Putting the Father First (Jesus in the Temple, Luke 2:4-52) 5 Part Series on Discipleship
Author: Julia Grant
We serve a mighty King who humbled Himself, entering into the world as both fully God and fully man to provide atonement for our sins. While He dwelt among humanity here on Earth, He revealed the nature of God Himself by ministering in power and teaching with authority. His life, teachings, and sacrifice as recorded in the Holy Scriptures provide us not only with the knowledge of salvation through faith in Christ’s all sufficient work on the cross – but also with a revelation of who Jesus is and what it means to live a life that reflects His character to the world as His disciples.
Jesus is our example and guide in all things. In this series we set ourselves at His feet, learning from well-known historical accounts of Jesus as found in the Bible. As we examine His life and ministry I hope that we are both encouraged and challenged to be more like Him.
This particular story occurs when Jesus is just 12 years old. It is difficult to imagine the eternal Son of God as a 12 year old boy, and yet this account reveals the humanity of His incarnation.
In Luke 2, we find Jesus’ family on the road to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover (v. 41). This was an annual trip in order to observe a sacred celebration. Mary and Joseph were a pious Jewish family who took seriously the religious holidays. So, they take young Jesus to Jerusalem, partake in the Feast of Passover, and when all is finished, they begin their trek back home.
After having traveled an entire day’s journey, Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not with them (v. 44). To a modern audience, this seems to imply carelessness on the part of the parents. However, it should be mentioned that they traveled in a caravan of family and friends (v. 44); they simply assumed that their son was walking with another part of the pack. Once aware that He is indeed not anywhere in the caravan, they make their way back to Jerusalem to find Him (v. 45).
Mary and Joseph find Jesus “in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (v. 45). At this point it has been 3 days since they have seen Jesus, and as any parent would be, they are upset with their son, whose absence has caused them a great deal of distress (v. 48). Jesus’ words stop them in their tracks, and should do the same for us. He simply says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (V. 49).
This simple statement gave Jesus’ parents, and gives us today, a couple of key insights as to what was important to Him.
- Jesus’ top priority is the Father
Jesus’ time in the temple was not an act of disobedience to His parents, but an act of obedience to the Heavenly Father. Luke notes that Jesus was respectful of His parents when they found Him, and returned home in obedience (v. 51). We know that Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15), and this is surely not an exception. Rather, in this moment, we are discovering that above all else, Jesus’ number one priority is the Father Himself.
As a 12 year old in Israel, there was not much of a higher obligation than that to one’s parents. For Jesus, however, this obligation to be with the Heavenly Father had to superseded even His responsibility to His parents. He had a hunger to be in the presence of the God; nothing else was more important to Him.
- Jesus values the Word of God, and as a boy, sought out Godly wisdom
Mary and Joseph found Jesus “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (v. 46). This should blow our minds. This is the Son of God Himself. Yet here He is, sitting in humility at the feet of flawed teachers to ask questions about the Scriptures.
Is this to say that Jesus needed their words? Surely not. Luke notes that “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (v. 47). Jesus is not, nor has He ever been, in need of faulty human wisdom. However, Luke also notes that Jesus was still a boy – He was still growing physically and intellectually (v. 52). Jesus was sitting at these teachers’ feet to study the Scriptures and see what they had to say about them.
Jesus’ time in the temple demonstrates not only that His top priority is the Father, but that He values the Word and instruction of the Father. Even being the Son of God Himself, Jesus sought out Godly wisdom in the temple and listened to what the teachers had to say.
This passage of Scripture is short and can easily be overlooked by a modern reader, and yet it is so rich. This story is not only a reminder of the great love that Christ has for us in humbling Himself by taking human nature, but also reveals to us what is important to Jesus, and therefore what should be important to His disciples.
Here are several ways that we can apply this Scripture to our lives and learn from Jesus’ example.
- Make it a priority to be in God’s presence
Jesus modeled for us what it means to put the Father first. He modeled the reality that not even the strongest of earthly obligation can have priority over our Heavenly Father. As disciples of Christ, we are called to make the same distinction. Though there will always be an abundance of commitments, relationships, and obligations in our lives, we must recognize that the Father comes first. Communion with our Lord is the most important thing. Let us learn from Jesus, and be so eager to sit at His feet that all other duties become secondary.
- Make it a priority to be in God’s house
Jesus’ response to Mary and Joseph is simple and profound: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (V. 49). Jesus showed us that being in the house of the the Father is of the utmost importance. We live in a time where it is easy to skip Church and prioritize other commitments above that of meeting in God’s house with God’s people. While it is true that Christians have God’s presence with them always through the Holy Spirit and that the Church of God no longer primarily consists in a building but rather in the people of God themselves, making a priority of being involved in a local Church cannot be disregarded.
It does not matter if this is an elaborate building or a gathering in a field – what matters is regularly getting together in a sacred space dedicated to worshiping the Lord. Jesus response is almost one of shock; “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (V. 49). May we not allow ourselves to grow numb to the beauty of gathering together as a Church to worship, but may our hearts resonate with this same innate desire to be in our Father’s house.
- Make it a priority to study God’s word and receive Godly teaching
If Jesus Himself came to sit at the feet of priests and teachers to hear what they had to say about the Scriptures and ask them questions, how much more should we?
Many consider it a sign of weakness to ask questions. We are full of pride and would rather the world believe us to be self-sufficient than to admit our need for wisdom.
However, Jesus here modeled the hunger to come to the house of God and receive teaching. Jesus’ love for the Father led Him to not only come and sit in His house, but to study His words and meditate on His teachings.
May we not forget that to seek the Father, we cannot only spend time in His presence or go to Church…we must be willing to study God’s word and receive teaching on the things of God. We put the Father first in our lives when we remove our pride and allow ourselves to ask questions, dig deep into the Scriptures, and consult with other believers for teaching and encouragement.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ time in the temple here is nothing short of astounding. I pray that together we we would reflect the heart of Jesus and put the Father first in all we do. May we be intentional about spending time with our Lord, being committed to our local Church, and receiving instruction through God’s word and Godly teaching.