Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: Murder of Innocents, Christmas, Childhood of Jesus
Volume 7 No. 453 December 25, 2017
III. Lectionary Reflections on Luke 2:41-52
Boyhood of Jesus

Jesus Shows Us The Way to God

by Prof. Craig A. Satterlee

Commentary on Luke 2:41-52

Finally arriving in the temple, Mary and Joseph are astonished to discover amazed teachers and their precocious twelve-year-old son.

If I had been looking for my daughter for three days, I'd have exploded. But Mary and Joseph ask, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." I wonder how Mary really said it. More important, I wonder why Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus in all the wrong places. Why did it take them three days to figure out that Jesus must be in his Father's house and about his Father's business?

Had things been so blessedly ordinary for so long -- no more angels, adoring shepherds, and OT prophesies -- that the mystery surrounding their son's birth had begun to fade like a dream? Or maybe Mary and Joseph were aware of what their son would do and become, but figured that was years away. Perhaps Jesus hadn't shown any signs of theological curiosity and so his parents couldn't imagine him hanging out in the temple. Maybe Mary and Joseph simply failed to see that their baby was growing up.

Like Mary and Joseph, we cannot or do not want to see that our Jesus is growing up even as we grow up. Our Jesus is growing beyond our childhood, beyond our children's childhood. Our Jesus is growing beyond our expectations. Arriving in the temple, Mary saw only her boy. She couldn't or wouldn't see that Jesus had grown. Eager to be a good mother, always pondering the events that led up to and followed Jesus' birth, Mary wasn't ready to "lend" her Jesus to God. Perhaps she just wanted to keep her firstborn close to her. Maybe she simply wanted to delay the symbolic sword that Simeon announced would pierce her own heart as it took the life of her son.

Looking upon Jesus and seeing her baby, Mary asks, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." And Jesus answers, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" These same questions face us this week after Christmas, as peace and goodwill fade and Christmas leaves so many of us wanting. With Mary, we ask, "Why have you treated us like this?" We ask ourselves; we ask our families. We ask the church and we ask God, when our expectations are shattered.

And Jesus answers, "Why were you searching for me?" We know where Jesus has gone. He's about his Father's business. But we aren't ready to let go of our expectations and give our Jesus to God. We are not ready to accept that Jesus did not come to fulfill our expectations. He is not to be found in sentiment for the way things used to be or the way we wish things could be. Jesus is about the future. Jesus was born and lived and died and rose to be about God's business of putting an end to our searching by making plain the way to God, even if that means shattering our expectations.

In the Temple, Mary expects Jesus to behave a certain way and Jesus expects his mother to know why he isn't. The problem is that Jesus and his parents have two different understandings of who Jesus' Father is. Mary tells Jesus that she and his father have been searching anxiously. The message is plain to any child who stays out all night and upon returning home is greeted with a parent's frantic, "Do you know how worried I was?" But Jesus responds that he's been in his Father's house, about his Father's business. Again, I wonder just how Jesus said it. Was he surprised or scolding?

Regardless of Jesus' tone, the tension between Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph, and Jesus, Son of God, is heightened. Sure, Jesus returns to Nazareth and is obedient to his parents. But it is clear that his priorities have changed. Jesus' primary concern is not the will of his parents but the will of God and the mission that God's will entails.

The good news for us in this week after Christmas is that, like Mary and Joseph, our search has ended. Jesus shows us the way to God. The scary part, perhaps, is that our search doesn't end where we expect. Mary and Joseph searched three days for Jesus, and on the third day found him alive and well. But they didn't find him in the expected places -- the safe confines of his extended family or the familiar company of the pilgrims' caravan. After three days, Mary and Joseph found Jesus alive and well in the Temple at Jerusalem among the teachers of the law, the very company where it all will all end as Jesus is tried, convicted, and handed over to be killed.

Mary and Joseph find Jesus alive and well after three days in a place they didn't expect. This sounds like Easter. Yes, Luke's hint here is of resurrection. Jesus, dead and buried, is raised on the third day, and there is a new temple, Christ's resurrected body. Our searching will come to an end in new life, meaningful life, the life God intends, but not the life we expect.

But that's Easter. For now Jesus returns to Nazareth. He disappears back into the fabric of his hometown. For perhaps two more decades Jesus is in an out-of-the way place, far removed from the centers of religion and politics, in the company of ordinary people, just like us. Here Jesus continues to grow "in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor." The good news is that this description of Jesus is the description of every child of God, no matter what our age. We all will grow as we respond to God's love. In Christ we can expect nothing else.

About the Author

Craig A. Satterlee is the Bishop of North/West Lower Michigan Synod, Lansing, Mich.

