This is yet another story unique to Luke. No other Gospel has anything to say about Jesus’ childhood, and this is all the Gospel of Luke says. Jesus childhood is a mystery. Because of this, I find this story to be a gem. It’s all we have, and it is dense. There is a lot going on within it.
On one hand it seems very human. Mary and Joseph has lost track of their boy, and they are in a panic. They head back to Jerusa
em to find him and when they do, Mary says, “why have you treated us like this?” It’s human to lose track of your kid (losing them for several days like that, however, will probably get you on the news and an appointment with social services, but it’s still human). And it’s human to be upset. Mary, Joseph and Jesus seems like family here.
But then it’s also not so human. What is this 12 year old doing? He’s in the temple questioning the religious authorities. And when Mary questions Jesus he says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” While this is a very human story, it is a reminder of who Jesus is. At 12 he knows who he is, and he knows why he’s here.
This story has begun to take on particular meaning for me in recent years. I didn’t grow up in a church-going home, but as a kid I always searching. I was searching to connect to something bigger, something beyond what I could see, hear, and touch. I had all
kinds of questions about religion and even explored the faith of some of my friends. As it turns out, I would eventually give my life to living in the ways, teachings and rhythms of Jesus. in 2004 my mom’s sister died suddenly. They were
extremely close, so my mom was the one who received many of her things. Just a couple years ago she was going through some of those things and found this little old piece of art. It was of the 12 year old Jesus questioning the religious authorities in the temple. On the back it said, “Paul, never stop asking or talking about faith- it is all we need to survive… But it also must be tested, just as he ordered… Think and you shall be. -Aunti Lynn, Winter 1987″. It was a gift from her to me when I was 13, long before I became a Christian, let alone a pastor. It’s not a great work of art, but it now hangs in my office. It reminds me, as a religious authority, to never stop questioning, and more importantly, to never stop letting others question me.
Faith is questioning. Faith is challenging belief, wondering, and even doubting. Doubt does not kill faith, it feeds it. the 12 year old Jesus in this story is questioning, even doubting, aspects of his own religious establishment. When we read these stories, when our pastors preach on them, and when the authorities write about them, we must test them. Even this. We must explore them entirely, embracing both their beauty and their faults. Do not be afraid to question. It is in being given the space to question that I believe we begin to discover truth.
Thanks, Aunti Lynn, for keeping me in line in that regard. Miss you.