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Luke 2:40-52 by Robert Dean
"Why can't you be more like your brother?" If you were ever compared to a brother or sister you're going to enjoy hearing this lesson about the childhood of Jesus living with His parents and younger siblings. Find out the way young Jewish boys were raised and what it meant when they reached 12 years of age. See how this explains Jesus' actions in the temple in Jerusalem. Learn about the core sin of the universe related to the angelic conflict and see why it was necessary for Jesus to learn obedience to authority through the unique challenges He faced in His life.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:49 mins 14 secs

The Humility of the King
Luke 2:40-52
Matthew Lesson #009
October 27, 2013
www.deanbibleministries.org

The passage we are looking at relates to the childhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is an area of the Lord's life that people are often curious about. It has become an arena of unjustified speculation but one that is nevertheless true for all of us—we are curious. What must it have been like to have a child who was sinless? What must it have been like to be a sinless child and have sinful parents?

Luke gives us a glimpse into our Lord's human development, the only glimpse of what was going on in the life of Jesus. We might also wonder what kind of parental training was necessary in the home of Mary and Joseph with a child like Jesus. He was sinless, but nevertheless He still needed to be taught in His humanity, to learn. He needed to be disciplined, maybe not in the negative sense of punishment for disobedience but in the positive sense of learning to be disciplined, learning to submit to authority, learning to follow the directions of His parents. These were certainly part of His spiritual growth.

Another question we might ask is what it must have been like to be one of Jesus' siblings. How difficult it must have been to be one of Jesus' siblings whose older brother was perfect! We might also wonder what it must have been like to be the omnipotent, omniscient, fully righteous and holy second person of the Trinity, to enter into human history as a baby and then go through that growth process where He had to learn in His humanity.

Often we have misguided assumptions about Jesus because we really don't understand the interplay between Jesus' deity and His humanity. One the one hand we know that Jesus was fully God, undiminished deity, and that was joined with true humanity, yet without sin. Even when He was an infant in the manger the eternal second person of the Trinity was still holding the universe together. We have passages like Colossians 1:16, 17 NASB "For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." This is His ongoing role and function within the Godhead, that He is holding the universe together; He is sustaining the universe. This was going on throughout the period of His incarnation in terms of His deity, not in terms of His humanity. The second person of the Trinity never relinquished or gave up His divine attributes. That is a false conception and erroneous teaching that comes out of a misunderstanding of Philippians 2:5-7.

Philippians 2:5-7 begins with a command. Whenever we think about the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of His humanity and deity a passage that ought to come to mind is this passage in Philippians. This shows us something that we often miss. That is, in terms of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ the details of the hypostatic union—a term to describe the unity of the two natures in Christ, His deity and His humanity—is a very abstract doctrine and difficult for us to grasp. Yet the apostle Paul in Philippians chapter two uses it to teach a principle of application for every one of us, which is the principle of humility.

So the opening is crucial. He begins with a command to have this attitude toward one another that Jesus had. So it is something that is expected, and it is expected because we can do it. That is the difficult part. We can't do it on our own; we can only do it by means of God the Holy Spirit. The command there to have this attitude is from the verb phroneo which means to think or to reason, to have a certain mental attitude or mindset. Paul is saying to have this mindset. This is to be a mental attitude that characterizes our whole life and it was demonstrated through Jesus Christ. It is demonstrated through the Kenosis, based upon the use of the verb here "to empty Himself." This is how it is usually translated. The strict literal meaning of the verb kenoo means to empty something. Also it is related to vanity, to not using something, to render something ineffective or inoperable, or to make something of no significance or relevance. And that is the idea.

The second person isn't dumping His deity, or minimizing or removing any aspect of it. Many times during the period of the incarnation the Lord accessed His deity for specific purposes. It was to demonstrate He was fully God. For example, when He changed the water into wine. He doesn't do that in His humanity; He does that because He was fully God. But He was not accessing His divine attributes in order to solve personal problems, in order to handle challenges in His humanity; He only accesses His deity in order to demonstrate and validate the claim that He is the Son of God. So emptying Himself should be understood in that sense. He willingly or voluntarily restricted or limited the use of His divine attributes for the purpose of the plan of God during the incarnation.

The phrase that helps us understand how He does that is "taking the form of a bond-servant." In one sense there is this limitation, but the limitation takes place by means of adding humanity to His deity. That is going to restrict the use of His divine attributes and so it is important to understand this distinction, especially when we are looking at this passage in Luke chapter two describing His growth, His development as a child and into His adolescent years.

" … {and} being made in the likeness of men." The word for likeness here describes His physical human body. He was born as a man.

Philippians 2:8 NASB "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The key phrase is "becoming obedient" because that is what we want to focus on in Luke chapter two. How did He humble Himself? By being obedient. That is what humility is. Humility is proper orientation to authority, submission to authority. Submission is not an attitude of letting somebody walk over you. Humility is not the idea of pseudo humility we often have where one denigrates one's self, acts like they have a low self-image, or something of that nature. It is the idea of recognizing authority. The book of Numbers tells us that the most humble man in the Bible is Moses (outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, of course). But Moses was an extremely strong leader, a very assertive individual; but he is submitted to the authority of God to a degree that no one else was. That is why the Scripture says that he was the most humble of men.

This passage is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ's authority orientation in the Godhead. That is something else we don't think about too much. There is an authority structure in the Godhead. Often we think of authority as something that is related to creatures or the relationship of creatures to the creator. But authority is something that is built into any society, and by society is meant any group of individuals who engage in activities together. And those three individuals in the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are engaged eternally in different activities, and in that Godhead is an authority structure. The Father is the prime leader, the Son functions in certain areas, and the Holy Spirit functions in other areas; but all under the authority of the Father. That tells us, too, that if Father, Son and Holy Spirit are completely equal to one another then authority has nothing to do with equality.

It is a major misconception today and the failure to understand this has given rise to the entire feminist movement, a complete breakdown within the home between the husbands and wives, and in other areas of society because it goes right to the heart of the issue of authority.

And yet, the Lord Jesus Christ the second person of the Trinity is equal to the Father but He is always obedient to the Father. He is submissive to the will of the Father.

Then we learn from our passage that we are studying that in His humanity He is also subject to the authorities that God placed over Him. The authorities that were placed over Him in His humanity are sinful authorities. That is something that bears a certain amount of thought as we contemplate and meditate on what it must have been like for the perfect, eternal second person of the Trinity to be placed in a position where He must submit to authorities over Him that are sinful, that are wrong, that are operating on their own self-absorbed agenda and not operating on God's plan. Too often we justify ourselves by being disobedient to parents or to husbands or to fathers or to employers because we don't think they are right. And yet, in many of these cases they are the authority. It is not an absolute wrong that is involved—in other words, they are not telling us to do something that violates the will of God—and we just want to follow our agenda rather than their agenda.

We have to learn what it means to submit to authority. This is at the core of all the issues, as we will see, in the angelic conflict. This is critical to our testimony as believers.

So the Lord Jesus Christ had to learn obedience to authority in His humanity. By learning obedience doesn't mean He was disobedient but He had to develop in that area as in every other area of life.

This reminds us of three key passages in Hebrews.

Hebrews 2:10 NASB "For it was fitting for Him [God the Father], for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation [The Lord Jesus Christ] through sufferings." The word perfect there means complete or mature. So the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity had to grow to spiritual maturity in the same way that you and I do. He did that by going through various challenges and adversities and prosperity situations in order have the opportunity to apply the Word of God—the promises and principles of God's Word—to those circumstances and situations, and to demonstrate in His life what Adam did not demonstrate—obedience to authority and to everything that God had commanded.

Hebrews 2:17 NASB "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

He had to be made like Hus brethren. He is just like us, with one exception: He was not born with a sin nature. He is perfect as Adam was perfect when Adam was first created. And like Adam He had volition and could choose to be disobedient. In His humanity He had to pass the test of obedience to authority to demonstrate that God's will is true and perfect and complete.

The idea that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest is expanded in Hebrews 4:15 NASB "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin." Because Jesus has gone through all the categories of testing that we go through He has through His humanity and understanding of what we go through, but even though He was tested in every area He was without sin whereas we failed.

So He grows up. This tells us that from His birth up until the time we really see Him exposed in the Scriptures at the beginning of His ministry at 30 years of age He is going through this entire growth process in His humanity. In terms of the hypostatic union—the joining of the humanity with deity of Christ—He has access in a limited way to His deity. He is not accessing His deity in order to solve the problems and challenges that He faces in His humanity. In other words, He has to learn to face life in a fallen world on the basis of God's Word and the Holy Spirit just as you and I do.

