Child of God – Luke 2:41-52

Jesus is the Son of God and every Christian is a child of God.

Luke 2:41-52 is the only account in the Bible of Jesus as a child, after the early nativity material. Of all the things Jesus did as a child, teenager, or young man, this is the one thing that’s been recorded for us. Why? What’s so special here? Why have anything at all?

We’ll take a look at the events and see that there are some really helpful lessons immediately on the surface. Then we’ll dig into the key question that comes up about Jesus himself. And when you do that, you realise there are some hefty impacts on your own life too.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube given in August 2022 at Bromborough Evangelical Church. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Walk with Jesus

Read Luke 2:41.

The first helpful observation is right there. Mary and Joseph are modelling what Christian parents ought to do – making the effort to prioritise worship as a whole family.

  • In Liverpool there are a number of “African” churches, congregations made up mostly of African immigrants.
  • I know someone who commented to a church leader that it was good to see so many families and children at church.
  • The reply was that in that culture it was normal: If the adults go to church, the children do too. No question.
  • In the UK / West, we have culture of allowing our children to dictate our diaries – the kids call the shots.
  • But godly parents will want to bring their children up to put the worship of God first – in action, not just in words.

It’s worth noticing something in passing from Luke 4:16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.

  • Of course we’re talking about Jesus here!
  • And yet the point is made that it was his practice since childhood to go weekly to the synagogue – to sing, pray, and hear the word of God.

It would be strange for any godly parent to have priorities that are different from Jesus’ own.

Didn’t they care??

Read Luke 2:42-44.

It’s worth saying they weren’t being negligent!

  • Thousands of people would be travelling south from Galilee to Jerusalem.
  • They travelled in large groups – for convenience, and for safety. You’d expect the children to be together with friends
  • In the evening you’d gather your family to eat.
  • And only then did they realise that Jesus wasn’t with them.

I heard this preached on many years ago. The preacher made an excellent point:

  • It’s easy to think you’re moving along nicely with God’s people, only to discover that you’re actually without Jesus.
  • You can be going to church, doing Christian / charity work, looking for all the part like you belong.
  • But all along, you’ve left Jesus behind and you didn’t know it.
  • Beautifully, when you realise, you can always go back and find him – and he will be found.
  • If you feel like you’ve been drifting along and somehow lost your way – lost Jesus, drifted from him – he’s still there. You can always go back.

I remember finding that very helpful at the time. It became more stark when I found out a few years later that that preacher had actually renounced his faith in Jesus, and gone away.

  • Anyone can drift; anyone’s foot can slip.
  • The devil entice you aside and trip you up in a heartbeat.
  • Stay close to Jesus; don’t let him out of your sight.

Back at Jerusalem

Read Luke 2:45-46.

Literally, it says “after 3 days”. Most likely, that means one day’s journey out, one day’s journey back, and then they found him on the third day. The really interesting thing to notice is what Jesus is doing: “listening to them and asking questions.”

  • The most brilliant minds are often marked not just by the things they say, but mostly by the questions they ask.
  • Never stop asking questions. Never stop being curious.

But this was no ordinary child: Read Luke 2:47.

Mary and Joseph were pretty perplexed too: Read Luke 2:48-50.

More questions from him. Very much the crunch point of the whole passage, so we’ll come back to it shortly. Finally they return to Nazareth. Read Luke 2:51-52.

Growing up! Growing in wisdom and stature and favour. And growing in knowledge, wisdom, character – and experience. Here’s part of the mystery of the incarnation!

  • Colossians 2:3 tells us that In [Christ] lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
  • And yet, he grew in wisdom and knowledge as a child!

Knowledge knows the absolutes: Do not kill, steal, etc and how to tie your shoelaces.

Wisdom takes knowledge and mixes it with goodness and righteousness, and then uses that to steer a godly course in a world where things are broken, grey, and unclear. Wisdom is something you can learn.

The good news now is that if you struggle to steer a godly course you can go to the one who is the power and wisdom of God, in whom lie all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! You go to Jesus and ask for godly wisdom. Will he withhold?

No, he acts according to who he is: Which brings us back to the crunch question from earlier

Jesus: Son of God

Read Luke 2:48-50 again.

If you’re honest, does Mary’s question seem pretty reasonable to you? So might be something you haven’t understood either?

Theologians like to talk about the “attributes” of God. He has communicable attributes, and incommunicable ones.

  • God’s communicable attributes are the the things about God that you and I can have too: Love, wisdom, gracious, holy, righteous, etc.
  • And his incommunicable attributes are those things that are unique to him: He is infinite, self-existing, unchanging…

One of his incommunicable attributes is that he is “simple” or “unity” – in that he is all his attributes fully, all the time. Which means that everything he does is an aspect of everything he is, wholly in accordance with his own nature and being.

Jesus is the Son of God. Eternally so, he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Everything he does is in accordance with who he is. To understand what he does, you need to recognise who he is.

