A Call to Prepare (Dec. 26 2021)

Asbury Free Methodist December 26, 2021

By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett

Luke 2:40-53

            It is the day after Christmas. It was a challenge to know what to speak on. Do I speak on Christmas even though it’s past? Do I speak on New Year’s, even though it is a week away? What I thought I would do is speak on Jesus as he was growing up. At Christmas he was a baby; when we get to our scripture passage today, he is a 12-year-old. Come with me to Luke 2:40-53.

It was a convoy. Not of trucks, or of cars, or of trailers. It was a convoy of donkeys, and carts and people on foot. That is the way people travelled to the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem from a small village like Nazareth. It was required by Jewish law that everyone, especially males, who had reached the age of manhood, would attend this festival.

So, it was natural for Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather to go. But Joseph and Mary, being a devout couple, both made the journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem. In their convoy were their next-door neighbours, and family members and their hometown friends. Some of Jesus’ school buddies would be there. Jesus earthly grandparents may have been part of the large caravan.

 This year was a special year. For Jesus was 12. It was the year of what we would call now, his Bar Mitzvah. This is where he became a son of the covenant and took on the responsibilities of keeping the law. This was the year he would be recognized a man.

The Passover festival was the introduction of Jesus into his new station in life. He was starting to see the privileges and responsibilities of being a man and keeping the law. But 12-year-olds are 12-year-olds. No matter if the law says they are approaching manhood, Luke still calls him a boy. So, Jesus and his parents went up to Jerusalem and celebrated Passover. As far as we know it was a good celebration and things went as they should go.

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I heard on the news a few years back that during the pre-Christmas rush, there was a toddler who was found wandering around a shopping centre after hours. They finally tracked down the parents. The mother thought the father had him, the father thought the mother had him. Meanwhile, the toddler is just wandering around, taking in the sights.

Something like that probably happened to Jesus’ parents. When the convoy pulled out from Jerusalem on its way back home, it would travel in two parts. The women would leave earlier in the day and travel at a more leisurely pace. The men would leave later and travel a bit quicker. There would be a designated camping spot where they would meet up and stop for the night.

Jesus as a 12-year-old could travel with either the men or the women. Mary probably thought he was with Joseph, Joseph probably thought he was with Mary. Both thought that he was with friends and relatives.

When Mary and Joseph got to their designated camping spot, they asked each other, “Where’s Jesus?” “I thought he was with you. I thought he was with you.” And the panic starts.

They were now a day’s journey from Jerusalem. The roads were not safe to travel at night. So, they had to sleep, or at least try to, before they made the journey back. Just because you are the parents of the Son of God does not mean that you are immune to worry.

The next day they travel back to Jerusalem. But locating Jesus would not be easy. Think about traditional Maple-fest in Perth. Now quadruple it. Trying to find Jesus as Passover was winding down would be like trying to locate one boy in that. A lot of people, a lot of space, and a small boy alone.

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            One of the good news stories from this past year was Jude Leyton, a 3-year-old boy who went missing in the bush in the Westport area in late March. He was found alive and well three days later. The grandfather was quoted as saying that “the past few days (have been) a traumatic experience for the entire family.” No kidding.

            Talk about anxious moments for the parents. That Sunday night was cold, and the Monday night was cold, and you knew your little one was outside – you hoped he was well, but you were afraid he was not.  That is the definition of major stress and raging fear. It is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Jesus, like baby Jude, had been gone for one day, two days, three days. I can only imagine what was going on in Mary and Joseph’s mind. Have slave traders got him? Did he run into a Roman Soldier with a mean streak? How has he been able to eat? In Verse 48, Mary uses the word anxious. It is the same word used for the suffering of hell in Luke 16. That is what Mary and Joseph felt.

Luke 2:46–47 (NIV)

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.

They located Jesus. He was in the temple. He was sitting in on the classes and was engaged in both questions and answers.

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There is not much said about Jesus’ childhood in the scripture. In fact, the story that you have before you is all that the Bible tells us about the time between his birth and the time he began his ministry when he was about 30 years of age.

These years were the years of preparation. Jesus prepared for 30 years, to minister for three and a half years. But in the three and a half years he accomplished more than anyone would in thirty years. I think that there is a correlation there.

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I knew from a very early age that God had called me to be a pastor. It was not something that I could point back to and say, on such and such day God called me. But it was just a steady inward knowing that this is where God wanted me to be.

I was fortunate. Many people don’t know what they want to do, or where they are supposed to be.

