When we speak of something as a “must,” we mean it is a priority, a necessity, an imperative in our lives. Certain New Testament verses would reveal a number of such priorities in the life of our Savior; things that are of primary importance to Him.
The great priority for the Son of God is His eternal Father, and likewise the great priority for the Father is His eternal Son. As we consider these Scriptures, we recognize that the Father is at the center of all the Son’s thoughts. A common thread to these priorities for our Lord is that they can all be connected with His Father.
The wonderful thing for believers in Christ is that we are so greatly blessed because of all the Father and the Son mean to one another. The Son is at the center of all that the Father has purposed, and those who are linked eternally to the Son through salvation will share in the blessing that God has purposed for His Son. Likewise, the Father is at the center of all that the Son involves Himself with, and as a consequence of His primary occupation with the things of His Father, He provided also the basis for our eternal blessing. These necessities of our Lord Jesus declare that the Father is at the center of all that would be a priority for Him.
The Must of His Devotion
“And He said unto them, ‘How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?’” (Luke 2:49). These are the first recorded words of the incarnate Son of God, adding all the more to their significance. The context in which they are said is most relevant. Mary and Joseph have returned to Jerusalem, realizing He is not with them. For three days they have been looking for the Lord. He is just a boy of 12 years, so we can readily appreciate their concern. They finally find Him in the temple, in the midst of the doctors. His mother says “Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.” It seems very reasonable in such circumstances for a mother to say this to her 12-year-old son. But the Lord’s reply declares His immediate priority was to be in the things of His Father.
From the purely human perspective, the Lord’s reply to Mary sounds inconsiderate. But consider it from the divine perspective. The Son of God had been with His Father in the glory of heaven from all eternity (see John 17:5). He had come down to this scene of time, leaving the glory and splendor of His place alongside His Father, now to be moving as a Man on earth. But His great priority is still His eternal Father, and the Son is just giving expression to His devotion to His Father, His necessity to be in the things of His Father, His urgency to be busy in fulfilling the work the Father had for Him to do.
“And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them” (Luke 2:50). Mary and Joseph did not fully appreciate the larger divine perspective at that time, but “His mother kept all these sayings in her heart” (v 51). She never forgot these words of the Lord Jesus and, surely, by the time the Lord went forth in public service, she fully understood Whose Servant He was, and with Whose business He was occupied. Mary would appreciate the Lord Jesus was moving out faithfully in devoted service for His Father.
Subjection to His Earthly Parents
“And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them” (v 51). The Lord Jesus stooped so low when He left heaven to come down into this world: “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). Every part of these verses is rich in meaning. Think of all that He shared with His Father in heaven, yet He did not count such manifested equalities as a prize to be retained. He truly “made Himself of no reputation” when He came down into this world as a Man.
Now, at the age of 12, “sitting in the midst of the doctors” (Luke 2:46), He is listening and asking them questions. He is the center of attention of those learned men of Israel. “And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (v 47). If ever there was an opportunity for the Lord to promote Himself and enhance His reputation in the eyes of men, this was it.
But the Lord was not motivated by any need to enhance his own reputation before men. He leaves those doctors and learned men in the temple in Jerusalem, He leaves men who are marvelling at Him. In a sense, He makes Himself of no reputation all over again, as He goes back with His parents to Galilee, even to the despised place of Nazareth. There He will remain for 18 more years, living a perfect life in Nazareth, displaying real subjection to His earthly parents, until at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), He will go forth in public service.
The fifth commandment of the Law was “Honor thy father and thy mother.” The Lord goes down with them to Nazareth, to honor His earthly father and mother, thus upholding the Law perfectly. But above all, He is honoring His eternal Father, displaying the “must” of His devotion, His priority to do only the things that would please His Father. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (v 52).