Leading Like the Lord

Recently, I was invited to speak at the 2022 Freed-Hardeman University Lectureship. The theme for this year’s lectureship was He Went About Doing Good: The Compassion of Christ in Luke. My lecture was a part of the daily series entitled Leading Like the Lord. I was given the topic “Minding His Business,” and asked to dissect the passage from Luke 2:46-49. I was excited, nervous, and profoundly honored to speak. The article below represents the heart of the message but is not a word-for-word manuscript.

We don’t know much about Jesus’ early life. Simply put, we know less about it than we’d like to admit. The single, solitary moment to explore from His teenage years is a scene straight out of Luke 2. In that story we see something profound and poignant. We see a young man, stuck between childhood and adulthood embracing His true mission in this world before the eyes of everyone who was fortunate enough to be there.

Conversations with teenagers often reveal the best in humanity. They are optimistic, hopeful, and full of life.

As we explore what it means to be about the Lord’s business, we must ask, what does a servant of God look like? Is it the polished, buttoned-up overachiever successfully navigating the highs of life or the weary, stressed-out, self-doubting servant? If we’re honest, it’s never one or the other, but usually, someone, somewhere between those two extremes.

Teenagers, as a rule, aren’t usually the ones we first think of as faithful servants, yet I challenge you to find any demographic in the Lord’s Church that must demonstrate, defend, and define their faith on a more regular basis than them.

So, as we explore this scene, we get quite an example of something that’s seen on a daily basis in our communities. A teenager, serving God amongst a bunch of adults who simply don’t understand or don’t want to understand. I’d like to set the stage by looking at the verses which immediately precede our text, Luke 2:42-45:

When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 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 sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t linger long for us and His parents find Him after a few days of searching. Here is the passage describing that reunion in 2:46:

So it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.

The shock his parents must have experienced finding him sitting in that holy place among those experienced rabbis asking questions and giving answers is understandable. There’s no way they looked in the Temple first. In fact, I’d safely assume it was one of the last places they figured to find Him. Yet there He was.

The key takeaway for us seems pretty simple to me – the Lord’s business is found among those who know Him and those who don’t. The rabbis, who were supposed to the be most religious, and keenly aware of God’s Will, had no idea who they were sitting with. They were in the presence of the Son of God, the living embodiment of “I AM,” their very own Immanuel, yet they didn’t know it.

I’m left to wonder, why? How? And would I have been like them? Would I have been oblivious to the Savior of the World sitting right across from me? I hope not, but I believe, deep down, I would have wondered, “Who is this kid? And how does He know what He knows?” The reaction of the people who heard Him is described in 2:47 which says:

All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

I’m thankful that Scripture gives us some insight into the thoughts of those people who observed the teenage Christ. That everyone was astonished shouldn’t surprise us. In His ministry, Jesus constantly surprised people. I’m sure He did the same as a young man. If this passage isn’t evidence of that, I’m not sure I know what that evidence would look like? I can’t help but think N.T. Wright and Michael Bird summed it up well in The New Testament and Its World (617) when they said:

Jesus’ greatness was foreshadowed by His teaching in the Temple astounding the audience.

That truth led to my second takeaway. Simply put, this story teaches that in our world of ordinary, the work of the Lord amazes those who see it up close and personally. The Rabbis, the crowd, and even the Lord’s parents were all amazed at what they saw Him do and say.

In the very next verse, His mother speaks and in the most unsurprising moment of the whole story, says what most of us would have said to our very own children in 2:48:

Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.

The most recognizable part of this entire account are the fears of Joseph and Mary. I’ve never lost my children (not even for a few minutes), but I can certainly believe their panic was well-deserved. Can’t you imagine the frantic search through all the places of Jerusalem they assumed He would be? The disappointment they felt when He wasn’t at their relatives house? Or the places they knew He could be? Perhaps they got really scared when they dared to check at the prison or even with the local Roman authorities.

Her statement, “why have you done this to us?” is both emphatic and sorrowful. I’m certain she was relieved at the very sight of Him but, I can’t help think that relief quickly turned to some mix of frustration and/or disappointment.

Her statement sure seems to imply both relief and frustration.

As I read this, I can’t help but notice that Jesus doesn’t belittle or dismiss her worries. He doesn’t disrespect her or even her harsh words. He simply responds with purpose and direction by saying:

Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?

I wonder why His question and subsequent answer were so confusing to them. It says in 2:50 “they did not understand the statement.” But why? We can easily jump to conclusions, but I’d hesitate to assume it means they were ignorant. After all, He had already “astonished” the teachers and “amazed” His parents. That His explanation doesn’t quite spell-it-out for them shouldn’t shock us.

Surely, most of them (if not all) assumed His Father was Joseph, the man standing there quietly. However, Joseph, a carpenter, was not a rabbi as far as we can tell. He was just an ordinary man, not particularly amazing. He wasn’t even from Jerusalem. What could the young man mean?

I’m thankful that Jesus, without showing any disrespect, points His mission and path towards another being, His Heavenly Father. By clarifying His purpose, He also begs a single question that this entire lesson hinges on, what exactly is the Lord’s business?

First of all, now we know it’s not bound by earthly expectations. If it were, this whole scene wouldn’t have been so surprising. The words “astonished” and “amazed” would have been unnecessary and the events would have been lost to time. The Lord’s business is truly extraordinary, just like this scene.

Secondly, it doesn’t look, sound, or closely resemble normal circumstances. The setting and the events of these few days are truly unusual, even without the element of divinity. The frantic search, the unassuming teenager, the puzzled scholars, and the “chance” encounter are too perfect to be an everyday scene. They are special, because Jesus is special.

Finally, we can safely see and state.

There is something different about the business of the Lord than the business of this world.

We could spend hours (if not days) debating how the business of the Lord is different when compared to the business of this world. We could easily discuss value, purpose, and even direction, but that’s unnecessary as long as we know one important thing – Jesus, even as a teenager – knew His Heavenly Father and His purpose. While I’m unwilling to tell you He always knew it (i.e. as a baby), I’m comfortable and confident to say He knew it that day. He knew God’s Will would lead Him to the Cross. Yet here He is, among those who should know Him, showing them the way towards Him.

As a challenge to each of you, I beg you to be about the Lord’s business in both usual and unusual places. Places where they expect to find you and places where you are least expected – around those who know you and those who don’t. I beg you to challenge the status quo while remaining respectful of those who deserve it. I beg you to see that the Lord’s business is our business because the Lord’s purpose should be our purpose.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.