But even in knowing what I wanted to do, I looked ahead to the years of preparation as a long-drawn-out process. In my youth I was arrogant. I thought who needs preparation. If I didn’t have to go to school to be a minister I wouldn’t have. I thought God has called me to preach, I should be out there doing that.

As I looked at the years ahead and complained to a wise old minister friend of mine. He told me that a call to ministry was a call to prepare. That has always stuck with me because it is a life truth.

I was not like Jesus, patient. I knew I was headed towards the ministry, so I did the five years of high school in four years. I then went on the fast-track ministerial course. Instead of a seven-year course, I took a five-year course.

            I wasn’t long in ministry until I knew that I needed more training. The first ten years of my ministry, I was in over my head most of the time.

A call to ministry is a call to prepare. Jesus knew that so he spent 30 years in an obscure place, preparing. A call to ministry is a call to prepare.

            But it is not only true for ministry it is true for life; I am not just talking about schooling. Every stage of life seems to require preparation. It seems that in the world we live in, we are either in the process of change or we are preparing to change.

            Sometimes it feels like all we are doing is preparing for the next change. Upgrading our skills for a new job. Work on a relationship to prepare for marriage. Get things prepared for a new baby. Get set for another job. Preparing for having an empty nest. Preparing for retirement. Preparing for changes in retirement.

            If you are not preparing for what comes next, you are probably encouraging someone else in their preparation for what comes next.

            There are some of you who are going through a time of preparation. In this in-between time, you may be tempted towards discouragement. I would encourage you to persevere. Jesus took time to prepare for his life’s work. How much more necessary is it for you to do the same?

            This does not mean that you stop living during the process of preparation. This does not mean your life is on hold. Each day that you have is a precious gift. What it does mean is that patience in preparation is prudent.

            Because times of preparation come to all of us, let us look at some of the principles from this passage of scripture.

Luke 2:40 (NIV)

40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Now skip down to VERSE 52

 Luke 2:52 (NIV)

52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

            The Bible says that Jesus was filled with wisdom. But then it goes on to say that he grew in wisdom. Now as you read the New Testament you start to see that Jesus was no intellectual slouch. We are quick to blame this on his divinity. We tend to believe that since God is omniscient, he knows everything, that this is what Jesus was like.

            Yet the Bible talks about the fact that he emptied himself. He displayed all the gifts of the Spirit. He displayed the gift of knowledge when he told Peter to go and fish and find a coin in the mouth of a fish. He displayed both the gift of wisdom and knowledge when he talked about what was going on inside people’s hearts. There were other times when he was obviously limited in knowledge like when he asked the question, “Who touched me?”.

            The point is that Jesus had to go through the learning process. In fact, the Bible says in Hebrews that he learned obedience. In these years of preparation, the bible says he grew in wisdom.

            As we look at his life, we see that Jesus spoke Aramaic, the common language of the Jewish people of that time. Yet how he quotes the scriptures indicates that he was familiar with Hebrew also. There are sometimes which his quotes are taken directly from the Greek translation of the Bible. To be able to talk with Pilate, or the centurion he would have had to know Greek.

            We know from his teaching that he had a broad grasp of scripture. He quotes from almost every book of the Old Testament. He had committed these scripture passages to memory. Those passages would have been studied at synagogue school.

            The Bible says he was filled with wisdom. But then the Bible says he grew in wisdom.

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            When you were born God gave you a set of talents and passions which over time, should you choose can be developed into skills and enthusiasms. When you were born again God gave you one or more spiritual gifts which you can develop and use alongside your talents and passions to produce spiritual fruit. 

            But here is the thing, you may be a talented hockey player or artist, a gifted writer or cook, but you will accomplish little unless you work to develop your talent.

            This is true of the carpenter, the dentist, the businessperson, the mother. This is true of the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, the helper. This is true of prayer, of faith, of love, or goodness.

            God may fill you with these gifts and talents, but it is up to you, to follow Jesus’ path and develop them, grow them, prepare to use them.

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            Let me remind you of where Jesus grew up. Nazareth! It is a little backwater town in the then unremarkable region of Galilee. When Nathaniel heard that Jesus came from Nazareth, he asked if anything good could come from there. It wasn’t the centre of learning, and yet Jesus grew in wisdom. It was not the centre of athleticism, like Olympus in Greece. But Jesus grew in stature. It was not the centre of spirituality like Jerusalem, yet Jesus grew in spirituality, in favour with God. It was not the centre of social refinement like Rome, but Jesus grew socially – in favour with man.

Luke 2:52 (NIV)

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

            You may wish you were in some other place, with some other set of circumstances. Maybe you wish you could go back to school. Maybe you wish that you were younger so that you could learn more. Maybe you wish that you were in a different location. If only you lived in Toronto, or Chicago, or London then you could become what you want to be.

            But I want you to know that most often it is not our location that holds us back from developing into the people that God has called us to be. It is usually not our circumstances that hold us back. It is more likely to be our choices on how we live our day-to-day life.

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            All of you have been given talent. Some as parents. Some as genuine friends, some as helpers, some as writers, as evangelists, as prayer warriors. But the choices you make will depend on whether you can say I grew in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

            I often run into people whom we say, I feel like my life is on hold. I feel like I am not going anywhere fast. I’m in school, or I’m unemployed, or this job is just a steppingstone, or I’m waiting for my big break, or I’m single, or I’m in a difficult marriage, I feel like I am on hold.

            I sometimes run into retired people who feel like they have nothing to offer. That is not true. It is true that what you have to offer may be different than it used to be. Things shift with the shift in mobility and energy. But because you can’t do what you use to, does not mean that there is nothing that you can do.

            The fact that you are alive means that God has something for you.

            Let’s look back at our scripture passage. Mary and Joseph located Jesus in the temple. As with all good mothers who find their child after some long nervous anxiety, Mary started to scold Jesus.

Luke 2:48–49 (NIV)

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?” 

            Note the change in the word father in these two verses. Mary refers to Jesus’ father as Joseph. Jesus referred to his Father as God. This was an unusual sentiment in Jewish times. We often pray the Lord’s prayer which begins “Our Father”. But the idea of calling God our father was not a popular one in Jesus’ time.

            Yet Jesus, at 12 years old, refers to God as his father. Jesus understood that he was special.  He knew that he was more than just a human little boy. But that would have to be the case if the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him.

            In this 12-year-old kid was the hope of humanity, the ancient of days, he was the Alpha and Omega. He was not only a full 12-year-old kid. He was also fully God. God who by his own choice had limited himself, to this time and this space, and this age.

            So, bring this idea of this kid who is fully God with you to verse 51

Luke 2:51 (NIV)

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

            Here you have the God of the Ages being obedient to His parents. Doesn’t that strike you as just a little bit odd? Mary and Joseph were telling God what to do. And he was doing it.

            But times of preparation are like that. Sometimes you will be required to spend your time under people, who really should be under you. Sometimes you will be required to do menial tasks. Can you imagine the God of the universe doing the dishes? But all these things are part of the development of who he was. All these things are part of the development of who you are.

            During this time of his life, and in this obscure place, Jesus grew from a boy into a teenager into a man. Aware that he was uniquely the Son of God, yet aware that waiting and growing and learning and serving, were the role that he was to live out.

            And in this obscure place, amongst friends and neighbours the Bible records in

Luke 2:52 (NIV)

52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

            Jesus in wisdom. He grew intellectually. He would have gone to synagogue school. There he would have studied the writings of the prophets, and Moses, and the Psalms. There he would have spent time memorizing the scrolls.

            By the time he was a teenager, he would have been part of the carpentry shop. There he would have learned about business. He would have talked to traders and learned languages. Jesus grew intellectually.

            Some of you are gifted intellectually. Follow Jesus’ example and grow your mind. But all of us have an intellect whether or not we are gifted. It is right that we should grow in this area. I hope at the end of 2022 that you will have grown intellectually from where you are now.

            Jesus grew in stature. This means that he grew physically. The scriptures mention this because it is important. Health is a good thing. In 2022 we would do well to do what we can to maintain and augment our health.

            Jesus grew in favour with God. This is talking about spirituality. Jesus’ prayer life was developed far before his ministry began. Jesus’ holy character was developed way before the first miracle in Cana. Jesus’ intimacy with God was part of the developmental process.

            We too are called to grow in our spirituality. We too are called to learn intimacy with God. At the end of 2022, we should be closer to God than we are now.

            Jesus grew in favour with men. Jesus grew socially. This is a view that is consistent with other scriptures, but it is a view that is often under-emphasized. We are familiar with the Jesus who was despised and rejected. We are familiar with the Jesus who was scorned and ridiculed. We are not so familiar with the Jesus who was popular.

`But this is what this verse is talking about. As Jesus grew up, he was more and more appreciated among his friends and relatives in Nazareth.

            A call to minister is a call to prepare. I am praying that you will know the grace that God has for you.

Communion

There is a new year around the corner. Many of you will find 2022 to be a year of preparation. Let us follow Jesus’ example and grow.