What a task! Imagine knowing that your child – and first one, at that – was destined to be your people’s long-awaited Messiah. No guinea pigs to hone your parenting skills – just BAM, right out of the chute. When I consider the responsibility involved of raising my own children – all very special in their own right, but ultimately rather normal – I’m sometimes taken aback. I can’t imagine the being told that my first child was GOING to become the President of the United States, the next CEO of GM, or Billy Graham – you get the picture. I’m sure I’d find the prospect rather intimidating, to say the least. I expect that Mary and Joseph had similar concerns. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I suspect that this is at least part of the reason behind a young Mary going to visit her pregnant relative – Elizabeth, the wife of the priest – Mary needed insight as to what it would mean to be the mother of the Messiah!
While I’m sure they weren’t perfect – what first time parents are – the last half of Luke 2 gives some parenting insights that any Christian parent would do well to heed. In short, they ensure that the young Jesus is well established in their faith in God and the standards/expectations of their people/community.
In many respects, these things were closely linked – faith and community. But consider what Joseph and Mary did for the young Jesus:
- Established His connection with the people of God (Jewish community) through ritual male circumcision (the physical mark of God’s covenant with His people) (Lk 2:21)
- They set an example of Godly devotion in their own lives (they participated in pilgrimage – going to Jerusalem for Passover – an inconvenience and hardship for many) (Lk 2:41)
- They equip the young Jesus with knowledge of God’s Word (Lk 2:40, 52). This one may not be so obvious. Here it says that Jesus “was filled with wisdom,” and that he “grew in wisdom …. and in favor with God.” The only way this happens is if one grows in both their knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word.
- They ensure that Jesus is ready to take up His Spiritual responsibilities as a man in the community. In Jewish culture, a boy becomes a man with respect to the Law at the age of 12. As a boy, Jesus would have already been engaged in His responsibility to learn God’s Law. As a young man (age 12), Jesus was now permitted (by custom) to also comment on the Law. This was the privilege and responsibility of all Jewish men. Thus the situation with Jesus among the teachers at the temple during the Passover feast – His first as a young man.
- They see that Jesus is meeting community standards and expectations for a young man (Lk 2:52). Sometimes in Christian circles we get the idea that we should take no concern for our culture and what people around us think. And while we do need to take note where popular culture and opinion differ from God’s Word, the Bible is full of commands for us to live up to the expectations of the community we live in. As a young man, Jesus grew in favor with men. As a minimum, this would have meant that he was respectful, obedient, hard-working, skilled at some craft, engaged in the life of the community, and contributed positively to the community (this all occurring during his teens and twenties – a time of life when often times the most we hope from a young man is that he doesn’t destroy the community).
It can be tempting to rely on church programs and other social structures (schools, etc) to instill Spiritual and social values into our children. And while these institutions can be helpful, they are no substitute for active parental involvement in tending to a child’s Spiritual nurture and understanding of place in society.
Pastor Jim Kushner