The Holy Family
1. The first relationships we experience are parent-child relationships. A person cannot choose his or her parents. This is the first human relationship which is thrust upon us. That's how we are born and raised, and many people become parents themselves. The history of the family has thus been formed. We spend many hours of our lives in family relationships. Therefore, whoever has not thought through the meaning of our being a child or parent and the meaning of our living in a family has lived a pretty ungrateful life.*
2. During the past Christmas holiday we celebrated the birth of the Son. Even the Lord Jesus had a father in this temporal world and a mother. In today's scripture passage we have the circumstances recorded of the Lord Jesus with his family twelve years after the event in that stable in Bethlehem. Today, based on the story of the Lord and his family I would like us to reflect together on the meaning for us of our being a child or a parent and being made to live within family relationships.
When They Went To The Capital
3. A Jewish child was considered to attain adult status when he turned thirteen years old. They were obligated to perform religious duties like repeating three times daily the prayer called "The Shema," fasting on prescribed days, and making pilgrimages to Jerusalem. In other words, he was required to be active as a full standing member in Jewish institutional society. So, in preparation for that day the parents had to make the children rehearse. We believe Mary and Joseph took Jesus when he turned twelve to Jerusalem for that very reason.
4. They spent a whole week, which was the festival period, at Jerusalem, then made a return trip back home. But, the boy Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem. Both parents had not even realized his being left behind. The pilgrimage trip moved along forming a great flock of a crowd. It was quite possible for both parents to lose sight of their child. We believe the pilgrim flock set out early in the morning. They went along traveling on the road a good part of the day, then at the evening hour they looked for Jesus but did not find him. They hunted around among their relatives and friends, went back to Jerusalem and located Jesus on the third day. The boy Jesus was sitting in the midst of scholars inside the temple area and was listening to speeches and stories and asking questions. The text says everyone who was listening in was surprised at the wise responses of Jesus. We don't need to regard this as some king of marvelous miracle. Since Jewish children completed their learning at age thirteen, which centered on memorization of matters pertaining to the book of the law, it was in itself nothing unusual or marvelous for a twelve year old child to listen to speeches and stories from scholars and to ask questions.
5. Upon seeing Jesus Mary was surprised and said: "Why did you do such a thing to us? Look now. Your father and I were worried looking around for you." The boy Jesus therefore responded: "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I was supposed to be in my father's house?" Since what is translated here as "my father's house" is only written in the original text as "the things of my father," it is possible to translate this as well as "Didn't you know it is natural for me to be concerned with my father's business?" At any rate, both parents did not get the meaning of Jesus' message. But an echo of this very message is recorded in strong comparison in verse fifty-one, "After that, Jesus went down with them, returned to Nazareth, and lived in service to his parents." From one aspect of things, Jesus was clearly conscious within himself that he was the son of God who ought to be in the house of God and call God "Father," but [from the other side of things] it says that the Lord went back to Nazareth as the son of Mary and Joseph and served them obediently.
Even The Lord [Jesus] Learned Obedience
6. Well, as we re-read this passage the first thing we notice is there are many words in this narrative related to the passion narratives of the Lord. The parents took Jesus to the Passover Festival. When Jesus was crucified, it was Passover time. The Lord Jesus went up to Jerusalem with his parents. When the Lord was crucified, it was in Jerusalem, and this gospel book devotes a very large portion from 9:51 on to a depiction of the Lord's journey that was headed for Jerusalem. The report about the boy Jesus not being seen and then found again on the third day reminds us of when he was crucified, buried, and appeared on the third day. Furthermore, the word we should pay special attention to is the word translated in verse forty-nine "it was natural, he was supposed to, it was expected, [the King James Version says 'I must be,' the Japanese is 'atarimae,' the Greek is 'dei einai me']." This is a word that appears repeatedly in the Gospel of Luke. As I mention the kinds of places it has appeared one of them is in Luke 9:22. "The son of man will surely experience a great deal of suffering, be rejected, and killed by the elders, high priests, and legal scholars, then on the third day he will rise again." Here what is translated as "will...surely" is that same word from before. Often times we say this word [in Japanese] expresses "inevitability with God." In other words, when the Lord Jesus was already twelve years old, he was living in the [predetermined providential] plan of God. The fact is he had begun to walk the way set down by God. He had already started walking on the road to his passion and on the road to the cross. Earlier I said verse forty-nine could also be translated "Didn't you know it was a matter of course for me to be concerned with the work of my father?" If we translate it like that, it makes it a bit more clear how the Lord was self-conscious of his living in God's predetermined plan.
7. Jesus' public life began roughly about when he turned thirty years old. We think it was about three years from that time of his thirtieth year until the period of his crucifixion. The Gospel of Luke and the other gospels say the same thing in relation to this matter. But one of the special features in Luke is it says in the text something about the childhood of Jesus. To be a bit more specific, the description of his life starts at the place where Jesus was lying in the manger. Luke is the only one who writes this description. In brief, what is being emphasized here is that when the Lord Jesus was hung on the cross it was not just because he got the envy and the hatred of the ruling class. The fact is since he had been born the Lord was on his way to the cross. In spite of his being the son of God, his whole life was going forward to the cross, and the fact is the majority of his life was lived in preparation for that purpose.
