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The Early Years of Jesus’ Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 8, 2021 12:01 am

The Early Years of Jesus’ Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 8, 2021 12:01 am

What took place in the years between Jesus' birth and His baptism? Today, R.C. Sproul recounts an incident from Jesus' early life that foreshadows His mission and ultimate obedience to His Father in heaven.

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From the time He was 12 years old, He had some understanding, some sense of destiny, some understanding that He had a mission to perform in obedience to His Father in heaven. The early life of Jesus, next on Renewing Your Mind. It's impossible to imagine what it was like in Mary and Joseph's home, living with the perfect, sinless Son of God. Even as a child, Jesus loved perfectly and obeyed perfectly.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, we return to Dr. R.C. Sproul's series, Dust to Glory, to focus on those early years of our Savior's life. And as we'll learn, even as a boy, Jesus was about the business of fulfilling His Father's will. At a college where I used to teach, the students were given an entrance exam in their knowledge of the English Bible. And the questions were basically simple, but it was designed to see how much understanding of the Scriptures the students had as they entered into their college experience. And I'll never forget one student when I was teaching there, when he was asked the question to name the four gospels, he wrote on his paper, Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John. Well, it's interesting to ask, why are there four gospels in the first place?

It would seem that all we would need would be to have one life of Christ given to us in the New Testament, one biographical overview of His person and of His work, and yet it pleased God to give us four accounts of the life and ministry of Christ. And of those four, three are called synoptics or synoptic gospels. And the three synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And John is not considered a synoptic gospel, and many people frequently wonder why.

Well, the reason is that the synoptic gospels are called synoptics because they give us basically a synopsis or an overview of the life of Jesus, whereas John's gospel is much more theologically oriented, and almost the entire gospel of John is devoted to the last week of Jesus' life because so much emphasis is upon His passion, His suffering, and His death and so on. But even this term synoptic is a little bit misleading because the gospels are not complete biographies. And one of the things that we notice even in the synoptic gospels is that we have such sparse information about the childhood of Jesus.

Luke gives us a good bit of information about His birth and the early years of His infancy, but apart from these brief infancy narratives that we have, the only reference we have to Jesus' childhood is in His visit to the temple when He goes up to prepare for His bar mitzvah. But the rest of the years of Jesus' boyhood and even early manhood are unknown to the church, and this is one of the reasons why in the second century some of the Gnostic literature that emerged tried to fill in the blanks and tried to recover, as it were, for the readers the lost years of Jesus. And we got some very strange books that were written like the Gospel of Thomas and others that gave us a rather bizarre view of Jesus. For example, in one of these apocryphal gospels about the life of Jesus, they tell the story of Jesus as a little boy, and He is lonely and has no one to play with, and so He reaches down into the mud and He molds some birds out of the mud and sort of does presto to them and they come alive.

And Jesus is doing all these frivolous feats of supernatural power and so on, and that's one of the reasons why these stories are not credible at all. But the synoptic gospels give us a little bit of information on the childhood of Jesus, and that's what I want us to look at in this segment today. Now, one of the most important features of the Gospel of Luke is that Luke does contain some interesting observations about the infancy of Jesus, and Luke tells us at the beginning of his gospel that he undertook a program of research by seeking out the eyewitnesses and tradition has it that he interviewed Mary and learned much of the early years of Jesus from Jesus' mother.

That's why Mary figures so prominently in the birth narratives of the gospel according to Luke. But the other aspect of these infancy narratives that I find particularly fascinating is the inclusion of songs. We have the song of Zacharias, which is called the Benedictus. We have the song of Mary, which is called the Magnificat. We have the song, for example, of Simeon, which has been called the Nuch Dimittis, and the titles of these songs derive from the first words of the songs as they appeared in the old Vulgate version of the Bible, the Latin version of the Bible. For example, the Magnificat begins, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and when that goes over into Latin, that's where you get that term.

But there is a significance to this. If we remember the Old Testament history, there are those moments, particularly in the early days of Israel's history, where we also encounter some magnificent songs. There's the song of Moses that celebrates the Exodus, and the psalm of Miriam.

There's the song of Deborah in the book of Judges. And the reason why these songs are important is that in the Old Testament period, when God visited His people to bring them an extremely important moment of deliverance or of redemption, it was customary for the people to record this visitation of God's mercy by composing a song that would then celebrate it. And we see no place in Scripture where there's a greater concentration of such victory songs or deliverance songs as we find recorded in Luke's Gospel surround the supreme visitation of God by which He visits His people in the person of His own Son. It's interesting to me, too, that in the book of Revelation, and we look in terms of the future of God's people, the promise is given that on that day, God will give His people a new song.

