There was a fascinating tidbit in the scripture reading in one of the devotional meditations. It was the account of Mary and Joseph losing track of Jesus one year as they made their annual visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. It was a story still vivid in Mary’s memory many years later when she recounted it to Luke.
Luke says that when it came time to return home, Mary and Joseph didn’t know where their 12 year old son was. They assumed he must be with other members of the extended family also making that journey. This seems quite casual to me but suggests the sense of security that must have been felt by the loyal crowd of worshippers keeping the ancient tradition.
Luke says it was a full day out of Jerusalem before Mary and Joseph tried to find Jesus (2:44). When they couldn’t locate him, they turned around and returned to Jerusalem. Once there, they searched unsuccessfully for three more days. I think this adds up to five days total before they finally discovered their son was having deep conversations with the teachers at the Temple. Luke mildly reports that Mary and Joseph were “astonished.” They surely had their choice of reasons to be so. I think we have reason to be astonished at how close Mary and Joseph came to putting a serious kink into God’s plan to save the world by entrusting the welfare and raising of the child Jesus to them.
Anyway, this brings me to the moment that got my attention.
When they finally approach Jesus and chastise him for scaring them, he replies with a question: “Didn’t you know…?” (2:49) And it seems to me it’s an honest question (I don’t have an imagination strong enough to believe he was being snarky).
If it was an honest question, look at what it suggests. Jesus, full member of the Godhead, of the same substance with the Heavenly Father, was not used to such ignorance between family members. I wonder if he wasn’t learning something right there about the limits we human beings have in our understanding, to say nothing of our difficulty understanding one another. He was seeing the confusion and fear in his mother’s eyes and it surprised him. Could it be that they really didn’t realize where he was, and where he was headed?
I ponder that moment as representing a learning moment for Jesus in his incarnational sharing of our humanity. This is what it means to be limited by what we can see and what we can figure out. It means we spend a lot of time confused, lost. and afraid the situation is going to get much, much worse and there’s nothing we can do about it.
It takes awhile to learn that Someone Who loves us will take care of us and we can rest in absolute security no matter what things look like to us. Jesus knew that already. He seemed surprised that mom and dad had any problem with it.
Well, I still have a problem with it. It’s great news. But depending on what is in front of my eyes is a hard habit to break.