This is a reflective time of year. The delightful festivities of Christmas are over – bar the turkey curry. New Year celebrations are looming. One year is fading. Another lies ahead of us. Each one of us made a lot of decisions last year about how we should live our lives – some major, some minor. Now as you reflect on this last year, let me ask you this. How wise have your decisions been? As we think about that, we quickly realise that we desperately need a source of wisdom that's in a different league to our own. Now the one thing I want you to take away from our passage this evening is the knowledge that God has provided just such a source of wisdom – perfect, never-ending and unpolluted. And that's Jesus.
In our mini-series on the first two chapters of Luke's gospel, we've got to 2.41-52. Do have that open in front of you. It's there in the pew Bibles on p1029. And I have three simple headings this evening. First, Jesus has amazing wisdom. Secondly, Without Jesus, we lack wisdom. And thirdly, We can learn wisdom from Jesus.
First, JESUS HAS AMAZING WISDOM
This is really a remarkable passage. The fact is that all we know about the time from the infancy of Jesus to his adulthood is contained in these verses. There is nothing else. The rest of those years are shrouded in silence. And it always strikes me reading this that it's rather cold comfort for parents. Even if you quite literally have the perfect child, parenthood is still marked by anxiety, misunderstanding, and suffering – and that's when Jesus was a boy, never mind when he was an adult, when the anguish just intensified for years before eventually coming to a resolution. What's going on here? Verse 41-42:
Every year his [Jesus's] parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.
Because Mary and Joseph were Godly parents, they obeyed God's law for the Jews and each year they would go on the long trek from their northern home in Nazareth to the great Temple in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. The Passover was an annual reminder to the Jews of how God rescued them from slavery in Egypt. So these verses tell us how they went as usual, when Jesus was twelve. But on the way home, after travelling for a day, they suddenly realised that Jesus wasn't with them in their group. Verses 43-45:
After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their friends and relatives. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
>You can imagine the headlines. 'Away alone: 12 year old boy abandoned in capital city as parents return home from holiday.' How could that happen? It's not explained. It may be that the women and younger children walked separately from the men and older boys, meeting up at the campsite at the end of the day. Jesus was on the borderline between being a young child and an older boy. Maybe Joseph could have thought that Jesus was with Mary, and Mary that he was with Joseph. It wouldn't be the first time such a misunderstanding has occurred between husband and wife. Or it could simply be that they assumed he was somewhere amongst what was obviously a reasonably large crowd of festival-going relatives and friends. Either way, if you've ever lost a child even for a few minutes, you can imagine their feelings. Whether Mary and Joseph felt irresponsible I don't know. It took them three days to locate Jesus. When they found him in the Temple, they blamed him. Reading the passage from verse 48:
When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." [What a world of worry there is in those words!] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know that I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
They had a tough lesson to learn: that Jesus was the one with the wisdom, not them. We all find that a tough lesson to learn. We're all inclined to think that we know better than him. Jesus, even as a boy of 12, had amazing wisdom. Look at what's said about Jesus both at the beginning and at the end of our passage. Verse 40:
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
And then at the end, verse 52:
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.
Of all the children born to women, Jesus alone has the wisdom that we need. You can see how he displayed his wisdom even as a boy that time in the Temple, when Mary and Joseph were anxiously hunting for him, not realising that he was in the house of God, his Father. There he was in the temple courts (verse 46)…
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Notice six things about the wisdom of Jesus in these verses:
First, his wisdom caused him to behave in an unexpected way. Even that surprise for his parents is an intimation of his divinity. As God says in Isaiah 55.9:
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We don't naturally understand the ways of God – or of his Son.
Secondly, his wisdom gave him clarity. He knew where he should be. He knew what he should do. That's wisdom in a nutshell. He said, 'Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?'
Thirdly, his wisdom amazed those who heard him speak. 'Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.' This was a reaction that Jesus got throughout his life. So for instance, here's Matthew 13.54-55:
Coming to his home town, [Jesus] began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. 'Where did this man get this wisdom…' they asked. 'Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary…'
Fourthly, his wisdom showed not only in what he said but in how he lived. Even this temple incident results from the way Jesus' wisdom drives what he does. And then look at verse 51:
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.
True wisdom is not a matter primarily for the intellect. It is for life.
Fifthly, his wisdom grew as he got older. Verse 52: 'Jesus grew in wisdom…' Not that his wisdom was flawed or imperfect. But it was immature, and it grew with him, as it should.
Sixthly, his wisdom arose from his relationship with God. The grace of God was on him. He grew in favour with God. God was his Father. He knew he had to be in his Father's house on that Passover trip. His intimacy with his Father was the foundation of his wisdom.
Those, then, are some of the characteristics of the wisdom that Jesus has. And he offers the same wisdom to you and me as we live close to him. So we can expect to see the same results in our own lives as Jesus transforms our thinking. Our lives will take unexpected turns that won't be understood by unbelievers. We'll find a new clarity about our key priorities. We'll surprise others with the insight that we have. The way we live will be aligned with our new way of thinking. Our wisdom will develop and grow the longer we go on with Christ. And the bedrock of our wisdom will be our relationship with God through Jesus. You see, true wisdom is something deeply personal.
