As a rule I’m deeply committed to expository preaching, but from time to time I like to keep things fresh by throwing in something that appeals more to the imagination, like this monologue on the account in Luke 2:41-52 of the young Jesus in the temple.

Good morning and greetings to you all. My name is Eliphaz bar-Joseph. I am a lifelong student of the law of God the Almighty. The law! Oh, the law. The law of Moses is my joy and my delight.

Teach me, O Adonai, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts!
Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psalm 119; I’m sure as God’s people you know it off by heart, all 176 verses of it. How I long for your precepts, oh Adonai, Almighty God whose name I dare not speak lest I use it in vain and so break the third commandment given to Moses the prophet! How I long for your decrees to be written on my heart and in my life!

Oh, sorry, I got a bit carried away there. What was I going to say? Oh yes, I had such a strange experience the other day in the Temple. A most remarkable young boy of about twelve came to us in the temple court. It was the day after the Passover feast, as pilgrims, peddlers and petty thieves were flooding back out of the city to Judea and Galilee and Cilicia and Rome and wherever they came from.

Adonai’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month Adonai’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.

Leviticus 23, I’m sure you all know it off by heart. I’m sorry if I got a bit carried away there! You see, I am not just a student; I am a teacher of the law as well, like my father Joseph bar-Zophar.

The law—How I long for your precepts!—is the key—the key, I tell you!—to all of our current problems with the Romans. Examine the scripture for yourselves! Examine the books of Judges, Kings, Chronicles, and all of the Prophets! It was when the nation of Israel, God’s people, sinned against his statutes and violated his commands that Adonai, the Eternal One, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, gave his people over to the pagan nations. Therefore, it is obvious the Blessed One will restore to us his rightful king, David’s heir, only when Israel returns to him wholeheartedly and keeps all his precepts and commandments without fail. That is why we Pharisees study and teach the law day and night, and fence it round so we break his statutes neither on purpose nor by accident.

Teach me, O Adonai, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

Oh yes, that young man! Just a lad, he was. Had lots of questions, he did. Especially about the coming king. Very sharp questions indeed. He asked a lot about the prophecies of Isaiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Adonai –
and he will delight in the fear of Adonai.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions
for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

Isaiah 11; I’m sure you all know it off by heart—he asked a thousand questions about how this prophecy of the coming Messiah, and others like it, relate to the Servant the prophet speaks of in chapter 42 onwards:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his law the islands will put their hope.”

Just by querying and questioning and debating with us, this strange lad—Yeshua, his name was—caused us to search the scriptures more deeply than we had ever done before. It was as if he was asking with authority, if that makes any sense to you. I asked him who his rabbi, his teacher was; it was his Father, he said. I asked, ‘Who is your Father? Are you maybe a son of the great rabbi Hillel?’ But he would not answer. Curious. I have learned at the feet of most rabbis, but I did not recognise this teaching. I still wonder who his Father is.

At one point, Yeshua quoted what Isaiah 53 says about the Servant:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and Adonai has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

I must say that he made me wonder a lot over the last few weeks. What if the Messiah-King is also the Servant? What if we are all mistaken to expect a powerful and victorious ruler to mass his armies in the name of Adonai, the Mighty One, and recapture Zion; what if he will send his anointed in a different way, with a much larger purpose for the nations?

This is what God Adonai says—
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth
and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, Adonai, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon
those who sit in darkness.

[Sigh]. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Anyway, this went on for a day or three. I brought some food for the lad so he wouldn’t go hungry. Then his parents showed up, country folk from Galilee, a carpenter named Joseph and his wife Mary. They were besides themselves with worry, as well they should be! Jerusalem is absolutely full of scoundrels up to no good when there are that many pilgrims around.

“Son, why have you done this?” they asked. And his answer stayed with me ever since.

“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

It would have been insufferably arrogant it if had not been so disturbing.

Because for sure, this simple carpenter Joseph could not have taught him the Holy Scriptures with such authority and depth. The man’s house was in a dump somewhere—Nazareth, I think—and not in Jerusalem or the temple.

So until this day I’m asking myself: who is this lad’s Father?

And who is the coming Messiah that Isaiah and all the prophets are speaking about? What will his Kingdom be like?

And I worry. Will we all miss it when it comes?

Will we?