He is now retired and I have finished his back catalogue on YouTube, but I found that his church, First Baptist in Vancouver, Canada, publishes all their sermons online. Last year I appreciated their series on Colossians. Today I had intended to go to my own church, but was too tired and ended up staying home. I've listened to all the recent sermons on my own church's website so I turned back to First Baptist and listened to the first sermon in their series Why Jesus says He came. It was called The Preteen Jesus.
I found it really helpful. The text was Luke 2:41-52 - the story of Jesus' parents losing him as they traveled home from their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. It tells how they looked everywhere for him, eventually finding him at the temple, where he was listening to and asking questions of the men who were discussing the Bible there.
Here it is in full:
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search 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. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
One of the main things the speaker, Andrea Tisher, drew from it was that Jesus had to grow up. We glimpse him here half-man and half-boy; we've previously seem him as a newborn and young child and we later see him as an adult. But here he's 12: not quite grown up but not really a child any more, either.
If Jesus' purpose on Earth had simply been to die, he could perhaps have arrived fully-formed as an adult, ready to do just that. But that's not what happened. He arrived as a baby and had to grow and develop before getting to the bits we see as significant: his teaching and healing, his death and resurrection.
We often act like we should be fully-formed, already-complete Christians. This story reminds us that that's not how God acts: we grow and develop, rather than simply arriving.
In this space I'm in now, I found that hugely encouraging. I've experienced this dramatic healing, and it seems like God has done this as He needs me for something (perhaps something to do with the Just Kai work). And yet, I'm not there yet. I'm still resting heaps, I often get overwhelmed and there is so much I need to learn how to do. Yes, I can do things I never could before - like walking more than 1.5km home from the doctors on Thursday - but I also have days like today, when I'm too tired to leave the house.
This story of the 12-year-old Jesus affirms times like now: times when we're not there yet.
And what did Jesus do in that space? Andrea Tisher noted three things:
- He showed up (in the temple) and sat down;
- He actively listened;
- He asked questions.
And I realised that, yesterday evening, I'd done some of that. In the twilight I sat on the back steps praying. I was trying to ask God for what I needed in order to do a whole bunch of things. God literally interrupted me and just said "My Child". As I sat before God, trying to listen as I spoke, he spoke to me and simply affirmed who I was when I was all busy focusing on what I needed to do. And I went inside, got into bed and slept well :-)