Luke 2:39-52

Like Father, Like Son

Luke 2:39-52

“And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.  

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.  And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.  And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’  And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.  And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.  And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”


Why does Luke write these 14 verses?  These verses are not found in Matthew or Mark, and John, who is especially concerned with the Sonship of Jesus, does not include it either.  I think that there are two reasons.  First, because in these 14 verses Luke summarizes for Theophilus, and for us, the first thirty years of the life of Jesus as the God-man, placing emphasis upon His humanity.  When we pick up in v. 39, Jesus is only eight days old, having just been circumcised according to Jewish law.  In v. 40, Luke summarizes the first 12 years of Jesus’ life in this way – “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.”  So, for the first twelve years of his life, Jesus is growing, becoming strong, being filled with wisdom.  This is progressive language.  Jesus, like any human, was growing physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Quite unlike us, however, He is doing so from birth without the hindrance of sin because He was born without sin and did not sin even as a child.  But, He is nevertheless human.  

At the age of twelve, which was closing in on the age of Jewish manhood, his parents took Him to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover according to custom.  Now there are all kinds of wonderful realities occurring in this text like Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, being at the Feast of Passover in remembrance of the night when God passed over the Israelites when He saw the blood of the lamb on the door posts; or you have Jesus, who is the true Temple, coming to and sitting in the temple to listen to and question the famous teachers of the day.  But I think that emphasis of the text falls in vv. 48-51, with Jesus’ remarkable and rhetorical questions that concern His relationship to Yahweh, God – “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  So that at the age of 12, Jesus already identified Himself as the Son of God, calling God His Father.  Now this is quite unlike any twelve year olds that I have known.  Twelve year olds want to be athletic icons, firefighters, and, if your a twelve year old girl, maybe a model or veterinarian, or in my case, I just wanted to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle.  We wanted to be these things, but we weren’t really, and clearly, some of us, aren’t.  But Jesus, at 12, not only wanted to be, but actually was the Son of God, and He did not grow out of it. This identification and reality would get Him crucified 21 years later.  

Luke finished the framing in v. 52 by summarizing the next 18 years of Jesus’ life prior to His public ministry in this way: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”  So vv. 40 and 52 frame Jesus’ self-identification in v. 49 as God’s unique Son, as fully God, yes, but fully human as well.  This text sets the stage for Christ’s public ministry as the eternal Son in human flesh, perfectly obedient to the Father as a man in identification with sinful men.  Luke narrates Jesus’ self-identification as the unique Son of God who is about His Father’s business.

This brings us to the second reason.  Luke writes these 14 verses to shock us.  It is shocking that a twelve year old would identify Himself as the Son of God, and God as His Father.  But it would be shocking for anyone to make this identification within the Jewish culture.  This was a radical statement, perhaps even the reason Joseph and Mary did not understand it.  But Jesus acts as if they ought to have known.  He acts like this because the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament (New Testament prior to this text even) makes this relationship crystal clear.  So let’s look at some texts that make this expectation obvious.  

Genesis 3:15, God promises the crushing of Satan through the offspring of the woman, and particularly, one son – “he shall bruise (Satan’s) head.”  In chapter 4:1, it is quite possible that Eve thought that Cain was this son – “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”  But we know that Cain was not this son, nor was the more righteous brother, Abel for that matter.  Neither called God their Father.  But God has promised a son.

In Genesis 12 and 15, Abraham inherits this promise, and perhaps, the son will be Isaac.  Now Abraham begins to doubt the promise saying, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”  And this was God’s reply, “This man (Eliezer of Damascus) shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir. . . . Look toward the heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. . . . so shall your offspring be,” ultimately speaking of the offspring’s, that is, Christ’s glorious Bride.  But Isaac was as much a sinner as Abraham, or you or I, lying to Abimelech about Rebekah.  Isaac never calls God his Father.  

But perhaps it is Jacob, who is Israel.  In Exodus 4:22, God tells Moses to say to Phraroah, “Israel is my firstborn son . . . Let my son go that he may serve me.”  Now this serpent-crushing son who is the offspring of Abraham, God has identified as His firstborn son.  But Israel’s sonship is qualified by faith-filled, and perfect law-keeping.  God is now looking for a perfectly obedient son.  As we know from the history of the Old Testament, this is not the path that Israel takes.  The individual Jacob, nor the nation of Israel ever call God their Father.

But what of king David, maybe he is this son?  David, himself, though a man after God’s own heart, does not abide by the qualifications of God with Israel, for David sins heinously committing date rape and murder.  And though it is comforting that God saves David’s, David certainly is not this son, nor does David ever call God his Father.  But with David, God further qualifies this Son, not only as the serpent-crusher, of the seed of Abraham, of perfect obedience to God’s law, as God’s firstborn Son, but now also, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:12-14).  So this Son of God will be a king of the line of David.

