27 December 2015

Luke 2:41-52

“‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them.” (vv. 49-50)

Psalm: Psalm 148


This is Jesus' backstory; we are intrigued to learn a little about Jesus' life before his ministry and so was Luke, he is the only Gospel writer who tells us anything about Jesus between the events of his birth and his adult ministry. This is also a coming-of-age story, at 12 years old Jesus would have undergone his Bar Mitzvah, officially becoming a man in a ceremony which involves reading from the Hebrew scriptures. However, here we see him not as a beginner, though perhaps exhibiting adolescent characteristics, as he outdoes the rabbis and theologians.

Nevertheless, the occasion here is the Passover (verse 41), so perhaps more than his own personal rite of passage this is actually a challenge of traditional religion at a key moment in the religious calendar.

For the modern reader this passage may immediately have us thinking of safeguarding issues - how did his parents manage to go a whole day (verse 44) before they started looking for him? Of course the focus is not on them, they are incidental to the story, except when they feed Jesus the line - 'what are you playing at?' - that enables him to respond with the punch line, "Didn't you know I must be in my Father's house?" As often happens, friends, family and followers do not understand him (verse 50) and he responds with a particular kind of exasperation.

After this the Gospel writer may be worried that a picture of Jesus as troublemaker is taking shape, so he takes pains to emphasise Jesus' behaviour as an obedient teenager - "Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them" (v. 51).

To Ponder

  • What image do you have of Jesus as a teenager? How can we see Jesus as a typical child of his time, not just the one who challenged the rabbis?
  • How much creativity is there in the portrayal of Jesus interacting with other characters in his story who mainly serve the narrative and message of the writer?

Bible notes author

Julian Bond

Julian works for the Connexional Team as the grants team leader. Previous to that he was the director of the Christian Muslim Forum, which is built on friendship between a group of Christians and Muslims, showing how faith is a catalyst for good relationships and welcomes the 'other'.