“Who Is This Child?”
Luke 2:41-52, December 30th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“This morning’s scripture reading is from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter two, verses forty-one thru fifty-two. Let us open our minds as-well-as our ears to hear as we begin to grasp and understand what is being shared with us this day.”
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. 51Then 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.
“’Who is this child?’ is the theme of our lesson this morning. As we begin our discussion, let us open ourselves to ponder upon this writing, even as the excitement surrounding the celebration of Jesus’ birth, has yet to fade.”
“Who Is This Child?”
The Christmas decorations are still up, not just here in our sanctuary, but in a great many homes. Our Advent candles are still lit, with the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and love, still reminding us of their sacred meaning. The Christ candle is ablaze, also reminding us of the presence of the holy Light of Christ in our lives. We are still within the traditional twelve days of Christmas which stretches till January 6th, 2019! But yet, our scripture reading this morning, has the baby Jesus traveling to Jerusalem with his parents Mary and Joseph! We have skipped right over the story about the wise men from the East whom followed a star seeking to find the child born “king of the Jews!” /Matthew 2:1-15/ We will simply need to discuss this next Sunday and see how their interaction with King Herod forces Jesus and his family to become immigrants! We have barely finished our annual celebration of Jesus’ birth, and already we are getting befuddled with the fast movement of the scriptures, trying to record all of that which quickly transpires there after!
Before we come to closure with the year 2018, we shall discuss the question put before the teachers and its shocking meaning to his frazzled parents: Mary and Joseph. The temple teachers were forced to consider this child’s amazing questions and his astonishing answers. His parents whom had traveled a day’s distance, before realizing their son was not with them, frantically, traveled back to Jerusalem in search of his whereabouts, only after three days, to find him in the Temple. When confronted young Jesus simply says to them: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” /Luke 2: 49/ “Who is this child?” This is the question that hung over his parents and the wise older teachers at the Temple that day. A question that surely is in our own minds and hearts as well!
Christmas is always a wonderful event each year, yet, in its aftermath are always a bunch of all too familiar questions! Consequentially, the seemingly illogical order of the scripture readings, in the pastor’s planned topics, is in line with the logical disorder of the events as recorded by the early church in the scriptures. There was a lot that quickly transpires in the lives of this new family, as their part in history begins to come together! To complicate this, we do not ‘just’ have the writings attributed to the accounting of Luke, but also, we have that of Matthew who is trying to interject into our thought process! Mark, he simply skipped over this whole business of how Jesus was born and his adventures before he was baptized. Further done the road, the Gospel of John is written, and it weaves a whole different way of understanding the riddle of Jesus. For today, we will stay with Luke’s accounting – as the young lad, Jesus, gives us, the temple teacher’s, and his parents – plenty to consider!
As discombobulating as it may seem, this will all come together in the end! For, as we learned a bit ago, Jesus came to us to bring the love of God to all humankind! Yet, there is a lot that needs to happen as the baby Jesus, grows through his adolescence and becomes ‘honed’ by the Spirit of God, to fulfill all that the scriptures foretold of this child named Jesus. All this having been said, only you and me, with our ‘hindsight’, we know what is to come. His parents, like modern parents, did not know what the future held for themselves nor for their son. You and me, we are biased as we view this accounting, for we already know what is written about the life of Jesus. We know how he grows to be a man. In the gospel of Mark, we learn that he is baptized by John the Baptizer in the river Jordan. We read further that he is driven into the desert wasteland by the Spirit, where, like Moses, he is groomed and prepared for his ministry. Yes, we are biased because we know what kind of man Jesus grows up to be and the amazing things he does in his short three-year ministry. And yes, we know of the tragic ending of his human life. We also know of all that occurred after his tomb was found empty! Mary and Joseph, whom were charged with bringing up baby Jesus, they did not have the ability to know the future. Perhaps, they were blessed that they did not!