And again, the significance of that is that that song will celebrate the ultimate victory of God and His ultimate act of deliverance. Well, let's take a few moments to look at a little bit of this as is recorded in the New Testament. First of all, briefly, the song of Mary, the Magnificat. I used to teach a Bible study on the book of Luke for women because Luke's Gospel is called the Ladies' Home Journal of the Bible for the simple reason that we have a record in Luke's Gospel of more encounters between Jesus and women than we find in the rest of the Gospels put together. And I used to say to the ladies who were involved in this study of Luke that I strongly recommended and urge them to memorize the Magnificat because it is such a fantastic song of praise that we should have basically at the tips of our own lips.

But let's look at it briefly. The song of Mary, my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. If I find a parallel in the New Testament to the motif that is found frequently in the popular fairy tales of Western civilization, we find it right here. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mean to suggest that the narrative here is a fairy tale, but one of the great motifs of the fairy tale like Cinderella is the story of a young girl who is a peasant, who is shunned, who is rejected by her peers, and she is set aside and given no status whatsoever. And she longs for the day when she will be noticed or delivered. And the story unfolds where lo and behold, she is the one who is selected by the prince.

Or the song, someday my prince will come, where there's this wistful dreaming for a prince charming, that will come and rescue the damsel from her obscurity. Well again, this is not a fairy tale, but the motif that is going on here is that Mary is saying, my soul, my spirit is rejoicing. I'm rejoicing from the deepest core of my being, for God has regarded me, He has noticed me in my low estate.

And one of the reasons I think it would be helpful for us to memorize a song like this is because that's not just true for Mary. That's true for every one of us who has received the mercy of God. Because compared with God, the state that we're all in is one of lowliness.

And yet God has condescended and stooped to visit us with His love and with His mercy. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. I think of Mary envisioning the powerful rulers of this world who stand in pride and arrogance over against the sovereign majesty of God and set themselves over against God, as the psalmist declared in Psalm 2. And I think of God stretching out His right arm and just scattering the mighty. And He looks at those who have been exalted and seated in positions of power, the kings that sit enthroned in the power structures of the world, and He grabs them by the hem of their robes and pulls them down off their thrones.

That's what Mary is saying here, because God is turning the world upside down as He is wont to do. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly, and He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever. Again, I remind you that when we studied the Old Testament and we looked at the promises that God made to Abraham, at that time I pointed to this song and said, here, when that promise is being fulfilled, there is a song of celebration about it.

Well, it's a moving song that captures the spirit of what's going on, but one of my favorites, in fact, one of my most favorite characters in all of the Scriptures, is the character of the venerable Saint Simeon. And we read of him in the Gospel of Luke in the second chapter in verse 25, that, Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. Now, that term, consolation of Israel, was a messianic title, one of the many rich titles that was attributed to the Messiah that God would bring forth, and the Messiah Himself would be the one who would comfort His people. Do you remember the prophetic pronouncement from Isaiah?

Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, playeth the Lord. Well, when Simeon is given the news by the Holy Spirit that he will not die until he beholds with his own eyes the Lord's anointed, or the Lord's Messiah, he is looking for the one who is, in and of himself, the consolation of Israel. So, we are told that this devout and righteous man was waiting for this consolation, and the Holy Spirit was upon him, and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And so he came by the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.

The note diminished, now let me leave. Jesus is brought to the temple according to the law of the Old Testament. We are told that when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, he was named, and after the days of Mary's purification were completed, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as the law required that the firstborn son be dedicated to God.

And we also know that the offering that they bring was an offering that was permitted in special circumstances for those who were destitute, for those who were immersed in deep poverty, and it's that offering that Mary and Joseph bring, indicating their poverty-stricken existence in terms of the riches of this world. Well, on this occasion when they come with this baby to dedicate him in the temple, Simeon is there, and his eyes behold the baby. And when he sees the baby, he says, now, Lord, let me depart in peace. I don't need to have to stay around and watch this little child grow up and fulfill all of the tasks and the mission that thou hast put upon him in his role as Messiah. Just to see him in his infancy is enough. I am satisfied.

Take me home. Let me depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. And then we read that Joseph and his mother, that is, Jesus' mother, marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, behold this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.

