What we don’t know

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

by Charles Qualls

A good Sunday School class session with adults begins with a robust discussion. They’re not all created equally. But, there are those magical Sundays when a stimulating question is all we need. Twenty minutes later, the discussion can still be going on when the question is good enough. You want to get one of those kinds of conversations started? Ask people what they wish they knew about Jesus, but the Bible doesn’t seem to tell us.

One of my favorite cartoons making the rounds these days is of Mary and a preschool-aged Jesus. It’s bath time. Jesus, with His back to us in the frame, is standing on top of the water.

Mary is simply looking at Him sternly, one hand on a hip, with a finger pointing down toward the bath as in “Stop it —and get down in there now.”

We all have our list. What seems to some a big curiosity isn’t of interest to others.

• What did his voice sound like?

• What did He really look like? How tall was He?

• Did he really grow up working in the carpenter’s shop? Or, did He have free time to play like children these days?

• How “normal” was Jesus? What kind of child was He?

• What happened to Joseph and why did he seem to disappear in the Gospels?

• Even what I call the Watergate question: How much did Jesus know and when did he know it? On and on it can go.

Here in Luke 2: 41-52, we get this glimpse into the childhood life of Jesus. We wish we had a bunch more just like this one. Jesus is about 12 years old, and boy did things get testy within the holy family here. We wish we knew a lot more about why things went in this story as they did.

What matters in Mary and Joseph’s home is that all is not well. There is tension, and our young Lord has caused that strife.

We admit that we don’t understand how His parents didn’t know for more than a day that he wasn’t in the entourage. We can feel the frantic nature of their search. You know the sensation; they can feel their hearts beating fast. The anxiety as they search for the boy is palpable, in their quickened pace and in the abruptness of their interaction with everyone they see. They are scared because Jesus is missing!

Finally, we have Mary and Joseph finding Him in the Temple. We can imagine that they didn’t know whether to put Him on restriction or just hold him tight. They didn’t know whether to fuss at Him or just cry.

It’s why we are puzzled at His response. A young Jesus who comes off to his parents acting a bit impetuous, oblivious of the impact his actions have had on others. We want a little more compassion from Him as they say, “We’ve been looking for you! Why have you treated us like this?” To which he says, “Why were you looking for me?”

Then he says the words that take the genie out of the bottle for all times: “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” No, in some sense they didn’t.

This text just won’t give up all the answers to the secrets we’d like to have answered. 

You know what might be one of our most powerful takeaways from this story yet? Whatever he knew, and at whatever time He knew it, Jesus found his divine purpose.

He found his divine calling of God the Father, and said “yes.” Through the moments of life that tested, he kept on saying “yes.” To the Cross and beyond, Jesus has said “yes.” But, in some ways it began on this day in our biblical witness.

A day when an imperfect family tried to take a trip. Things got all mixed up. Distance was experienced. Words were exchanged; feelings may have been hurt.

Then, they lived into the messy moments that can remind us that we’re alive! Inspiring the confidence that, as one writer said, “God in Christ Jesus has entered and redeems these odd times for us from within.” Because he’s been there.

Before the gospels end, the holy family all seem to have said “yes” to God’s vision for Jesus and for their lives. They said “yes,” even to the painful parts. Sometimes the God we all long to know better is eventually found in what we don’t know.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.