GCI Sermon – December 26, 2021


Jesus the Disruptor

Luke 2:41-52 ESV

Disruptor is a fairly new term that has become part of daily use, especially in business. A disruptor is someone who brings an innovation that upsets a whole industry. This person invents something or tightens a process that means that the old system is broken for good.

In developed nations, the farming industry was changed forever by the invention of the combine. The transportation industry was forever disrupted by a young American named Henry Ford. The retail industry was irreparably disrupted by Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com.

Disruption is everywhere in the internet age. Processes and technology go obsolete almost overnight. Young adults become billionaires in a matter of months while millions are lost in investments in products that suddenly go stale. These are volatile times.

I suggest to you that Jesus is the greatest disruptor. Every system and process that tries to completely encapsulate him falls apart. He broke the systems of religion that came before him. He broke the laws of physics and science as they were known or perceived. He broke the ancient code of offense and revenge.


Today’s story of Jesus in the temple is the first story of Jesus’ disruption. His birth was disruptive, no doubt, but here he is doing that disruption himself as a young man making his own choices.

Today, let’s look at three ways Jesus disrupts, and what that means to us:

  • Jesus disrupts expectations
  • Jesus disrupts the universe
  • Jesus disrupts us

Jesus disrupts expectations

The odd thing about the start of this disruptive scene is that the curtain opens on a routine:

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. (Luke 2:41-42 ESV)

This is a usual thing for them, to travel to the feast as the law commanded. Some of Jesus’ earthly memories were probably being jostled on the back of a donkey as they headed south to Jerusalem.

One of the important details here is that Jesus’ entire family went, and they went for the entire feast. The command specified that only men needed to go to the festivals, and there’s indication that they only had to go for the first couple of days rather than the whole week. Jesus’ whole family went for the whole time, indicating they were observant, faith-centered people. Coming to the temple would have been a thrilling moment for the young Jesus.

At the end of the feast, Jesus stayed behind when his family left. The situation was probably a caravan of some kind, perhaps with some of the  kids walking in one large group and younger kids with their parents in the other group. Mary and Joseph could only surmise that Jesus was with other family members. Another plausible explanation is that men and women traveled in different groups. Children traveled with their mothers until age 12, with their fathers after age 12. Since Jesus was in between, they each assumed he was with the other.

There’s no reason here to twist this story a bit and say that Jesus’ parents were somehow ignorant or careless, or that Jesus needed to “teach” them something different, hapless as they were. They were very ordinary parents in that situation and time.

It’s hard to know what was on Mary’s mind. She knew Jesus’ destiny was like no one else, but she had an unclear picture on what that would be. She did not have the New Testament to look up what would happen next—she was living the story. She knew that her boy, who had just reached twelve—the threshold of manhood in that culture—was Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

She and Joseph looked in every doorway and back alley for two agonizing days. They finally found Jesus in the place they had been, the temple, the most prominent landmark in the city. Think about the context here. Though Jesus is on the threshold of manhood, he is also still a child, yet he’s talking with the teachers of Israel. This isn’t just a precocious kid sitting at the big kids’ table. This is a seventh-grader walking onto the senate floor; this is a tween standing in the House of Lords; a cracking voice addressing the United Nations. In that culture at that time, Jesus was hanging out in the nerve center talking with the proverbial “smartest guys in the room.”

Mary addresses him like a mother:

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” (Luke2:48 ESV)

The word she uses to address him as Luke writes it—“teknon” in Greek—can convey either affection or accusation. My guess is a little of both of these meanings were in play at the time! I’m so relieved you’re safe! What were you thinking?!

You wonder, too, if Mary is reminding herself and him that he is still a child, that she wants him to be a child, perhaps to hold back for a moment Simeon’s prophesy:

“…this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke2:34-35 ESV)

Jesus’ answer is telling:

“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke2:49 ESV)

Jesus responds as an adult. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, you should have known where I would be.

“My Father’s house,” he says. In the culture at that time, he didn’t just mean that he was in God’s house, like in church. He means that he is under his Father’s house, meaning that he is under God’s authority—specifically that he is no longer under theirs. Here the sword begins to pierce Mary’s heart; her son has, in some senses, left her home.

Jesus disrupts the universe

Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:26-27 ESV)

This is a verse from a different part of Luke that ties back into today’s text. In this verse, two friends are walking on a dusty road away from Jerusalem where Jesus was killed three days previously. They are joined by a stranger, whose face they don’t recognize, and they tell him what’s on their minds.

The joke is that the “stranger” is Jesus himself walking with them and listening as they lament what has happened to their hoped-for Savior. This had all happened three days ago.

Three days. Here’s the motif that Luke uses to tie these two episodes together. Jesus “lost” in Jerusalem for three days; Jesus “lost” after his death for three days. Luke draws the parallel tighter by using the same key word:

 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer… (Luke 24:26 ESV)

Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49 ESV)

Jesus disrupts his family system by walking away from one father’s house to his Father’s house for three days; Jesus disrupts the universe—the ancient laws of decay and death—by walking away from death itself three days later. He has disrupted not just cultural expectations, but all of what we know of reality. He is under his Father’s authority, not ours, which means he answers to different laws, even the laws of time and space.

Early American president Thomas Jefferson famously revised the Gospels into what is often called the “Jefferson Bible.” Using what he believed to be the enlightened thinking of the modern age, he removed the miracles, and all mentions of the supernatural out of the Gospels and cut-and-pasted the leftovers back together.

The result is a story that makes no sense. Jesus becomes famous for almost no reason. He garners followers and attention out of nowhere. He becomes yet another folk hero who dies at the hands of an occupying government. The Christian movement, then, becomes very difficult to explain. In that society, these “messiahs” came and went—political leaders with fiery language and big promises disappeared from history right away. But Jesus is the Messiah who still has followers centuries later.

The Jefferson Bible—or any story that excludes the miraculous from Jesus’ life—becomes like an audiobook set on “shuffle” mode. The transitions and arch of the story make no sense; the scenes jump in and out of each other for no reason. The narrative of Jesus as we have it doesn’t fit together without the fact that he disrupted the universe.

Three days. Three days Jesus was lost to Mary. Three days Jesus was lost to the world. Although it might be more palatable and perhaps easier to hold onto in the modern world that Jesus was nothing more than a great teacher, it makes confetti of that view and leaves us with vague nonsense. To hold onto Jesus the disruptor means to hold onto the complicated fact that he disrupted everything, even life and death.

Jesus disrupts us

Jesus disrupted expectations—he disrupted his family system and broke all the rules walking into the center of the temple as a teenager. Jesus disrupted the universe—breaking the ancient laws of sin and death.

And now, Jesus disrupts us. Jesus has a way of leading us into situations and relationships where we’re outstripped by our challenges.

The old saying goes that God never gives you more than you can handle. But the more accurate version is that God won’t give you anything you and he can’t handle together. Right when we get too comfortable, maybe a little full of ourselves or we start depending on ourselves, Jesus reminds us that we need him.

The writer John Eldredge puts it well:

Being in partnership with God, though, often feels much more like being Mel Gibson’s sidekick in the movie Lethal Weapon. In his determination to deal with the bad guy, he leaps from seventh-story balconies into swimming pools, surprised that we would have any hesitation in following after him…we find ourselves caught up in an adventure of heroic proportions with a God who both seduces us with his boldness and energy, and repels us with his willingness to place us in mortal danger (John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance)

The Lord we follow is the same one who left his family caravan to address the most important teachers in his culture as a near-teenager. He’s also the one who rearranged the furniture at the temple one memorable morning. He’s also the one who made Pontius Pilate wait in silence for an answer.

He will stretch you further than you think you can go. He will give your love more depth than you can fathom. He will focus your eyes on beauty you’ve never seen, and give you strength you’ve never felt.

He will disrupt you.

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51 ESV)

This is the second time we hear this sentence. The first was in verse 19, just after the shepherds come to worship at the manger. Mary was plenty disrupted at that time and was able to sit down and contemplate these things in gratitude.

Twelve years have passed. Here we find Jesus as a kid raised at his earthly father’s knee. This time Jesus himself disrupts the picture, breaks the frame right off it.

Even after this stress, even after realizing that everything about Jesus is indeed true and frightening, Mary still sits down to treasure these things in gratitude. She is disrupted and she is thankful.

We follow Christ not because he is safe, not because he’s predictable, but because his dangerous path leads to life! It leads to the joy that we can treasure in our hearts. It leads to the heart of reality itself.

Is Jesus disrupting you today? Is he calling you out of your comfort zone? Is he calling you out to the edge? Meet him there; he will light the way.


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