Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Youth of Christ

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In recent years we’ve seen a cultural phenomenon that has been called different things, but the one term that sticks in my mind is extended adolescence.

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Do you know what I mean by that? Have you heard that term perhaps? It’s people just not growing up. There are a number of people that have been talking about this. It has been in secular and Christian thinking as well. Al Mohler, for example, who’s the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has a blog. He has talked about this a number of times. He says, for example,

The transition to adulthood used to be one of the main goals of the young. Adulthood was seen to be a status worth achieving and was understood to be a set of responsibilities worth fulfilling. At least, that's the way it used to be. Now, an entire generation seems to be finding itself locked in the grip of eternal youth, unwilling or unable to grow up.

Concern about this phenomenon has been building for some time. Baby-boomer parents are perplexed when their adult-age children move back home, fail to find a job, and appear to be in no hurry to marry. Though the current generation of young adults includes some spectacular exceptions who have quickly moved into the fullness of adult responsibility, the generation as a whole seems to be waiting for something—but who knows what?—to happen.1

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

Nancy’s in a series called "The Incomparable Christ,"  following an outline from a book by Oswald Sanders. To get a copy and follow along, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Today we’ll look at the life of Jesus. He provides a good example to counter the trend toward prolonged adolescence.

Nancy: The New York Times Magazine had a cover story entitled, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” Let me read to you just a paragraph out of that article.

It’s happening all over, in all sorts of families, not just young people moving back home but also young people taking longer to reach adulthood overall. It’s a development that predates the current economic doldrums, and no one knows yet what the impact will be—on the prospects of the young men and women; on the parents on whom so many of them depend; on society, built on the expectation of an orderly progression in which kids finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and eventually retire to live on pensions supported by the next crop of kids who finish school, grow up, start careers, make a family and on and on. The traditional cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain un­tethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments . . . forestalling the beginning of adult life.2

You'll read about this in lots of different places today. People's kids not growing up. In fact, we have a lot of adults today who just have not grown up.

As we think about this thing of extended adolescence, people not growing up, I think what a contrast we have in Christ—the incomparable Christ who we’re considering during this whole season of Lent, the weeks leading up to the Passion Week of Christ, Good Friday, and Easter.

We’re following along on a track with a book that many of you are reading with us called The Incomparable Christ by Oswald Sanders. We’re looking today at the theme he addresses in chapter 5 on “The Youth of Christ.”

We see that in this way, as in every other, Christ is unique. He is incomparable. There’s no one else like Him. For all the issues we have in our lives and that our culture has, Christ stands out. He is perfection. He does not have the problems and failures that we do as human beings.

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. We want to see an incident in the youth of Christ, in what we would call today, His adolescence or teenage years. This is Jesus at the age of twelve. Now many of you are familiar with this story, but I hope we’ll get some fresh insights out of it today that will remind us how truly unique Jesus is.

Jesus is at the age of twelve. He’s at the end of His childhood, and He’s transitioning to manhood. Now this whole concept of teenage, adolescent years, is something that most cultures in most eras of the world have not experienced. It’s relatively new in our culture and in our era.

In Jesus’ era, when a young man reached twelve or thirteen, thereabouts, they would transition from childhood to adulthood. There wasn’t this limbo land in-between where they were deciding whether they were children or grownups.

So as Jesus was transitioning into manhood, we find Him visiting the Temple in Jerusalem with His parents for the Passover celebration. We’re picking up at verse 41 in Luke chapter 2: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.”

Now, we don’t know that this is the first time Jesus had gone to Jerusalem with His parents. It’s very possible He’d gone previous years, but this was a significant season because Jesus was now approaching the age at which Jewish boys would become full members of the religious community of Judaism. During this season, twelve into thirteen years of age, the boys would be instructed in the ways of God and the Word of God, and they would be received into Judaism as what was called a “son of the Law.”

When they became a “son of the Law,” which now is celebrated as a Bar Mitzvah, that meant they were a young Jewish male, now an adult male, responsible to God for their own spiritual growth and development. They were no longer a child under the leadership and protection of their parents. Now they were moving into adulthood and responsible themselves to obey God.

So Jesus at this age, as He’s becoming a full member of the religious community of Judaism, goes with His parents to the Passover to worship at the temple. Verse 43:

And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

You see this transition here from boyhood to manhood. He’s right in that season. He stayed behind in Jerusalem, but,

His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (vv. 43–46). 

So we have here an insight into Jesus in this, what we would call adolescent stage of life, this transition period between boyhood and manhood. We see it in His heart for truth, this hunger for truth, this desire to know. It’s an inclination of His heart to grow spiritually, to grow in wisdom, to get to know God. This is what He was interested in.

He stayed behind at the temple talking to these elders, talking to these leaders because that’s where His heart was, that’s what His bent was. That’s what He was interested in. Nobody said to Him, “Okay, it’s time to get interested in spiritual things.” That’s where His heart was. That’s the kind of heart, by the way, you want your children to have, isn’t it, as they go from childhood into adulthood. You see Jesus having a humble spirit, a teachable spirit. Think about it: He was the One whose Word it was they were studying. He was the One who had created these teachers.

Proverbs says “the one who listens is wise” (see 12:15). We talked in the last session about Jesus growing in wisdom, becoming strong. This is how you grow in wisdom—you listen, you ask questions, you learn.

I can remember my dad, who has been now with the Lord many years. But as we were growing up, I remember him so often pointing us to the book of Proverbs and reminding us that only a fool talks all the time. A wise person listens. A wise person is teachable. A wise person asks questions. Not just during adolescence, but it is always wise to listen. It's always wise to ask questions. Not to just think we know everything, but to be teachable, to be humble.

You see Jesus modeling this. Though, as God, He was omniscient; as a man He was modeling to us what it is to have a humble, teachable spirit and to grow in wisdom.

Then it goes on to say in verse 47: “and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” So He was engaging with these leaders. He was listening; He was asking questions, but even His questions and then His dialogue with these leaders showed someone who had exceptional maturity.

Now, it’s easy to look at this passage and say, “Of course, He was God. That’s how come He had all these answers.” But keep in mind, He’s not using His God-ness at this moment. He’s living and functioning and growing as a man, showing us what it’s supposed to be like for all of us and what it can be like as we grow with the favor and the grace upon us as we saw in the last session was true of Jesus.

There’s supposed to be a maturity and a wisdom at the age of twelve and fifteen and seventeen and twenty-seven. Again, you can’t have the wisdom at seven that you do at twenty-seven, but there should be a maturity and a growing in the things of God and the ability to dialogue about serious matters and eternal matters in a way that makes sense.

That’s what these leaders were seeing in Jesus. He didn’t have as a man all knowledge at that point, but He showed a maturity. He showed an inclination toward truth, an aptitude toward truth, and they were amazed at this.

Now, where did that understanding come from? One of the things I wonder as I think about Jesus in the temple at this age and think about the twelve year old—this was middle school, okay? Middle schoolers are not known for wisdom and insight and maturity. When you think of middle school you think of silliness. You think of them saying things that they'll regret years later. But here's Jesus modeling wisdom. Where does this understanding come from?

Well, one question I have to ask myself is: What role had His mother had in teaching Him from infancy through childhood?

We know that Mary knew God’s Word. She loved it. In that Magnificat that she prays in Luke chapter 1, she quotes dozens of Scripture from the Old Testament in an era where women were not taught to read or write in most cases. She knew the Word of God from verbal repetition and oral passing on of the Word.

She must have been saying those Scriptures, those praises, those prayers, those Old Testament scriptural passages to her Son as He was growing up. She was a woman who pondered the ways of God. Remember that? She kept all these things in her heart and pondered them, we’re told (see Luke 2:19).

  • She’s a woman who was meditative.
  • She was contemplative.
  • She wasn’t always talking herself.
  • She knew how to listen to the voice of God.
  • She knew how to respond to the promptings of God’s Spirit in her heart.

And what an influence this must have had on the child Jesus.

You want wise teenagers? A huge step toward that would be having wise moms, wise dads, women who are listening to the Lord, parents who are listening to the Lord. Now that doesn’t mean your children will never do anything foolish, that they will never sin, or if you’re a wise, godly parent your children will only ever be wise and godly.

Your children are not Jesus. You know that. I didn’t have to tell you that. But I do think there’s an insight here that wisdom in parents helps to cultivate an atmosphere in the home that is conducive to children growing up to become wise.

But His mother cannot take all the credit, nor would she want to take the credit for how He could have this wisdom and this understanding. Above all, we know that it was the impact of the Spirit of God giving Him that wisdom.

We read in Isaiah chapter 11, verse 2, a prophetic passage about the Messiah. It’s a passage that I think gives us insight into Jesus in the temple at twelve. It says, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

Where does wisdom start? According to Proverbs chapter 1, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (v. 7). So the Holy Spirit had been at work in Jesus’ life. Now, Father, Son, and Spirit, they are one, but they are distinct. We can’t understand all that, but we accept that it is true. And we know that the Holy Spirit had been placing favor and grace upon the boy Jesus.

