Jesus and Samuel the Prophet

07 Jul
Jesus at Twelve - 1

from Google Images

I find it interesting that both Mary and Zacharias refer to Hannah’s song of praise in their own songs (1Samuel 2:1-10),[1] and Luke shows a parallel in the early lives of both Jesus and Samuel. Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth (Luke 2:40) where Jesus spent his life before his public ministry. At the age of 12 Jesus returned to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover with his parents (Luke 2:41-42) and caused alarm when he remained in Jerusalem unbeknownst to Joseph and Mary, as they took their journey back to Nazareth (Luke 2:43-.45). It has been said that the women began their journey home before the men, while faster paced men lingered at Jerusalem but were easily able to catch up to the slower traveling women by the day’s end.[2] It appears Mary thought Jesus lingered with the men, while Joseph thought he left earlier with his mother.

Josephus tells us that Samuel, too, was 12 years old when he was called by God to do his will (cf.1Samuel 3:1-10):

  1. Now when Samuel was twelve years old, he began to prophesy: and once when he was asleep, God called to him by his name; and he, supposing he had been called by the high priest, came to him: but when the high priest said he did not call him, God did so thrice. [Antiquities of the Jews 5.10.4]

Encompassing the incident of Samuel’s calling are two verses concerning his growth and favor with the Lord (1Samuel 2:26 and 3:19), just as the incident of Jesus’ life at age 12 is punctuated with two verses about his growth and favor with God (Luke 2:40 and 2:52). In his first two chapters, Luke is not only concerned with describing Jesus’ birth but also drawing our attention to the priesthood. He places an emphasis upon the Temple and the things done there and showing all things are done according to the Law. However, very delicately and almost unawares he is warning Theophilus about the corruption in his own father’s house concerning the priesthood. A prophet came to Eli, the high priest when Samuel was a child, saying that he was rejected. In fact the priesthood of Aaron was rejected in favor of a new priest, whom God would choose (1Samuel 2:27-36).

So, too, in Jesus’ days Luke implies the high priesthood was corrupt, and God had rejected it in favor of a Priest of his choosing. Luke has already shown that Jesus, because he was not redeemed at his presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22), has joined the priesthood as Samuel did when he was a child (1Samuel 2:18-19). Samuel did many of the duties of a priest but did not replace the high priesthood with his family, but Jesus has become our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 5:5, 10) and has made his followers a kingdom of priests (1Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6), thus replacing the then current priesthood. In fact, the sudden end that Eli’s son’s had come to (1Samuel 2:34; 3:12; 4:11, 17), is a warning to Theophilus to cease his persecution of Jesus’ followers, for the Romans were encamped at Ptolemais at the time of Luke’s writing, waiting for word from Caesar to come to Jerusalem in order to erect an idol to him in the Temple’s Holy Place.[3] Doing so would have begun the Jewish war with Rome earlier than expected (cf. Luke 21:20), according to the prophecy of Jesus, the Lord’s Prophet, Priest and King.

This seems to be what Luke 2:41-50 is about. Jesus understood that his place was in the House of God ministering to his Father and being about his Father’s business (Luke 2:49), and he seems to be astonished that his parents didn’t understand. He was now considered a man, able to choose right from wrong, and his place was there. Yet, they didn’t realize the gravity of the situation (Luke 2:48, 50). Therefore, he left off beginning his service to God in the Temple and went with them to Nazareth and subjected himself to their will (Luke 2:51), showing that honoring one’s father and mother cannot undo our calling from God.


[1] See my blogs on The Magnificat and Zacharias’ Song of Praise

[2] William Barkley at Luke 2:41-52

[3] See Antiquities of the Jews 18.8.2, 3 & 4.

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Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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