One of the unique details Luke presents about Jesus is his record of the relationship between Elizabeth (the mother of John the baptizer) and Mary (Jesus’ mother), in chapter one. According to verse 56, Mary stayed with Zechariah and Elizabeth for about three months (evidently, the last trimester of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and presumably the first months of Mary’s own pregnancy). Note in verse 41 that when the baby John heard the voice of Mary, he “leaped” inside Elizabeth’s womb. This fact is important because the (Greek) word used to describe John is brephos, which is the same word used by the angels who spoke of the newborn Christ to the shepherds in Luke 2:12 (and by Elizabeth in vs. 44). In Elizabeth’s case, the Holy Spirit used this word to describe an unborn child (John), while the angel’s reference to Jesus in chapter two speaks of a full-term, newly-born baby (2:16). The point we should grasp is very simple; God makes no distinction between a baby in the womb and a baby in a crib!
We should notice next (in Luke 2:39-52) that Jesus’ experiences in childhood were evidently those of a normal Jewish boy, including periodic trips to the temple. At age twelve, He remained behind in Jerusalem when the family started for home, apparently saying nothing to Joseph and Mary (vs. 43). When they missed Him among their traveling companions, they returned to Jerusalem, where they eventually found Him (three days later!) in the temple (vs. 46). Jesus explained His actions in verse 49 with words indicate that even at this tender age He understood His identity and purpose in this world (“I must be about my Father’s business”). Despite this, He then obediently accompanied Joseph and Mary back to Nazareth (vs. 51). The important point here is the statement that the Lord was “submissive” to Mary and Joseph; even though He was the Savior of the world, He did not try to exempt or excuse Him-self from His obligation to honor them as His parents, in accordance with Exodus 20:12.
Jesus’ testimony about the character of John the baptizer (in Luke 7) offers us a great insight into that holy man’s actions and message. Jesus is plain in describing him as “more than a prophet” (verses 26-27), noting his role as the Lord’s “harbinger” –the one who announced His impending arrival. He goes on to compare John’s “status” as the last prophet of the old testament era with that of the lowliest Christian (vs. 28) as a way of emphasizing the extraordinary blessing of having the opportunity to be a Christian. In a sort of “inspired side-bar,” Luke goes on in verses 29-30 to explain (in a parenthetical statement) that the common people who had embraced John and his teaching all “justified God” on hearing Jesus’ words (i.e., they “said amen” to Jesus’ statement). The religious leaders, however, had scorned John and his mes-sage of repentance and preparation for the Messiah (Luke 3:7-9, cf. Matthew 3:7-12). These leaders were obligated to be baptized “unto” John, as God’s messenger sent to prepare them for the Messiah’s arrival; they could not be baptized, how-ever, because they neither believed nor repented. When Jesus later challenged them in the temple (Luke 20:4), they realized immediately that they had been effectively “cornered” by Him!
In Luke 9:23, Jesus charged His disciples to practice what many consider an unreasonable, unrealistic degree of commitment to Him –self-denial, daily “cross-bearing” and imitation of Him (i.e., discipleship). The key to understanding His “demand” lies in His illustration of this commitment; to take up one’s “cross.” Crucifixion was a familiar sight for His followers, and they knew there was only one reason and one setting in which anyone would carry a cross; in order to be crucified upon it! What Jesus is emphasizing here is the level of commitment necessary to truly be His disciple. It is with this image firmly in mind that the apostle Paul later asked Roman saints, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:2), and then said of himself in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me….”