The unique Jesus

So much of what’s written about Jesus in the gospels doesn’t make sense if he was just a regular human being.

  • Why did there have to be a virgin birth?
    • Because he’s the Son of God, not Joseph.
    • He is God come into the world to save you.
    • He didn’t just occupy a child born to Joseph and Mary; Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
  • Why did Jesus do so many miracles?
    • In John’s gospel they’re not called miracles, they’re called signs. They act as signposts to the one who sent Jesus into the world – his Father in heaven.
  • Why did Jesus go to the cross, be resurrected, and return to heaven?
    • Because it’s God’s only rescue plan for you – that he give his own Son to die in your place.
  • Why should Jesus do such a thing?
    • Because he is God, and God is love, and the measure of his love is that he gave his Son for you.
  • Who make Jesus the Judge of everyone on judgment day?
    • He’s the Son of God.
    • He is judge of all the earth by right and by might.
    • And as the saviour of his people, he alone can point to his own people and say, “Penalty paid. No condemnation.”
  • Why does Jesus claim to be the only way to God?
    • Because he is the Son of God, unique over Creation, in Salvation, in judgement. Your only hope & saviour!

And, aged 12, he was at the Temple. God gave the Temple so that he could dwell on the earth among sinful people, and so that they could approach him and have fellowship with him.

Jesus is the Son of God, eternally so.

Eternally at one with the Father. As child to Mary, with Joseph as his adoptive (or foster?) father, he would do nothing against them. But he would always be Son of God. It seems Mary and Joseph had forgotten the angels, the shepherds, the wise men. They’d domesticated this child in their minds, and forgotten.

Jesus’ question reminds them of what they’ve forgotten, but they still didn’t really grasp it: Read Luke 2:49-50 again.

Why is this account included here in Luke’s gospel?

  1. It gives a brief window into his godly childhood, living under and upholding the full law of God.
  2. It also gives a brief highlight on Jesus’ own self-awareness as the Son of God, long before he began his ministry.
  3. You can also see that his ministry was truly from heaven; there’s no possibility of him being falsely groomed or coerced by his family to become what he did – they didn’t understand it!

So here’s the bottom line: To understand what Jesus did and why, you need to realise exactly who he is: The Son of God. Everything Jesus did was as a result of his identity, his essence, his personhood as the Son of God.

Nothing out of place, nothing out character. 

You: Child of God

Suppose, then, that you’ve realised this. You have seen that Jesus is the Son of God, the only Judge and Saviour of all the world. You’ve turned to God: “Lord God, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Count my sins against Jesus as you’ve promised, and accept me as your child. Help me to live for you.”

God will not turn down your sincere prayer. Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me, I will never ever drive away.” As you do that, the privileges and blessings are astonishing!

  • You are, of course, freed from the penalty of sin – Jesus was punished instead of you.
  • More than that, you are adopted by God. John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
  • Even more, you have the Holy Spirit of God in you, called in Romans 8:15 the Spirit of adoption.
  • And you have union with Jesus: You are in Christ, and Christ is in you.
    • Your life is the life he gives and lives through you.

Which means that if you’re a Christian it will show. Jesus said (Matthew 7:17-18), “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.”

If you have the Spirit of God on you, you will produce the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Fruit grows and shows

We’ve got fruit growing in our greenhouse.

  • There are tomatoes, chillies, and peppers.
  • I don’t expect to pick chillies from the tomato plants or vice versa.
  • The tomato plants only produce tomatoes.
  • Some tomatoes are a bit wonky, a bit mis-shaped. Some aren’t really fit for eating if they split.
  • But whatever quality they are, they’re tomatoes.

You might not bear the fruit of the Spirit perfectly.

  • In fact, you won’t.
  • You’ll be a bit wonky, a bit mis-shaped.
  • Your love will be tainted. Your joy will be incomplete.
  • Kindness is rare enough to be noticed when you see it.
  • But if you’re a Christian, you’ll bear that fruit.

Christ was at his Father’s house because he was about his Father’s business. It’s all he could do as the Son of God. If you are a child of God then you’re called to the same.

Live like a child of God. Stop trying to be two things.

  • Stop pretending you’re “one of the lads/lasses” with your work-mates or old friends.
  • Be a child of God in your character, and in your actions.

Mary and Joseph were confused at what Jesus was doing. The answer was for them to realise he was the Son of God. If people are never confused at what you’re doing, could it be that it’s because it doesn’t show that you’re a child of God? Shouldn’t someone ask why you do things so differently?


But what if you feel that, in truth, you’re not so different from the people around you? What if you find that you’ve been drifting along with friends and family away from Jesus without realising it? What did Mary and Joseph do?

You go back to Jesus. Always.

Stay close to Jesus; keep him in sight.

Remember that he is Son of God, Judge and Saviour of all.

And as you come to him, to be like him, remember who you are as a child of God, and be that person.

It might cost you some reputation, even some friends.

But there can be no higher joy or peace than to be in perfect union with the Son of God, living in his grace and power.