Faithfulness to God in Different Stages of Life(Luke 2:21-52)

This morning, as we find ourselves just a day removed from Christmas, a day beyond the hustle and bustle of the season, we find that we must get on with things.  Some of you may have enjoyed some time off work or some special time with family, but for most of you tomorrow it’s “back to work.”  Interestingly, in today’s Scripture passage we find Mary and Joseph in a similar situation.  They have made their trek to Bethlehem, Mary delivered baby Jesus, they were visited by the nearby shepherds that were told about Jesus’ birth by angels, and now it is time to move on.  After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to take have Jesus circumcised and then three weeks later go to the temple to take part in three different Jewish ceremonies.

You might wonder why the Bible mentions these.  If you’re like me you would rather get on with the story.  Ok, Jesus is born, now let’s move on to where he starts doing miracles and walking on water!  But these details are very important because they teach us not only about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ life as a child, but about how each of us, no matter what stage of life we’re in, can be faithful to God, and that’s going to be our topic this morning.

For those of us who are young adults and perhaps have young children, the first lesson is for us.

  • It’s daunting to be entrusted with the life of another human being isn’t it?
  • Do you ever wonder why God thought you were responsible enough to take care of somebody else?
  • Sometimes we have trouble just taking care of ourselves don’t we? But to take this further,
    can you imagine being entrusted with God’s child?!
  • How scary would that be?

In today’s lesson we get a small glimpse into how Mary and Joseph did it.

As we look in chapter 2 of Luke starting in verse 21 we see that a week has passed since Jesus’ birth and now there is some business that Mary and Joseph have to take care of.  You see, Mary and Joseph were a devout Jewish couple and they were faithful to obey the commandments God had given the Jewish people through Moses.  In the event of the birth of a child, and at that a firstborn son, there were four separate ceremonies given through the law that Mary and Joseph needed to take part in, so we read, starting in chapter 2, verse 21 of Luke that,

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

As a faithful Jewish couple, Mary and Joseph:

  • Had to have Jesus circumcised (v. 21) (see Gen. 17:10)
  • 40 days after the birth, Mary had to be purified (v. 22) (see Lev. 12:2-4,6)
  • They had to present Jesus as their firstborn to God (v.22) (see Ex. 13:2,12,16; 34:19)
  • They had to dedicate Jesus (as the firstborn) for the Lord’s service (see 1 Sam. 1-2)

 

In the midst of having their first child, Mary and Joseph didn’t focus on baby showers or fixing up the baby room, they focused on starting things off right by obeying the Lord.  Like Mary and Joseph, the first lesson that we, as young adults or young parents need to learn is that we need to be obedient to God’s Word.  Each step of the way, Mary and Joseph were obedient.  They obeyed the angels that told them what would be happening and they obeyed the Jewish law that was given to their people by God.  It’s important to note that they didn’t just start this once they had kids, they were already faithful, this is part of why God chose them.  There may be things in your life that don’t make sense or that you’re scared of, but you know that in order to be obedient to God you need to do them.  I guarantee your circumstances aren’t any more confusing or scary that Joseph or Mary’s.  Step out in faith, trust God, and obey Him.  Not only will this draw you closer to God, but your example, through actions, not just words, will be life-changing for those around you, especially your children.

In addition to the passage we just read about Mary and Joseph’s faithfulness to obey God’s commandments, we see an additional passage in chapter 2 that gives us another glimpse of Mary and Joseph in action, starting in 2:41 we read,

41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43 After the Feast 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.

Wow!  Can you imagine?!  They lost Jesus!!!  They lost God’s child!  Not even Jesus’ parents were perfect.  Typically the focus here is on Jesus and we’ll touch on that, but I want to point out something different this morning.

We find in verse 41 that Mary and Joseph were taking the now 12 year-old Jesus, to celebrate the Passover.  This was an act of worship and respect to God.  As we read this section of the story we can be reminded that we need to worship God.  We need to recognize our place with regard to Him and we need to submit to Him and praise Him.  This changes the attitude of our heart and mind as well as our outlook on life.  We need to worship with other believers and involve our family in a community of believers, but we also need to live lives of worship, that is we need to live lives that show respect, thankfulness, and submission to God.  Being obedient to the Lord and worshipping Him changes our lives, but it also provides fertile soil for raising Godly children.

As we move on in the story, we meet a couple of older folks, Simeon and Anna.  For those of you here this morning who are no longer spring chickens, this section is for you.  After Mary and Joseph took part in each of the Jewish ceremonies at the Temple we read, starting in verse 25,

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

In this section, we meet Simeon who the Scripture describes as righteous, devout, waiting on the consolation of Israel, and a man upon whom was the Holy Spirit.  We watch in wonder, as do Mary and Joseph, as he takes the 6 week old baby Jesus in his arms and praises God and reveals to anyone standing around that this was the Messiah that they had been waiting on.  It must have been incredible for Mary and Joseph, although they had already had the angels explain the situation to them, to have this stranger see this young baby and bless and honor Him as the long-awaited King of Kings.

