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 parentssaw 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 setting for this mornings’ gospel is a pilgrimage that Jesus makes with his parents and a whole host of others to Jerusalem to celebrate passover. It was a huge festival that every pious Jewish family would want to make.
It’s important to note that the authors up to this point in Luke have made Mary and Joseph the center of the story, Jesus doesn’t do anything without them. However, in this narrative, Jesus begins to take center stage.
It’s also interesting to note that the authors give Jesus’ age. He’s 12. He is in the process of entering adulthood and this story is meant to mark a place of growth for Jesus. He’s making a statement.
But, before that statement, we have the dramatic emotional experience that some of us as parents have gone through. Realizing you don’t know where your kids are. Now, I haven’t forgotten where my kids are for a complete day, but I have had a few moments in places like Central Park in NYC, King’s Island, or Disneyland where I’ve turned around for a brief moment and couldn’t find my kids…that sense of urgency in finding them brings up all sorts of feelings that we parents fear.
Part of that emotion is out of a sense of wanting to protect our kids, but also the thought of losing them, of losing the relational connection, is overwhelming. That’s true not only with kids, but with anyone that we have a relationship with.
So, Mary and Joseph have left Jerusalem, they’ve been gone for a day before they realize that Jesus isn’t with them. Now, before you judge them as parents, remember that this is a different culture. Unlike today, Mary and Joseph are a part of a large clan of relatives. They all share a sense of responsibility for each other and for their kids. So, it would be natural for Mary and Joseph to assume that Jesus was being taken care of, and that when their clan left, that someone would have Jesus.
But, that wasn’t the case here. They had left Jesus. When they went back to Jerusalem to find them, they searched for him for 3 days! Could you imagine the panic and the angst of his parents, missing someone they loved?
After three days, they went to the temple. I’m not sure what led them there, maybe it was a sense of needing to go and seek spiritual comfort at the temple, or maybe they heard that Jesus may be there, who knows. But, when they got there, they found Jesus in the middle of religious scholars, listening, asking questions, being curious…it says that even the teachers at the Temple were amazed at his answers, his maturity, and understanding.
I’m not sure what Jesus was talking about that day, but my bet is that it had a lot to do with God’s love being summed up by how much God loves us and calls us to love others…of a God who created us out of relationship, for relationship…a God who gives us community with one another, with God’s self, and with the world around us. Jesus was listening not only to the teachers, but also to God’s Spirit revealing to him where community can be made present.
When Mary, as any mother would, asked Jesus why he put her through this…why the anguish of wondering where he was, Jesus responds, “why were you searching for me, you should have known I’d be in the one place where I can intimately experience relationship with others and with God.”
Jesus refers to being in his father’s house. We can get caught up in the masculine reference to God, but the Israelites used Father in a relational sense, it has much more to do with attempting to describe God in intimate, relational terms than subscribing to God masculine qualities. Language sometimes fails us in giving testimony to our experience.
God is closer than any parent, God is within us and outside of us, God is “other”, we are not God, yet God reveals to us who were created to be, saved to be, and sustained to become.
Jesus is experiencing God’s joy, God’s Presence, God’s love in the temple.
It seems like Mary, like many parents, was not able to “see” or “hear” her son in this moment…but, she paused, listened…and saw and heard him in that moment. Mary doesn’t continue to scold him, she doesn’t understand all that Jesus is saying, yet she knows that her child is authentically experiencing God. It says that she treasures these experiences in her heart. Treasure is a great word, it’s something of immense value. In other places in the new testament, there is the parable of giving up all that you have to find the hidden treasure, it also says that where your treasure is, there is your heart.
Friends, this is a hard one…harder than we thing. Where is your treasure? Do the work of finding your heart…not others hearts, but start with yours! I know
Mary’s treasure was in her son, the relationship they had, Jesus also treasured his mother, he didn’t intend to cause her anxiety, but he was also growing in his understanding of God’s love for humanity. God’s desire for us to experience love for God, for others, and for ourselves. God’s summary of the entire law, of the 10 commandments, into loving relationship.
It’s fitting that we have this gospel lesson after Christmas, the coming of Christ bringing to us the promise of God’s loving presence…now, we are called to grow in our understanding of that Love by following Jesus’ example. In Luke 2:52, it says that Jesus grew in his teenage years up until his public ministry at age 30 in wisdom and in God’s and others favor.
Jesus was marked with God’s favor…Jesus represents all of humanity, therefore we are also favored by God. May we treasure these stories about Jesus, may we understand that our treasure lies in deep, abiding, and even curious love for others and for God…may we seek and see God in all that we meet and may we find ourselves in the Father’s house, which is the temple, which is the body of Christ, understood to be placed in the world and encompassing all of humanity.
Friends, may we experience God’s love as we practice loving the world around us.