Jesus as a Child of Twelve
J. R. Charlesworth, Barnstaple
Throughout the Holy Bible the number twelve is connected with divine administration. This may be observed in such passages as Exodus 28. 21; Numbers 1. 44; 1 Chronicles 27.1-15 j Matthew 19.28; Mark 3.14; Revelation 12.1; 21.14, 21; 22. 2. The first recorded statement Jesus made is to be found in Luke 2. 49. It is significant that, when writing this account of the young Messiah "sitting in the midst of the teachers" in the temple, 2. 46 r.v. marg., Luke is led to mention that "he was twelve years old", 2, 42. Doubtless, at Nazareth, He was already learning the trade of a carpenter, cf. Mark 6. 3 with Matt. 13.55, but no mention is made of that. The important thing was that He was about His "Father's business", Luke 2. 49. The scene foreshadows that future day of perfect government when "he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness", Mai. 3. 3; (cf. 2 Chron. 34.)
In the narrative, Luke 2.41-52, — the only glimpse afforded us of the Lord's childhood — we have a beautiful picture of the youthful character of the One who was "born to be king". Prophecy declares that "he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne", Zech. 6. 13. Here, in His Father's house, He is seen as a growing young man, anxious to fulfil the things of His Father, to be the channel through which God's long-standing promises to Israel would be finally kept. In this setting, what qualities of conduct did the Son of God reveal as an example for young believers to follow, John 13.15-16? What was the driving force that enabled Him to "fulfil all righteousness?"
The answer to such pertinent questions is discovered, in Luke 2, by considering where Jesus was found, and what He said when found. Joseph and His mother did not anticipate His return to the temple. For more than two days they searched elsewhere. No one would expect a boy's chief interest to lie within the house of God. There were so many other more attractive places in Jerusalem to captivate a young visitor. But His delight was in the law of Jehovah, and in His law He meditated day and night, Psa. 1. 2. Of course, it could not be otherwise, as we realize when we recall that He, the Word, "was God", John 1. 1. As an eagle's nature causes the bird to soar into the azure sky, so Jesus was drawn to the temple. Many a son of Adam's race had been motivated by a wicked heart, Prov. 26.23, but, in contrast, it was His to seek God with the whole heart, Psa. 119. 2. No other child had ever had such a burning pure desire.
At every stage of the Lord's earthly life the psalmist's expression was also His: "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart", Psa. 40. 7. Those who spent considerable time in the Saviour's company during His earthly ministry must have been struck by the way He referred every matter to the Father's will; (see how the apostles take up this theme of obedience, e.g. Rom. 5.19; 1 John 5. 3). His was the perfect, willing heart, Exod. 35. 5. This was the touchstone for His every activity. Hence the testimony: uThis is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". Later His devotion to the Father's will became an impenetrable shield against Satan's most vehement attacks, Luke 4. 8. It was His meat, John 4. 34. It sustained Him in the hour of deepest agony, Luke 22. 42.
The Lord's attitude as a twelve year old boy — an attitude which proved to be His practice continuously — gives force to His teaching. Seven times in John 14 and 15 He instructs His followers with such words as: "If ye love me, keep my commandments". If we have an affection for the things of God, then we are to show it in our lives. Our love is measured not by our words, or even by our works, but by our obedience, as devoted bond-slaves, to every known command. People about us would be more likely to think of the King of kings and Lord of lords if in all our ways we acknowledge Him, Prov. 3. 6. Too often we lean to our own understanding and draw attention to ourselves and our own wishes rather than to our Master and His Word. Our lack of obedience gives the lie to our confession of love. We revel in the salvation that the Lord provides but we hesitate to surrender to His authority as the One who has bought us, 1 Cor. 6. 20; 7. 23.
Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine: Take my heart — it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
The pattern set for us by the boyhood of Jesus gives one of the secrets for discerning the Lord's will in perplexing circumstances. Once we are willing to present our bodies a living sacrifice, the Holy Spirit cultivates within us a spiritual integrity which enables us, with a sanctified conscience, to make correct decisions. "Jesus increased in wisdom", Luke 2. 52. The wise heart, 1 Kings 3. 12, able to recognize the directive: "This is the way; walk ye in it", must however first be a willing heart. The one is a prerequisite of the other.
"Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors", Prov. 8. 34. Such a man will be subject to his parents, Luke 2. 51; Col. 3. 20; he will serve his employers faithfully, Col. 3. 22, and he will endeavour to bring "every thought to the obedience of Christ", 2 Cor. 10. 5.