He has to learn how to walk, how to eat. He has to learn obedience; He has to learn the Scriptures; He has to learn a trade; all of these things are a part of His humanity. And in doing that He faces all the different kinds of tests, trials and challenges that we face. He is not reaching over from His humanity and accessing His deity to solve those problems. He only accesses His deity on limited occasions to demonstrate who he is as the God-Man. Otherwise He is facing and handling those circumstances from His humanity the same way that we do. He is doing that in order to a) fulfill the Law from the Old Testament, and b) in order to establish a new precedent for us for the spiritual life of the church age. That dispensation of the King (Messianic dispensation, because it focuses on the offer of the kingdom and the offer of the Messiah) is a sort of a hinge and it is fulfilling Old Testament types and prophecies, but it also sets a new pattern for us in the future church age.

Summary statement: Luke 2:40 NASB "The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."

The word for child here is the Greek word paidion which can refer to a child from infancy all the way up to the age of thirteen or fourteen when they became an adult, depending on the culture. In Jewish culture you became an adult at your Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen.

Wisdom here refers to His acquisition of the Word of God and learning to apply it; "became strong"—the word there for growth is auxano, which indicates a continued growth. It is an imperfect tense, which is continuous action in the past. It describes physical growth; it also describes spiritual growth in as few places. He it is talking about both. 

The NKJV has "and became strong in spirit". The original doesn't tell us specifically whether this is going to be the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. I believe this is the Holy Spirit, and it is a dative case and should be translated with an upper case S. He grows and becomes strong by means of the Spirit. The word there for growing strong is krataioo, which has the idea of strength physically as well as spiritually. He is filled with wisdom.

Wisdom is the end process of our spiritual growth. We study the Word, the Holy Spirit fills us with the Word, and as we learn to apply it we develop that skill of wisdom—skillful application, which is the end result. When we began to apply the Word of God it was not always skillful, it comes as a result of continued application. 

" … and the grace of God was upon Him." So He is the recipient of God's grace in all of the process of His spiritual life, just as we are.

Then we see the conclusion of this episode in Luke 2:52 NASB "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Two things are emphasized. Wisdom refers to His spiritual growth; stature refers to His physical growth. Favor with God and men refers to His relationship to God and to His relationship to human beings.

As we look at Jesus' life and the fact that He was born as a unique child without a sin nature He still has to grow within a human environment. There are a few things that we can know or can extrapolate from the fact that we know He grows up in a Jewish home that is observant of the Law. We know that Mary and Joseph are both believers, both regenerate, are both devout, righteous; they are walking with the Lord, and so they are going to raise Him according to the Law where He is going to be given instruction on the Torah, the Word of God, as he grew up.

At that time we know ways in which young Jewish boys were reared and trained. When they were five years of age they would begin the study of the Scriptures in the Jewish schools. By the age of ten they would begin studying the rabbinical teachings. Then at the age of twelve they would become apprenticed to whatever their vocation would be during their life. If they were going to follow their father's profession then they would stay at home. If they were going to going in a different direction and learning a new profession then frequently they would be sent away to live with someone else to train them for that profession. 

When Jesus reached the age of twelve, as the oldest child He would have followed in the steps of His father and would have apprenticed to His human adopted father, Joseph, as a carpenter. Remember that Jesus is in a distinct situation in that He has a divine Father, and so that comes to play in this episode that is described in Luke 2:40 & 52. This is the episode where Jesus goes with His family down to observe Passover in Jerusalem.

They don't notice that Jesus is not with them right away. He is back at the temple and in discussion with the rabbis there. They are asking Him various questions and He is engaged in quite a detailed, intricate conversation with them. His knowledge of Scripture would probably have been much greater than that which a human teacher would have communicated to Him. Because of His unique knowledge of Scripture He is amazing the rabbis there with all of His knowledge. How did He get that?

Well He is not accessing His deity to get that knowledge. We have a clue as to how this took place in a prophecy in Isaiah chapter fifty. In vv. 4-7 we have some insight on the training of the Servant. The Servant in Isaiah is the Messiah. In verse 4 there is a specific statement by the Servant.

Isaiah 50:4 NASB "The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He [GOD] awakens {Me} morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple." This isn't the Lord Jesus talking in His deity because in His deity He is omniscient. He knows everything simultaneously and always has. So this gives us an insight in that there was a special tutor for the Lord Jesus Christ—that He was taught and trained by His heavenly Father as He is growing up in His humanity. He has to learn and acquire knowledge in the same way as other children but He has a special tutor along the way. 

