We do not have much information on the early years of Jesus’ life, but the Bible does give us bits and pieces of what happened during the first few years. It tells us what a fabulous job Joseph and Mary did in raising the child to manhood. As we study the life of Jesus as a human, we are also aware that He is divine. He is no ordinary child.
My sermon is divided into two parts. The first is a historical view of Jesus’ early childhood and God’s protecting hand on Him. The second part confronts us with the question, what does this say to us?
We know that He was born in Bethlehem, a small town down the road from Jerusalem. On the eighth day, according to the law, Jesus was circumcised. He was called Jesus, a name given to Him by the angel. Forty days after the birth of her son, Mary went to the temple to observe the right of purification and to present her child at the temple. It was there she met Simeon. This righteous and devout man took Jesus in his arms and uttered this hymn of praise:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
You now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel” Luke 2:29-32.
What must Mary and Joseph have thought? Again they heard their Son was the fulfillment of prophecy. Having received this affirmation of their son’s mission, they were met by Anna, an 84-year-old lady who never left the temple. “Coming up to them, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” Luke 2:36-38. It was an overwhelming experience, and Luke summarizes it well when he writes, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” Luke 2:51-52.
Some time within the next two years, Magi made their visit to the Christ Child. These men were astrologers from Persia. They came asking, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” When Herod heard about this King who had been born, he was furious and was determined to kill Him. He sent the Magi off to find the child, and after they had worshiped Him, they were to return and tell Herod where Jesus was. However, the Magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, for he would kill the child. When Herod discovered that the Magi had tricked him, he issued an edict that all the boys, two years and younger living in the Bethlehem vicinity, were to be killed.
In the meantime, Joseph received a word from an angel in a dream telling him to take the child and his mother to Egypt for their safety. They remained there until Herod died. Then, Matthew’s Gospel tells us, word came from the Lord saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (19-20). Traveling back to Israel, Joseph learned that Archelaus was the new king, and he was even more vicious than his father, Herod. So Joseph went to live in Nazareth. This was Jesus’ home until his ministry began at the age of 30.
Nazareth was on the trade route. People from all parts of the world passed through Nazareth, which gave Jesus exposure to the cultures and philosophies from many lands. This had to have a broadening effect on Jesus. God loved all people, and the Kingdom of God was for all people. Myron Augsburger writes, “Jesus was not focused on a revival of Judaistic religion, as was known in Jerusalem, but on God’s grace for all people.” Our Lord lived there in Nazareth, working in His adopted father’s carpenter shop and chatting with the townspeople as they passed by until the appointed hour when His mission began, which ended on a cross and an empty tomb not many miles away.
And now the second part of the question: what does this story say to us? The answer is clear, “Our Heavenly Father watches over us!”
You could ask, is this protecting hand only for Jesus? Granted, Jesus was on His own special mission to redeem the world. But we also can conclude from His three-year ministry that all people are precious and important to God. He warns, guards, and protects us so that we might escape harm. He speaks to us, not through angels or dreams, but through His Word. Follow what He tells us in that word and see how we are delivered from many of life’s difficult hours. Let’s take one simple warning from God’s Word Ð namely, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). It is quite simple for many of us to overlook this message. Notice it does not say that money, but the love of money, is the root of all evil. Has this proven to be true?
How many marriages could have been saved if that advice had been heeded? How many children would have had both parents in their homes during their formative years? Think of the friendships that could have been enjoyed, but were ruined because of fights over money. Consider the heart attacks that could have been avoided if the tensions caused by money had not been experienced by the patient. Think of the wars that would never have been fought if there had not been a desire to be the wealthiest, the strongest, the most influential nation on the face of the earth.
Our Heavenly Father watches over us and has given us great counsel on a very practical subject Ð how to have an abundant life.
Does protection mean that our lives will be free of trouble? Did it mean that for Jesus?
No, His Father was with Him, but He did not spare Jesus from dying on the cross. Jesus promised the apostles He would be with them, but many of them died as martyrs of the faith. Recently I visited with two brother pastors who have had tragic deaths in their family. One pastor lost a 38-year-old son, and another lost a daughter-in-law who left behind a 2-year-old son. Some would say, It doesn’t look like He is watching over them. But talk to these men of faith and they will tell you how God has walked with them in their perilous times, and how He has provided for them.
What if Joseph had not followed the instructions God gave to Him concerning the protection of Jesus? From a human point of view, Herod would have killed Jesus. You might argue, “No, God would have protected Jesus in some other way.” Perhaps you are right, but it is important that we follow God’s Word, and many of our unpleasant experiences in life would be avoided.
Another year has passed. It might have been a difficult year for some of you, but hasn’t He watched over you? He will do the same in 2002, and with this confidence we move into another year of grace under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.