There are some striking similarities in the first three chapters of 1Samuel that point to the birth and childhood of Jesus. Lee Dahn has written about Jesus’ experience at age 12 in the Temple at Jerusalem and how that is prefigured in the childhood of Samuel (Lee’s blog is HERE). I would like to add my two cents about this idea as well.
Luke begins his narrative of Jesus’ boyhood experience at Luke 2:40 with “…the child grew and waxed strong is spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” And, Luke ends his excerpt from Jesus’ childhood in Luke 2:52 with: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” And between these two “bookends” as Mr. Dahn refers to the Scriptures, we find Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem listening to the “doctors” of the Law and asking them questions. The Scripture says “All who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”
What would this mean to someone like Theophilus, to whom Luke addresses his work? Well, for one thing, if Theophilus’ son, Matthias, is indeed Josephus’ father as I suggested in a previous blog, then Theophilus may have been one of those priests listening to Jesus. At age 12 Jesus would have been sitting among these doctors of the Law, while Theophilus’ father, Annas, was the sitting high priest. Theophilus would have remembered the incident. But, is this all? Is Luke merely recalling to Theophilus something that had occurred when he was a young priest? No, because Luke’s first two chapters would have been enough to show how all of Jesus’ early life had been prefigured long ago in the early life of Samuel the prophet. Recall that it was during Samuel’s boyhood—Josephus says when he was 12 years old [Antiquities of the Jews; book 5, chapter 10, paragraph 4], that we are told Eli’s sons (the high priesthood family) were corrupt. The implication against the present high priesthood could not have been overlooked by Theophilus.
Remember, it is not Luke’s intention to bring railing accusations against the priesthood, especially the high priest, who at the time of Luke’s writing was Theophilus. To do so would have been against the Law, for the Scripture says: “you shall not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people” (Exodus 22:28). Luke is not like today’s media reporters who think nothing of exposing secrets and failures of our leaders, today. Today’s media believes it has the right and responsibility to act as it does. Perhaps this is so, but not in Luke’s day. Luke had no such “right” that today’s media embrace. To expose the sins of one’s rulers without cursing them was a very delicate matter. Luke had to be very careful with what he said. Otherwise, he would have been an offender himself. Nevertheless, Luke also wished to leave room for repentance, because if the leader of his people would confess Christ, so would the nation.
What Luke did by narrating Jesus’ birth and boyhood was point Theophilus to Samuel. Both his mother and Jesus’ mother had similar birth experiences. Both mothers praise the Lord in song over what the Lord had done to them, concerning giving birth. Both Luke and the writer of 1Samuel emphasized the youths growing in wisdom and favor with God and men (Compare Luke 2:40 & Luke 2:52 with 1Samuel 2:21; 1Samuel 2:26 and 1Samuel 3:19-21). Jesus presence in the Temple and the events surrounding his birth would have pointed Theophilus first to his own memory of seeing Jesus at age 12, and then to Samuel at age 12, and the comparison between the priesthood in Samuel’s day and that during Jesus’ day would have been clearly identifiable. The conviction of corruption would have come from Theophilus’ own heart and not from the pen of Luke.