Monday, November 14, 2011

Thoughts From My Devotional Journal

Where have you been?!

Luke 2:41-52

This is probably the only event recorded in the Gospels from Jesus' childhood. I wish the Gospels said more about Jesus' younger years, but I suppose if he refrained from doing miraculous things before he started his ministry there wasn't much reason for people to be taking note of his simple life before then.

The setting for this incident is the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, Mary and Joseph took him to the Feast. The setting, I think, is important. The Passover was, of course, in remembrance of the moment in Israel's history when “the destroyer” passed over the first-born Israelites in Egypt because of the blood of the lamb on the family doorposts. It was at this time of remembrance – this acknowledgement of Israel's salvation on account of a sacrifice – that Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation, started to make his presence known.

It's funny to me that Jesus' parents left Jerusalem and traveled for a day before realizing that Jesus was not with them. This gives us an interesting insight into Jesus' childhood – he spent time with relatives and friends. Most parents would check to make sure they had their 12-year-old with them when leaving a major city, but if your son had a habit of spending time with relatives and friends and many of those relatives and friends were traveling in the same caravan as you, you might just assume he was tagging along with them. It sounds like that's what happened here, because when Mary and Joseph couldn't find Jesus they “began looking for him among their relatives and friends.

Of course, he wasn't with them, so they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. It took them three days to find him. Three days! That means they didn't see their 12-year-old son for at least four days. That must have been scary. I wonder if Mary feared that he had been attacked or killed. She must have. After all, Simeon had said to her, “a sword will pierce your own soul.” Did she continue to have faith in God's promises (promises that were yet to be fulfilled through her son), even in the midst of a crisis like this? How much did she doubt?

When they found Jesus, he was sitting in the temple courts listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed, including his parents.

Like any normal parents, Mary and Joseph were upset. Mary said, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?”

The exchange is fascinating. First of all, did Jesus fail to “honor his mother and father” as the law commands? I know if I had run away from my parents for days and then responded to their questions with, “Why were you looking for me?” I would have been severely reprimanded. Jesus seems flip in his answer.

I think we need to trust, though, that Jesus really means what he says here. He's not trying to be flip or disrespectful. He really DOES think it's odd that his parents were searching for him. He had to be in his Father's house. How could they not know that?

Theologians often like to make the point that Jesus was not omniscient (at least not during his earthly life). As it says at the end of this passage, Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature.” He didn't know all things the moment he popped out of the womb.

But Jesus did have special knowledge. The Father gave him revelation about many, many things. But omniscience was not something the Father gave to him – God emptied himself of himself when he became Jesus. He had fullness of God's character but not of His power (or so many theologians argue).

I think Jesus knew he needed to be in the temple because his Father had revealed it to him, but I don't think he realized that his Father hadn't revealed this to Mary and Joseph.

I think young Jesus heard the Father's instructions clearly, knew following those instructions was his first priority, and then followed them. I'm sure he was concerned about honoring his earthly parents in addition to following his heavenly father's instruction, but he may have never even considered the possibility that he was dishonoring them because he probably assumed the Father would tell them the same thing he had clearly told him: that he needed to be in the temple.

So, in my opinion, we shouldn't be asking: why was Jesus so rude to his parents? He wasn't. What we should be asking is: why didn't God the Father reveal the same thing to Mary and Joseph that he did to Jesus? I'm not sure what the answer is, but it's possible he did everything he could but Mary and Joseph just weren't listening. It's also possible that the Father wanted to teach them that they can't hold on too tightly to their son. Jesus is supposed to honor his parents, yes, but his first loyalty is to his heavenly Father, and his true home is in his Father's house.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - it's weird to think about. I think we have trouble with the idea that Jesus wasn't omniscient because we want to emphasize his divinity (not a bad thing), but we shouldn't make Scripture say more than it actually says.

    Jesus himself claims that he isn't omniscient when he says that he doesn't know the time of his return: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36).

    But, at the same time, Jesus demonstrates an inhuman ability to know things that only God could know, over and over again. I'd say he was already demonstrating this ability at 12-years-old in the temple.

    I think you might be right - maybe we aren't told much about Jesus' youth because it would be difficult to understand. On the other hand, God seems willing to say a lot of things in the Bible that are hard to understand :-) Matthew 24:36 among them.

    Whatever the reason we're not told much about Jesus youth, I trust there is a reason.