From the point of view of parenting children, what am I to learn from Luke 2:41-52?
What principle did Jesus learn from this experience? To obey his
parents at all costs? Or it's sometimes acceptable to disobey them, especially if it means not prioritizing the will of our Heavenly Father?
What should children learn from this story in terms of obedience to their parents?
We will be considering this story on Sunday. The theme for that day is parenting. I didn't choose the Scripture passage! The children are aged between 10 and 12 years.
For a commentary on the story itself, take a look at "Jesus' Birth and Childhood" under the subhead "Jesus' Childhood."
This was not a case of disobedience. Travel in those days was in large groups to provide protection from thieves. As typically happens when there are large groups of family and friends traveling together, the children bounce between one group and another. It appears that in the bustle of leaving Jerusalem to return to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary made the mistake of assuming Jesus was with one of the other families. Since each family doesn't necessarily travel at the same pace, it wasn't until they reached the evening stopping point that they realized that Jesus wasn't there.
Many parents have faced similar points of panic. You stop at a gas station and take off assuming everyone is still in their seats, not realizing one child with off to the restroom while you were distracted. It is only when you are several miles down the road that someone points out that you're short a child. And then panic sets in!
Joseph and Mary immediate return to Jerusalem, but since they were a day's journey away, it took time to get back. Jerusalem is not a small town. It is a large city of about 160,000 people with millions visiting it during the Passover. For three days they scoured the town looking for Jesus. Finally, they found him in the temple.
Like any parent who has been in a panic and finally finds their child safe, Mary asked, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously" (Luke 2:48). There is the natural feeling of blaming the child for all of your worries. You know you did everything possible to find him, so it is assumed that the child made matters harder by not being easily found.
But Jesus points out the flaw in Mary's thinking. "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). If they had just stopped and thought a moment, they would have known exactly where Jesus could have been found. They didn't need to spend three days looking in every nook in Jerusalem. They could have went straight to the Temple.
This story can be used to illustrate a number of teachings. But let's focus on what we can learn. The ones who learned in these events is Joseph and Mary, not Jesus. It took them a number of years to figure it out.
First, even good parents make mistakes. Joseph and Mary lost track of Jesus because they made assumptions that weren't valid. Sometimes as children we get annoyed with our parents constantly checking up on us: "Where to you plan to go? When will you be home? You aren't going some place dangerous are you?" But such checks are necessary because they are responsible for your safety. It is so easy to get distracted and forget that others might not know where you are.
On another level, and a more important one, this is how most people stray off into sin. They make assumptions about God and His teachings and wander off just assuming God is with them. They don't realize that they left God and not that God left them.
Second, Joseph and Mary diligently sought Jesus but they looked in the wrong places. That happens a lot when people panic. They are so afraid that they don't take a moment to think. Thus they make matters worse for themselves than necessary. When fear grabs you the first thing we need to do is calm ourselves down so we can think clearly as to what needs to be done. Doing "something" in a dangerous situation isn't always the best course of action. Nor is doing nothing. We need to think a moment as to what is the best direction to go and what might happen with each move and how we ought to handle those things. It is easy to say, but very hard to do. Even really good parents sometimes forget in a moment of panic.
People do this with God as well. They go off looking for God, but they look in all the wrong places. They assume God can be found where they are looking. They never stop and think about what is the best way to find God.
Third, Joseph and Mary blamed Jesus for not being where they expected him to be. That happens sometimes; parents can be so concerned that they forget that sometimes they caused the problem originally. Rather than blame them, we should appreciate their love and concern for us.
People do this with God all the time. They do dumb things in their lives that really mess things up, but then they blame God for their hardships. They don't stop and think for a moment that if they had done things the right way, they could have avoided the mess all together.
Fourth, even when Joseph and Mary found Jesus, they didn't fully understand everything that was going on. That happens a lot when parents try to raise children. A parent can feel so inadequate at times because they don't understand everything. It might seem that they know everything to you when you are a child, but that is just because they are older than you. But they are still learning too. They make the best choices they can, but sometimes they make mistakes, often because they didn't understand everything that was going on. When you are child, you should expect your parents to be mind-readers. If you want them to give you better help, you need to tell them what is going on in your life and in your thoughts.
When people eventually do discover God, it can be a bit overwhelming to realize how much you don't know and how much there is still to learn. Being a Christian doesn't bring about instantaneous knowledge. It takes time and diligent effort to learn God's teachings and apply it to your life.
I hope this gives you a few ideas for your Bible class.
Thank you very much for the time you have taken to give me a thorough commentary on this story. This is very helpful.
In terms of my last question: What should children learn from this story in terms of obedience to their parents? - I would appreciate further comment.
Take for example, a child not raised in a Christian context. The child enjoys and wants to come and honour our custom on the Lord's Day of attending church. But the child's parents prefer frequent Sunday 'get-aways'. Who is the child to obey? The call of his heart to grow deeper in his knowledge of Jesus in the only place possible given the child's context, or to follow the lead of his parents? Bearing in mind the children I will be speaking to are between the age of 10 and 12 years.
Thank you for helping me think through these questions.
Starting with the passage: "Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:51-52). You can then also refer to: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1).
Children are to willingly follow their parent's lead. But it is qualified with "in the Lord." Jesus grew in God's favor first and then in man's.
Everyone is under the authority of someone else. People who work in companies work for a boss. Citizens in a country are underneath the rulers in the government. Children are underneath their parents. The latter is done for the safety of a child so he has time to grow and develop while his parents watch out for him.
But every boss is not a good boss. Every government ruler is not a good man. Every parent isn't always the best person. Just because we are underneath someone, it doesn't mean we are robots or that we aren't responsible for what we do. Ultimately everyone is under God. God is the ultimate authority. So if a boss asks you to lie, the answer must be no because the boss' boss (God) says lying is wrong. "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free" (Ephesians 6:5-8). The same is true of a parent. When you know the right thing to do and a parent asks you to do something that you know God would not like, then you must obey your parent's Father (God) first.