Mothering Sunday is a reminder that bringing up children is a tough job, and we all need help. None of us can do it alone. We need direction in life if we're not going to get lost. Growing up is a tough assignment – and being a parent is even tougher.
So we need wisdom. That is to say, we need to know what to do. But knowing is not enough. We also need the internal power of character and self-control and perseverance to do what we know we should do. And that's what the Bible means by wisdom – knowing what to do, and being able to do it.
How wise have your decisions been? As we think about that, we quickly realise that we desperately need to learn wisdom from somewhere. And God has provided for us that wisdom we so badly need. The Bible passage I want us to look at is Luke's gospel 2.41-52. It would be great if you could have open in front of you. Grab a Bible from the back of the chair, and it's there in on page 858. And I have three simple headings. First, Jesus has amazing wisdom. Secondly, Without Jesus, we lack wisdom. And thirdly, We can learn wisdom from Jesus.
First, JESUS HAS AMAZING WISDOM
All we know about the time from the infancy of Jesus to his adulthood is contained in these verses. The rest of those years are shrouded in silence. And it's rather cold comfort for parents. Even if you quite literally have the perfect child – as Mary and Joseph did – being a parent is still marked by worry, misunderstanding, and suffering. What's going on here? Verse 41-42:
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.
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:
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.
You can imagine the headlines. '12 year old boy abandoned in capital city as parents return home from holiday.' How could that happen? Maybe the women and younger children walked separately from the men and older boys. Maybe Joseph thought 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. Whatever happened, if you've ever lost a child even for a few minutes, as I have, you can imagine their feelings.
It took them three days to locate Jesus. When they found him in the Temple, they blamed him. This is what Luke says, from verse 48:
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." [What a world of worry there is in those words!] 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.
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, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him.
And then at the end, verse 52:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.
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. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Notice these 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 a sign that he is God made man. As God says in Isaiah 55.9:
For 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, 'Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'
Thirdly, his wisdom amazed those who heard him. 'All who heard him were 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] taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get his wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called 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:
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.
True wisdom is not just in the mind. It's how we live.
Fifthly, his wisdom grew as he got older. Verse 52: 'And Jesus increased 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 top priorities in life. We'll surprise others with the wisdom that we have. The way we live our lives will change for the better. 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 by the coast I used to love watching the big ships gingerly make their way from the sea into the river 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. It's through the gospel of Jesus 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 Jesus 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, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
So we have a promise of wisdom when we ask. How, then, can we grow into this life-changing 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:
Now we [he's talking about believers, who have a living relationship with Jesus] have received … the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God ... The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to 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 needs 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.
Quite a few years ago now our daughter Katy – then just six years old, now 26 – Katy and I were doing her Bible reading notes together. One of the responsibilities of a father is to look after the spiritual growth of his children, and, though I haven't always been a very good father or done a very good job, on this occasion I was trying to help.
So little Katy had to decipher a Bible verse out of a code made up of little pictures, with letters to cross off and others to add. You probably know the sort of thing. One of the pictures was of a bird – but you had to cross off the "B" and replace it with a "W". So I said to her, "What word does that sound like if you take the B off Bird and put W instead?" Quick as a flash she replied "Wobin". There was also a picture of a hand with a crossed out "H". "What word do you get if you take the H off Hand?" I asked. She replied "Thumb".
Why do I tell you about these happy memories? Well, the Bible verse that we were laboriously working our way towards was Psalm 119.105:
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
The Word of God in the Bible illuminates our route through life, makes clear our destination, and gives us direction. Psalm 19.7 sums it up:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
If we're going to be wise, the Word of God has to be soaked up into our lives. We have to be ready to listen to and learn from the Word of God, the Bible. So here's a simple suggestion that would help you do that. Come along to our services in the run up to Easter over the next few weeks. We'll be learning more from the Bible about how the death and the resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago can transform our lives today. Pick up the leaflet with all the details.
Thirdly, 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 stop being foolish in a moment. Even Jesus, who was always perfectly wise, had to grow in wisdom in a way that matched his developing physical, social and mental 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 our Lord and Saviour and friend, so we learn wisdom. You see Jesus doesn't just have wisdom. He is wisdom. The apostle Paul, whose life was totally transformed by getting to know Jesus, wrote that Christ is …
the power of God and the wisdom of God… who became to us wisdom from God … [That's 1 Corinthians 1]
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. Be teachable. Soak your mind in the Word of God. Work at wisdom patiently throughout your lifetime. And 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 I do a mean sausage and mash.
So on this Mothering Sunday, whether or not we are parents, we know what needs to be done if we're going 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.