Source: Working Preacher

Childhood of Jesus - The Art of Problem Solving

by Prof. Ginger Barfield

Commentary on Luke 2:41-52

To learn about Jesus' childhood, we can turn to this text in Luke 2 or we can choose from the multiple apocryphal gospels replete with accounts of Jesus' forming birds from clay and sending them flying into the sky or resuscitating childhood playmates.

While it might be fun to preach such an account to a congregation as they lean on the edge of the pews, those are not the passages before us this Sunday. Let us sigh and face the text we have been given, the only Gospel story from Jesus' childhood.

There are several points worth noting in the account. It would be impossible to include them all in any one sermon, but it may be helpful just to lay these out as ideas to ponder as one begins preparation.

1. Verse 41 indicates that this travel to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration is an annual event. This event is part of Jesus' routine religious and cultural heritage.

2. The action takes place when Jesus is 12. The age of manhood in Jewish culture was 13. This is a childhood experience in the life of Jesus.

3. Though there is a lot of action and there are multiple characters, only two people are named, Jesus and Mary.

4. Verse 46 depicts Jesus as sitting, listening, and asking questions. But the observers described in verse 47 are amazed at Jesus' understanding and his answers. The observers' role in the story seems to be to focus full attention on Jesus. Jesus is the one asking the questions, but his own answers are worthy of amazement.

5. Verse 49 contains Jesus' first words in Luke's gospel.

The story itself unfolds in a clear progression. The scene is set forth; a problem is introduced; a solution is enacted; and resolution occurs. However the resolution creates another problem. Let's see this is outline form.

Scene: Jesus' family and others travel from Passover celebration in Jerusalem.

Problem: Jesus' parents realize that their child is not with them.

Solution: They direct an all-points search for the boy.

Resolution: They find him three days later sitting in the temple courts.

New problem: Jesus explains himself, but his explanation makes no sense.

Solution: Jesus goes home to Nazareth and Mary thinks about all this.

The simple truth is that there is no denouement!

This narrative outline of problem, solution, resolution juxtaposed to problem, solution, lack of resolution sets forth a realistic framework for Gospel understanding today. In a culture that calls for clarity and conclusive ways of understanding God's good news in Christ, we offer a text this day that ends in pondering and lack of understanding. The conclusion of the story does not nail things down. The story is as open-ended as is the Gospel itself.

It is even more instructive for us as proclaimers, however, to identify what happens to create the new problem. The solution to the initial problem, Jesus' absence, yields a search which locates the child. All seems well.

Then, for the first time in the text, someone speaks: Mary asks Jesus why he has done this to them, why he has caused them such anxiety. Jesus' answer to Mary, however, elicits the new problem of misunderstanding. The narrative had come to resolution until the spoken word entered the text. The dialogue between Mary and Jesus is the catalyst for problem two.

This should serve as a warning to all of us wordsmiths. Words, our words and, in this case, Jesus' words may muddle things at times. But that may be just fine. After all, the Gospel is an open-ended narrative.

The Gospel has the power to break in and surprise without providing total clarity. Our efforts to de-mystify it are sometimes counterproductive. The lack of resolution to the secondary, though I would say, primary problem in the text is the overall preaching opportunity for the day.

What possibilities are there in the face of lack of understanding? Where does the Gospel provide hope, help, and vision in such circumstances?

After the onlookers experienced this conversation and did not understand, where did they fit this Jesus boy into their religious and cultural heritage? What about the teachers? What about Mary, who is said to have pondered what happened?

What about us? What do we do when the best of our problem solving techniques don't yield satisfactory results but only more problems? Where do we go when our best efforts at faith and Gospel living leave us with no understanding of what comes next in life?

Verses 51 and 52 provide a Jesus model: he went home with his parents and obeyed them. He grew in all ways as a person should. The end of verse 51 tells us what Jesus' mother did: she worked out things in her heart and mind.

In the end, maybe that is the Gospel for us as we live out faithfully despite our inability to understand some things. The Gospel good news is that we do not have to.

About the Author

Ginger Barfield is the Professor of Theology and Executive Director of the Academy of Faith and Leadership, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University, Columbia, S.C.

Source: Working Preacher

Poem - If We Miss You

by Andrew King

(Luke 2: 41-52)

If we miss you leaving the festival
leaving the celebrations and memories
leaving the feasting and traditions
leaving the prayers and the songs;

if we miss you leaving the festival
returning to the stresses and pressures
returning to demands and deadlines
returning to the everyday routines -

we can find you in places of peacefulness
we can find you where wisdom is spoken
we can find you where holiness is nurtured
we can find you where God's love is shared

and we will find you back with us in our travels
we will find you still with us at home
we will find you growing stronger within us
your grace embracing us, our hearts your own.

