Luke 2: 41-52
41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
The FIRL groups are not meeting through the holidays so these thoughts are without the benefit of conversation. This passage has been rolling around in my head as I have watched young grandchildren vying with their parents for control of the moment. ‘But I can do it grandpa!’—when told not to stand on the swivel office chair to turn off the light. Never mind that he succeeded before I could get there, his five year old sense of competence far exceeded my comfort zone. I kept thinking about Jesus looking up with surprise at his parents worry. ‘Mom, I was only gone three days, where did you think I’d go.’ This is the only recorded passage referring to Jesus as a boy. In my growing up, I never remember hearing about Jesus’ immaturity. The emphasis was placed upon Jesus’ preternatural wisdom–’And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.’ — rather than Jesus’ cluelessness regarding his parent’s concern. But both are true, both are ordinary.
Jesus was not born a finished product—anymore than any other child. How many times have you marveled at a young child’s learning? And how many times have you struggled with a young child’s fierce independence (sometimes known as defiance)? The struggle to become autonomous and to live in relationship never quite ends. The infamous ‘no’ resounding from two year olds, the indignant ‘I can do it myself’ and ‘you can’t make me’ all thread through our adult lives. Every relationship of our lives requires a willingness to be mindful or it will be doomed to an eternal power struggle.
Many years ago, I had 70 year old grandmother tell me the story of her 11, 8 and 5 year old grandchildren. The youngest, Billy hated being called the baby and frequently intruded upon his older brother’s play. One afternoon, the youngest steadily demanded he be included to the point that his older brother knocked him down. Billy ran to his grandmother crying ‘Johnny hit me.’ Grandmother called both children into the room and Johnny knew he was in trouble. Imagine his surprise when she said, “I heard everything that went on in that room—and you had every right to hit your brother.” But before Johnny could enjoy his grandmother’s vindication, she added—”But just because you have the right to do something does not mean it is the right thing to do.” It is an important distinction that takes a long time to learn. I like to tell my clients; ‘It doesn’t matter if you are right if no one is listening.’ If we want to be in relationship; if we want be heard, we must be aware of our impact on others. The ‘right thing to do’ requires learning mindfulness. And Jesus was no exception.
Jesus needed to learn mindfulness of others as much as any of us do. It turns out he was precocious enough to both manage on his own for three days and to impress all who listened to him. But just because a child (or us) are ‘right’ or competent does not give us the right to lose sight of our impact on others. That part of the equation belongs to anyone who claims to be a Christian. Our needs are important but we live in community. We live in families. We live in our church. It is not an easy balancing act but it is one we must be aware of. Jesus had to learn about his parent’s anxiety. It didn’t matter all that much that his parent’s ” did not understand what he said to them’. Jesus returns to Nazareth ‘ and was obedient to them….And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.’ It is a process we might all emulate as we mark the beginning of the New Year. Peace and Grace to all of you.
Be with us as we seek to grow in wisdom. Let it be so.
Vernon Gramling is a Parrish Associate at DPC. He has been providing pastoral care and counseling for over 45 years. You can find more about Vernon, the Faith in Real Life gatherings and Blog at our staff page or FIRL.