So, for his parents, Jesus was just the average young lad when they went to Jerusalem. Can you just imagine what it might have been like for them? Now we need to remember, travel was very different in those days. No planes, buses or trains. No cars or anything of that sort either. No cell phones, or any type of electronic anything. No, they traveled in a caravan with other travelers, perhaps a merchant or two. It was safer that way. Bandits and such lurking along the roadway into the big city of Jerusalem. We still have that same problem in modern times. Travelers need to beware, as there are always unscrupulous folks along the pathways willing to take advantage of the inexperienced, naive and weary traveler! When traveling in a group like this, it is common for the larger children, like a twelve-year-old, to walk with others their same age. These caravans often took on a large gathering of people; again, let us be reminded, it was safer that way. With this in mind, we can assume that the same occurs when returning in the same manner. Jesus was with the other lads of his age, his parents presumed. Many of their friends and relatives were traveling with them. It was not careless neglect that they were not aware that Jesus was not with the caravan. Historically, the Hebrews, as we knew them from the accounting of their exodus from Egypt after being freed of slavery, they were nomads, therefore, traveling in groups like a caravan was very common. Yet, when they discovered he was not among their friends and relatives, well, their emotions quickly shifted!
One could suspect this is how it must be for immigrants, migrants and refuges in South America, that whole region from Mexico to Chile and Uruguay, that whole region. These folks who come together in their journey for a better place to live and bring up their families, they too must encounter conditions similar to that of the caravans which Jesus and his parents traveled. Traveling in this manner is difficult in contrast to our understanding of travel. At least, Jesus and his family appear to have a hometown to travel back to, which is a step better than migrants and refuges. Next Sunday, our scripture lesson will suggest to us that this may not have always been the case. Well, we will look into that, next week.
Getting back to our lesson for this week there are several observations we can make. Clearly, we can start to see how the life style which they were experiencing was very different from how we currently know it. Nonetheless, being a parent had the same responsibilities and obligations as modern parents have. They just didn’t have all of our modern devices to keep tract of their children’s activities! Setting these differences aside, parents all feel that same anxiety when their children aren’t where they are expected to be. Can you imagine searching for your son or daughter for three or four days before finding them? Good lord, I think we all know that this borders on some of the worst fears and nightmares a parent can experience! So often, we hear on the news about a missing child. The parents are frequently interviewed, from which we can see the anguish, the fear and the panic, as they use the media to ask for help to find their child. Yes, it was a dramatic event when they found Jesus safe at the temple!
Our scripture reading points out how amazed the temple teachers were with Jesus while he was with them. Apparently, his questions, his observations and listening skills were very high. For they were amazed! Oh, if only we knew the conversations which Jesus had during those three plus days! The intellectual stimulation of this twelve-year-old child as he conversed with these scholarly men! What a picture it paints of whom Jesus was developing into. Again, we must hold our biases in check, and stay open to experiencing this scene for the first time, as they did! But, how quickly the scenario changes as Mary and Joseph, the distraught parents arrive on the scene! Can you picture the conversation of a modern parent when their child is just ‘three hours’ late for dinner, what it would be like! Would it really change that much if the child had been at the town library researching a paper for school? Not in the short run! If you were the parents that were trying to find the child for those hours, you would be no less stressed out! Can you hear the child saying: “But mom, where else would you expect to find me? I was just researching for the paper I am working on for class. “Don’t you want me to do well in school?” Raising children is no simple matter.
Let’s bring this conversion to its conclusion. First, we now know that Jesus was raised by typical parents; they cared for his wellbeing as best they could. We also learned that Jesus grew up like an average young adult; often unaware of how his actions might affect you. Furthermore, we also learned a more powerful aspect of Jesus’ childhood. We learned that his awareness of his relationship with the Almighty – was unique and special. Clearly, mystically even, young Jesus at age twelve, was aware, he sensed how his relationship with his Father in heaven was to be his first priority. Given all this, Jesus was also a youth who, in the end, respected his parents and strived to be obedient to them. Even as our discussion nears its closure, we can easily say, at least in the context of this scripture from Luke’s gospel, Mary and Joseph, were asking themselves the silent question: “who is this child?
Modern parents, good ones like the couple whom brought up baby Jesus, preparing him for his destiny, ask the same question of their children. Oftentimes, modern parents are unclear of the pathways their children shall choose and all that life holds for them. Not all children are destined for greatness, like Jesus. Yet, God has a vision for every child. Our responsibility as parents, grandparents and great grandparents, every one of us whom interacts with children, is to do the best we can… giving thanks that Mary and Joseph led the way for us to follow. Lastly, we need to be reminded we are all children of God. Therefore, we need to stay open to the mystical movement of the Spirit offering us God’s guidance, as we seek out our destiny – a destiny envisioned by our God.