Source: A Poetic Kind of Place

Jesus as The Model for The Apostles and The Leaders of The Church

by Prof. Ron Allen

Commentary on Luke 2:41-52

Christians sometimes refer to Jesus' growing-up years as a model for human growth and development.

The Christmas hymn, "Once in David's Royal City," for example, contains the stanza,

Jesus is our childhood's pattern,
Day by day like us he grew.
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew.
Thus he feels for all our sadness,
And he shares in all our gladness.

(Cecil F. Alexander, "Once in David's Royal City," Chalice Hymnal [St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1995) 165

While we can assume that the infant Jesus was weak and helpless, cried and smiled, and grew from infancy through childhood and youth to adulthood, the gospels themselves are almost silent on those years. The theological purposes for recalling Jesus' growth in this frame of reference are often twofold -- to assure congregations that Jesus fully understands the depths and heights of the human experience and to use Jesus' growth as a model for Christian education as well as for rearing children in the home.

Luke's story of Jesus in the temple at the age of 12 is the only incident in the gospels about the life of Jesus between infancy and the beginning of his ministry. Luke has several intentions for this passage in the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts that are suggestive for preaching. While these motifs intersect with the themes just mentioned, they do not simply validate them in a one-to-one fashion. The latter themes are theologically important regardless of whether Luke (or other biblical writers) have them in mind.

When recounting the lives of major figures in antiquity, ancient literature often included stories of unusual births and remarkable childhood feats. Ancient people regarded such stories as evidence that the gods had a special guiding role in the lives of such figures. Luke's birth and childhood narratives play this role (among others): assuring listeners that the hand of God guided Jesus from the beginning.

This ancient function might prompt the preacher to a contemporary consideration. What things give today's congregation reason to trust Jesus and to commit ourselves to the way to the realm?

By noting that Mary and Joseph went every year to Jerusalem for the Passover, Luke 2:41-52 implies that Jesus grew up in a faithful Jewish household. The emphasis on Jesus in the temple and his interaction with the teachers of Israel plays a similar important role in the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Jesus was immersed in Judaism since his youth. He speaks as an insider with a thorough knowledge.

These facts are important because by the time Luke wrote (80-90 CE) tensions had developed between Luke's congregation, whose distinguishing features were believing that the ministry of Jesus began the final and full manifestation of the realm of God and welcoming gentiles into the community without complete conversion to Judaism, and other Jewish groups that did not share that belief.

As the ministry of Jesus unfolds, Jesus has considerable conflict with Jewish authorities over how to interpret God's presence and purposes in the eschatological moment. The same thing is true of the church in Acts. By recollecting that Jesus was raised in a faithful Jewish atmosphere, and recalling that Jesus speaks as a Jewish insider, Luke assures listeners that the viewpoints of Jesus and the church are authentically Jewish. Jesus and the church do not reject Judaism. They interpret Jewish convictions in light of the eschatological turning of the ages.

At one level, a preacher could use this theme as the beginning point to reflect with the congregation on its perceptions of, and relationship with, Jewish communities today. A sermon could help the congregation reflect on the degree to which anti-Judaism or even anti-Semitism may touch life of the congregation and of the larger world. Taking another step, a preacher might help the congregation consider shared mission with the synagogue down the street.

At another level, today Christians often find themselves in disagreement with other Christians. One Christian group sometimes proclaims the Christian way and condemns as unchristian those who hold to other interpretations. A lot of people trying to follow Jesus -- especially in the historic churches -- are confused as to what might be authentically Christian. If the congregation finds itself in such a situation a preacher might begin with Luke 2:41-52 as an analogy in a sermon in which the preacher assures the congregation of their Christian identity similarly to Luke's assurance of his earlier congregation.

It is easy to be appalled that Mary and Joseph lost track of Jesus. Luke, of course, is not pointing to bad parenting, but is setting the stage for Jesus to state clearly his own understanding that he has a special relationship with God. God is Jesus' parent (not Joseph), and Jesus is to be about God's interests, i.e. must serve God's purposes.

This notion raises a possibility for preaching. Many people today are confused about identity and vocation, about who they are and their mission in life. This is particularly (though by no means exclusively) true of Millennials. It may go too far to say that Jesus here claims his own identity and mission. Whether or not that is exegetically true, this passage could provide the preacher with an entry into the importance of claiming our own identities as disciples and witnesses in 2016.

In the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, Jesus is the model for the apostles who are the leaders and models for the church. In the broad sense, then, the last line of this passage is a model for Christian education and child raising: to encourage children to increase in wisdom and in stature (the latter a preferable translation to "years"). Wisdom and statue refer to the capacity to discern God's realm purposes and to respond accordingly.

About the Author

Ron Allen is the Professor of Preaching and New Testament, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN



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