I’ve spent a great deal of time this week working through and praying over this often neglected event in the life of Jesus. It is the only snapshot that we have of His life between Bethlehem and Galilee. It’s an amazing account that teaches us a great deal about the fact that is it possible for us to have a relationship with Christ, and yet miss out on the intimate fellowship that He so desires.
That is not the purpose of this post. In my reading I came across this 46th verse and a phrase stood off the page that I have been pondering all week. The good doctor Luke tells us that Jesus was sitting in the middle of the teachers in the temple listening to them. So, the question is: Was there something that Jesus needed to learn about God? At first my spirit cried, “No, He is God. What would He ever need to learn about Himself?” But then, just as quickly, the word came that in His humble, human state, there was something for Jesus to learn. You see, in just a few verses Luke will tell us that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. There were things that He had to learn, and one of them was the imperfect way of reaching God.
For example, a bird can easily and naturally reach the top of a mountain. He doesn’t even have to think about it. He simply has to flap his wings and fly to the top. But if that same bird were to have to reach the top of that same mountain in our imperfect, human way – by walking and climbing – that would be something that he would have to learn.
In the same sort of way, Jesus could instantly reach the Father in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Just like that, without any effort, He could be in the house not made by hands that is eternal in the heavens. He could immediately be in the secret place of the Most High. But to climb into that Holy place the way that we have to, to go at our pace, to walk when it would have been so natural and normal for Him to fly – this was something that had to be learned.
Jesus and those teachers in the temple had both approached the Father, but they had traveled in different vehicles. Jesus had soared into His presence on the wings of an eagle, while they’d had to climb with many rests on the way. So, as Jesus sat in their midst listening to them, He wished to learn the slow manner of entering into the presence of the Father of those in our lowly estate. And the only way for Him to learn it was by walking with them for a while. He came into their temple to learn their method.
Now, no doubt, this was a lesson that took some learning on the part of Jesus because for One so accustomed to traveling by wing, the slow, imperfect method of man was surely somewhat frustrating. But, the teachers traveled by foot, and so Jesus said, “I will too.”
It’s amazing. To think that Jesus was there to learn from them, but no doubt those teachers in the temple surely learned more from Him. I know that I would. When I study in the temple here on earth, even in the midst of the learned and the educated men of scripture, what I need to see most is Him. You see, I’m often in danger of forgetting what it means to have a child-like faith. Many times I become so proud of my intellect and abilities – as limited and feeble as they may be. I find personal satisfaction in the wear and tear of the journey to Jesus. I emphasize the toil and trod of my mind, while at the same time marveling in a child’s ability to soar to Him in simple faith. I know that if I could but get the child into my temple, I should be able to travel better – and more easily. You see, if I simply had more faith then there might be less labor in my reason.
So, is the answer to bring the child back into the temple courts? No, but for me to enter the courts again with the Child-Jesus in me. To stand among the educated and elevated of our day and ask the questions that One early in life would ask. To stand amid the teachers and ask the questions fresh with the dew of the morning on them. To show them the detail of the dawn. To remind them of their faith that they once had on their mother’s knee. To recall the memories of home. Remind them of the energy and enthusiasm of youth. To revive in their hearts the pictures of things once sacred in their heart. Of the old church, the old Sunday School class, the time spent with the family in prayer and study of the Bible. To plant afresh and anew the seeds that were sown in Bethlehem – or even better to scrape away the accumulation of the years and find that those simple seeds of faith have never ceased to grow. The temple of our heart will be beautiful when it has amongst its teachers, and those led by, the Child-Jesus.