Corby performed “Jesus In The Temple” as a Godly Play lesson, then continued with her words below:
Don’t kids grow up fast? Jesus was just born 11 days ago and now he is practically a teenager! Time flies.
This story of the 12 year old Jesus is only told in Luke’s gospel. Why did Luke think think this story was so important? Let’s think about this precocious pre-teen, this twelve year old boy, who by Jewish tradition, is on the cusp of adulthood, which would be celebrated by his bar mitzvah when he turns 13. This young man, raised by a simple carpenter in distant Nazareth, far from the center of learning in Jerusalem, was finally found in the temple surrounded by some of the world’s foremost scholars and experts of the scriptures. All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. At the tender age of twelve, Jesus already shows signs of possessing great wisdom. They must have thought the teenage Jesus was a child prodigy. Clearly Luke wants the reader to develop a sense of respect for this amazing, blessed child.
How was it that Jesus knew so much? Was he growing up engaged in deep study of the Torah in Nazareth or, more probably, was he working alongside his dad, learning the carpentry trade? At bible study, Jim had a brilliant explanation for Jesus’ advanced biblical knowledge: as the son of God, indeed, as God himself, of course he would know more than even the most advanced human scholar!
So there it is. Jesus is God. He doesn’t need to study the bible; he wrote the book, or at least inspired the writing of the book. Jesus is God. Fully divine, fully human. He is also a 12 year old, very human boy. Need evidence of this? When his terrified, exhausted parents find him after days of frantic searching, he answers them in such a teenage way: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Ay, a smart aleck teenager. And I wonder how Joseph felt when he heard this?
Jesus is also beginning the hard work that teens do: separating himself from his parents. In his case though, he is pushing away from his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, to become closer to his heavenly Father.
We believe something amazing: that Jesus is both man and God, physical yet divine. This is the central mystery, the central miracle of our faith. It is also unique among world religions. This story of Jesus in the Temple is, perhaps for the first time, when the wonder of his truedual self becomes clear to Jesus, and thus to us.
This is so central to our faith that every Sunday we recite these words:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
(now listen) of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
We just celebrated his ‘coming down from heaven’ at Christmastime. Next week we celebrate the Epiphany, where the three kings recognize the divine nature of baby Jesus. When you think of it, most of the stories we read in the New Testament are telling us this: Jesus is both human and divine. He is capable of healing and all manner of miracles; he is also capable of suffering and dying. Today, his parents do not understand. In the future, his disciples will not understand. Pontius Pilate certainly will not understand. Often, we do not understand.
I charge you all to listen to our readings in the upcoming year through this lens: see if it is true that most of the stories of Jesus strive to help us understand this one beautiful miracle: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Alleluia.