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IN THE BODY OF A MAN, EVEN JESUS HAD TO LEARN
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
30 DECEMBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Luke 2:21-40, 52
Preparation Verse: (Proverbs 1:7)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This morning I would like us to consider what it means to acquire wisdom.
And, if we have acquired wisdom, we wouldn't need any New Year's resolutions, because we would already be doing what God wants us to do.
Let's see why.
True wisdom is a gift of God.
Wisdom is our ability to properly utilize the knowledge we acquire during our lifetime.
And knowledge, without wisdom, can be as dangerous as putting a loaded gun in the hands of a little child.
The child lacks the wisdom to understand the dangers of a real gun.
The one who places the loaded gun in the hands of a child may have knowledge of how the gun works and its dangers, but lacks wisdom altogether.
Now, we are not talking about guns, but we are talking about people. Most people go around loading their brains with all kinds of information, and a great many of them go around indiscriminately “shooting off” their mouths and hurting others in the process.
They and those who resort to shooting real guns at real people and real animals lack true wisdom.
On Christmas Eve we talked about the fact that both Mary and Joseph, and Mary's cousin Elizabeth, all had a knowledge of God's word; and the way that they responded to God's word brought by His angel showed that they also possessed wisdom.
When Jesus was born, He lacked knowledge and wisdom.
God condescended to be in a human body; and in that body, He had to function as a human.
When He was born, He hadn't yet learned to talk, or walk, or feed Himself. He even soiled His diaper.
He went through everything that you and I went through, so that He would understand us better, or more accurately, so that we would realize that He understands what we are going through in our lifetime; for He went through it, too.
Let's pick up this recording of Jesus' life in chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke at verse 21, and note the way that wisdom begins to develop in Him and in those who helped the process:
21. And when eight days were completed before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
22. And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord
23. (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every first-born male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"),
24. and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
Part of our acquiring wisdom is the understanding that Jesus came to be the last sacrifice, and that even this sacrifice would have been unnecessary if humanity had obeyed the Lord.
Even the Law would not have been needed.
With these thoughts in mind, let's go on.
The beginning of wisdom in the baby Jesus was through His association with the wisdom of His parents and with that of other godly people.
Mary and Joseph followed the Law of the Lord, and the way they lived also showed that they truly understood that the Law was just to show them that we all need a Savior, for none of us can obey it all the time, because we live in a fallen world.
This, too, is wisdom.
There were those in the temple who also had this wisdom:
25. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,
28. then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29. "Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart
In peace, according to Thy word;
30. For my eyes have seen Thy salvation,
31. Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32. A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Thy people Israel."
Did you note that Simeon was a righteous and devout man?
That means that he knew the word of the Lord, and he desired in his heart to live according to God's commandments.
And because Simeon thought that way, the Holy Spirit was upon him and spoke through him.
Beloved, there is nothing that unusual about Simeon's gift. We can have the same.
The distinction is that there were, and are, few people who truly desire to
serve God in every aspect of their lives.
This is the tragedy of today's society, and it is getting worse because each successive generation has less knowledge of God and His word and, thus, wisdom.
Even though Mary and Joseph also had this wisdom, they were not used to having it expressed so openly.
Thus the Scriptures tell us:
33. And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
Then Simeon prophesies to them about what must take place in the future, all of which was in accordance with previous prophecy:
34. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed –
35. and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
And if all of this wasn't enough for them to fathom, there was more to come:
36. And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage,
37. and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
38. And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Both Simeon and Anna also possessed the wisdom of God, and as we have seen before, all that was said was taken into the hearts of Jesus' parents.
With what purpose?
That they would serve the Lord even more.
For that has been their hearts desire continually, as we see from the next verse:
39. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
Everything that they did was in accordance with the Law of God, and that included sharing with their children the things of God that were upon their heart and that they had learned.
Keep a marker in your Bible here, and note what we are told in Deuteronomy
6:6-7. This, too, is part of God's word:
6. "And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;
7. and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
If we want a better life, and if we want our children to have a better life, then we have to seek to gain in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom continually.
We have to work at doing better today than we did yesterday.
And if what we do is according to God's will and what is written in His Word, we will prosper in all that we do, for the Lord Himself will be with us.
What effect do you think all this had on the baby Jesus, as He began to grow up?
