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Luke #8 God's Model Parents

God's Model Parents

Reading: Luke 2:39-52

Introduction: At first glance, the title of this morning's sermon may seem way off base. After all we are reading about parents who could travel for a full day without even realizing their son wasn't with them! Then they spent the next 2-4 days, depending on how we interpret the "after three days" statement, looking for him. Somehow that doesn't compare with driving away from church and leaving one child behind does it? I used to have no sympathy at all for Mary and Joseph until about 10 years ago. I was in graduate school in Atlanta; Matt was about three years old and Bradley was old enough to sit up but he couldn't get anywhere fast. It was late fall or early winter, and Anne needed a new winter coat, so we went to the Mall in search of a coat, taking both boys with us.

As it turned out, just the night before there had been a show on television about the true life kidnapping of a little boy named Adam from a Sears department store. That was fresh on Anne's mind in particular as we went into Sears to look for a coat. You know how all of those coat racks are. We both were looking through the racks, trying to hold on to two little boys. Finally, right beside one of the racks, we sat the boys both down and told them to play quietly for a few minutes. From my perspective we couldn't have ever been more than fifteen feet away from them for just of couple of minutes. We could hear Brad making little noises playing and we naturally assumed everything was OK.

But as you have guessed by now, it wasn't. When we went back to get the boys, Brad was there by himself and Matt was gone. First we called his name firmly but not too loud; then the shouting and running began. The clerk tried to get a call made over the loud speaker, but the system was broken or delayed or something so it was left to the screams of two borderline hysterical parents. I ran all the way to the exit of the store out into the Mall itself and got there just in time to see Matt walking back into the store from the Mall holding hands with a boy about 11 years old who had found him. As I hugged his neck, the true feeling was, "Son, why have you treated your mother and father this way!" And I appreciated Mary and Joseph a bit more.

A few years later our family was moving back to Oregon by way of Anne's brother's house in Dallas and her parents’ house in Albuquerque, NM. We were in two vehicles, a moving van and our car, and as George and Seth and Charles can tell, I like having CB radios for the vehicles when we travel. Anne's brother and family decided to travel on with us from Dallas to Albuquerque, but they had no radio. To keep everyone together we put their car between the truck and the car that had radios. Well we decided to stop at a place call Cline's Corner, which is a desolate, wind-blown truck stop in the middle of nowhere in eastern New Mexico. We all went inside to buy cokes and use the rest rooms and then headed back to the car. The wind was blowing about 40 miles an hour and it was obvious a storm was coming, so we raced to our respective vehicles, got in, and took off. I was driving the truck, which was the last of the three vehicles. About 40 miles down the road I noticed that my nephew was no longer in the car in front of me--the one with no radio. I figured he must have switched to the other car. But when I called the other car, he wasn't there either. You guessed it; we all thought we had left him at the service station at Clines Corner. As it turned out, when we finally pulled over to tell my brother-in-law and sister-in-law that we had left their son at the truck stop, we found the boy fast asleep, stretched out on the rear seat where we couldn't see.

But there is more to our story this morning than feeling better about Mary and Joseph because of one's own parenting experience and mistakes. This is a curious story in many ways because it is the only story about the childhood of Jesus found in any of the Gospels. Mark and John both begin with Jesus as an adult. Matthew also includes a birth story, but quickly moves from the first couple of years, where the family goes to Egypt and then Nazareth, to his adult life. Only Luke includes an event from the childhood of Jesus. Thirty years of history, and this is the only glimpse we have. Sandwiched between two summary statements about the child growing in wisdom and stature and with the favor of God upon him, there is this incident in Jerusalem. We are told that Jesus was 12 years old when all of this took place. Jewish boys were fit to learn the law at 10 and responsible for keeping the commandments at 13. Twelve became the traditional time of a Jewish boy's bar mitzvah, his confirmation as a keeper of the Law.