8. In the Epistle to the Philippians we have probably read Paul's quote of the hymn to Christ written in the following manner: "Christ, while he has the position of God, not wanting to persist that he was equal to God, instead he made himself into nothing, he took the position of servant and he became the same as a human. He appeared in human form, he humbled himself even to the point of death, he obeyed even to the point of death on the cross. For this reason God raised Christ high and gave him a name that excels every name...," (Philippians 2:6-9). Before he accomplished the work of God's salvation and was given a seat of glory, Christ had to be humble. We call this the kenosis or humiliation. When he makes himself into nothing here, it is textually connected with his having walked in obedience even to the point of death on the cross. In Christ obedience to God and self abnegation are one. So, what Luke recorded is that his obedience and emptying of self did not begin in those passion narratives. It had long ago begun back at the stable. So, in the Epistle to the Hebrews we even find the expression that "though Christ is the Son, he was taught obedience through much suffering," (Hebrews 5:8).
9. When we realize the walk of this kind of Lord, we get the feeling to really look ourselves over as we get struck by a sense of awe. The Lord who headed for the cross says to us as well to come by obeying and carrying the cross. We want to be persons who obey the Lord. We want to serve God and so we ask to be used for the glory of God. However, why do we look down on the preparatory process and why are we seeking to be used by God without any preparation? The greater part of the Lord's life was a time of learning obedience, and especially the larger part of his life was a prep time for just a three year period living out in the public. Again, we often think we can't serve God because we have no ability, physical strength, or knowledge base. But, that's not so. It's really that obedience to God is what we are missing. We've got to learn obedience. Most of our life may even be preparation for the purpose God will use us for. That is really a good thing. We know that we have been started on for the glory of God and the person who knows he or she is used in the inevitability of God's plan also knows the significance of learning obedience in suffering and under various unhoped for circumstances. If we decide to obey the Lord, we must retain in our hearts the life the Lord had.
God As Father Who Is The Origin Of The Family
10. Well, when we remember the way in which the Lord was making preparations for his public life, the meaning becomes visible why he was with Mary and Joseph here. It means that the family of the Lord is there. If the case is that the Lord had made preparations for his public life, first of all this preparation time had to be done in a family.
11. Mary said to the Lord in verse forty-eight, "Why did you do such a thing to us?" Actually, although it was not translated in the New Interconfessional Version, there was really before that a calling out to him with "o child." That word is frequently a term for expressing a descendant as an heir, and it is a word used when calling out warmly with affection to a person of such a relationship. Here Mary is certainly addressing Jesus as her own child. The child right in front of her is without a doubt the one she felt in her womb and gave birth to, and it was the child she herself had raised. She was saying that both parents had been worrying over their very child. However, at this point the Lord speaks about "my father." It was not Joseph who he was calling "my father." The first relationship Jesus had was one with the "father" (i.e. God the father) and upon that basis Joseph was the father of Jesus and Mary was the mother of Jesus. The words of the Lord Jesus make that point clear. Of course, when the Lord Jesus, the Son [of God], calls "my father" there is a special significance. However, these words can also say that he is clearly pointing out what it is that we vaguely call the family. First of all, there is "God the Father." It is with Him that the family begins. That is precisely what Paul so excellently states in Ephesians 3:15, "All the families in heaven and earth are given that name from God."
12. What the Lord says here about "God the Father" is what we need to say as well. In actual practice, in any family where one cannot distinguish the importance of a relationship with God the Father, then a clear understanding of why a parent even brings up a child does not come into focus. Even the child cannot understand why he or she exists within a family. [There are] parents who only think about the satisfaction of their own desires to raise a child and the way to carry out their own ideals and dreams; [there are] parents who have not even thought much about what the child's happiness is even though they say "we wish for our child's happiness." Or, [there are] children who resign themselves to parental relationships as described above and [there are] children who only find the reason for their own existence in their parents' happiness. Or, [there are] kids who wish only to get their tuition and living expenses paid; others wish to leave home and live on their own. We are made to find those kinds of parent-child relationships and family bonds all too familiar. Before we know it we may find ourselves like that, too. However, with an emphasis on [just] humanity [and not God], and if one decided to see the parent or the child from only one's own viewpoint that would truly be a sorry situation. The word of the Lord is overturning such a human centered concept of the family from the roots up. We must think with an emphasis on God the Father. God the Father has a purpose. The Lord began a walk to the cross. Because God had a plan, Joseph was made the father of Jesus and Mary was made the mother of Jesus. God had a purpose for the child. Also, God had a purpose for the parents.
13. Therefore, children, in the household to which they are given, learn obedience in preparation for when God will use them. However imperfect the parents might be, the child would do well to learn obedience to God in that [home]. That is the position that we ought to have. In coming to verse fifty-one then, the text says, "After that, Jesus went down with them, returned to Nazareth, and lived in service to his parents." Even though Christ was self-consciously aware that he was to shoulder the responsibility of the orders given to him from God the Father, still for a long time, he had served there under both his parents. Mary and Joseph had probably both been such imperfect parents with respect to the sinless son of God. But, it was right there that the Lord humbled himself, earned obedience, and was prepared for the pathway to the cross.
14. On the one side, parents nurture a child for God the Father. It's not their own child they are raising. Furthermore, the time soon comes when the child separates from his or her parents. After we were given the trust by God and raise [the child], the time comes to give [the child] back to God. The word of the Lord points out that the time is soon coming for the Lord to be separated from Mary. Later Mary had to accept Jesus' being hung on the cross and dying for God's plan of salvation. That was why Mary was Jesus' mother.
15. As for even the most basic relationshps we are given as humans, we are mostly apt to make them as human-centered. Because we don't try to consider God's reasons for giving us a family we oftentimes unfortunately make a tragedy out of our family. In order to live as a parent, a child, or a family member, we must turn our thoughts first to God the Father because he is the Father who is the origin of all families.
*Literally: "Therefore, no life is as miserable as one without thinking about the meaning of being a child or a parent, the meaning of living in a family."