Saturday, March 25, 2017

Jesus and his family

My first response to this lesson (Jesus in the Temple) was that it was kind of odd, so I had to think about why I thought it was odd.  This doesn’t seem to be a passage of the Bible that really bears on our lives, more like an interesting but disconnected event in Jesus’ life when he was a young adolescent.  Luke had a reason for including it, at the Holy Spirit’s leading. 

By the way, Luke as a physician was probably a slave.  I imagine someone bought his freedom at some point, or he bought his own.  Roman slavery had nothing to do with race, only with captivity or poverty.  Only American slavery is about race. 

It is the only biblical story (there are mythical stories that the Catholics tell, but they have no basis really) that tells us anything about him from toddler age to full adulthood.  Luke, we are often reminded, wrote for the Greeks, was a physician, included a lot of information about women, and wrote more about the humanity side of Jesus Christ than they others might.  (I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but that is what we are told.)  Maybe there is less direct theology in Luke and more true stories.

For me there are three factors here
1.     What does this and other passages teach about the God-side of Jesus (Christology)
2.     What does this and other passages teach about the human side of Jesus, and
3.     What does it tell us about Jesus’ family? 

The take aways are Identification and solace about family differences. 

First, I shouldn’t call it the God side because it makes Jesus sound like a coin with two sides, and that is far from the case.  His human spirit/soul/mind/consciousness was in addition to and under the fully Godness of him. 

Do I understand this?  No.

Do I know when Jesus as a human being/child knew he was fully God and fully man?  No, but I don’t think it was here, although the literature says it was.  I don’t think we are capable of knowing, but I personally believe it was long before this and that this instance happened when it did because of the age of twelve, the typical age of “becoming an adult” in traditional cultures (confirmation, bar mitzvah).

Can I understand how a person can live and not sin?  That one is a little easier to deal with, although Jesus is the only person who has.  Now, let’s talk about sin.  Some people think Jesus is disobedient here to his parents, or inconsiderate.  Why would he put them out like this?  Well, maybe they left him! It’s the parents’ job to keep up with the kids!  Some would say, “He should have then kept this from happening.”  Why?  The fact that he did not keep them from sinning is indicative of God’s relationship to us.  God does not keep us from choosing the wrong action.  In the bigger picture, though, this had to happen so he could clearly make that division with them and show that as he became an adult according to that culture’s timing, he was not going to be like the others and they should not expect it.

Second, and more to the point, his parents should have been expecting this to happen at some point. Considering all they knew about his birth, wouldn’t you expect your son to stand out at any point, especially on the verge of adulthood.
But again, in terms of comparing Jesus’ every ethical choice to ours, we have to understand that the standard Jesus lives under is a little different from what we live under, but at the same time, we call things sin that are not sin and call things good that are sin. Staying to talk with the elders was not sin, but part of his mission. Throwing over the tables in the temple before the cross was not vandalism, because we don’t understand the absolute Mafia kind of stuff that was going on here with what is called the “moneychangers.” 

The temple priests required a certain type of coin to buy those animals for sacrifice, and wouldn’t accept the Roman coins.  The moneychangers exchanged one type of coin for another at a high cost that was very hard on the poor, and then those who had the animals were gouging them because no other animal was good enough.  We think it’s bad when we can’t take food into the movie theatre and have to pay $10 for popcorn.  That’s nothing compared to this level of scandal, exploitation, fraud, and corruption, because they were doing it in God’s name and it was necessary to participate in the religious and social community as a good Jew.  It’s the same as freeing a young girl in the sex trade; the pimp is not an honest businessman who is being defrauded by the loss of his prostitute. 

His interaction with the teachers of the law is not that he is lecturing them.  The common practice was to argue and debate based on the texts.  They were amazed that a poor twelve-year-old from the sticks is so knowledgeable about the text.  He was one of the writers in his deity, so he knew these things long before he showed up in the temple that day. 

So, I can’t say I understand how Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time, but I do see how he responded to people.  I do know that as Luke says, “He grew in stature (so he had a normal body that looked like everyone else’s” and “in favor with God and man,” so his daily life was normal, he had a place in the community, etc.  He didn’t have a superman body.  Would he conceivably have lived forever like Adam would have. I don’t think so.  He had friends and was usually extroverted but the pain of being so sought for miracles meant his body needed down time.  He didn’t sit under a tree and expect “followers” to come to him but he went out to them and connected, touched, and kissed people everyday.  

He didn’t get married, regardless of what the DaVinci code says, which was probably odd in that culture and nothing is said of it in Scripture.  If he had been, surely there would have been words about it by the apostles because Paul mentions in I Corinthians that some of the apostles brought their wives with them on trips and missionary journey, but he didn’t mention that Jesus did, which would have been his strongest argument for it. 

So, what about his family?  He had half brothers and sisters, and that was a difficult relationship.  They would not have been that much younger than him. At one point, at least, they were coming to collect him because they thought he was crazy.  Mark 3:21.  Why would they think he was crazy?  Didn’t Mary tell them the whole story?  Did they resent him?  (How could you resent the Savior?)  It seems to be tied to his extreme “popularity”  and that he wasn’t eating or taking care of himself.  But I think there were some more motives.  We all know that motives with our closest family members can be complicated. 

If Jesus got kicked out of the synagogue, so did they.  Families were excommunicated together.  So they had a big reason to keep him away from opposition. 

But what is Jesus’ response when they try to take him away for being “out of his mind” or “beside himself? That family in the kingdom of God is bigger than blood. “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)  I wonder how that hit them?

Strangely, his brothers didn’t believe in him, John 7:1-5.  Even those who know him best find a reason to disbelieve; they want him to go on being popular if it means something good for them.  There is almost disdain for him.  This shows that disbelief is not always about lack of evidence, but will. 

After the resurrection, Paul points out in I Corinthians 15:3-8 that Jesus had a special meeting with his brother James.  As Beth Moore has said, wouldn’t you want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?

We are not promised that being a Christian will mean good family relationships, necessarily.  Matthew 10:34 ff.  We want it to, and the Christian faith makes it possible for family relationships to be wonderful if there is mutual obedience to Christ.  But when the faith is not shared, Christianity can be divisive because it means a different allegiance comes first. 

 My family did not understand me when I came to Christ.  I was young .  It was hard and took many years.  They are still not fully there because people make their own choices, but most have professed Christ in some form, not necessarily my version of Christianity (Baptist, conservative). 

If Jesus had conflicts in his family, we do not have to feel left out because we do.  We should not allow minor things to come between us, and we should recognize they have freedom of choice; on the other hand, we never stop praying and being faithful and kind witnesses, but not annoying ones.  That’s going to look different for each but we know that Jesus is with us and identifies with us in the midst of family conflicts.    

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