Is it Solomon?  Solomon, indeed, begins with great promise, but he multiplies the sin of his father David, for whereas David lusted over Bathsheba, Solomon sinned with thousands and, ultimately, though his kingdom was full of renown, went the way of idolatry.  Solomon never called God his Father.  Nor did any other king in the line of David throughout the Old Testament.  But this Son, will be the serpent-crushing seed of Abraham in whom the nations will be blessed; a Son, perfectly obedient to the law of God, God’s firstborn, a king from the line of David whose kingdom will be forever, and God will be His Father.  

The Psalms and the Prophets add to this portrait.  Psalm 2 teaches us that this Son will be the Messiah, who is King of kings.  Isaiah adds that this Son will be born supernaturally of a virgin, and that this Son will be called Immanuel, “God with us,” that is, He will be both fully God and fully man.  This Son shall bear the name, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 7:14-9:7).  This Son, while being these many other things, will be no less than God Himself in the flesh, and He will call God His Father.  

Now, lets go back to Luke 1:30-33 where Gabriel is speaking to Mary almost 13 years earlier.  “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive  in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Amen.  

What Jesus says in Luke 2:49, then, is an infinitely wonderful and radical statement.  We need to notice the contrast between Mary’s words and the statement of Jesus: Mary calls Jesus “Son” and with good reason.  She says “your father and I,” that is, you father and mother, have been searching for you.  And now listen to Jesus’ words afresh: “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  In light of what we have just seen, this is a soul-shocking statement!  Jesus says He is in His Father’s house, but the temple is not Joseph’s house.  The temple in Jerusalem is the place where “the glory of Yahweh” rested (1 Kings 8:11), of which Solomon said, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!”  The temple was God’s house.  And therefore, when Jesus says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He is calling God His Father.  Not Cain, nor Abel; not Isaac, nor Jacob, or the nation of Israel; not David, or Solomon, or any other Davidic king; Jesus calls God His Father, and in so doing identifies Himself as God’s Son, the serpent-Crushing offspring of Abraham in whom the nations will be blessed; the Son, perfectly obedient to the law of God (He is Israel); God’s firstborn, a king from the line of David whose kingdom will never end.  Jesus calls God His Father.  Jesus is the unique Son of God.

Luke’s framing of this radical statement with v. 40 and 52 where he is making reference to Jesus’ growth as a human being, then, teaches us that Jesus’ sinless obedience as a man is the evidence that He is being who He really is – the Son of God. His human sinlessness proves that He is who He identifies Himself to be.


Doctrine:  Jesus is the Son of God, fully God and fully human, and on that basis is uniquely qualified to do the work of salvation through atonement and enthronement.

1.  Jesus’ Sonship uniquely qualifies Him to do the work of salvation.  How does it qualify Him?  When Jesus says that He is the Son of God, He is claiming equality with God, and on that basis, He is uniquely qualified for the work of salvation.  John 5:18, “This is why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”  Jesus was uniquely qualified to accomplish salvation because He, Himself, is God in the flesh, and only God can save sinners from God.  

But Jesus is still further qualified, for not only is He God, but God in the flesh.  In putting on full humanity, Jesus identified with sinners in order to save us from our sins.  Hebrews 2:17-18, “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”  By being the Son of God, who is both fully God and fully man, by being equal with God and lowly in human flesh, Jesus was uniquely qualified to accomplish the work of salvation through atonement and enthronement.

2.  As the Son of God, Jesus is uniquely qualified to atone for sins.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Only the Son of God could do what Jesus did on the cross.  The cross was specifically determined for Jesus alone.  Luke, writing in Acts 2:23, records Peters sermon from Pentecost, and this was what Peter preached to the crowds, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”  As the God-man Son of God, Jesus by virtue of His infinite value and sinless life, is uniquely qualified to atone for sins.

3.  As the Son of God, Jesus is uniquely qualified for enthronement.  Only the Son could inherit God’s throne.  Hebrews 1:8, “But of the Son he (that is, God the Father) says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’”  When Jesus died on the cross, He died not because He had ever committed any sin of His own, but because He willingly took every sin of ours.  Now the wages of sin is death, but being that the Son never sinned, it was not possible for death to hold Him.  Acts 2:24, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it,” and being raised, Peter continues, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.  Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he (that is, Jesus) has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”  And friends, this may or may not be good for you, though I hope it is, that having been uniquely qualified for enthronement, Jesus is uniquely qualified to render judgment.  Acts 17:31 says that God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  Who is the man?  The One raised from the dead – Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus puts it this way in John’s Gospel, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son . . . whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:22, 24).  The Son is both the Judge and the standard of judgment; we must repent of our sins, then, and embrace the Son who is the only One whose death on the cross can save sinners, who is the only One who can make guilty sinners innocent.