Remember, the emphasis in the earlier part of this chapter on the keeping of the Law as Mary and Joseph went to the Temple for the purification of Mary and the presentation of the first-born male child. Now we are told that after moving to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph have faithfully kept the Passover in Jerusalem every year since. This is a customary trip for them. Jesus has made this trip, grown up expecting to go to Jerusalem every spring, spend a week or so, and then travel back to Nazareth. It was customary for families to travel together for such trips. It was over a hundred miles from Jerusalem to Nazareth, and the Secarii--the road bandit--were notorious. So people traveled together. Mary and Joseph obviously have been aware of their son's heritage from his birth. On the one hand, it has now been 12 years since those encounters with the angel and the shepherds and Simeon and Anna. Nevertheless, they have raised their son to know his heritage, to understand his identity. Every year they keep the Passover in Jerusalem.

Every year they pack up and go home. No doubt on previous trips Jesus had chosen to play with other friends on the trip. He knew the routine. They knew he knew the routine. They knew he was 12 and beginning to feel his independence just a bit--that wonderful pre-adolescent time of life, when everything is a question—“How come?” “Why not?” “Can I now?” But the boy had never been a problem. He knew when they were leaving town. But on this trip, he didn't leave with them. A day's journey out, they discover Jesus is not with anyone in the caravan, and they return to Jerusalem to look for him. It is difficult to interpret verse 46. Is this one day out, one day back, then on the third day they find him? Or is it one day out, one day back, then three days later they find him? The text itself is not clear on that point. Either way, 3 days or 5 is a long time to be missing a 12-year-old son. Like all lost things, he is in the last place that they look--in this case, the Temple. There, something very odd has been happening. Luke says that Jesus was there the whole time listening and asking questions, and the teachers were all amazed at his answers. What is odd is the order of what Jesus is doing. Listening and asking questions, then amazing the crowd with answers ought to be the role of the greatest teacher. Here the teachers are in awe of the precocious boy.

When Mary and Joseph come on the scene, no doubt they are relieved to find Jesus, but also quite upset that they have been put through the worry and anxiety. "Why did you put us through this pain of worry?" they ask. Jesus responds with a rather shocking naiveté. "Why have you been looking for me?" There are two things about his next statement really lost to us in translation. What we read is, "Didn't you know I must be in my father's house." But the translation "I must," while accurate, loses the sense of divine necessity that it carries in the original language. From Jesus' perspective, he had no choice; he must be doing what he was doing. Secondly, the translation "In my father's house" is more literally rendered "in the things of my father." It could legitimately be referring to his being in the father’s house, in his father's affairs, with his father's people. By choosing one rendering in English we hide the multiple meanings of what he said. It is that ambiguity that makes sense of Joseph and Mary not understanding. With what we find in our translations, it appears they have forgotten the circumstances of his birth, forgotten his identity. But I suggest to you, that Jesus knows who he is, knows who his father is only because his parents did not forget, that in fact he was the precocious teacher because they were such good teachers. Yes, the process of letting go of their son wasn't supposed to start this soon. How could they be ready for him to be involved already in his father's things--he was still just a boy!

But he knew who he was because the surrogate father chosen by God and the mother chosen by God had trained him and raised him to know his ultimate identity. Christian parents have the same calling today, don't they? Children are a gift from God; Christian parents are given a stewardship by God to raise those infants, nurture them, and train them to know who their real father is. Raise them in such a way that they want to be involved; they must be involved in the affairs of their father. Because our own children are not designated from conception as savior of the world, we never have the same sense of imperative as parents that Mary and Joseph had, but the responsibility of raising our own to know and love God is no different. We too must raise them in such a way that in those teenage years the godly training already instilled leads them to greater and greater independence until they are ready to leave.

Nothing greater could be said of my own sons, than that they increased in wisdom and stature and the favor of God, the Grace of God was upon them. No greater complement could be paid to parents of teenagers than for someone to write, “and he or she went home with their parents and were obedient to them, and they increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” We know from this story that the 12-year-old Jesus could already teach the teachers because of what his parents had taught him. They had a mission from God, a mission they themselves did not always understand nor could they be prepared for its consequences. But they modeled parenting for all the rest of us. And young people, teenagers, Jesus also modeled God's intent for you: know who your eternal father is, live in obedience to the earthly parents he has given you, learn God's truth so that you become a teachers to others.

Delivered at Brentwood Hills, November 7, 1993

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