Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Point 1: Jesus takes us from the Pious to the Personal.


Read the text HERE

Read my introduction HERE

Comments and corrections welcome.
Jesus takes us to three places:

1. Jesus takes us from the Pious to the Personal.

To be pious to be devoted to a religious practice and to religious ideals. It’s to be devout. But Jesus will take you to a personal relationship with his Father.

There of course can be good pious and bad pious. What Mary and Joseph did every year was good pious. V41 --

Now every year, Jesus parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.

It’s worth saying that they are doing what the Hebrew Religion required of them. God required Jewish people to come to Jerusalem for the Passover. And so the city of Jerusalem swelled something like 8 times its normal size. A little bit like Times Square tonight. Mary and Joseph are devout Jews. And so they go up every year.

V42 -- When Jesus was 12 years old (so specific), his parents went up to the festival.

Why be so specific? Its one year from 13, the year when a young Jewish boy becomes a man, and takes on the responsibilities of manhood. What happens the year before? Read the Jewish Mishnah describing an ancient Jewish Custom:

“They should not cause children to fast on the Day of Atonement, but they should train them one or two years before they are of age, that they may become versed in the commandments.

One or two years before age 13, a father was meant to teach his son what it meant to be a man. Both spiritually: The father taught the 11 or 12 year old to know the commandments. And he taught him about the Passover by taking him around Jerusalem, answering his questions, teaching him to be a pious Jew. But also economically: The son would have been taught the father’s business. And the son was required to seek out and learn all he could from his father. “Dad, Abba, teach me this. Why do we do that?”.

This particular Passover would have been a very special time for father and son.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, the Boy Jesus calmly stays behind in Jerusalem (V43) while the whole caravan -- the village sets out back to Nazareth.

We have to climb into their travelling world: My commentaries tell me that the women set out first with the children. (Because they were encumbered). And the men of the village set out last. But Jesus is on the threshold of manhood, right? So maybe Mary thinks that Joseph is doing his duty as a Father. And Joseph thinks that Jesus has gone with the kiddoes and the women. In any case, at the rendezvous place on the first night, no little Yeshua. Not anywhere. Not with a relative and no friend has seen him since they were in Jerusalem (V44).

So they go back to there (V45). And the third day after leaving Jerusalem they found him in the temple (V46). Calm as a cucumber. Safe as houses.

But they let him have it. They are astonished. Incredulous.

And she responds with a healthy dose of fear and relief. V48:

“Child, why have you treated us like this?” “Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Maybe she’s saying something like this:

“Jesus, you are a year from manhood. This is the year that you are supposed to be learning from your father. This year of all years, you are supposed to be learning responsibility. And yet you stayed here in Jerusalem...You are still a child.”

In light of all this, Jesus response is even more astounding. V49 --

He said to them: “Why were you searching for me? (There was no need to search). Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they didn’t get it. (V50) You see what is potentially happening here:

Mary:

“This year especially, you are supposed to be learning from your father.”

Jesus:

“I am” (!!)

Jesus was a great son, and obedient to the 5th commandment. We know that from V51.

But Jesus is claiming here something new. Something unheard of. Something scandalous. Something liberating. Something that we in our modern times miss because of familiarity.

He is saying:

“Joseph, Dad, Abba, I love you. I’ll obey you and honor you. (V51) But my relationship with my Heavenly Father transcends even my relationship with you.”

Here is the thing: Jesus is the first person to use so regularly such personal language for his relationship with God. The Old Testament rarely used such intimate terms. And other ancient religions certainly did not. You never used such personal address. It was way too intimate. Way too audacious.

Jesus is opening up a way to God that wasn’t just pious, but personal.

The language of sonship then is then spread everywhere in the New Testament. The adult Jesus starts to talk about those who trust him as sons of God. John the Apostle says:

“How great the father’s love lavished on us that we can be called the children of God.”

Paul says that:

“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, and give them full rights as sons, and therefore heirs according to promise... Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

And it’s Jesus who takes us there. Jesus takes us from being simply religious to being in a relationship with our heavenly father.

Do you understand this?

Maybe not. If not, then you are in good company. Mary and Joseph didn’t either. But they didn’t reject it either. Mary, we are told, “treasured this in her heart”. That is -- she withheld judgement until it made sense to her.

This leads perfectly to our next point...Tomorrow:

2. Jesus takes us from information to Insight...

To be continued...

4 comments:

Benjamin Ady said...

do you think maybe this image both worked better and was more shocking back in the day because, somehow, the whole father/son, father/child relationship was more clearly defined, bounded, and more clearly *good*?

I mean ... for me, at least, and perhaps for ... most westerners?, using that metaphor for god, as you point out, isn't really shocking at all--it's old hat--it's what we grow up with, but it *simply doesn't work anymore* does it? people ... tend to not like or get along with their parents. parents are relegated to old people's homes. etc. etc. and we don't really struggle with that so much anymore, do we? we have plenty of distractions to keep us occupied.

Justin said...

Perhaps you are right. I have heard and thought that before. I spent lots of my post teenage ministry asking whether we ought to avoid (or qualify) our use of the fatherhood metaphor for God because many amoung us have difficult fathers.

But I've been rethinking that recently . I think that with a little bit of hopeful imagination, most of us could see things not as they are, but how they ought to be...

I think almost everyone does that for the 'lover' metaphors, even those who have had difficult relationships and/or even betrayal.

Dads are picked on at the moment.

But even when they are frail, we can see what they could be.

What do you think?

Benjamin Ady said...

here's to hopeful imagination. The problem I've personally had with hopeful imagination is that ... it never seems to be fulfilled. Now ... actually that's not true. Yes, I do that for the lover metaphor. But it *does* get fulfilled. But I suspect that I am in the minority in being able to say that. Anyway, even that doesn't work for me with god. I remember telling megan one day about 2 years ago, when we were hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, "If you loved me like god loves me, I'd divorce you." So maybe my problem wasn't with the father metaphor. maybe my problem was just with god himself, whatever metaphor we use.

byron said...

Why would you divorce if she loved you like God loves you? How do you think God loves you?