Looking for Love in All the Right Places
January 4 2001 by

Looking for Love in All the Right Places | Thursday, Jan. 4, 2001

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2001

Looking for Love in All the Right Places

By Ken Vandergriff

One of the profound joys of parenting is recognizing those moments of dawning self-awareness in a child, when the child begins to form a sense of self-identity and make choices determining the direction of adult life. Such moments gain meaning in hindsight, as parents see their adult children and reflect on the critical turning points which shaped the children's lives. Our text is such a window into the dawning self-awareness of Jesus and His parents.

Pilgrimage at Passover (Luke 2:41-42) The setting for the story is Joseph and Mary's annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem at Passover, following the instructions of Deut. 16:16. As a 12-year-old, Jesus was beginning the transition into adulthood. While some rabbis saw 12 as the age at which adult responsibilities could be sustained, 13 was the more usual age, and the rabbis recognized that full adulthood took several years beyond the 12th or 13th birthday.

A lost child (Luke 2:43-45) The crisis in the story is the inability of Jesus' parents to find Him in the travel entourage. Interpreters should resist the temptation here to condemn His parents as neglectful. We should note that Luke does not condemn them and that it was common for pilgrims to travel in large caravans at festival times. In addition, condemnation of the parents diverts attention from the focus of the story, the dawning awareness of Jesus' identity.

The dawning of understanding (Luke 2:46-52) The high point of the drama is in verses 46-50. Jesus is found in the temple, among the teachers. Here, again, the interpreter should resist the urge to claim too much. The fact that He was "sitting among the teachers" does not necessarily mean that He was teaching them; sitting was a normal posture for students as well as teachers, and Luke specifies that Jesus was "listening and asking," rather than teaching.

Nor should interpreters allow Jesus' divinity to swallow up His humanity in this narrative. Christian faith affirms that Jesus is fully God and fully human. According to the Council of Chalcedon in 451, He is two indivisible, inseparable natures in one person. However, if Jesus was fully human, then He experienced the limitations in knowledge and power common to humans. Verse 52 implies as much, stating that He "increased" in wisdom. Jesus was perfect at each stage of life, but here he is a 12-year-old - astonishing and precocious, to be sure, but still a 12-year-old.

Our attention should focus on verse 49, the most important statement in this narrative. Readers will note that Jesus' second question is translated either "I must be in My Father's house" (NRSV, NIV) or "I must be about My Father's business" (KJV). The Greek text is ambiguous; neither the word "house" nor "business" appears in the text (which reads, rather literally, "I must be in that of My Father").

Of more importance than the translation, either of which would fit the context, is the dawning self-understanding of Jesus. Psychologists tell us that adolescence is a time when young people differentiate from their families of origin. They begin, for the first time, to establish their unique identities by confronting questions such as who am I, apart from my parents? What will I become? Whose rules will I follow? For Jesus, this involved recognition that He was the unique Son of God, given a mission of salvation. His continuing awareness of self-identity and mission can be seen in Luke 4:16-21, 43; 9:22; 10:22; 17:24-25; 22:29; 24:7, 26, 44.

Often we don't recognize formative experiences at the time of their occurrence. An encounter with a new idea in a book, a chance remark by a friend about an activity, or an extraordinary teacher who fuels our imagination may spark an interest which blossoms into a life passion, indeed which sets a life course. As we reflect on this experience that showed Jesus defining His life course, can you remember some experiences from your adolescence or young adulthood that shaped who you became? How has your understanding of those experiences grown in hindsight?

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