The Gospel of the Day – 2015.12.27 (Sunday)
Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.
Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.
He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.
This narrative is a myth. It does give us any reliable information about who Jesus was, nor about his relationship with his parents; even though it purports to do so.
This is unfortunate.
It does tell us something about what the author of Luke wanted us to believe about Jesus. That his parents were faithful and observant Jews. They obediently went to Jerusalem for the Passover as required of them by the law. There they were counted and made their offerings to the temple.
The authors of Luke were also trying to tell us that Jesus was wise beyond his years, that he was capable of self-direction, that he had a sense of mission and purpose for his life. The authors of Luke also want us to believe that Jesus understood at this early age, long before his adult ministry began, that he was, in a unique way, a child of God. Finally, Luke wants us to understand that his submission to the authority of his parents was voluntary.
What is unfortunate about this narrative is this; instead of informing us about who Jesus is, it muddies our understanding by mythologizing him, and instead only tells us what the authors of Luke wanted us to believe about him, what their followers hoped was true.
Though the authors of Luke could not foresee this, these writings would come divide the Christian community from itself and precipitate centuries of bloody conflict over the question of Jesus’ divinity, his humanity and so forth.
I contend that the man who was Jesus of Nazareth, Joshua son of Joseph, would have been aghast at those developments. Jesus, the man spent his life and went to his death as a champion of justice, an advocate for mercy, as healer, as an advocate for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the widow and the orphan.
Luke’s narrative is therefore a cautionary tale, reminding us of the necessity to cleave to the truth at all times, to separate our hopes, our desires, and most importantly our fears, from values we wish to convey.
The First Sunday of Christmas
Feast of the Holy Family