“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
How mistaken we would be to conclude that the passion of Christ began in the so-called Passion Week and ended in His crucifixion!
O, indeed, quite naturally His passion must lead to His crucifixion and death. But to conclude that He suffered only at the end of His earthly life, and that that suffering describes His passion in its entire substance would not to justice to the Scriptural concept that He is the suffering Servant of Jehovah even from the moment of His conception and birth. Let the modernist, if he will, believe and teach that Jesus led a quiet and subdued life, and that when He began to exert Himself at the end of His life that then he was made to suffer as a good Man for His principles. The believing student of Scripture, on the other hand, understands His passion as the very business for which He was sent into our world, and the thing the Father gave Him to do. And this is not simply an experience He endured at the end of His life upon earth, but it was in His messianic consciousness from a very early age. This is the truth which our Lord expressed at the age of twelve as He sat in the midst of the doctors of the law in the temple, where He heard them and asked them hard questions, and where His parents found Him after a three-day search.
With these thoughts in mind, most beautiful is the contents of the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, from which our text is taken. The chapter contains especially two great Gospel truths. The first of these is given to us in the majority of the chapter in which the truth is related that the Son of God is born of a woman. We have described for us almost in detail His lowly birth in the cattle stall, the revelation to shepherds by the angels of the excellency of His Person, and the observation of the humiliation to which He was subjected, and the testimony of Spirit-filled saints who were in anticipation of His coming. But the second truth, expressed in the latter portion of the chapter, is as important and glorious as the first; the truth, namely, that the Son of God is become now the Son of Man—become under the law. It is that first truth that receives the emphasis, it seems, while the second is almost wholly neglected. This is not as it ought to be!
Indeed, that He is to be our Saviour is very important! The truth that God came in the flesh is precisely for our salvation. It is well, therefore, to sing with the angels: Peace on earth to men of His good pleasure. But that He is the obedient Son is just as important! If Christ came not under the law, we are not saved. If Christ in obedience to the Divine law did not fulfill it, we are still under condemnation. It is precisely this latter idea that was dinned into His consciousness when He heard His mother’s rebuke.
Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us?
Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing!
It was this question that struck deeply into His soul, and which moved Him to reply as He did.
How is it that ye sought Me?
Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?
This gentle rebuke must not be interpreted as a rejection of the parental authority of a foster parent. For we have only to read two verses beyond our text to discern that: “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” Rather, at the moment He must make it clear that He recognizes His only Father in Whose things He must be busy.
How is it that ye of all people sought Me?
Was it not you, my mother, who told Me when first I could begin to understand, that I had an unusual, yea, a miraculous conception and birth? Have you forgotten how dramatically you described to Me the facts concerning the annunciation, how the angel Gabriel came to you to inform you of My birth which must take place without the will of man? Was it not you, my mother, who informed Me of the strange but wonderful happenings that accompanied My birth—how the angels from heaven came down to reveal to lowly shepherds on the Judean hills the good tidings that a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord had been born and that He, could be found lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes? Did you not tell Me that these shepherds were the very first of earthly eye-witnesses to behold My coming into the world? And did not My being thrill with joy when you recounted for Me the events that accompanied My presentation in the temple—how the aged Simeon lifted Me up in his arms, exclaiming that he could not die until he had seen the Lord’s salvation?—how the aged prophetess Anna declared to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem concerning that redemption as it would be wrought through Me? And have you forgotten, Mother, how attentively I listened when you told Me of those strange men of the Gentiles who came from a far country to worship before Me while they presented to Me gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? And how wicked Herod sought to take My life, and you were commanded of God to take Me into Egypt until Herod was dead? And have you not noticed how under this instruction I have grown up, waxed strong in wisdom and in the grace of God which is upon Me? How is it then that you ask: Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? And how is it now that you say: behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing?
Thy father, you say?
But is it not so, that I have but one Father, My Father which is in heaven?
Thou knowest that I have but one Father!
Wist ye not that it is in His things that I must be busy?
How is it that you have failed to remember that Jehovah thy God is My Father? That I came forth from Him, not only as the Son, but also as the Servant in Whom He is pleased to realize all His good pleasure concerning your redemption and the salvation of all His people?
About the things of My Father I must be busy!
And knowest thou not, My mother, that among those things of My Father which I must do is the raising up of the whole house of His Covenant, that covenant of friendship which exists so perfectly within the Divine family, of the Trinity, of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit? That friendship relation which He is pleased to realize also outside of Himself with the creature,—that covenant relation which will embrace the entire cosmos, heaven and earth, which constitutes the world which He loved and for which He gave Me, His Only-Begotten Son! That covenant is the thing about which I must be busy, for it is THE THING My Father gave Me to realize to which all other things I must do are related. For you must not forget, My mother, that My Father purposed to realize that covenant through the way of sin and grace, and therefore through the fall of man, and through the atonement which could bring redemption, which in turn would exalt that covenant—not in the earthly which must pass away—but in the heavenly and eternal where righteousness shall dwell.
Wist ye not that I must be busy in these things?
Do you not understand that it is exactly because of this that I so miraculously came into the world, was born of you, in the generations of David, born under the law and therefore under the wrath of God, in order that I might redeem them who were under that law and under that wrath? And do you not now understand how precisely for that reason I should be here now in the midst of the doctors of the law to learn exactly the meaning of the sacrifices and the significance of the blood of atonement? That I must learn with a believing heart and understanding that the blood of bulls and goats cannot satisfy for sin, but that a body God prepared for Me of flesh and blood, in order that in it I may lay down My life for the sins of My people?
O, indeed, I am also thy son, and I will rise up now to go with thee and be in complete subjection unto thee. For in love to My Father I must keep all the law, also the law of the fifth commandment. For He who would transgress in one must be guilty of all. But in the keeping of that law, I must also be busy in all that My Father gave Me to do.
In His messianic consciousness this was His Divine obligation!
It was a Divine MUST!
Nothing, not even the sorrow and concern of His parents may entice Him to leave the path of obedience!
What He later was to teach His disciples concerning their relation to Him, must also be indicative of His relation to the Father. True discipleship, so He taught them at the height of His earthly ministry, consists in this: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me.” This principle of self-abnegation, of complete self-surrender so characteristic of true discipleship, He also applies to Himself as He stands in relation to the Father.
It is this Divine imperative which prompted Him throughout His entire earthly mission. This was the dominant principle that moved Him at the age of thirty, before He began His ministry, to require the baptism of John in the Jordan. “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it behooveth us to fulfill all righteousness.” This was it that caused Him to set His face to Jerusalem after He was privileged to bathe in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. It was in the light of this that at the Last Supper He could command the betrayer to go out and commit his dastardly deed. And even after His resurrection He reminds the Emaus travelers of this Divine imperative when He said to them: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered . . .” So now, at the age of twelve, He is deeply conscious of this Divine must.
Not as a whim of a venturous youth must this statement of the Lord be interpreted! Of a youth who is carried away with pompous thoughts concerning a great future as impressed on his imagination through the tales constantly told him by his mother or some other influence. God forbid, that He should so be understood!
Nay, much rather, here is the first revealed indication of the deep-seated consciousness He possessed of His relation to the Father, and of His profound understanding of His Divine calling to be the Saviour of His people.
Here is expressed also His profound sense of Mediatorship which can only be accomplished through implicit obedience.
Not like our first father and federal head will He be, who was enticed from the path of obedience, in which disobedience he dragged down with him into death the whole human race. Shall He redeem those of the sons of Adam who are given to Him of the Father in sovereign election to be saved by Him, He must be obedient from the beginning to the end!