As a boy on holiday on the south coast of Cornwall I used to love watching the big china clay tankers gingerly make their way into the Fowey estuary. They had to dock up-river to be loaded. Every time a big ship approached the mouth of the river, the pilot boat would speed out from the harbour to meet it and the pilot in his smart uniform would be taken on board. And he'd take over from the captain the task of directing the ship up the narrow channel. Why? Because he knew where to go. He knew the safe route. He had the best interests of the ship at heart. And he could be trusted.
So it is with Jesus. If we want wisdom, we have to have Jesus in our lives. We have to let him take over the controls. It's as simple and challenging as that. And boy, do we need wisdom. Which brings me to my next heading:
Secondly, WITHOUT JESUS, WE LACK WISDOM
God's law teaches wisdom for living – but without his Spirit, we don't live by it. We live as fools. Jesus is the source of wisdom – but without his Spirit we don't understand him. That was the experience of Joseph and Mary, and it's ours too. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1.21:
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
It's through the gospel that we get to know Jesus, and we receive the gift of his Spirit. All the so-called wisdom of the world that ignores or rejects the gospel is so much garbage in the end. If we live apart from Jesus, we live as fools. Without Jesus, we lack wisdom. But we don't have to be like that. And that's my final heading:
Thirdly, WE CAN LEARN WISDOM FROM JESUS
James 1.5 encourages us with these words:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
So we have a promise of wisdom when we ask. How, then, can we grow into this life-transforming wisdom? Here are some guidelines to learning wisdom from Jesus.
First, we must have the Spirit of Jesus if we're to grow into wisdom. Paul pinpoints this issue when he says this in 1 Corinthians 2.12 and 14:
We [he's speaking of believers, who have a living relationship with Jesus] have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us... The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
In other words, we can't get inside the mind of Jesus unless the mind of Jesus gets inside us. But that's what happens to us as believers. We're given the Spirit of Jesus and he begins to mould our thinking from within. We have to have the Spirit of Jesus.
Secondly, wisdom requires the humility to listen and to learn. We need to hold in our minds this picture of Jesus 'sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions'. If the young Jesus feels the need to do that, probing the thinking of those muddle-headed religious leaders of his day, how much more must we. We must be teachable. We must be ready to learn from others. And above all, we must sit at the feet of the God-inspired writers of the Scriptures, and soak up the divine wisdom in their words. Proverbs 15.33:
The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honour.
In other words, spiritual arrogance destroys wisdom. We don't come to the Word of God to judge it, but to learn from it. So:
Thirdly, wisdom requires memory of and meditation on the Word of God. Psalm 19.7 sums it up:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
One of the challenges of Rick Warren's book 'The Purpose Driven Life' that many of us read last term is to build a habit of learning and thinking about selected Bible verses in the spare moments of our days. And it's hard to imagine a more effective training in wisdom than that. Maybe a project that you could get your mental teeth into in the coming year would be to do something like the 'Topical Memory System'. That's published by Navigators and it takes you through 60 verses that systematically cover the main areas of Christian living. If you want more details of that, do let me know. But the principle is this: wisdom requires that the Word of God is absorbed into our lives.
Fourthly, wisdom takes time. For instance, Paul describes his prayer for the young Christians in Colosse in this way:
… since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
We don't cast off our folly in a moment. Even Jesus, who was always perfectly wise, nonetheless had to grow in wisdom in a way that matched his developing physical, social and intellectual maturity. For us, the gaining of Godly wisdom is a lifelong process – and it is one of our most important long term aims.
Then finally, to grow in wisdom we must stay close to Jesus. As we get to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and friend through the gospel, so we learn wisdom. You see Jesus doesn't just have wisdom. He embodies wisdom. He is wisdom. The apostle Paul, whose life was totally transformed by getting to know Jesus, wrote that Christ is …
the power and the wisdom of God… [He] has become for us wisdom from God … [That's 1 Corinthians 1.30.]
Jesus is the wisdom of God. He gives us wisdom by giving us himself. In the end, the best definition of a fool is someone without a living relationship with Jesus. So get the wisdom you need from the one who even as a boy displayed this amazing wisdom. Keep on asking to be filled and refilled with the Spirit of Jesus. Be humble enough to know your need of wisdom and to be teachable. Soak your mind in the Word of God. Work at wisdom patiently throughout your lifetime. And above all, stay close to Jesus day by day and moment by moment.
When it comes to cooking, I'm a fool. I know nothing. But when Vivienne watches over me, supervises me, deflects me from my culinary folly, advises me, shows me how to do things, then I can accomplish something worthwhile. I have to say my chocolate bread and butter pudding the other day was exceptional.
A new year lies just over the horizon. We know what needs to be done if we're to grow in wisdom. The wisdom of Jesus is astounding. Without Jesus, we're fools. With him, we can make something worthwhile of our lives. So now we know, let's do it.