Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Jesus Paid It All"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 2:49 – "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (NIV)
More than a few parents have felt themselves cowering before the rolling eyes of a self-assured teen, who, in a cocky tone, proclaims, "Really, Dad! Don't you know that …!" Of course, we'd be mistaken if we pictured Jesus treating His mother in such a demeaning way when He asks, "Didn't you know that I had to be in my Father's house?"
Jesus' aim is to edify, not to humiliate His earthly parents. He realizes their distress — having searched frantically for Him. With His two short questions, He encourages them to move from self-absorbed anxiety to God-centered faith. His second question, like the first, offers practical insight for us, too.
In Jewish tradition, questions are deployed to encourage thoughtfulness. A question put in the negative begs for an affirmative response. Jesus has invited a "yes" response from His parents. Yes. On the surface they do know their son's destiny. But they have yet to grasp it more fully. "But [Mary and Joseph] did not understand what he was saying to them." (Luke 2:50 NIV)
Up until now, they have cared for Him as His earthly parents; but He is entering adulthood. They must entrust Him to God and permit Jesus to embrace His duties to His heavenly Father. Their inability to grasp this reality seems to be at the root of their anxiety and their needless search. But it was not all fruitless! This has been a precious opportunity for them to grow in faith and in understanding of God and His purposes.
You've heard the expression, "We can't know God's purposes or will", used as a means to calm fretfulness. This claim is not entirely true. In fact, it can be a door-closer rather than an invitation to reflect and think — and to grow in faith and knowledge of God.
We can indeed know a great deal about God's purposes: His covenant plan, His hand in human history as protector and provider, His empowering gifts, His eternal blessings, and kingdom realities. Here is the lens through which we can see our own personal trials. And what a magnificent lens it is! It is God's provision through Spirit and Word — the means by which our besetting anxieties can be replaced with vibrant and growing faith.
As for Mary and Joseph, trials and uncertainties cause anxieties to rise to the surface. That's not a bad thing: It can produce a thirst for a deeper understanding of God and His ways. Those who are diligent seekers will be rewarded with restful faith and will, like Mary, find many treasures to store in their hearts.
That day in the temple, Jesus posed two thought-provoking questions to His distressed parents. Today, His Spirit works in us and among us in a similar way: to encourage a deepening awareness of both ourselves and of God.
Prayer: Lord, teach to see value in each anxious experience we encounter — whether our own or another's. May we come to regard these as opportunities for growth in faith, so that in and around us, Your kingdom may advance and Your will may be done on earth. Amen.