Flashback Episode — When Jesus Ran Away: Luke 2:41-52

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The gospel of Luke is the only gospel to touch on an event in Jesus’ childhood between His birth story, which Matthew also includes, and the beginning of His ministry 30 years later. This event happened when Jesus was twelve years old and part of me wonders why Luke chose to include it.

Perhaps this event was the only time in Jesus’ whole childhood that He “rebelled”, for lack of a better word, and ran away. Well, as we will soon see, Jesus didn’t run away, but in Mary and Joseph’s minds, it might have appeared to be that way.

Let’s read about what happened, from the gospel of Luke, chapter 2. Starting in verse 41 and reading from the New International Version, we discover that:

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When 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?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

In many ways, this event shines a negative light on Jesus’ parents, because after all, how could you get a whole day’s journey away from Jerusalem before realizing Jesus was not with your group of travelers. This also shines a little bit of a negative light onto Jesus as well, because if He wanted to stay behind in Jerusalem and test the leaders’ receptivity to His upcoming ministry, it is likely that Mary and Joseph would have given him a day or two.

Perhaps this was one big misunderstanding, with Jesus believing He had given them the message, but the message not being understood.

However, one big thing I see in this event is with the reaction those present in the temple had towards Jesus. Luke tells us in verse 47 that at twelve years old, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This verse emphasizes how much Jesus had learned being taught by Mary at home, and it also hints at Jesus’ bigger understanding of His mission and the path for His life.

While getting the right answers to the rabbi’s questions would be satisfactory, it would seem that Jesus understood the scriptures in a unique way from the religious leaders in order to actually “amaze” them with His understanding and challenging counter questions.

But as I read this, I still wonder what Jesus wanted to accomplish during this extended stay at the temple. I wonder, as I alluded to earlier, if Jesus was testing the waters regarding how receptive the leaders were to God’s self-sacrificing Messiah that Jesus would become, or if they were closed-minded to anyone other than the military leader they were hoping for.

Part of me also wonders if Jesus was testing the waters with how the religious leaders formed their arguments, questions, and challenges, and this would be a valuable set of skills to have later in life when other Pharisees and religious leaders would be challenging Him throughout His ministry.

Maybe Jesus’ time in the temple wasn’t as much for the teachers themselves, but an attempt to plant seeds in the minds of the other students that were likely present. A number of these students would likely have been leaders during the time of Jesus’ ministry, and it would be fascinating to learn that a young Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea were with Jesus those days in the temple. Equally fascinating in my mind would be if Jesus’ strongest opponents would also be there in the temple learning from the teachers and leaders in the older generation.

In Jesus’ response that He gives His parents, we see a powerful picture of how Jesus saw Himself. Whether Mary had taught Him this while growing up, or if Jesus had internalized this truth another way, when Jesus responds with the somewhat rhetorical question in the last part of verse 49 by saying, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” it appears to us looking back on this event that Jesus was well aware of God the Father being His Father, even if Joseph was filling the role of “dad” on earth.

We circle back around to where we began by asking ourselves why Luke might have chosen to include this event in His gospel. Not only is this question relevant to a discussion on Luke’s gospel, but equally insightful would be asking the question of how Luke learned about this event. While I’ve shared some ideas regarding the first question, Luke hints at his source for all of Jesus’ birth and childhood in the last phrase of verse 51, where Luke tells us that Jesus’ “mother treasured all these things in her heart”.

The only way for anyone to know this brief piece of information is from the source itself. It would appear that Luke the gospel writer had the chance to interview Mary personally, or at the very least, someone really close to Mary, to have learned some of the events that she treasured in her heart.

While we can only speculate as to why Jesus stayed behind, and what about this event prompted Mary to treasure it, we can learn that even at this early age, Jesus understood that God was His Father, and that His life was to be lived according to God’s bigger plan.

As we come to the close of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Intentionally place God first in your life. While Jesus can claim God as His Father, we can stand on this truth as well because when we are with Jesus, God has adopted us into His family.

With this truth in mind, study the Bible for yourself to learn what it means to be a member of God’s family, both the benefits as well as the responsibilities. While we can learn about these things from others, it is when we study them out for ourselves, personally, that we grow our personal relationship with God and His truths are better internalized into our lives.

