Today’s reading: Luke 2
Today’s passage in Luke 2 is the account of Jesus’ birth up to age twelve. I’ve read it many times. As I was preparing for this post, however, I began to look at the events of this chapter from Mary’s perspective. She was young, probably 12 or 13 at the time Jesus was born. She was a practicing Jew (one of God’s chosen people), and had thus studied the Old Testament all her life. She was personally visited by an angel, who told her she would give birth to God’s son, and then actually experienced the event (“experienced” is my nice way of describing the painful experience of childbirth). Based on these facts, could Mary have had any doubt Jesus was the son of God? How could she have lacked confidence everything was going to work out?
Alas, we must remember Mary was human. While she had found favor with God (Luke 1:30), she still had doubts. In our reading yesterday, she was all in – “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). But by the second half of today’s reading, it seems as if some of her confidence had faded. Do you sometimes find yourself on this rollercoaster? One day everything makes sense and you’re on fire for the Lord, then the next day you don’t understand and are questioning God’s plan? The struggles of being human and living in a sinful world get in the way. They cause us to doubt God’s promises. Like us, Mary sometimes needed reminders and reassurances to keep going when things got tough. Did you see a few of them in Luke 2?
First there was Simeon. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Messiah (Luke 2:26). When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon affirmed Jesus’ identity. …he [Simon] took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32). But verse 33 tells us that Jesus’ parents marveled at what Simeon said about him. Does this mean that they were surprised by his comments? Maybe it just means they were in awe of their responsibility for raising the son of God? Either way, I think it signals a crack in their confidence.
Next was Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem. When he was about twelve years old, Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem with his parents to celebrate the Passover. His parents headed home to Nazareth, and unbeknownst to them, Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. Have you ever lost your child? I have a twelve year old son. If I couldn’t find him, I’m pretty sure I would be frantic. Probably a raging lunatic by the end of three days.
After three days, when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple conversing with the teachers, the Bible says they were astonished (Luke 2:48). I don’t think “astonished” here means raging lunatics, but what does it mean? Were they surprised they found him unharmed? Were they surprised he was holding his own with the teachers? Or were they surprised he simply acted like nothing was wrong? I’m not sure, but I do sense some frustration, as they scolded Jesus for causing their distress. Jesus told them they should have known he would be in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49). Now look at the very next verse Luke 2:50 – And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. How could this be? After all the miraculous things that had happened over the past twelve years, how could they not understand? Perhaps doubt had crept in? Perhaps life had gotten in the way?
If Mary, the mother of Jesus, occasionally needed reassurance, it stands to reason that we sometimes need it too. After all, we are just humans living in a sinful world. Today, may I gently remind you that God understands? He provides reminders and reassurances to us throughout his Word. He doesn’t promise life will be easy, but we can have confidence he has it all under control.
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).