Yea, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, and the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Now, one of the things that the New Testament says of Mary with regard to the birth of Jesus and all of the things that are taking place is that Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart. Now, let's suppose for a moment that we're speculating here that Luke interviewed Mary, and Luke got this story from Mary. And Luke says to her, what do you remember about Jesus' infancy? I can hear Mary saying to Luke, well, the one thing I'll never forget is when we took him into the temple, and this prophet was there, and he sang a song, and then he blessed us, and he predicted that my baby would be a sign for many for rising and for falling, and that a sword would pierce my soul. I couldn't get that out of my mind, and then I remember the day when I stood at the foot of the cross, and I saw a soldier take a spear and pierce the body of my son.

I felt it in my soul. I mean, I'm guessing, but I can't imagine that she didn't remember this prophecy when she was at the foot of the cross. Then we read of the story at the same time of the prophetess Anna, who also greeted the parents of Jesus and made predictions. And then we move quickly from the infancy of Jesus to the record of Jesus' visit to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of the Passover.

That's recorded in Luke chapter 2, verse 41, when Jesus was 12 years old. They went up to Jerusalem according to the custom, and when they had finished the days as they returned, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and his mother did not know it, but supposing him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and then they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances. Now this may sound like child neglect or something, but it was commonplace in these days for the people when they would go up to Jerusalem from the outlying villages and towns for the purpose of an annual feast, they would go by caravan. And part of the custom was the men would travel together, and the women would travel together. And obviously what had happened here is that after they completed their time in Jerusalem and were on their way home, Mary assumed that Jesus was with Joseph, and Joseph assumed, since he didn't see him, that he must be with his mother.

And both of their assumptions were wrong. And after they had made a whole day's journey, they discovered that they had left their 12-year-old son in Jerusalem. And so they're gripped by panic and concern, and we read here that when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him.

And it was so that after three days, can you imagine having your son missing for three days? After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answer. They were amazed at this child prodigy. Well, when the parents of Jesus saw him, they were amazed. And his mother said to him, Son, why have you done this to us?

Remember now, the New Testament makes it plain that Jesus is sinless. And here his mother, who obviously had been raising an ideal son for 12 years, now is beside herself, and there's a thinly veiled criticism here or accusation when she says, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have sought you anxiously. And he said, why did you seek me?

Did you not know that I must be about my father's business? And they did not understand the statement when he spoke to them. This incident from the life of Jesus is not just dropped into the biographical sketch of Jesus for no reason. But there's a kind of foreshadowing here that's preparing the reader to understand something of the impetus of the life of this man, that from the time he was 12 years old, he had some understanding, some sense of destiny, some understanding that he had a mission to perform in obedience to his Father in heaven.

Didn't you understand? The temple is where I belong. I must be about my father's business. And the rest of the synoptic gospels unfolds for us Jesus' fulfillment of that business.

That's Dr. R.C. Sproul teaching from his series, Dust to Glory. You know, it's interesting to see Jesus' childhood from the perspective of different gospel writers. We learned so much today, including why the synoptic gospels have that name. We're glad you've joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Wednesday as we continue sharing portions of this comprehensive series. There are 57 lessons in all, more than 21 hours of teaching, providing an overview of the entire Bible. The example we heard today shows us why it's so important to understand the context of every book in Scripture.

Each lesson is about 23 minutes in length, and that makes it perfect for a number of teaching settings, like a homeschool or Sunday school class or small groups in your home. We'll send you the eight-DVD set when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. We'll also include a bonus disc that contains the MP3 audio of each message and a PDF study guide. You can request these resources when you call us at 800-435-4343. You can also give your gift online at When you make your request, the videos will be added to the online learning library connected to your Ligonier account. You'll be able to access them on your computer and on the Ligonier app.

And the videos are compatible with Google's Chromecast and Apple's AirPlay, so you can watch them full size on a nearby TV. So request Dust to Glory when you go online to or when you call us. Our number again is 800-435-4343. Well, like the people of ancient Israel, Jesus had His own wilderness experience and would be tested in the most profound way. Satan is obviously raising the question here. Are you really the Son of God? And if you really are the Son of God, well then turn these stones into bread. You have no problems.

I hope you'll join us Thursday as R.C. describes the baptism and temptation of Jesus, here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you. God bless you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-12 07:13:20 / 2023-07-12 07:21:47 / 8

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