sometimes painful or difficult at the time

–         Having a good sense of identity, belonging & purpose gives us security – supporting us through times of transition and change


The transition Jesus was going through at 12 was not easy for Mary & Joseph

–         When Mary asks Jesus…

–         “My son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been terribly worried trying to find you.”


Jesus points out that they had no need for concern, saying…

–         “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”


Jesus’ response here reveals a strong sense of identity, belonging & purpose.

–         Jesus identifies himself in relationship with God

–         He basically says, ‘God is my Father and I am His Son’

–         That’s identity


Because Jesus knows who he is (God’s Son) it then becomes clear where he belongs – in His Father’s house, that is, in the temple

–         As God’s Son, Jesus felt perfectly safe and at home in the temple


And as for purpose, well, ‘I had to be in the temple’

–         In other words, it was inevitable that you would find me here discussing theology with the experts – because the temple is where people learn about God and my life’s purpose is to teach people the ways of God

–         How can I teach others unless I first learn myself?


If you are going to be a doctor it is inevitable that you will go to medical school and hospital

–         If you are going to be a teacher it is inevitable that you will go to teachers’ college and end up in the classroom

–         If you are going to be a minister or a priest then it is inevitable that you will study the Bible and spend time in church


This all seems intuitively obvious to Jesus – but it’s lost on his parents

–         Mary & Joseph didn’t understand what Jesus was saying to them

–         They knew from the circumstances of his birth that he was somehow special – but they didn’t yet realise his identity as God’s Son, much less his purpose in life or where he belonged


Incidentally, being misunderstood by those closest to him is another foreshadowing of Jesus’ future ministry


Jesus is not put off by his parent’s slowness to understand though

–         He is secure in his identity, belonging and purpose

–         Jesus knows that God (his Father) understands him and that’s enough for Jesus

–         So he returns to Nazareth with Mary & Joseph and is obedient to them



Luke 2 finishes by telling us that Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favour with both God and man

–         That Jesus ‘grew in wisdom’ tells us that our Lord wasn’t born knowing everything – he had to learn wisdom like everyone else

–         (Although it appears he was a faster learner than you or I)

–         Even though God was his Father, this didn’t mean any short cuts for Jesus

–         He did his time, paid his dues and went through puberty as we all do

–         Jesus wasn’t just fully divine – he was also fully human


Sometimes we might think that being Christian somehow makes us exempt or gives us immunity from the misfortunes or hardships of life – It doesn’t

–         We are just as likely to catch a cold or have car trouble or be misunderstood or made redundant or lose a loved one, as anyone else

–         God didn’t prevent his own Son from experiencing loss and suffering and difficulty – so we shouldn’t expect special treatment either


Like Jesus we do have some advantages though

–         In Jesus we have a secure and level tripod for our soul

–         We find our identity, our belonging and our purpose in Christ

–         Jesus is our answer to those deeper questions of who, where and why

–         Jesus is our brother – that’s identity (we are brothers and sisters with Christ – that is who we are)

–         Through Jesus we have a place in the Kingdom of God – that’s belonging (you might not feel like you belong in this world, well we are just sojourners passing through – heaven is our home)

–         And, with the power of Christ’s Spirit in us we find our unique purpose (we are all different and that’s because we each have a special purpose)


Let us pray…


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, you are our security in an insecure world – you provide stability for our soul through times of change & transition. Whatever the foreshadowing in our own lives, may we find our identity, belonging and purpose in you.