Turn back to Luke 2:40 and note the results:
40. And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Did you notice the phrase "increase in wisdom"?
For something to increase, it had to have been less before; therefore Jesus, like us, had to learn as He was growing up.
But don't think that the grace of God that was upon Jesus is the special something that allowed Him to increase in wisdom more than any of us, for it is not.
This is why, I believe, that I get into trouble when I am so cautious about baptisms, dedications, marriages, and adult communion.
When we come forth for these sacraments, we express our belief and faith in
Jesus Christ, and call forth the grace of God upon ourselves and our children;
and if we do it with falseness, it is not the grace of God we call forth.
Non-believers and weak-believers have enough problems already. Why help them lie to God and bring forth His wrath?
Mary and Joseph truly believed and truly sought to serve the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and might; thus they successfully prayed the grace of God upon their children, including their first-born, Jesus.
Keep a marker here again, and let's look at what we are told about wisdom in Proverbs 3, beginning at verse 1.
And as we read, remember that Mary and Joseph were familiar with Scripture, and that these verses were also written on the tablets of their heart:
1. My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
2. For length of days and years of life,
And peace they will add to you.
3. Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4. So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
It is a recent proven medical fact that those people who have a peaceful spirit usually live longer and are healthier.
It is also a proven medical fact that those people who eat an unprocessed whole plant food diet rarely get the chronic diseases that plague the rest of society who eat animal products.
Perhaps we should have been listening to the Bible and the will of God more over the past 3,000
years, and even more so now.
So if peace is not part of our being, then we had best look at our dedication to God and His word.
Likewise, note what we are to protect and bind to ourselves:
They are kindness and truth.
Consider that there is no way to raise and slaughter animals for food if people are truly kind, and if we are truly kind, we would not buy the products of cruelty, and we would live in truth instead of the lies.
And, in the process, we gain good health.
This, too, is wisdom!
We almost always want to be accepted by our fellow human beings and find favor with them; therefore, we must choose whether to follow the ungodly ones who are in the majority, or possess these three ingredients of wisdom: peace, kindness, and truth, and follow the smaller group of people who possess these qualities.
Jesus had to learn about these things.
Why do so many of us think we are better than Jesus, and that we don't need to read our Bibles or study God's word so that it would become part of our nature, written on the tablet of our own heart?
This is exactly what the next few verses tell us:
5. Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6. In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
7. Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
If we do this, what will be the benefit?
8. It will be healing to your body,
And refreshment to your bones.
What else are we to do?
9. Honor the Lord from your wealth,
And from the first of all your produce;
10. So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.
11. My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord,
Or loathe His reproof,
12. For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father, the son in whom he delights.
If we do as the Lord desires, we prosper. If we behave counter to His wishes, He punishes us so that we might return to Him and follow His ways.
I know this is true, for it happens continually in my own life.
And it happened in the lives of Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna, and even with Jesus, as He was growing up.
Not that Jesus ever sinned, or had to be disciplined for it; but that He was reminded of what was right and wrong, and followed what He knew to be God's will before He sinned, just as we should.
This is all part of learning and increasing in wisdom.
It is a blessing, as we are told in verses 13-15:
13. How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding.
14. For its profit is better than the profit of silver,
And its gain than fine gold.
15. She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
Let me give you an example.
Our economy is beginning to go into a mild recession. Many people will lose their jobs and will be in need.
There are many other people who have jobs but are still in need.
And there are people who are poor indeed, and those who make themselves poor.
Those who make themselves poor spend what they have on their material desires and then have nothing left over for their needs.
This is not wisdom; this is folly.
True wisdom would have us spend only on the things we need, and then put some
away for another time, to carry us through the hard times, and invest. Then, and
only then, spend for our desires, providing that our desires are the same as
those of God.
And if our heart is truly set upon God, our worldly desires will fade, for nothing compares with the wisdom of God.
In the process, we will find out a great truth. We will have more abundance from the little we have than we ever thought we could have, even if we had more to begin with.
Jesus showed us this example when He fed the five-thousand. There was more left over in the end than in the beginning.
This is also an example of Jesus' growth in wisdom.
For as Jesus grew, He confounded His teachers and elders with His wisdom, and even as a teenager he continued to increase in wisdom with very favorable results.
Note Luke 2:52 –
52. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Even Jesus had to learn.
Shouldn't we at least do this much to be like Him?