Growing up

"Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Luke 2. 49


The problem with the Lectionary is the way it jumps from Christmas into Easter, omitting so much of the life and teaching of Jesus. In particular we are apt to miss the sole glimpse we have of Jesus' formative years, thanks to Luke, the doctor with an historian's eye for detail. This brief passage (Luke 41-52) offers a fascinating insight into Jesus' upbringing. For example, we learn that it was his parents' practice to attend Passover in Jerusalem every year. No big surprise, perhaps, because many devout Jewish families did that but it confirms that Jesus' family were among them. Then we are informed that, once he turned 12, Jesus was allowed to accompany them. This is significant because, at that age, he was on the cusp of adulthood, which Jewish boys are considered to reach on their 13th birthday.


What happens next is what everyone remembers this event for: when it's all over and it's time to go home, Jesus jumps ship and remains behind in Jerusalem. His parents think nothing of it to begin with. They are travelling en masse and it was assumed that Jesus was enjoying the company of friends. But as night drew in and there was no sign of their son, Mary and Joseph became worried. Imagine how they felt after 3 days of searching! When they finally found him, dazzling the assembly of scholars in the Temple with his precocious wisdom, he is not at all repentant: "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" he asks indignantly.


There is a moment in everybody's life when they have to break off even their most intimate loyalties in order to prioritise their relationship with God. That does not mean permanently turning our backs on those we love, or living in defiance of them. Having made his point, it is said of Jesus: "Then he went down to Nazareth with them (his parents) and was obedient to them." So this passage not only offers us some relevant biographical details of Jesus' growing years, it shines a light on how our own maturing in faith involves renegotiating our relationships, so that God is enthroned while others retain the prominent place in our lives they still deserve.

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