Every year at the beginning of the Christmas season I’m singing “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas; it’s the best time of the year.” Everything is so festive and exciting! But usually by the end of December my song changes to “So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over; a new one just begun.” I begin to reflect on my life and ask the questions of achievement: Is this where I thought I’d be at this point in my life? What do I have to show for this last year of love and labor? Is my life making a difference for Christ? The ministry, death, and resurrection have a lot to say to these questions but the reason they have anything to say, is because of the life of Christ. Because he lived a perfect life as the Super-Man, the Son of God – I don’t have to. I am free to pursue becoming more and more a “Normal” Man… the Son of the 2nd Adam.
Luke 2:40-52 speaks to this in a unique way. It is the only record we have of anything from Jesus’ childhood. In it, we see a couple of life-giving tidbits.
First, we see the Mind of Christ. In this passage we see Jesus as a 12-year old boy in the temple with the “doctors” of his day learning – asking and answering questions. They are amazed at his understanding and clarity. His answers are consistent and acute and show deep insight, yet he displays the kind of humility that Paul elaborates on in Philippians 2. His is the only mind that has ever lived that was free from the stain of sin. This is Jesus not with divine knowledge breaking in, but Jesus as a true human. We need that kind of mind. Our minds, like the rest of us, have been corrupted by sin. We lack clarity, make mistakes of logic, harbor deep bias, lack humility and fight laziness; even the best minds can look at the same information and come to different conclusions. This is important because our mind is where we take in information and make conclusions about life. It is where our worldview dwells – that grid of thought that helps us make decisions on what is possible and to what we are obligated. If we want 2013 to be different from other years, we need to be more truly human in our minds. We need the mind of Christ.
Secondly, we see the Mission of Christ. We have a thousand things daily clamoring for our attention. What governs how we spend our days? What is our mission? In this passage we see clearly the mission of Christ. The parents of Jesus left the city, both figuring that the boy was where he ought to be (Mary thought he was with Joseph where he ought to be; Joseph thought he was with Mary where he ought to be). When they met up for camp that first night, I imagine there were some fireworks. But before moving on, think of the obedience that Jesus must have displayed within daily life for both parents to be sure that Jesus was where he ought to be. That is part of the mission of Christ as the true human – obedience in the small daily things. When they find him in the temple is when his over-arching larger mission comes out. Mary, as any emotional mother would, exclaims, “Why would you do this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you in distress!” Jesus, in as much astonishment as his mother, replies, “But you knew I’d be where I ought to be…about my Father’s business.” That subtle play on words made clear how single-minded he was becoming. He was Holy and wholly belonging to his Father in Heaven. This is important because we have the same mission. If we want our lives to matter in 2013, we need to be governed by our mission as humans – to be about our Father’s business.
If you put those two things together, you have a powerful combination: a clear, acute, perceptive mind informed by God’s word and a single-minded purpose to be about the work of the Father. How do we get this?
In order to think and live this way, we need the accomplished work of Christ specifically we need the life of Christ. This is the only record we have in the Gospels of the childhood of Jesus. So we have to ask, “Luke, why is this here?” Here’s how I think he’d respond, “O Theophilus, I have made clear in my telling of Jesus’ birth that he was the divine son of God and I will show you that in his ministry, death, and resurrection he was the divine Son of God. But before we jump from his birth to his ministry, death and resurrection, let’s linger here for just a moment on his life – that, though fully divine, he was fully human and as the only perfect human, he fulfilled all that was needed to restore us to the image from which we have fallen!” I think that’s why he puts his genealogy here. Notice the last 2 refrains of his genealogy in the next chapter: Son of Adam, Son of God. He’s saying, “Look at him – even in his childhood he is the perfect human, the true Son of God, the 2nd Adam!”
Genesis 1-2 tells us that to be fully human means to be made in God’s image (personal, creative, loving, rational, truth-telling, and willing) for these purposes:
- God has given you himself to surrender to and to love; to daily orient your life toward him.
- God has given you a handful of persons that you are meant to love.
- God has given you a place to inhabit with a few things that he intends for you to do in that place and with those people to strengthen the common good and to glorify him.
Genesis 3 tells us that the First Adam sought to be God rather than fulfilling his human role:
- He sought to be Ever-present: Satan said, “you shall not die.” So we act as if we have no limits, can be everywhere for everyone
- He sought to be Ever-powerful: They “saw the tree was good for fruit…took and ate.” So we act as if we have the power, the personal resources to fix, control, and overcome whatever faces us to make people and life circumstances work the way we want them to and to do it NOW.
- He sought to be All-knowing: Satan said, “you will be like God knowing good and evil.” So we think we deserve celebrity; that we are the exception and everyone else should pale in comparison.
Then, many years later came the Second Adam who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” …so that he could accomplish what Adam and Israel and we did not and cannot. Jesus is the Pioneer of Our Salvation. He says, “let me show the way…and as you entrust yourself to me, I’ll give you my Holy Spirit to apply all that I have accomplished to you personally”. This has past, present, and future implications:
– Past: you look to and trust what he has accomplished in the past
– Future: you look forward to when it will be fully completed in the future
– Present: you experience first fruits and foretastes in the present
“So this is Christmas, and what have you done; another year over, a new one just begun.” This year as you contemplate your resolutions, resolve first to echo the cry of John the Baptist “I am not the Christ”; realize that you are not super-human, there is only one God-Man and his name is Jesus. Instead resolve this year to be more human; to have the mind of Christ and the mission of Christ as you trust and rest in the accomplished work of Christ on your behalf.
Some helpful resources here:
- For Personal Worship: The Bible Eater Bible reading plan
- For families: Sally Lloyd Jones –Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
- R.C. Sproul The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus’ Life Mean for You
- Robert Peterson Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ
- Zack Eswine Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being