Next we meet Anna, who we are told has been a widow most of her life and is very old.  Scripture tells us that she never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.  Like Simeon, she praises God and tells those around who exactly this child was.

What can we learn from Simeon and Anna?  We learn that

1) sometimes our most productive years in spiritual service for God come after our most productive years of earthly toil.  Simeon exemplifies how one can define life in terms of faithfully following God and serving Him with joy and surrender.  Anna pictures consistency of faith, revealing that even late in life God can use one in ministry.

2) It is NEVER too late to be ministered to by God, nor is it too late to minister for Him.

3) Contentment is not a matter of age or energy level, neither is it a function of accumulation.  Contentment is defined by an openness to serve God and to share Him with others.  Often in our later years in life, we are freed up by retirement to pursue ministry in a way we couldn’t give full energy to when we were employed.  There is never a time that we should stop seeking and serving our Lord.

What about you younger folks?  What about the children and teenagers?  What can we learn from this chapter about our early years of life and faithfulness to God?  Well, there is not an abundance of information here, but what we do see is important.  Look with me at verse 40 and verses 51-52.  In these verses we read that,

“Jesus grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

And after His parents found Him in the temple, Jesus “…went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them… 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Jesus was a very ordinary boy.  He didn’t perform any miracles until He was about 30 years old and although He was fully God and fully human, He did not know everything as a child or teenager, he had to learn just like the rest of us.  We’re told that Jesus grew, He became strong, He was filled with wisdom, He was obedient to His parents, and He was well-like by other people and God.  In the midst of this one chapter, there are several things we can learn about Jesus’ life as a young man.

The first is that Jesus was filled with wisdom.  Now, I believe Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived, but saying he had wisdom was not just saying He was smart.  Wisdom is the ability to judge what is true or right.  It’s important for you as you grow in knowledge, to also grow in your ability to figure out what’s true and right.  You’re probably aware of this, but advertising companies spend the majority of their money on commercials and advertisements on targeting you (those under 21).  These companies spend billions of dollars every year and most of what they’re selling you are lies, but many of your friends believe these lies and buy whatever they think will make them feel better about themselves or become more popular.  During your youth, it will serve you well to begin questioning things and figure out what is true and God-honoring and seek after those things so you don’t waste your life.

Next we learn that in addition to being filled with wisdom, Jesus was obedient to His parents.  Now I know this is where you’ll want to ask me a bunch of “What if” questions like,

  • “What if my parents just give me rules because they hate me?” or
  • “What if my parents tell me to do stuff that doesn’t make sense?” or more importantly
  • “What if my parents aren’t Christians and they give me bad advice?”

First let me tell you that Jesus (aka God) obeyed His earthly parents (who definitely weren’t perfect).  But although they may not have always right, but through obeying His parents, Jesus learned respect and humility.  He learned that God had placed His parents in a position of authority over Him and because of this He was supposed to obey them.  God tells us in the Ten Commandments that we are supposed to honor our parents, so 99% of the time, just trust me…better yet, trust God and obey your parents, even if they don’t love the Lord.  However, as you get older and grow in your faith and are able to humbly and respectfully talk about issues of faith with your parents you will grow in wisdom and may at some point realize that you need to follow God rather than your parents’ advice.  In this rare occasion, remain respectful and humble to them, continuing to honor God in that relationship.

Lastly we see that Jesus grew in favor with God and men.  Please don’t misunderstand this one.  This is not saying he was popular, it is saying He was well-liked.

What’s the difference?

Seeking popularity means other people are your focus.  On the other hand, being well-liked often results from being a kind person, which hopefully means that you are bearing the fruit of the Spirit of God (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control) .

So while with seeking popularity, other people are your focus,

with seeking to grow in the fruit of God’s Spirit, God is your focus.  When you live a life that pleases God, often you will often be well-liked because you are taking on God’s kind and loving and honest qualities and people like that.

The last thing we can learn about how Jesus grew to be faithful to God is that He sought to know God better.  Remember when Jesus’ parents couldn’t find Him?  Where was He?  He was still at the temple.  He was talking with the teachers, asking them questions and thinking through what the Scriptures had to say.  Early on Jesus recognized the importance of God’s Word and it became the foundation for His life.  As you grow and study all kinds of different things and try to figure out what this world is about and how you fit into it.  Go straight to the source – study God’s Word and seek to know God better.  This will lead you down the path of true and abundant life.

In each stage of our lives, we are called to follow Jesus and be faithful and obedient to His will for our lives.  As we begin a new year, no matter what stage of life you’re in, I want to challenge you to allow your faithfulness to God to define everything else about your life.

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