Luke 2:41 NASB " Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover." This indicates that they were an observant family. They observed all the laws. Three times each year Jewish males were required to go to the temple. It doesn't say specifically that they took Him each year but we can infer that they did. 

Luke 2:42 NASB "And when He became twelve, they went up {there} according to the custom of the Feast…" It is important for Luke to inform us that He was twelve years old because this is when a young Jewish boy would make a decision in terms of whether or not he was going to follow in his father's profession. Jesus would have chosen Joseph's profession as a carpenter—Joseph as His adopted father. But as the Son of God it was now time for Him to be about His heavenly Father's business. That is the background here. 

Luke 2:43 NASB "and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it." This doesn't mean that Joseph and Mary were negligent; they just assumed that He was there and had remained with the rest of the family. [44] "but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day's journey; and they {began} looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances."

Luke 2:45 NASB "When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him." That is one travel day, so it is going to take another day to get back. The third day would have been during the first day back. You could read verse 46 and think that they had looked for Him for three days, but it is a day of travel one way, a day of travel back, and then on the third day they would have found Him in the temple. 

Luke 2:46 NASB "Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions." There is a dialogue and He is probing them and asking questions. [47] "And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers." We might imagine that even a crowd may have gathered around them in order to listen to the exchange between this twelve-year-old and the learned rabbis that were engaged in this discussion. 

Luke 2:48 NASB "When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.'"

His answer is illuminative.

Luke 2:49 NASB "And He said to them, 'Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's {house?}'" He is twelve years old. It is time to get involved in the profession of His heavenly Father, and so He is being engaged in that. That would be the Jewish background to understand that verse.

Luke 2:50 NASB "But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them." I imagine that there was a lot that went on in that home that the parents didn't understand. Even with all of the revelation that God had given them at the birth, they are having to process this with this unique child of the universe. There is no frame of reference for raising a perfect child who is the So of God who is going to give His life for the sins of the world.

But what we want to home in on here is Jesus' response after this.

Luke 2:51 NASB "And He went down with them …" That means they were going home. Up and down in terms of direction always has to do with elevation. Nazareth is lower than Jerusalem, so they go down from Jerusalem. "… and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all {these} things in her heart."

It is that word "subject" that is important. This is the Greek word hupotasso which is in numerous passages in Scripture. It is usually translated "submit." When we are to submit to an authority this is the word that is usually used. This introduces the whole concept of authority to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all we need to understand that the original sin of the universe was a violation of authority. Isaiah 14:12-14 is a description of Satan's original sin. He is disobedient to the authority of God. The core sin of the universe is a rejection of God's authority. That sin is then reflected in the sin of Eve and then Adam in the garden. They disobeyed God's authority. So the original sin in the universe is disobedience to authority and everything else flows out from that. So in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the second Adam, as Paul describes Him in Romans 5:12ff, part of His role is to demonstrate that the creature can be obedient to God from his volition. As the second Adam Jesus is going to fulfill what Adam failed to do. He is going to demonstrate His complete submission to the Father in His humanity. He is going to be submissive to all of the authorities that God set over Him, even though those authorities are sinful.

That has great application for us because so often we want to use some misbehavior of someone over us as an occasion for disobedience. But two wrongs don't make a right and we are to be obedient to the authority God set over us. There is only one exception, and that is when that authority is directly telling us to do something that violates God's revealed will—not what we think God wants us to do but what God has specifically revealed in His Scripture. 

Just to remind us of how this word is used in other passages:

1 Peter 5:5 NASB "You younger men, likewise, be subject to {your} elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." We are to be in submission to those who are in authority over us in various structures. Humility is submission to proper authorities. God is hostile to those who are arrogant. You may be in a difficult authority relationship but God is going to give you the grace to handle that, if you are submissive to the proper authorities with you.

James 4:6 NASB "But He gives a greater grace. Therefore {it} says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." 

Titus 3:1 NASB "Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities [government officials] …" 

Titus 2:5 NASB "{to be} sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

Titus 2:9 NASB "{Urge} bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative.."

This is a principle demonstrated in the life of Christ. He is subject to His parents. As a perfect human being He has to learn authority orientation and He does that perfectly as an example to us. If it was true of Jesus, how much more true is it of us?