“This Thing That Has Happened” — Part Three
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“This Thing That Has Happened” — Part Three

Luke 2:41-52  (ID: 3535)

Following Jewish custom, Mary and Joseph took the twelve-year-old Jesus to the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. When they started home, they assumed Jesus was with their relatives—but Jesus had actually stayed behind in His Father’s house. As Alistair Begg explains, Jesus’ understanding of the Old Testament and of His own messiahship governed His decision. This glimpse into Jesus’ boyhood underscores His full divinity and humanity as the Son of God and Son of Man who came to bear our sins.


Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to the Gospel of Luke and to chapter 2 and to verse 41. And then I’m going to read briefly from John chapter 5 as well, in case you would like to put your finger or your marker in the place in John 5.

Luke chapter 2 and from verse 41:

“Now [Jesus’] 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. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. 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. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And 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, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 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.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

In John chapter 5, John records for us, in the early part of it, the healing that takes place at the pool, and this takes place on a Sabbath. And the man is miraculously transformed, and he told the Jewish people, particularly the leaders, that this was as a result of what Jesus had done. And then John, in 5:16, records things as follows:

“And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’

“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.’”

Amen.

Father, we stand in your presence, and we pray for the work of the Holy Spirit as we turn to the Bible now. Show us Christ. Show us ourselves. Close the gaps, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, I invite you to turn again to Luke chapter 2. We’ve been spending these—this is the third Sunday—in looking here. We’ve been reminding ourselves that Luke has done careful investigation, that he has checked with eyewitnesses, in order that he might write an “orderly account” of the things concerning Jesus, and he does so in order that his readers may have absolute “certainty concerning the things [that they] have been taught.”[1]

I wonder: How many of us here are twelve years old? Is there anybody twelve? Put up your hand if you’re twelve. Put up your hand if you were twelve last year. Put up your hand if you’re going to be twelve next year. Put up your hand if you wish you were twelve. That’s a lot of hands, yeah.

Let me ask you another question: Did you ever—this is for children particularly, and, actually, adults who once were children—did you ever come to church with your parents, and they left you behind, that by the time they had gone home, you were still here? It happens. It happens. We did it with one of our children. I was home. Sue was home. I said, “Where is she?” She said, “Well, I thought you had her.” I said, “No, I thought you had her.” She said, “Well, I guess nobody has her.” And eventually, I think a dentist in the church showed up bearing this one.

So, the reason I begin in that way is because you will see that that is exactly what is going on here at the end of chapter 2 in Luke’s Gospel. What we’ve been saying is that there is a more than even chance that one of the eyewitnesses to whom Luke was able to go in order to source his material was none other than Mary herself. I think that’s fairly straightforward. And it also would explain how he got this particular scoop—how it was that he is able to include in his record something that appears only in his record. Twice in the course of the chapter, we’re told that Mary treasured these things in her heart, that she pondered them.[2] And presumably, when Luke had opportunity to talk to her, he asked her her recollections. And she would have told him a number of things, including this that we have here at the end of chapter 2. Mary would have said to him, “Joseph and I went routinely to Jerusalem. We went up there at the Feast of the Passover on an annual basis.” And then she says, “The visit, actually, that stands out to me is one that happened when Jesus was just twelve years old.” And Luke says, “Oh, tell me about that, won’t you?” And, of course, he then has the material that is included in his Gospel. So, when you think about the way in which the Bible is fashioned for us, it doesn’t come down from heaven on a string. It doesn’t come down on a scroll. God is at work through human agencies, by his divine power, to give to us exactly what we require and what we have here.

And this, you will know, if you know your Bible, is the only information that we have in the entire Bible concerning Jesus in his boyhood. It’s quite fascinating when you think about that—when you think about the preoccupations of people. Every so often around this time, if you go into certain bookstores, you will find the opportunity to consider gospels that no one has ever heard of. And if you are tempted to read these gospels—for example, the Gospel of Thomas, which is apocryphal—you will find that in there, there is a whole bunch of material that stirs the imagination and that is, frankly, a fabrication, so that, given that we do not have information about Jesus’ boyhood, well, let’s just make it up, like a bad essay in history at school.

The Bible doesn’t come down from heaven on a string. It doesn’t come down on a scroll. God is at work through human agencies, by his divine power, to give to us exactly what we require.

And so you have, for example, in the Gospel of Thomas the notion that Jesus was working in the carpenter’s shop, and Joseph said, “This plank is a little short,” and Jesus said, “Don’t worry about that,” and he just lengthened it; or that he had a friend in the neighborhood that he didn’t like, and he just struck him dead. You read all of these things in there. You say, “You have to be crazy to believe this stuff.” Yes! Yes, you do. So what do we have in the text? Very little at all. It’s amazing! It’s actually intriguing. Luke doesn’t give us the visit of the magi. Luke doesn’t give us the family’s flight into Egypt on account of the pogrom by Herod. But he chooses to give us this.

And you will notice that what we have here by way of description is set in between two summary statements concerning Christ’s childhood. Verse 40: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” And then the same again in verse 52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and [with] man.”

Now, there are two great dangers when it comes to the person of Jesus, in understanding who he is and what he’s done. One is that we have a diminished view of the divinity of Jesus—of his godhood, if you like. The other is that we have a diminished view of the humanity of Jesus—of his personhood, of the fact of all that was intrinsic and essential to him as a boy growing up. It’s important for us to understand that Jesus underwent the same physical and intellectual development as any other boy in the village with him growing up as a child in Nazareth.

That’s why the hymn that we’ve been referring to and I referred to again in my prayer, because it’s in my mind, by Cecil Frances Alexander is such a tremendous help. She’s writing that hymn about the incarnation for children in her day, in nineteenth-century Ireland, and she wants to make sure that children understand this—that Jesus actually grew, and his pattern of growth is akin to ours. He had the genetic structure that was there as a result of Mary being his mother and as a result of God, in a miraculous way, being his Father. That Jesus learned by observing; he looked up, and he saw things, and he inquired about them, and his parents explained things to him. He learned by listening to his mom and dad. He learned by reading his Bible. He learned by searching the Scriptures. It is the record of a first-century Jewish boy growing up, submitting to his parents, and, in doing so, increasing in wisdom, stature, and in favor with his friends and also with God.

Now, that great vastness is summarized for us in many ways throughout history. And the Westminster Confession is as helpful as any. And I want you just to have this quote, and perhaps you can listen to it again and ponder it some more. It’s my own summary of it, but this is essentially what it says: he who was “truly and eternally God, of one substance and equal with the Father, … [took] upon himself man’s nature, [in] all its essential properties and common frailties, [and] yet without sin.”[3] “All [of] its essential properties and common frailties.” That’s why when we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus was fatigued, that Jesus was thirsty, that Jesus suffered, that Jesus was sad, that Jesus wept: because of who he is.

Alec Motyer, in a wonderful sentence, helps me when he writes, “The Old Testament was the book of God in which Jesus found the will of God, and through his obedience, this book masterminded his perfect life.” And I can tell just by looking at you that some of you don’t have a problem with Jesus being divine, but some of you are actually sucking air in this description of Christ’s humanity. Is he real? Are we dealing with a phantom, a fake person, fake news? No! One person with two natures. You say, “Well, I can’t understand it.” Welcome to the club. Neither can I. There is no one else like Christ. Therefore, there is no analogy for the incarnation. How could you have an analogy? It is impossible.

And that’s why when I’ve read this and read it again—and I’ve known it since I was twelve or even younger than twelve—I’ve said to myself, “You know, there is more to this than meets the eye. There’s more to this than meets the eye.” Howard Marshall actually says what we have here is “a momentary glimpse through a curtain into a private room.”[4] “A momentary glimpse through a curtain into a private room.”

So, let’s consider the description as we have it before us, and then say a word by way of explanation and a word by way of application, which has been our pattern throughout.

The Description

First of all, then, in verse 41: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” If you remember from last Sunday, we said a couple of things concerning Mary and Joseph: one, concerning their poverty, and two, concerning their piety. And here is a further indication of their piety. You will notice that they went “every year,” and they did so “according to custom.” “According to custom.” You actually find that the same thing is said of Jesus as we read on in the Gospels: “And he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom.”[5]

How did it become customary for Jesus? Because it was customary for his mom and dad. How does it become customary for your children to become church attenders and participants and go to college and university and go on with the Lord? I’ll tell you how it does: it starts with you, the mom and dad. If it is not customary for you, the chances of it being customary for them are slim at the very best. No, they understood the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, your mind, your strength. And these things you shall teach to your children when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”[6] And so they make their journey up to Jerusalem, walking along the road, talking, discussing, reflecting with their son, who has begun to grow in stature and with favor, both for friends and with God.

Now, whether this was the only occasion that Jesus had, to this point in his life, joined them for the Passover or not we can’t say from the text. It may be that Mary recalls this because it was such a point of transition, at the age of twelve, on the threshold of manhood. It’s a fair chance. Twelve is a significant number for me. I use it sometimes in—well, I can’t tell you that, because it has to do with my passcodes and things. But anyway, it is a significant number for me, because when I was twelve—and the children will love this. They cannot believe that I am such an alien person. But here’s the thing: when I was twelve, I got my first pair of long trousers in twelve years. I wore shorts all the way through to the twenty-second of May, ’52, ’62, ’64. I got long pants. I used to go sledding in shorts. You say, “Your mother was a vicious lady.” No! She said, “You are a boy. You will dress as a boy. When you move from boyhood to manhood, we will let you look more like a man. But right now, you’re just a wee boy.” So, I remember twelve. I remember it for lots of reasons. Mary remembered twelve: “I remember that time. I remember! Because we took him with us. And then we left without him.”

That’s what the text tells us, the description: “When the feast was ended, as they were returning,” they left, and “Jesus stayed behind.” They didn’t know. They didn’t know—verse [43]. Actually, we’re going to go on and discover that not only did they not know that they’d left him behind, but they didn’t understand what had happened to him when they finally found him.

Now, you look at this little thing. It is a family scene, isn’t it? As I suggested to you, it’s possible to do this. Is this a description of a breakdown in family communication? Is that why we have this here? No, I don’t think it is. I think it is a breakthrough. It’s the occasion of a breakthrough. Something is happening here, something that is more than meets the eye. Is it an illustration of parental neglect? Is it an indication of childhood rebellion? No, I don’t believe so. I take it that the stayover in the temple was intentional on the part of Jesus—not inadvertent, that all of a sudden, he didn’t know and everybody was gone. Everybody knew everybody was gone. Because you came to the end of it, and then everybody went home: “That’s it. The service is over. Let’s go.” They left. Jesus stayed.

Which led (and he tells us) to the search. The search. We’ve rehearsed it, haven’t we? “I assumed that you had him,” said Mary. “Well, I thought he was in your group,” said Joseph. “Well, have you checked with his friends?” “Yeah, I checked, but there’s nobody in our group knows where he is.” “Well then, we’re going to have to go back to Jerusalem.” And so back to Jerusalem they go. And the search leads them to this scene.

And what is the scene? Well, it’s there for us in the text: “[And] they found him.” Where was he? “In the temple.” What was he doing? He was “sitting.” He was “listening.” He was “asking.” And he was doing this “among the teachers.” “Among the teachers.” This is a twelve-year-old boy “among the teachers.”

The Old Testament Scriptures were the Scriptures that framed the life of Jesus. It was his understanding of the Old Testament that framed his messiahship.

Now, it is essential that when we study the Bible, we do so in its context. So, for example, we’re studying these verses at the end of chapter 2 in light of all that has preceded it and all that is going to follow it. But in terms of the big picture of the Bible, we need to realize that when we come to passages like this, it needs to be understood in light of everything that has gone before and in light of everything that then transpires, particularly in terms of thinking about Jesus.

You see, the Old Testament Scriptures were the Scriptures that framed the life of Jesus. That framed the life of Jesus. We can actually say this—and I think we need to say so carefully—but it was his understanding of the Old Testament that framed his messiahship. That framed his messiahship. The chances are that Jesus knew vast chunks of the Old Testament off by heart—that when Jesus read the Old Testament, he read it with peculiar insight. For example, Psalm 119, where the psalmist says,

I have more understanding than all my teachers,
 for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
 for I keep your precepts.[7]

I wonder, was that in Jesus’ mind? Or, in the Servant Songs of Isaiah, which begin in Isaiah 42: “Behold my servant.”[8] And then in the chapters that follow, this picture of the servant of God, and the servant says,

The Lord … has given me
 the tongue of those who are taught,
that I [might] know how to sustain with a word
 him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
 he awakens my ear
 to hear as those who are taught.[9]

Now, I’m not suggesting that that means only Jesus. Not for a moment! Clearly it doesn’t. What I’m saying is that we need to understand that when you look on that scene and you say to yourself, “What is a twelve-year-old boy doing in this context, and what does he bring to this context?” I say to you, he brings an understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures—the very Scriptures which actually frame his understanding of his messiahship. I wonder, did Jesus actually refer to these passages? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I wonder who the teachers were! You ever think about that? Do you ever think about that when later on, we have the record of Jesus speaking to one of the teachers, and he says to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?”[10] I wonder, was he looking into the eyes of one who, eighteen years before, had been part of the temple discussion group—namely, Nicodemus? I don’t know.

So it’s no surprise that Luke then records, in descriptive terms, the amazement of the group. They were amazed at his questions. They “were amazed at his understanding.” They were amazed at his answers. And his parents “were astonished.” His parents “were astonished.” And the response of his mother is understandable. If you have a mother, you understand this. I would be very surprised if it said something like “And Mary said, ‘Oh, how wonderful it is! Let us sing the Magnificat once again.’” No, no, no, no, no. No, she says, “Hey, wait a minute! Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

Incidentally, this is an early indication, as well, in the Gospels of the fact that Mary and Joseph would learn about Jesus’ messiahship bit by bit. Right? You remember, as you read on in the Gospels, it says that his family thought he was crazy. That’s verifiable data, friends, for those of you who are skeptical about things. If you’re trying to set forward a case, you’re not going to explain in the middle of it all that the people who are nearest and dearest to him thought he was nuts—unless they thought he was nuts! So they’re putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together, including this encounter: “Do you have him?” “I don’t have him. Where is he?” “Look where he is. What’s going on?” Piece by piece.

The Explanation

“Well,” you say, “get to the explanation.” Okay. Explanation.

In each case, we’ve said, in each of these incidents, the significant person is the one who gives to us the word of God. In the first instance, it is the angel. In the second instance, it is Simeon. And in this final instance, it is none other than the Lord Jesus himself. Jesus said, “Why were you looking for me? Did[n’t] [you] know”—presumably, “You should have known”—“that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Now, again, we need to read this in light of the unfolding story—again, going back and going forward. Think of the psalmist in Psalm 27:

One thing [I have] asked of the Lord,
 that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
 all the days of my life.[11]

Psalm 23, the same thing.[12] Jesus knew that he was God’s Son. Jesus knew that he was God’s Son. Jesus knew that he had a unique calling. Jesus knew that he had a relationship that was different from anything else. And therefore, when he says what he says, he says it in light of that.

I think the King James Version probably is as helpful as any, although they suggest that it is not as accurate in terms of a literal translation. But ever since boyhood, I’ve remembered that Jesus said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”[13] “Don’t you know? Shouldn’t you understand this?” I mean, think about it. He knows that Mary would have been able to tell him about the visitation of the angel—that the expression that “the Son of the Most High will be born to you,” that “he who is born to you will be the Son of God.”[14] And so Jesus is saying to them, “Why are you even asking this question? I mean, you know this, don’t you? You know who I am. I know who I am.”

And isn’t it interesting how he refers to the temple? Jewish people didn’t refer to the temple as “my Father’s house.” They referred to it as the temple. “No,” he says, “I need to be in my Father’s house.”

Here’s the point: the relationship of Jesus with God was different from, deeper than, anything that had ever been known. The relationship of the Son with the Father was the relationship into which, at one level, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit longed to bring those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. So in other words, that the Son of God becomes a son of man so that the sons and daughters of men might by grace become the children of God. That’s John 1: “He came to his own; his own did not receive him. But to as many as received him he gave power to become the children of God, even to them that believe in his name.”[15]

Now, I hope that our studies in 2 Samuel will be a recurring influence on our thinking for a long time. And as you ponder this, remember the great promise that was made to David in 2 Samuel 7: that the purpose of God was to put together not a building—Solomon was going to get to build the temple—but no, the purpose of God was to put together a family; put together a family, a house, a household, the household. Who’s in this household? The sons and the daughters of God.

The Application

So, by way of application, what do we do with this? Well, I read from John chapter 5 purposefully. Because I say to you again that unless you want to allow yourself just flights of imagination and fancy, then these verses, as with every other passage of the Bible, must be understood in terms of what precedes it in terms of prophecy and what follows it in terms of fulfillment.

This is John chapter 6: Jesus says, “I have come down from heaven.”[16] All right? “I have come down from heaven.” There’s a statement in itself, isn’t it? How remarkable is that statement? Christ’s human nature—Christ’s human nature—did not exist from eternity. He assumed human nature. Christ’s divine nature could never die. That is why the divinity and humanity of Christ can only be understood in terms of his personhood. You cannot divide it. You cannot say, “Well, this was that, and that was this.” No! No. “I have come down from heaven,” he says.

The Son of God becomes a son of man so that the sons and daughters of men might by grace become the children of God.

You’ve got to understand it in terms of the great vastness that is beyond our ability—except we turn it into, like, talk so that we can make it clear to our children. This is what it goes like: God the Father said, “I want to save people.” And the Son said, “Really?” And the Father said, “Yes.” And he said, “I can only save them if someone will go to them.” “Father, I will go to them.” “But Son, the only way that they can be saved is if you die on their behalf.” “Father, I will die on their behalf.” “Then go!”

Here you have it—Jesus, out of his own mouth: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And … this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”[17] The work of God, the work of the Father’s house, the work of the Father, the Father’s business, the work of God, is salvation—a salvation to be found exclusively in Jesus.

Now, perhaps you are like Mary and Joseph—I have a strong strain of it in me myself—where, in response to this, and then even our extrapolation from this, all it says is “And his parents were astonished, and they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” You say the same thing: “I don’t understand it.” Well, that’s why when we come to the Bible, we pray as we do, don’t we?

O [help] me understand it!
Help me to take it in!
What it meant for thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.[18]

You see, if you don’t understand, then do what Mary did: ponder, consider, think, read. The promise of the Bible is that “you will seek me,” says God, “and [you will] find me, when you [search for] me with all your heart.”[19] Not some kind of casual interest in the possibilities of metaphysics, some interest in the divinity of Jesus or the personhood of Christ or whatever it might be. No, no, no, no, no. No, this is you in your bedroom saying, “Oh, I need to know God. I want to know you.” God promises to reveal himself to such seekers.

That’s why at the end of the Gospel—and don’t forget that even after Calvary, his closest did not have a clue what was going on: “We thought he was the one who was going to redeem our people Israel. And the whole thing’s come to a crashing halt,” they said on the road to Emmaus.[20] And what happened? Well, he then went back into the Old Testament, and he gave them a Bible study. And suddenly, the Word of God became alive to them.[21] It was his Word.

The confidence of heaven is in the Bible, incidentally. “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets,” Jesus says, “then they won’t listen, even if somebody rises from the dead.”[22] If you won’t read the Bible and believe what the Bible says, then you’re stuck! Because the confidence of heaven is in the Bible.

I had a wonderful illustration of it this week. We get lots of letters, and one that I’ve read over a couple of times since Christmas morning—I’m not going to read it all to you, but it is apropos. Because what we’re saying here is that the pointer in Jesus is to the Word, and the pointer from the Word is to Jesus. If we’re looking for salvation somewhere else or in someone else, then we’re going to be inevitably disappointed. You’re not going to make sense of your life by simply focusing on your work, your career, your success, your reputation. It’ll never make you happy. It will never content you. There will always be somebody in an office above you. There will always be somebody who is doing something else. It is inevitably so. You say, “Well, what I’m looking for is security. I’m looking for peace, relief from my burdens, hope, freedom from enslaving habits. I want to be free from shame and from sin.” Well, let me tell you, all of that and more besides is here. Is here!

Well, here, and I’ll just finish with this. This person wrote to me. I’ll preserve this lady’s anonymity. I won’t read it all; it’s a long letter. It’s handwritten—very brave on her part.

So, she’s writing, actually, on the twelfth of December. She wants to encourage me. She’s just a year younger than me, and she felt, having listened to the morning service on the twelfth—I don’t remember it myself—that my demeanor was such that I was apparently kind of depressed and disappointed and whatever it was. I mean, it’s amazing. Really? I don’t know about that. But anyway, she wanted me to know—basically, she wrote to say, “Hey, don’t give up, because the Bible works.” I mean, that’s really it. And she says, “I know that’s the case because God has used his Word to bring me to the foot of the cross.”

And she tells the story of how although she knew God, as it were, from a distance, she had never had the dots joined for her. And then her mother died. Incidentally, she introduces herself at the beginning. She says, “I’m sixty-eight, and I’ve been married more times than the woman at the well.” And so, she’s not trying to conceal anything. “My mother died. My final marriage was on the skids. One of my brothers was gunning for me—not literally, but it felt like it. I was caretaking my ninety-eight-year-old grandmother, who, to put it mildly, was not a believer, and I also was in debt up to my eyeballs and working full-time to keep my bills paid. I was exhausted.”

Now, this—now, she’s sixty-eight—she’s referring to twelve years prior. Then she says, “Two things happened: one, I heard you on the radio while stuffing newspapers in roadside tubes on a back road, where you’re usually unable to dial in a station; and two, I stopped to rest at a pull-off at the end of my paper route on my way to my grandmother’s house. I was exhausted, and I started to cry, a fifty-six-year-old woman at wits’ end in a rest area parking lot, bawling her eyes out and not knowing how I was going to get through another day, another hour. I cried out to God, ‘Help me, Lord! Please help me!’ And the Lord said, ‘Go to the Word.’” “Go to the Word.”

“Amazingly,” she said, “I had at some point tossed my Bible in the back seat. I can’t remember why or when. But it was there, in amongst old issues of the Bellingham Herald—my Bible. And I did what the Lord told me.” She goes on to say, essentially, that the entrance of God’s Word brought light into her life and into her heart: “I found peace with the Lord. Here in my room, in the daylight basement of an old house—a rooming house that’s sandwiched between a funeral home and a set of railroad tracks—I have come to know God.”

In Jesus, God’s saving work is focused and fulfilled.

Well, there you have it. Everybody has a story. My story isn’t anything like that. I did deliver newspapers, but that never happened to me on my newspaper route. I used to deliver them in the evenings in Ilkley. But I did have a dad who prayed for me and a mom who prayed for me and grandparents who prayed for me. And I don’t know how the Spirit moves, convincing boys about sin, revealing Jesus through the Word, creating faith in him. I don’t know. But I do know whom I have believed.[23] And I’m committed to keep that which he has entrusted to me.

You see, the whole story of it… You say, “Well, if you could put it in a sentence, why didn’t you do that about thirty minutes ago?” Well, here it is: in Jesus, God’s saving work is focused and fulfilled. That’s what Jesus is essentially saying there: “Mary and Joseph, it’ll take time for you to get this. But in me, the saving purpose of God finds its focus and finds its fulfillment”—thereby making it possible for those who have considered the description, who have pondered the explanation, who have made application, to then be enabled to make a great declaration. And that declaration will provide us with the words of our closing hymn. And a brief moment of prayer, and then we’ll stand and sing:

Lord, you know every person who is present here this morning. You know our hearts. You know whether we’re twelve years old or six years old. You know whether we have, by your mercy, had the dots joined for us or whether we’re still somewhere at arm’s length from this great and magnificent wonder. Thank you for the opportunity to gaze through this curtain into almost a secret little piece of the puzzle of the life of Jesus. Bring us to an understanding of who he is and all that he’s done so that we might be able to say, “In Christ alone my hope is found.”[24] For in his name we pray. Amen.


[1] Luke 1:3–4 (ESV).

[2] See Luke 2:19, 51.

[3] The Westminster Confession of Faith, Modern English Study Version, 8.2.

[4] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1978), 130.

[5] Luke 4:16 (paraphrased).

[6] Deuteronomy 6:4–7 (paraphrased).

[7] Psalm 119:99–100 (ESV).

[8] Isaiah 42:1 (ESV).

[9] Isaiah 50:4 (ESV).

[10] John 3:10 (ESV).

[11] Psalm 27:4 (ESV).

[12] See Psalm 23:6.

[13] Luke 2:49 (KJV).

[14] Luke 1:35 (paraphrased).

[15] John 1:11–12 (paraphrased).

[16] John 6:38 (ESV).

[17] John 6:38–40 (ESV).

[18] Katherine Kelly, “Make Me Understand.”

[19] Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV).

[20] Luke 24:21 (paraphrased).

[21] See Luke 24:27.

[22] Luke 16:31 (paraphrased).

[23] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (1883).

[24] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “In Christ Alone” (2001).

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.