Bible Study December 17 for Worship December 30

Luke 2: 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom;
43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances;
45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions;
47 and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
50 And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.
51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.

COMMENTARY

The first followers of Jesus had walked with him, talked with him, eaten with him. They witnessed his miracles and listened to his teaching. Those first followers of Jesus had experienced Jesus alive after his death, and they expected his imminent return, when history would come to a conclusion, everything would be made right the wicked would get their just deserts and the righteous would enter into the glory of the Kingdom of God.

As time passed the early followers of Jesus had to refocus their faith. Maybe Jesus wasn’t returning right away. Maybe it was necessary to collect and write down the stories about Jesus and the teaching of Jesus for people who had never seen him, or known him, or heard him. The second and third generations of believers became interested in the life of Jesus before his ministry began. Matthew and Luke produced birth narratives that confirmed the specialness of Jesus and made claims to rival the Roman Empires claims about the Caesars.

Since Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives are contradictory, we can assume there was no reliable information about the birth of Jesus. Many subsequent non-canonical gospels told fanciful tales about Jesus as a miracle working, sometimes mean spirited child. The only story to survive in the canonical gospels about Jesus’ youth dates from the time he was Twelve.

His parents are portrayed as pious Jews who made the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. On this particular trip overwhelmed by the Holy City and the Temple, Jesus remained behind, when his parents left to return to Galilee. There are no miracles claimed other than the precociousness of a child who was in the words of Marcus Borg a “spirit person.” He was in touch with the life of the spirit to an extent most other humans are not. He spent his time listening, and asking questions of the teachers of the law on Solomon’s porch. The teacher in their turn asked him questions, for this was the primary form of learning of the day.

His parents were apparently unaware of his absence from the company returning to Galilee. Several explanations have been put forward to explain this apparent lack of parental attentiveness. One possibility is that the parents assumed he was walking with other relatives. A very creative explanation is that Jesus at the age of twelve was on the cusp of manhood. The men marched at the front of the caravan to clear the road of wild animals, bandits and other dangers. The women and children brought up the rear. Since Jesus was in that in between stage it might be understandable that his mother assumed he was walking in the front with his father, while his father assumed Jesus was walking in the rear with his mother. Also Mary may have had younger children in tow. (If this was the case, before Mary and Joseph could return to the City, they would have had to have recruited relatives to take the other children on to Nazareth.) However it happened, Jesus stayed behind in the City.

How did Jesus survive on his own for three days? There was creative begging. There might be sheltered corners where someone could curl up and sleep in the Temple itself. There is always the possibility that he really didn’t go missing for three days. The point of the story was to confirm that even at an early age Jesus demonstrated intelligence, wisdom and closeness to God – “did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

The early church deserves credit for including in the canon only a credible story about Jesus’ childhood, rather than stories that couldn’t possibly be true. By refusing to include highly imaginative stories about the childhood of Jesus the church preserved the credibility of the rest of the gospel narrative.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. How often does the text claim Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover?

2. How old was Jesus on this occasion?

3. When his parents left town to return to Galilee, what did Jesus do?

4. How long before Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing?

5. How long did Mary and Joseph search for Jesus before finding him?

6. Where did they find Jesus?

7. What was Jesus doing when his parents found him?

8. What did the parents say to the boy?

9. What was Jesus’ response to his parents?

10. How did his parents interpret what he said to them?

11. What was the result of the incident?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Why do you think the church admitted this story into the canon?

2. What do you think would have happened if the church had included stories about Jesus as a child miracle worker?

3. Do you think Jesus must have been precocious as a child?

4. What details from Jesus’ childhood do you wish had been preserved?

5. What are the family stories told about your own childhood?

6. Do you have any favorite stories about your own children or brothers and sisters?

7. When do you think you gave your parents the biggest “scare” or “problem?”

8. Is there some story from your childhood, or young adulthood, that you think is helpful in understanding your spiritual journey?

9. How would you describe where you think you are on your spiritual journey right now?

Week of December 24 – December 30: First Sunday of Christmastide – Luke 2:41-52 – Who Is This Child? – I Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17.

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