Sermon Ideas For Luke 2:41-52 Part 8
Every culture differentiates, in one way or another, between childhood and adulthood, between a time of comparative immaturity to a time of responsibility. Every culture marks the passage and transition through its own particular rituals.
Jesus' trip to Jerusalem for Passover was such a transition—at least in his mind. He decides on his own authority—as a human being, as a twelve year old, as divine, as the Son of God—to remain in Jerusalem after Passover and not return to Nazareth with his family. His parents are clearly caught off guard. Nothing that has happened prior to that time has sufficiently alerted them to expect this kind of behavior. (One might wonder why not, given the experience of his birth detailed in scriptures.) They leave after a day's travel and discover he is not among them, and take another day to return to look for them. It takes three more days to find him.
Obviously, Jesus and his parents are not on the same page. He is immersed in the experience of being "in [his] Father's house." He is perhaps entirely oblivious to where his parents are, what their expectations might be, how they might experience discovering, abruptly, that he is not with them. They, on the other hand, have to search for their lost child. For five days—one day out of Jerusalem, one day to return, three days to look for him—they have to endure unspeakable—one might say ungodly—anxiety. They do not know if he is in danger. They do not know what he is experiencing, whether he has been harmed or is well enough cared for. They do not know if he wandered off inadvertently, if he left intentionally, if he has been abducted.
We might think about this passage in conjunction with events to which it bears some resemblance. As we do so, we might keep in mind an idea I will refer to as "diconfirming expectations."
Every human being develops various kinds of patterns, patterns through which to apprehend information, engage other persons, select relevant data and organize ideas. These patterns are habitual ways of experiencing in the world. They represent what we have learned from and how we generalize from past experience, to be prepared to face future experience. These patterns function like hypotheses, to be corrected by experience—at times in major ways, at other times only marginally.
We might think about this from Mary's point of view. In Luke 1:26ff: we read about how Mary is confronted by the unexpected—perhaps surreal—appearance of the angel Gabriel, who says, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" The Gospel account continues, "But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, `Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."'
Now, here is a young virgin woman who has no husband, to whom (1) an angel appears, (2) informs her that she will conceive, and (3) indicates that "He will be great…." None of these events conforms to her expectations. Indeed, normal, everyday expectations have been shattered. In some sense, the experience described in today's Gospel account parallels this. Again, normal, everyday expectations have been shattered.
We might think about this from Jesus' point of view. In fact, this is one of numerous times where other's expectations of Jesus will be shattered. Mark 8:2732 records Jesus asking his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" They respond, "some say John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets." He does not conform to these expectations. So, he attempts to correct them. "And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things…." Peter rebukes Jesus. This fails to conform to Peter's expectations. Jesus, in turn, rebukes Peter, "Get behind me, Satan."
It's instructive to consider how frequently the idea of "diconfirming expectations" occurs in the Gospel accounts. People could not but approach Jesus by way of myriad traditional patterns of expectation—whether those had to do with his being simply a boy or man, or, with his being the fulfillment of one or another strain of Jewish tradition. More often than not, Jesus disconfirmed, even shattered those expectations.
A lesson to be learned—illustrated by Luke's story. Like Mary and Joseph, we cannot but approach Jesus, and God, through patterns. We should, however, be prepared for Jesus, and God, to disconfirm them. To say it another way, we cannot but approach Jesus, and God, through symbols. We should, at the same time, expect those symbols to be broken.
Chris R. Schlauch