Uses of the Doctrine:

First, the reality that Jesus is the Son of God divides one man from another into one of two families: you are either a child of God through faith in Jesus, or you are a child of the devil against this Jesus.  Jesus said to the Pharisees who rejected Him, “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.  They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.  This is not what Abraham did.  You are doing what your father did.’  They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality.  We have one Father – even God.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.  I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. . . . Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God’” John 7:38-44, 47.  

When we go back to our text in Luke, we know that to be in God’s house is to be about God’s business.  That is why what Jesus says in Luke 2:49 can be translated either way.  The fact that Jesus must be in His Father’s house, implies that He is about His Father’s business – the Son does what He sees the Father doing perfectly, all the time.  Jesus means to say that we will do what we see our capital F-Father doing or lower case f-father doing, and thus our desires and actions are the evidence of who our father is – do we love this Jesus?  Do we love His Word?  Are our desires for God?  Do we cry out with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).  If so, then the evidence is that we are children of God through faith in Jesus.  But if you do not follow Jesus, or cast His Word aside as meaningless to your life or in directing you to Him for salvation, or are consumed with desires other than God, then the evidence is quite contrary – the devil does these things.

Second, the reality that Jesus is the Son of God means that those who are not children of God can become children of God because God adopts those who trust in His Son, Jesus.  Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  In Jesus Christ, God adopts those who were slaves to sin into His family, and makes them sons, princes of His kingdom.  When you embrace Jesus for salvation, God cleanses you of your sin, and makes you just as much a son as Jesus, His only begotten.  

Third, having been adopted as sons in Jesus, God blesses us with the Spirit of adoption to help us be what we now are in Jesus, namely, sons of God.  Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”  God gives His children the Spirit of His Son, Jesus, so that our lives begin to look more and more like that of Jesus, that is, God is our Father and as such our refuge when we are tempted to sin.  To be a son of God in Jesus is to desire to love and please the Father supremely, and when we don’t, that something is not quite right.  In our strivings against sin, and pursuits for holiness, we strain for our Father for help and to no one or nothing else.  We are no longer a slave to sin, but cry out to our Father – this cry assures us that we are no longer slaves, for slaves do not care to cry out against that which they love.  But if we love God, then we cry out to him, “Abba! Father!”

Fourth, having been adopted as sons in Jesus, the Father grants us an inheritance.  Galatians 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  This means that anyone who has believed in Jesus and has thus been adopted by God in Him, receives the inheritance of a son – we receive the Spirit of Christ and new life right now, we receive eternal blessings that have not been uttered, we receive eternal life, we receive eternal enjoyment in everything, we receive eternal freedom from sin and death, disease and discomforts, but best of all, we receive the eternal privilege of communion with God that will never end.  As sons in Jesus, we inherit eternal glory.

Lastly, the Sonship of Jesus commands our affections for Jesus.  Thirteen years earlier, Joseph and Mary had been told of the beauty and grandeur and majesty of this child, Jesus Christ, and they treasured these things up in their hearts.  And then, thirteen years pass by, and the affections grow cold.  The parents of Jesus had forgotten His majesty.  He was their earthly son, and they did not understand Him when He said to them, “Why were looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  They did not understand such a radically new statement.  Jesus speaks as if they ought to have known the great realities concerning Him.  But they had forgotten with time, and with time downplayed the majesty of Jesus’ deity in favor of His humanity.  

This is what happens with everyone of us, even if you are a child of God this morning, having believed in Jesus.  Over time, we become used to Jesus and our hearts are no longer stirred by who He truly is and what He has truly done for us.  Let us remind ourselves this morning of Jesus, the Son of God: He is the serpent-crushing Seed of Abraham; Israel, God’s firstborn Son; the Son who put on flesh and perfectly obeyed the law of God in our place; the Son of David, whose kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting, the only begotten Son whose Father is God, whose name is Immanuel “God with us”, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Mighty God, Prince of Peace; the Son of God who was uniquely qualified to die in our place for our sins upon His cross and be raised to enthronement and sovereign rule over the nations, in whom sinners repenting of their sin and embracing Him, are supernaturally cleansed from all sin, and adopted as sons of God, in Him receiving the Spirit of adoption, and the inheritance of eternal glory and enjoyment of God forever.  And perhaps we will be like Mary, who at last having seen both His divine majesty (v. 49), and full humanity (v. 51), saw the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and “treasured up all these things in her heart” once more.  So, as we consider the Son, let us also treasure Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Let us bow before the majesty of God’s Word.  Father, help us to have true, biblical, and holy thoughts and hearts for Your Son, our Lord, Jesus.  May His Sonship reveal to each one of us the (Father) father that we are following.  And would You, in Jesus’ name, adopt sinners to Yourself by giving them faith in Your Son Jesus.  And those whom You have adopted, would you help us to love Jesus more, feast on His Word more, and desire You more, as we await the day of our homecoming in Jesus.  I ask these things in His name, Amen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: