OT: Psalm 148
NT: Luke 2.41-52
The Christ, Coming of Age
Several weeks ago, Kerry and I were without television. No news, no sports, no Real Housewives, no Property Brothers. It was…nice (except not getting to watch the new episode of Moonshiners). We realized that we have the TV on way too much, even if we’re not particularly watching. So we read. I started a biography, which is my favorite kind of book.
For me, the appeal of biographies is their honesty. When you read about someone’s life, it’s never predictable or neat, because our lives never are either. Biographies contain all the unexpected twists and turns life takes. For example, did you know Einstein felt his greatest achievement occurred during his 20s, and he never lived up to his own expectations after that? I didn’t know that.
My favorite kind of biography is the “coming of age” story. You know, the story where a young woman or man goes off on their own, discovers their true self, and then begins their adult life.
The coming of age biography I most want to read has, unfortunately, never been written, and it’s too late now. Am I the only one who would like to know how Jesus came of age? There is a twelve year gap in Luke between the time he is born, shortly thereafter presented in the temple, and then travels with his parents to the temple in
Jerusalem. And nowhere else in the Bible does it fill in
Don’t you want to know if he shared his toys in kindergarten? Did he ever disobey Mary and Joseph? Was he different than other children? Did he know who he was? Or did they have to tell him? How could they tell him? Did he pray? Was his room clean? Did he do his chores? Don’t you want to know?
While the sacred stories of the Bible tell us nothing more than Luke about Jesus’ coming of age, sacred texts discovered in a cave in the 1950s, referred to as the Dead Sea Scrolls, do have stories about the boy Jesus. They are what you might expect—stories of a young man learning to live with an enormous burden placed on his shoulders. Sometimes he deals with it well, sometimes he does not. If you’d like to read those stories, let me know. I’m happy to share them with you.
In our world, coming of age stories are generally told about teenagers and young adults, for that is the age when they are supposed to discover who they are and begin living their lives, right? Seventeen, eighteen, twenty year olds. Guess what the coming of age year was in ancient
People who went on to do great things began to show their potential at
age 12. And how old is Jesus in the
All of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John—are ancient biographies of Jesus, each written by different authors with different emphases. And to my chagrin, while Luke may not say much about Jesus’ coming of age, he does say a lot. And what he says is important.
One, we know Jesus grew up in the temple. When he was only a few weeks old, his parents took him there to be blessed. And the next time we hear from him, at age 12, he’s back in the temple again. So it’s safe to assume that Jesus grew up in a community of faith. If half the people who make such a big deal of saying “Merry Christmas” today belonged to a community of faith, the church would be a different, stronger institution.
Two, we know his parents loved him dearly. Now, this isn’t a Home Alone situation (did you see that movie this holiday season?), where Mary & Joseph are so busy in a big family group they fail to notice their son isn’t with the group. Well, actually, it’s a lot like Home Alone! They probably would have traveled to the temple in a large group, and it was perfectly conceivable that their son would have been with the group but not by their side the whole way. After all, by 12 he was considered “of age.” And when they do realize he is missing, they react like any loving parent would. They are sick about it, and they do not rest until they find him.
Three, we know Jesus loved his parents dearly. While he doesn’t understand why they were worried, what twelve year old would? When they get back home, he is more careful to obey them than he was before. He doesn’t want to upset them again, because he loves them too much to hurt them.
Four, we know that he knows who he is. Once his parents find him, he says to them so matter-of-factly, “Didn’t you know I’d be in my father’s house?” He knows he’s not just any ordinary boy, and this story puts the rest of the world on notice also. This child, who has now come of age, has a big future ahead of him.
The season leading from Christmas to Easter is a season of growth. As Jesus comes of age, he invites us to mature alongside him. To grow in faith. To grow in wisdom. To grow as a person. So, my friends, consider the turning of the calendar into the new year an opportunity to grow alongside the boy in divine and human favor. Amen.