Have you ever seen the movie, “Home Alone?” The premise is, of course, that a couple of distracted parents accidentally went off on vacation and left their preteen son at home. Pretty far-fetched, don’t you think? Could that really happen?
Well, actually it did. It happened to Jesus, in fact. This week as we continue our worship series, Back to Basics: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus we find the story of how Mary and Joseph somehow got mixed up and left 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. They had gone to Jerusalem for Passover and were returning home to Nazareth and at some point in the journey they realized that Jesus was not with them.
How could that happen, you may ask? Biblical Archaeologist and Teacher Jim Fleming has a great way of talking about this story — Jesus, at 12 years old, was on the cusp of becoming a man, which in the Jewish faith would become official at age 13 with his Bar Mitzvah. Mary and Joseph travelled with a large group of family and friends to Jerusalem for the Passover. In such a travelling group, it was customary for the Women and Children to travel in a group and for the men to travel in a group. Fleming theorizes that Mary thought he was traveling with the men and Joseph, knowing that Jesus was still technically a boy, assumed he was traveling with the women and children.
This story from Luke is really the only snapshot we have of Jesus’ adolescence. Why was it important to Luke to tell this story?
This week as we continue this series with “Jesus’ Childhood” in which we will focus on the humanity of Jesus and his parents.
What did Jesus learn from Joseph? What did he learn from Mary? Remembering here that Jesus was fully human, we realize that he had parents who obviously had an effect on him, teaching him, shaping him and molding him. Like most of us he grew up in a community — and that, too, held the importance of how community and family in shaped him — and shapes us.
You can see in Luke the portrait of an average family making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. But Luke also wants to point out through this story that Jesus is a special child. The Church struggled with this for four centuries, finally declaring that Jesus was “fully human and fully divine.” To capture the basic essence of who Jesus was through this story, the punch line is that by the time Joseph and Mary got back to Jerusalem to retrieve their son, three days later, they found him in the Temple, speaking to the elders and asking important questions — and they were taking him seriously.
So all this begs the question, What is our true responsibility as parents and grandparents and as a community of faith? We pledge at every baptism that we will “so order our lives after the example of Christ that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”
When we make that pledge, aren’t we acknowledging our responsibility for the children in our midst? I also think it’s significant that this 12-year-old is asking questions and the elders are taking him seriously. What effect do you think that had on him? And what does that say to us?
I look forward to exploring these questions and this unique picture of Jesus with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster