[Present your bodies…]
Before Jesus could begin His ministry on Earth, besides doing some years of growing, Mary and Joseph had Jesus circumcised and named Him Jesus at 8 days old. (Luke 2:21) Then, as was customary by Jewish law, they went to the temple to present Him to God. For in the law it is written: “Give every first born male to the Lord.” (“giving” here means to dedicate your child to serving God. Some Bibles will read firstborn, not firstborn male.) Today, followers of Christ dedicate all of their children to God.
At the temple, there was a man named Simeon who was considered a good man, and very religious. Because the Holy Spirit was in Him, Simeon was waiting for God to save Israel. Simeon knew that He would live to see the day that Christ was promised to the Lord because the Holy Spirit had told Him. It was the Holy Spirit who lead Simeon to the temple that day. So Mary and Joseph were obedient to the law, and Simeon took the baby Jesus in His arms and thanked God. (Luke 2:25-28 )
“Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you said. I have seen Your Salvation with my own eyes. You have prepared Him before all people. He is a light for the non-Jewish people to see. He will bring honor to Your people, the Israelites.” –Luke 2:29-32(NCV)
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, “God has chosen this child to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God that many people will not accept so that the thoughts of many will be made known. And the things that will happen will make your heart sad, too.”” –Luke 2:34-35(NCV)
His Name Means Savior
Salvation in the verse above is a reference to Jesus, as the name Jesus means Savior, Saved, or in this case Salvation. Scripture teaches us that as Jesus grew, He became stronger and wiser and God’s blessings were with Him. (Luke 2:39-40)
Lost But Found
The next significant event that’s recorded for us in Scripture occured when Jesus was 12 years of age. Mary and Joseph had gone to Jerusalem for the yearly Passover feast as they always did. When the feast was over they went home. Jesus stayed behind, but Mary and Joseph didn’t know this. (Luke 2:41-43)
This part makes me smile because Andrew has a similar story of being left behind at church, though he, unlike Jesus, didn’t choose or particularly prefer this. Apparently, it’s not unheard of for parents to lose track of their children, but in this case it took Mary and Joseph three days to find Jesus! If it had taken three days for Andrew’s parents to find him, I’m sure he wouldn’t have been amused. In fact, when he does tell this story he doesn’t sound very amused at all. (He says this is because it happened to him twice. As he puts it, “They forgot me.” If you could only see his face when he says this… not amused.)
No Ordinary Child
Jesus, however, was no ordinary child, but it seems that this wasn’t fully understood by Mary and Joseph who were beside themselves with worry when they found Him in the temple with the religious teachers. So, what was Jesus doing at the temple? He was listening and asking questions.
Even at this young age Jesus had already grown in wisdom, and the teachers who were listening to Him were quite amazed. Mary and Joseph were amazed too. Mary said to Jesus, “Why did you do this? Your father and I were very worried about you.” Jesus then answers them with a question. This, too, makes me smile because it’s just like Jesus to lead with a question! So Jesus answer was, “Why did you have to look for me? You should have known that I must be where my Father’s work is! “ (Luke 2:49 ) Though we, as His followers, may understand what Jesus is saying here, Mary and Joseph didn’t know what Jesus meant. He was born to be a Savior. So Jesus was already hard at work.
Jesus Grows in Favor
As I mentioned to Andrew that I was using his “left behind” story, I realized something: there’s quite a gap between this story of a 12 year old Jesus and the point at which He began His ministry at the age of 30. (Luke 3:23 ) Why the gap? There’s likely a few reasons behind this (timing for one), but in this gap of time Jesus would have been accumulating information. He was learning, and growing in wisdom, and strength as Scripture tells us. Of course, Jesus had to grow in approval as well. Therefore, In this time Jesus was growing in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)
Our Calling and Election
From these facts came this thought: as His followers, we can be so gung-ho to be used by God that we either rush into things (leaning on our own understanding) or we get frustrated when we feel as if we aren’t useful. We can also lose sight of our purpose. However, we too need time to grow in wisdom, strength and maturity before we can be used by God. When we have grown in favor (proven that we can be trusted with the smaller things that God has given us), God will give us more, and the Holy Spirit will work powerfully through us as well. This explains why I was given this verse (2 Peter 1:1-3 ) at a time when I was feeling so useless, and as if God would never use me.
“Because you have these blessings, you should try as much as you can to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness; and to your goodness, add knowledge; and to your knowledge, add self-control; and to your self-control, add the ability to hold on; and to your ability to hold on, add service for God; and to your service for God, add kindness for your brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love. If all these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to never be useless. They will help your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ make your lives better. But if anyone does not have these things, he cannot see clearly. He is blind. He has forgotten that he was made clean from his past sins.” –2 Peter 1:5-7(NCV)
Willing to Go the Distance
Not only would Jesus be an offering to God the Father, dedicated to His will and plan, but He would also willingly present Himself to serve as our Teacher and Savior. He was willing to go the distance, not only in a literal way, but figuratively also. For He came down from Heaven and faithfully served where He was planted.
Scripture refers to Jesus sacrifice as a ransom, which is why we say that Jesus has paid the price to set us free. He has taught us to do the same–that is, to be willing to go that distance, no matter the cost.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” –Mark 10:45
He Gave His Body (His life) to God the Father
Jesus was not only dedicated by His earthly parents, but He was also very dedicated to His Father in Heaven and His purpose here on Earth. It’s a beautiful story. God’s plan has some pain and sorrows, too, but Jesus always finds a way to get me to crack a smile.
I’m just sitting here now, as I wrap up this piece, imagining a 12 year old Jesus, ready and willing to be the one to lead the way. To know God, is to be ready and willing to do as He has done: to present our bodies to Him as a living Sacrifice.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Romans 12:1 (CSB)