Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
First Sunday of Christmas
Text: Luke 2. 41-end Title: "Wise Beyond His Years."
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Have you ever gone through an experience of a child or teenager going missing? What went through your minds and what was the outcome?
Have you experienced being in conflict with your children or parents over important decisions, for example, in the choice of career, as part of growing up or moving away from parental control?
A Window on the Text
In this story, the veil is lifted on the ‘hidden years’ of Jesus’ life. It’s the only gospel account of his life between the birth and dedication stories and his baptism in the River Jordan. Mary and Joseph are very devout Jews and are careful to observe the requirements of the Law. They travelled annually to Jerusalem to observe the Passover festival (v 41). On this visit Jesus stays behind. His parents, who were travelling with a much larger group of pilgrims, panic when they discover their son is missing. They retrace their steps in their search for their son and discover him in the Temple listening to and questioning the teachers of the Law.
Here we have a glimpse of Jesus’ growing sense of identity and obedience to his heavenly Father. We just don’t know what his parents had told him about the circumstances of his birth or what had been revealed to them about his destiny but here we see the boy in the temple with the experts on the Jewish Law amazing them with his knowledge and depth of understanding. When he next faces the religious leaders and experts in the Temple during the last week or his life, his reception would be very different (see Luke 19.45-47).
When his parents eventually find him they return home to Nazareth. Luke reports that Jesus remained obedient to his parents, and grew in wisdom and stature (cf 1 Samuel 2 verse 26) and was well thought of by those among whom he lived (v51-52).
The passage encourages each one of us and our churches to understand where our true identity lies. On the threshold of a new year, let us resolve afresh to be about our Father’s affairs – the reign of God.
Responding as a community
- How do we deal with a situation in which we face a choice between two equally important and valid demands on our lives? Maybe between family and church or other conflicting demands within the church? Share examples and how the issue was dealt with.
- Share your thoughts and experiences of adolescence and the difficulties that parents have trying to protect their growing children and yet leaving room for personal discovery and development. What other lessons can we learn from this story about the upbringing of children?
- Given the deep dedication of Mary and Joseph to the traditions of Jewish faith and the nurturing of Jesus in those traditions, how should adherence to Christian tradition figure in children’s upbringing today?
- Invite each member of the group to write down on a piece of paper their main responsibilities in life (e.g. work – paid or voluntary, family role). Ask them to write their name on the paper and place it so that all can see.
- Spend a few minutes in silent reflection, picturing and praying for the other members of the group in their various vocations.
- Pray for one another in silence or aloud.
- End with the Lord’s Prayer
More Background Information
- Jews were expected to attend the Feasts of Pentecost and Tabernacles as well as Passover if they lived 15 miles or less from Jerusalem (Exodus 23: 14-17, Deut 16:16). Those living at a distance, such as Galilee, tended to attend Passover only (see Exodus 12: 21 – 36). The journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about 75 miles.
- It was normal for people travel in large groups particularly for safety reasons. The women and children travelled together, followed by the men. They would not all come together again until they met at a prearranged meeting place on the journey home. On the return journey Jesus could have been traveling with either the women (as a child) or the men (as an adult). Mary may have thought Jesus was with Joseph and the men, and Joseph that he was with Mary and the women.
- At 12 years of age Jesus is nearing his ‘bar-mitzvah’, the rite of passage from boyhood to adulthood which occurred in a boy’s 13th year. It was the year when Jesus moved from being the official son of Joseph to a Son of the Law. It was the responsibility of Jewish fathers to prepare their sons for their religious responsibilities as men. In light of this, Jesus’ presence in the Temple makes sense.
- The fact that Jesus was seated with the Teachers is telling. Teachers sat when they taught, others stood to listen. Jesus is with the greatest minds of the day and they invite him to sit with them.
- During festival and on the Sabbath, the teachers sat in the Temple precinct to teach their traditions and answer questions. Luke Timothy Johnson suggests a better translation of verse 49 is ‘I must be involved in my Father’s affairs’ rather than ‘I must be in my Father’s house’.
- Luke makes the link between Mary and Joseph and Hannah and Elkanah, who dedicated their son Samuel to God’s service in the temple.
- For helpful commentary see http://www.cresourcei.org/lectionary/YearC/Cchristmas1nt.html.
- In thinking about Jesus’ sense of call to a higher purpose, consider St. Paul’s correspondence with the churches in his care describing them as those ‘called to be saints’(i.e. set apart for a holy purpose). See Romans 1.7;1 Cor.1.2; 2Cor 1.1; Eph1.1;Phil.1.1; Col1.1. etc.)