Summary: First Sunday after Christmas Year C.
First Sunday after Christmas Year C.
Luke 2: 41-52
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Thank you Lord Jesus for your perfect obedience as a free gift which is our freedom from slavery to sin and death. Amen.
Title: “Perfect Obedience.”
Mary and Joseph find the twelve year-old Jesus in the Temple, conversing with the doctors of the Law. At the end of the “Infancy Narrative” Luke includes this story from the adolescent period of Jesus’ life. We know nothing of his boyhood apart from this one incident, which Luke alone relates. (There are other stories found in the apocryphal gospels, notably the "Infancy Story of Thomas", but they were never accepted as inspired revelation and probably never happened, being typical of highly imaginative tales of great men, historical and mythological.)
We would misunderstand this story and its place in Luke’s Gospel if we asked questions of the story that it has no intention of answering. It is not told from the viewpoint of the earthly life of Jesus, that is. from what actually happened, but from the viewpoint of post-resurrection faith, that is. what it means for us. On the historical level we might ask: How could Mary and Joseph leave Jesus “home alone” and not make sure he was with one or the other? How come it took them a whole day to realize he was not with them? Where and how did Jesus spend the two nights before he was found? How could Jesus have been so irresponsible if he were so smart otherwise? Did not Mary already know Jesus was divine in some sense at least? Why was she surprised and worried? The story is not concerned with these issues.
On the more important level the story tells us that Jesus early on had a special awareness of his unique relationship to God, whom he called “my Father.” Also, even though Mary and Joseph knew of this, as did his disciples in his adulthood, that did not mean they understood everything about him automatically. As Jesus had to grow and advance in wisdom, age and grace as a human being, they, human beings themselves, had to do likewise when it came to understanding the implications and applications of Jesus’ divinity regarding their lives. It did not come easy for them or the disciples. We should not expect that it will come easy for us either. It takes us many years of applying Jesus teachings in our lives to understand what he really was trying to ask us to do.
In verse 41 each year…Passover: The Law required every male Jew to go to Jerusalem three times each year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. In practice, most made it for Passover. Those Jews living in other parts of the world (the “Diaspora” Jews) would try to make it once in a lifetime. Some rabbis taught women had to go as well. True or not, most wives would accompany their husbands along with the children in their family.
In verse 42 twelve years old: At thirteen a boy became a man and assumed all the responsibilities implied in his circumcision. The present day Jewish “Bar Mitzvah” (which means “a son of the commandment”) reflects this custom, although it was not practiced as such during Jesus’ time. The year before that would be a time when a father would prepare his son for it. So, this would be Jesus’ last (maybe first, we do not know) visit to the Temple before he was actually obliged to observe the adult provisions of the Law. Ancient and present “primitive” cultures do not have a prolonged period of adolescence as we do. They have “puberty rites” which celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood, preceded by instruction and ordeals. After that ceremony the young person is treated as a full-fledged adult. (This custom remains with Lutherans in our completion of infant Baptism with the rite of Confirmation.) A twelve-year-old in such societies would be equivalent to an 18-21 year old in our society today.
In verse 43 after they had completed its days: Passover was linked to the feast of Unleavened Bread. In actuality, they were merged, so the feast took seven days. The Law required that a Jew stay for at least two days. It looks like Mary and Joseph might have remained for the whole thing. However, the fact that the doctors of the Law were holding court in the public precincts of the Temple may mean that the feast was still in progress and they left early. During feasts and on the Sabbath the Sanhedrin stopped judging cases and made themselves available for questions and discussions by the general public. That’s the picture here.
In verse 44 thinking he was in the caravan: Although this story is not told for its historical value, it has undoubtedly come from the “memoirs” of Mary (v. 51). Men would travel in a group separate from the women and young children. Jesus, being twelve, could go with either group. Each thought the other had Jesus, or he could have been with relatives or friends as kids like to do. At nightfall families would reunite to sleep. That is when the discovery would be made. They went all day without realizing Jesus was left behind.