If we’re going to find a true First Century Faith we’ve got to find the big “firsts.” This week, let’s look at the first (recorded) words of Jesus and what was perhaps his difficult moment with Mary and Joseph.
We know the story. Jesus and his family go to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover and on the way back, Mary and Joseph think Jesus is in the traveling caravan somewhere. But he isn’t.
Instead Jesus is back at the temple in Jerusalem, sitting in the midst of the teachers; listening and asking questions. Luke 2:47 tells us “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
I love the exchange between Mary and Jesus because it is so absolutely . . . human.
For a moment, at least, let’s forget our theological mindset regarding this brief conversation and remember Mary is acting just like a mom. “Son, why have you treated us this way?” She asks. “Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.”
As a good friend of mine noted, there is no other way to read this except to say, “Momma ain’t happy right now.”
Think about it. Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without notifying his parents, without telling anyone. He is apparently eating and staying the night in the temple, having these grand discussions with the Jewish teachers, yet didn’t even consider what his family might be going through.
At least, this is Mary’s perspective when she asks the question.
I’m no expert on Jesus’ inflection or tone when he responds (but I do know his words were coming out in red so that must mean something, right?). To me however, Jesus appears befuddled. “Why is it that you were looking for me?” he asks. “Did you not know that I had to be in my father’s house?”
Some translations say Jesus uses the words, “About my father’s business,” but either way we find some first things.
The first “first thing?” If I want a true First Century Faith, it’s important to know exactly who Jesus claims to be. The question of so many is, “Who is Jesus?” Right out of the gate, Luke wants us to know Jesus claims he is the son of God.
“Oh, we know that,” it’s easy to say. “Let’s move on to the big stuff and our ‘Christology’ and all of that.”
Ummm, No. This is big enough. Jesus claims no more, and certainly no less.
Momma and daddy (Joseph being Jesus’ adoptive dad) didn’t understand immediately (verse 50), but we soon see Jesus going back with his parents and he “continued in subjection to them.” Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” and all was right with the world, for the time being.
But the last verse in this narrative (Luke 2:52) captures me. Read it just as you would about anyone else: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with men.” (Emphasis mine)
Let’s step back a second. The goal of these posts is to help us grasp a First Century Faith, with the underlying belief that we would do best to follow the words and actions of the early followers. Luke was one of these.
And Luke is as plain as can be; Jesus became wiser as he grew, and in God’s eyes (men, too), Jesus grew in favor.
Theologically, this can be a head-scratcher. Jesus got wiser? God grew in his admiration for Jesus? Really?
From a 21st century lens, these words from Luke can appear a bit confusing. But they might also open a door to viewing Jesus with fresh eyes.
Perhaps, Luke’s words can help me find that powerful First Century Faith.
So, I’ll take Luke at his word: Jesus claimed early on to be the son of God—nothing more and nothing less–gaining in wisdom and in favor with God as his father watched him grow up. Simple stuff. But as we go further, it could be more powerful than we might think.