And as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 3: Cam discusses some thoughts about Jesus when He was 12 years old and how it appeared as though He ran away when He chose to stay in the temple.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Fit To Worship: Mark 7:1-23

Focus Passage: Mark 7:1-23 (CEV)

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Read Mark 7:1-23 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In Jesus’ response when the Pharisees challenge the disciples over not washing their hands, He draws our attention onto how we should be more interested with what comes out of our mouths than what goes into them. However, like what often happened following Jesus teaching, the disciples bring up the subject again when they were alone with Jesus and they ask for more clarification.

In this event, Jesus’ responds to the disciples in a similar way as He had done earlier with the crowd, but He contrasts two different body parts: the heart and the stomach.

Food we consume in our mouths goes into our stomach. It is then digested. However, this food never reaches your heart before being filtered and dissolved into the basic nutrients. Instead, what leaves our heart will leave through our mouth. Our words reveal what our heart is thinking, and what comes from our heart is what can make us unclean. If you were curious if Jesus defines specifically what can make us unclean, these four verses contain Jesus’ definition: “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.” (v. 20-23)

Jesus says that any one of these things can make us “unfit to worship God”, and this list includes some pretty bad things. Looking past the surface items in the list, we can see that this list includes items that are thoughts, actions, choices, and attitudes. Any evil thought, action, choice, or attitude will make us unfit to worship God.

While we are sinners and Jesus came to die for our sins, this doesn’t override our freedom of choice. All the evil things in the list are things that we have the freedom to choose to do or not to do.

However, what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage is how we can feed our heart. This is done by choosing what we focus on and pay attention to. While we cannot eliminate every negative thing from reaching our senses, we can be so intentional about pushing good things into our mind that the good can crowd out the bad. In many ways, this is how we are able to eliminate the things from our heart that can make us unclean and unfit for worship.

In order to find the best things for our mind, we don’t need to look any further than the Bible and the Holy Spirit. By prayerfully reading and studying the Bible, we can help the Holy Spirit push the bad habits in our lives and replace them with good, Godly habits that will make us fit to worship God.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Seeking God’s Praise: John 12:20-50

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Early on during the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, John includes in his gospel record an event that the other three gospel writers don’t include. In this event, not only does Jesus look forward to His upcoming death on the cross, but God the Father speaks from Heaven one additional time.

While our passage is a little longer than what we typically cover in our episodes, I’m having a difficult time determining what to cut out. So let’s dive in and start reading what John describes happened one of the days Jesus was in the temple teaching leading up to His crucifixion, and we’ll see how far we get in our time together.

Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 20, John tells us that:

20 There were some Greeks among the people who went up to worship during the feast. 21 They came to ask Philip for a favor. Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew. Then Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to receive glory. 24 What I’m about to tell you is true. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it. But anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it and have eternal life. 26 Anyone who serves me must follow me. And where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

At this point, I must pause briefly, because what Jesus has just said here is incredibly powerful. Jesus challenges all of His followers to love Him more than they love their own lives, and while that is a huge challenge for His followers at every stage of history, Jesus follows it by promising His followers that God the Father will honor those who serve Him and who have placed Jesus ahead of their own lives.

When saying this, Jesus knows that this is challenging, and it might be difficult for us to fathom, but He never asked us to do anything He was unwilling to do. Picking back up in verse 27, Jesus continues by saying:

27 “My soul is troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, keep me from having to go through with this’? No. This is the very reason I have come to this point in my life. 28 Father, bring glory to your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven. It said, “I have brought glory to my name. I will bring glory to it again.” 29 The crowd there heard the voice. Some said it was thunder. Others said an angel had spoken to Jesus.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now it is time for the world to be judged. Now the prince of this world will be thrown out. 32 And I am going to be lifted up from the earth. When I am, I will bring all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show them how he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up. “The Law tells us that the Messiah will remain forever,” they said. “So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light. Do this before darkness catches up with you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in it. Then you can become children of light.” When Jesus had finished speaking, he left and hid from them.

Let’s pause briefly again here, because this brief discussion draws our attention onto the war that the first century culture had in their minds over Jesus. On one hand, Jesus clearly had God’s support and His favor. Otherwise, He could not have performed the miracles He did. However, on the other hand, Jesus kept telling the people that He was going to die, which did not fit with what they understood in the Law and Old Testament that describes the Messiah as lasting forever.

While Jesus could have simply told them that His death wouldn’t last long and that it would end in a resurrection, He instead focused His attention on subtly challenging the people to pay attention to Him and His ministry.

However, part of me wonders if these people were more interested in finding excuses and reasons not to believe in Jesus than to find reasons to believe. Picking back up in verse 37, John tells us that:

37 Jesus had performed so many signs in front of them. But they still would not believe in him. 38 This happened as Isaiah the prophet had said it would. He had said,

“Lord, who has believed what we’ve been saying?

    Who has seen the Lord’s saving power?”

39 For this reason, they could not believe. As Isaiah says in another place,

40 “The Lord has blinded their eyes.

    He has closed their minds.

So they can’t see with their eyes.

    They can’t understand with their minds.

    They can’t turn to the Lord. If they could, he would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 At the same time that Jesus did those signs, many of the Jewish leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees, they would not openly admit they believed. They were afraid they would be thrown out of the synagogue. 43 They loved praise from people more than praise from God.

Pausing yet again, I want to point out how powerful this phrase is. John tells us that these “leaders” were more interested in getting praise from people rather than focusing on getting praise from God. Jesus lived His life entirely seeking praise from God. Jesus would not accept praise from people, and I believe this is a challenge Jesus has for His followers as well. We should seek praise from God over praise or fame from this world.

To wrap up our passage, let’s pick back up in verse 44:

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only. They also believe in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me sees the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world to be its light. So no one who believes in me will stay in darkness.

47 “I don’t judge a person who hears my words but does not obey them. I didn’t come to judge the world. I came to save the world. 48 But there is a judge for anyone who does not accept me and my words. These words I have spoken will judge them on the last day. 49 I did not speak on my own. The Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have said. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So everything I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

In this passage, Jesus tells us that His words will be the judge on the last day. This is important for us to pay attention to because Jesus’ words are recorded for us to know. Not only do we have recorded the words Jesus spoke in the first century while He walked on the earth, but there have been times God spoke directly in the Old Testament. In these instances, we can conclude since Jesus is One with God, that the words and messages God spoke in the Old Testament will also be included as part of the words that judge humanity on the last day.

Everything Jesus spoke came from God the Father, and everything Jesus did while here on earth was to bring glory to God the Father. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit love humanity, and that is why Jesus came into this world to give His life for us.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to place God first in your life and to seek His praise. While it might seem crazy to think about, Jesus has challenged each of us to love God more than our own lives. He has called us to follow Him above everything else. Jesus tells us that God the Father will honor those who have placed Jesus ahead of themselves.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with Jesus further. Never let a speaker, author, pastor, or podcaster stand between you and God. God wants a personal relationship with you, and your relationship begins when you pray and personally study the Bible for yourself.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, or turn away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 3: Early on during the week leading up to the crucifixion, John describes Jesus challenging His followers about where they should seek glory and praise. You might be surprised by how far He goes!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Action over Intention: Matthew 21:28-32

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:28-32 (NCV)

28 “Tell me what you think about this: A man had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not go.’ But later the son changed his mind and went. 30 Then the father went to the other son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ The son answered, ‘Yes, sir, I will go and work,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two sons obeyed his father?”

The priests and leaders answered, “The first son.”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before you do. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. You did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Even after seeing this, you still refused to change your ways and believe him.

Read Matthew 21:28-32 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One thing I find amazing about passages like this one is how Jesus is able to use very simple illustrations to make His point. In this passage’s case, the illustration is so simple that the Pharisees and religious leaders easily answer Jesus’ question at the end. This is one of the few places where the Pharisees and Jesus agree.

Following this short parable of two sons, Jesus asks them the question: “Which of the two sons obeyed his father?” (v. 31a) The father asked both sons to help in the field. The first son said he would/could not help, but then later changes his mind and shows up. The second son said he would help, but for whatever reason, chose not to show up. Jesus’ simple question is which son obeyed his father.

It is such a simple question that each of us could easily answer it as well – and I could guess that if we were all being honest with ourselves and with the question, we’d all answer that the first son – the one who showed up to help in the field – is the obedient one.

But here is something interesting: Both sons lied.

We can easily point our finger at the second son and call him a liar because he did not do what he said he would, but the same is true for the first son: He did what he said he would not do.

If both sons lied, then what is the difference?

The difference is action – actually doing the things we have been asked to do. It is easy to speak our intentions, but what matters in the end is what is actually said and done.

As I began to write this, my mind was distracted. I have another project in the works that is more “interesting” than pushing through producing another post. But, here is the truth: while the other project will help a number of people, the big truth I want to bring out in this passage is a more solid, foundational truth that is true for virtually everyone.

The big concept for this post is this: What we say is not nearly as important as what we do. Action is more important than intention 100% of the time.

Jesus believed this, and surprisingly, the Pharisees and religious leaders agreed with Him on this one point. If we are being honest with the question itself, you and I believe this too.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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