Luke 2:41-50 — Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Who was that brilliant little boy in this story? How was it that he, Jesus, at twelve years old, was able to amaze Jerusalem’s learned religious teachers with his understanding and his answers? And what did Jesus mean when he said to his parents that he had to be in his Father’s house? His father and mother had just been looking all over for him.
Christians believe that Jesus was, and still is, something special. The religious leaders in the Temple that day sure thought Jesus was something special, as impressed them all with his knowledge even though he was not yet a teenager.
This is the first story about Jesus after his the story of his birth, but we believe that Jesus was special even before he was born. In the Apostle’s Creed we say we believe “in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the VIRGIN Mary.” Born of a virgin, we say, and that is, of course, what is behind the double meaning of father in this story, with Jesus’ earthly father Joseph looking all over for him, and Jesus telling Joseph that he that he had to be in his heavenly Father’s house.
The way Jesus came into our world is certainly something special that you don’t see every day. That presents a problem for some people. Many people hear about Jesus and say, “Yes, he was a wonderful man indeed, and had lots of good things to say, but it is a little hard to believe all that miracle stuff, like walking on water, feeding 5,000 people, and being born of a virgin. How can anyone believe in that sort of thing any more these days?”
Even some theologians question the miraculous parts of the story. Over a hundred years ago already some liberal seminaries started to call in to question some of the miracles of the New Testament, and this idea of the virgin birth was, for some, one of the first to go. You have all heard of ‘Fundamentalist Christians.” That has lately come to be a derogatory label for the ultra-conservative, narrow-minded, and sometimes mean Christians who are of limited intelligence, against everyone, opposed to all progress, and suspicious of any kind of fun. I don’t want to be in that group. But the term “Fundamentalist” was first used in this context over ninety years ago by Bible-believing theologians who said that yes, as Christians we may disagree on many things, but if we are going to remain Christian at all, we need to hold on to and agree to at least a few ‘fundamentals.’ One of those fundamentals was the virgin birth of Christ. A few others were basics like the existence of God, the creation of the world by God, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the truth and authority of the Bible, the death of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the promised return of Jesus at the end of time.
I believe in all of those fundamentals, and so have most Christians in most times and places. That, by the way, is one way to establish Biblical truth in a time when everyone believes they have a right to their own interpretation, no matter how crazy. A safer and more reliable way to know what to believe is to look at what most Christians in most times and in most places have believed. There certainly has been a wide variety of beliefs on secondary matters, but there has been a broad agreement on these fundamentals. Therefore, in the old sense of the word, there have always been and still are quite a few ‘fundamentalists.’ But as I said, the word has come to have a narrower meaning these days, and one is not anxious to claim that label even if they do agree to the original basic fundamentals, as I do. (continued…)
THE APOSTLE’S CREED (the fundamentals):
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.