When the Spirit of the Lord rests upon us, when the Spirit of the Lord rests upon your children, your grandchildren, there will be wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

So, verse 48: “When his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress. And he said to them . . ." These are the first recorded words from the lips of Jesus that we have in the Scripture. "He said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?'”—or as some of your translations say, “I must be about my Father’s business?’” (vv. 48–49). 

It’s as if Jesus were saying, “Didn’t you know I would be in the temple? That’s where I fit. That’s where I belong. That’s where My heart is. That’s where My bent is, to be around the things of God.”

I’m so thankful to have had parents who really encouraged us in the things of God, to want to be around the things of God. But I’m also very thankful for the Holy Spirit of God who, from the time I was a young child, gave me a heart to be around spiritual matters. I cannot take any credit for that. I’d give my parents a lot of credit, but my parents wouldn’t take the credit. They would say, “That’s the work of God’s grace.”

My parents used to tell me that I wanted to be anywhere there was a gospel meeting going on. If there was a prison service or a deacon's meeting—any time there was something going on where there was going to be spiritual talk, that I wanted to be a part of that.

I can't take credit for that, because my heart is as depraved and fallen and sinful and wicked as any other child's. But the Holy Spirit was drawing my heart. He was giving me a hunger and thirst.

Ask God to do that for your children. Don’t expect the Spirit of God to give your children any greater hunger for the things of God than what you have. If what you love is the world’s movies and books and magazines and friends and social activities and secular activities—if that’s what you love and fill your life with, then don’t be surprised when your children aren’t just begging to have spiritual input into their lives. So much of like begets like. So it’s the work of godly parents; it’s the work of the Spirit of God.

Now when Jesus said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house, or about my Father’s business,” He’s clearly aware by this time that He is the Son of God. When that awareness came for Him as a human, we don’t know, but we know it was there by the age of twelve.

Again, your children are not Jesus, but I want to say the Spirit of God can give your children a seriousness about their relationship with Him at a much younger age than most parents realize. And that’s something to believe God for, to pray for, to ask God to do.

Now, even at this young age, again, remember we’re talking about a middle schooler here, Jesus was living out what we read prophetically in Psalm 69, verse 9: “Zeal for your house has consumed me.”

There was in Him that burning, that passion and desire for the house of God, for the things of God. He realized by this point that His true home was not where He had grown up physically in Nazareth, but in the temple where His heavenly Father lived.

“I must be in my Father’s house. I must be about my Father’s business.” We see in this that Jesus has a sense of responsibility and obligation to His Father, at the age of twelve. “I must. I’m called to this. I’m set apart for this. This is an obligation. The priority of My life is to serve My heavenly Father, to be about His business.”

Here’s Jesus who had grown up in His earthly father’s carpentry business, but He’s saying, “My heavenly Father has a business, and I am called to be a part of that business. That’s what I’ve got to be serving in.”

That word must is an interesting word to trace through the gospels, particularly through the gospel of Luke where we’re reading right now. If you take a commentary and you look up the word, must, and you trace it through the gospel of Luke, you see this divine compulsion in the life of Jesus.

Let me just read some of those verses to you:

Luke 4, verse 43: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” I must fulfill My calling.

Luke 9, verse 22: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” There was a sense of compulsion about His coming to this earth, not just to live, but to die for the sins of the world.

Luke 13, verse 33: “Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus said this as He headed toward Jerusalem knowing that He was going to be crucified here, but He said, “I must go to Jerusalem.”

Chapter 19, verse 5 of Luke: “When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.'" He had a sense of calling and mission and obligation about ministering to those the Lord put in His path.

Then Luke 24, verse 44: “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Which leads me to ask: “Is my heart, is your heart that we must do the will of our Father?" Not in the sense that we have to do it and we’re doing it reluctantly. But in the sense that we’re under divine compulsion, and we delight to do His calling and His will in our lives.

Am I resolved to do what He has sent me to do, what He has called me to do? Or do I consider it something optional? Do I argue with the Lord: “I don’t want to do that.”

Now, I’m just telling you, I know a lot about arguing with the Lord, sadly, about things that I feel He’s called me to do, but they’re hard sometimes. Sometimes I’d rather not do that. Some aspects of my job are dreadfully boring, and I’d rather not do those aspects. Some aspects of your job are dreadfully boring.

