This article is about Jesus Christ as child (Luke 2:51), and salvation for the family.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1982. 2 pages.

Christ and the Family

If we wish to speak about life with Christ in a family, we had better start at the beginning. That beginning, in this case, is in Nazareth of Galilee. There at one time lived a family of which one of the children was the Son of God.

Now, before we go any further, it must be clearly understood that this Son of God was called by the very common and ordinary name Jesus. He was only a child. He was not yet allowed to go out and claim His place as the Christ of the Scriptures.

At this point a keen and critical reader would possibly interrupt: “Hold everything! You mention the child Jesus in an article about Christ and the family; that does not work.” There is some merit in this remark, and we could change the direction of our discourse, leaving the scene in that living room in Nazareth behind us, if it were not for a particular detail that deserves our attention.

This is the detail: in that ordinary family of Joseph and Mary there lived One who was without sin. And yet as a child He had to call them Dad and Mom, and He had to share His family life with His brothers and sisters who came later. That boy, who was called by the name “Jesus,” was the only one ever born of a woman, who, being tempted like His brothers and sisters and like all the children of the world, never ever gave in to a temptation, no matter how subtle or deceitful.

So, then, there lived this family in Nazareth, this family of Joseph, a carpenter, with his wife Mary and their children. It was a large family, common, plain, not very rich, and not very poor.

But simple as all of that sounds, it is utterly impossible for us to imagine what life was really like there in Nazareth. Just think of that situation: there were a number of sinful people – among them, Mary and Joseph and their children – sinners all, whose only hope of salvation was in that one Child in their midst. And they lived together as a household, while one of them had no knowledge of sin, was never disobedient! Everything He did was very good. If there arose a conflict about His upbringing, then the wrong was with His parents. If there was ever an argument or even a fight with the others, then the fault was always on the side of His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas, or His sisters (Matthew 13:55, 56).

Once, however, it looked as if the temptation of that city of Jerusalem and the attractiveness of the temple had become too much for that child Jesus. Apparently He went underground for a few days (Luke 2:40-52). But it seems that the gospel hastens to remove that wrong impression by giving us a complete report of the events. When His worried parents finally, after three days, found Him with the scribes and the Pharisees in the house of His Father, which on account of His divine origin was His home first and foremost, then it is not He who deserves the reprimand; no, it is He who rebukes His parents, because they had still not understood what His real place and calling was. They did apparently not understand His growing awareness of being the Messiah, the rapidly strengthening assurance that He was indeed the Son of God.

One cannot read the continuation in Luke 2:51 without being deeply moved: “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” This message is most important for our skills in child-rearing. And for understanding our place as children over against our parents, the passage is charged with instructive meaning.

And how does verse 51 conclude then? What does Mary do once they got back home? Did she take Him apart and give Him a good going-over just to make sure that there would be no repeat of such an escapade? No, she did as she had done shortly after His birth, when so many things were still so unclear about this child of wonder: together with the other unexplained experiences, she stored in her heart all these things, including those words of soft reproach: “Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?”

We shall never be able to comprehend how much self-control and self-denial, how great a humility and modesty, how unsearchable a love and faithfulness this child Jesus had to bring forth in that simple and apparently so common obedience. How heavy this burden of being both Son of Man and Son of God must have weighed down on Him!

His obedience was beyond that which a mere human can render, because He did the will of His Father in heaven saying: “Lo, I come; in the roll of the book it is written of Me; I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Thy law is within My heart.” (Psalm 40:8) – While at the same time He extended His perfect obedience to include subjection to the rule of His earthly sinful parents in Nazareth, who had so many shortcomings, who so often went astray.

There is much that sinful man can never perceive about an increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man such as Luke 2:52 describes. But yet the picture in front of us is sharp and clear: Jesus, Son of God, lived as the son of a carpenter, and was called a carpenter Himself (Mark 6:3). And He gained the sympathy of His neighbors, even though He was so intolerably different, even though He did not participate in any unholy, questionable play or amusement of children or of adolescents.

This simple information which the Holy Spirit decided to have written down for us can give courage and wonderful comfort to many young men and women who must feel so terribly lonely amidst the un-Christian pressure of their surrounding peer groups. Not because they are righteous and without sin. The opposite is sadly true. Their comfort is sure because they know: this Child who was without sin knows of temptations; He knows of our running scared, our confused bewilderment. But He has come to strengthen, to reinforce. He has knowledge of the sins of our youth with greater depth and clearer insight than any father, mother, or counsel-offering psychologist will ever be able to acquire. But then He came to take upon Himself the full burden of these terrible sins and to forgive them, and so absolutely to eradicate them that it is as if we had never committed them, nor the thought of doing so had ever entered our minds.

One may wonder why Jesus later did not do as He was urged by John and James, sons of Zebedee and Salome, when the Samaritans refused hospitality. These disciples, called “sons of thunder” by our Lord, were outraged by that refusal, and they asked Jesus, whom they began to recognize as the Christ according to the Scriptures, to call fire from heaven as in the days of Elijah and to consume those miserable violators of every rule of hospitality. But Jesus turned around and put them straight. For this was the great secret of His power-contained, of His might-not-used, of His wrath-held-back: He had come to bring salvation to His people, to save them from God's wrath on account of their sins. And not only for Israel had He come; no, He was also there for the Samaritans and for the Greeks, for the Romans and for the inhabitants of the lower land by the sea. He had come for Koreans, Papuas, Bantus, and Indians; for North Americans and South Americans.

The family at Nazareth could live with. Him in their midst and they were not singed by the fire of His holiness, because He was the Christ – be it then that He was not yet to take up His office. And the Samaritans were not consumed by fire, because He was the Christ, presenting Himself as the Messiah to offer His work of salvation.

And so also we with our families may live with Him in our midst, because He is the Christ, the promised Redeemer, who will save our lives, who will sanctify our existence.

However, His presence in our midst is not without the potential of that consuming fire, because we are living today in a different era. It is the era of Christ's victory. He has completely fulfilled all obedience.

The reason for holding back the heat of His flaming fire is different now from what it was there in that family room in Nazareth. Hebrews 12 teaches us all about the new era His victory has ushered in.

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