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Growing Pains, But Growing Up with Jesus

Luke 2:41-52

I’ll never forget a Supermom in one of my congregations –a very young woman already with four kids and running our Sunday School. She was perfection itself –she did everything right. Kept a perfect home, kept her husband happy, and always had the latest Upper Room issue on the coffee table.

That afternoon I stopped by her place to bring her some curriculum resources. She immediately improvised a delicious afternoon tea with exquisite cookies, and on my way out she told me she was expecting her fifth child.

So, I stopped on my tracks, turned around, and asked her how she did it, how she managed –everything going so well, keeping her family under control, running Sunday School, having left-over energies late at night to chat with her teachers, and now ready for a fifth kid!

She said, “I try to be like Mary. She did an awesome job with Jesus.” “OK,” I said, “but Mary was Mary. Chances are, she got some help from above, also from her husband –after all, his carpentry shop was by the kitchen! But, how do you do it.”

“Well,” she said, “every evening, when the children are bathed and tucked into their clean little beds, and the lunches are lined up and labeled and packed in the refrigerator, and the little shoes are racked up, and all the floors are waxed, and I’ve heard all the prayers of the children, I fall down on my knees and say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for not letting me kill one of them today.’”


As we return to this super-famous Gospel story of Jesus getting lost in the temple and Mary scolding him for that, I cannot but wonder – did Mary pray a similar prayer that evening before going to bed? “Thank you, Lord, for not letting me kill someone today.”

Even though Luke does not tell us if Jesus was grounded, I’m sure he was, for Mary is really upset — “Son, why have you treated us like this?”

On my way home that brief afternoon with the Supermom it occurred to me that there must have been times when Mary – and Joseph — did not have it easy with boy Jesus no matter how much heavenly help they could have gotten as parents.

I’m sure they both worried about baby Jesus, then toddler Jesus, then boy Jesus, later pre-teen Jesus, eventually teenager Jesus, and so forth –for Jesus in his own humanity was no different from any other average son or daughter.

Which should give us some degree of comfort, because raising, schooling, educating, nurturing and guiding children is not always an easy task, rather a task that involves some growing pains.

Growing pains, and quite often serious frustrations and disappointments, which explains why many homes – perhaps our own — quite often break down and give up at some point. So sad!


But there is more, much more to this Gospel “incident” than growing pains, for the story has a happy ending. Once Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, and she is done with venting out her frustration and anger, Jesus explains something they will not understand at all, at least for the time being: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

After which they return home together, and from that moment on Jesus “will be obedient to them.” Mother, Father, “No more surprises, take my word!

Just to make sure this incident has a truly happy ending, Luke adds another lovely comment: “But Jesus’s mother treasured all these things in her heart.” If I read it well, I suspect this means that quite often at bedtime Mary would kneel to thank God for the fruit of her labors.

If I read it well, Mary and Joseph — and many others in their community, including teachers and mentors — had joined God in the always challenging but rewarding task of raising and schooling and nurturing their children, including Jesus.

Together they had all worked very diligently to equip Jesus for the mission God would soon place in his hands. Without their shared ministry, I doubt this incident in the Temple during Passover would have ever occurred.

There you see the teenager Jesus amazing la crème de la crème of the religious establishment with “his understanding and his answers,” as Luke tells us.

That, my friends, speaks volumes about Mary and Joseph and many others ‘s involvement in Jesus’s spiritual formation. What a joy for them the moment they begin to realize that their son’s getting lost in the temple has been but a powerful message from God. For that was the moment when Jesus was found by the Heavenly Father.

And the moment when the Heavenly Father is found by a humble teenager who now realizes, perhaps for the very first time, that he is, in a unique sense, the Son of God.


Friends, we are not raising and schooling and educating our children to become “messiahs,” just beloved children of God, fully aware of that love, as they “grow with Jesus in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and each other.”

May the Lord bless our children, our homes, our teachers, our congregation day after day, that their joy in Christ may be complete.