Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.
Our Substitute From Heaven
Does studying this text at this particular time seem like we’re maybe rushing things a little bit? Wasn’t it just a couple of days ago that we were gathered around the manger, gazing with awe at the Wonder born for us there? We’ve just finished singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King.” And now suddenly, Jesus is 12 years old! The birth of our Savior is a place in the Bible where we rightfully want to linger and ponder that singular moment in human history. The Creator becoming the created is a big deal. Are we rushing Christmas out the door?
We don’t have to feel that way. Don’t think of the verses from Luke chapter 2 as leaving the manger scene behind, but rather as filling in an important part of what the manger scene is all about.
Jesus’ birth is indeed significant and worthy of our highest joy and celebration. But Bethlehem was really just the first domino to fall in the story of God with Us. The 33 years that followed, the lifetime of humbling himself, of serving, of obedience, was a major part of why he was born in the first place.
Because we don’t have a lifetime of humbling ourselves, serving, obeying, we can’t string two seconds of perfection together. (As if we could even produce one second of perfection in the first place!) And eternal separation from God is what we have deserved as wages for our lifelong wicked work. But the One who demanded perfect and complete obedience saw our perfect and complete disobedience and came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves—to keep the law himself as one of us. And then, without there being any merit or lovability in us, Jesus gave up his life on a cross.
That is love unconditional. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas, after all. Not just that we have a substitute, but the amazing love for us that brought him here.
All praise and thanks to you, Lord Jesus, for the love that brought you as my substitute. Help me always to love you in return. Amen.