If you’re a mom, you have some aspects of your calling that are really hard. If you’re serving the Lord with working in a secular work environment, or you’re in a secular academic institution and trying to be a light there . . . There are hard things about every calling in life. But there’s that sense of, “I must be in my Father’s house; I must be about my Father’s business.”

So, am I resolved to do what God has called me to do, or do I wrestle with it? Do I consider it optional, something I can choose to do if I want to, but I can say “no” to if I’m inclined or if I find it difficult? As we follow the Savior, there is this sense of divine compulsion. “I must be about My Father’s business.”

I love teaching God’s Word, but there are aspects of it that are hard. Like at one o’clock this morning, while I’m trying to wrap up this session and get it in my head, and I’m tired and thinking, “I’m not going to have much sleep.” There’s a sense of “God has set me apart and called me for this, and it’s a privilege.” It’s an obligation, but it’s a privilege.

Well, verse 50 of Luke chapter 2:

And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (vv. 50–51). 

Jesus expressed His submission to His heavenly Father by being in subjection to His earthly parents. Being a follow of Christ does not free us up from responsibilities—in our homes, with our families, with our human relationships. What it should do is make us better family members and friends.

Following Christ and obeying Him in the context of real life are not conflicting goals. Like, “I can’t be spiritual because I’ve got to go cook breakfast for my family.” No! Being spiritual may mean cooking breakfast for your family—living out the calling of God in your life. That’s how we please and serve the Lord.

So as Jesus grew from boyhood to manhood, He showed proper respect and obedience both to His heavenly Father and to His earthly parents.

Then we come to verse 52. I love this verse. It says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Now, back in verse 40, it tells us “the child grew.” Now it uses a different word. It says, “Jesus increased.” During those first twelve years, He grew. These next eighteen years, from twelve to thirty, Jesus increased. Some of your translations say, “He advanced.”

The word here, one commentator says, is derived from pioneers cutting down trees in the pathway in front of them, forging a pathway through the wilderness. By cutting down the trees, they’re advancing through the wilderness. It means to chop forward, to beat your way forward, to hack your way forward. That word increasing means to be intentional about your growth. The first twelve years, the Child grew. He just grew. But in the next eighteen years, He advanced. He increased. The idea here is that of strenuous activity, being intentional rather than passive development.

And what a word as we think about this whole thing of extended adolescence where we started out and realizing that God’s heart is that we grow from childhood to adulthood not only physically but emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, intellectually. We do it during those teen years, ideally, by being intentional about growth.

This is something to challenge your children with, to let them know that those teen years are not years for just lollygagging your way through life, just playing video games on your way through life. Children who do that all the way through their teenage years are probably going to be doing that in their twenties and in their thirties. Then they’re going to be married with a mate who’s saying, “Why didn’t you ever grow up?”

So we see in Christ a pattern for growth, for advancement, for increasing—not being static, not being stagnant, not being part in one place, but increasing, growing, being intentional about spiritual growth.

It brings to mind, as I look at the youth of Christ, that wonderful verse in Proverbs chapter 4, verse 18, that says: “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day”—growing, increasing, advancing, maturing into holiness, into wisdom, into the fear of the Lord; becoming younger adults and then older adults who love the Lord passionately, who fear Him, who serve Him, who follow Him with all their hearts.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been casting a vision for parents—teaching children to grow in wisdom.

I don’t usually hear much about the adolescence of Christ, so today’s teaching has been intriguing. It’s part of a series called, The Incomparable Christ. Nancy’s following an outline based on a book by J. Oswald Sanders, also called The Incomparable Christ. Many of our listeners are reading a short chapter from the book each day and then listening to Nancy teaching through the same subjects. 

It’s not too late to get a copy and follow along. We’ll send The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts

And you’ll also get the journal our team created. You can use the journal to write down what you’re learning about Jesus. And you’ll discover some “Making It Personal” questions to follow up each day’s teaching and reading. This week, we’ll send one set per household for your donation of any size.

Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or donate by phone. The number is 1–800–569–5959.  

Well, for years Jesus spent His time as a tradesman. He was a blue-collar worker. His life shows that hard work can be sanctified when done to God’s glory. Nancy will discuss that tomorrow when The Incomparable Christ continues. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1  http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/08/19/what-if-there-are-no-adults-3

2 Robin Marantz Henig. “What Is It About 20-Somethings? The New York Times Magazine. Sunday, August 22, 2010.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion