SUNDAY 4 JUNE, 2017.
IN MY FATHER’S BUSINESS (1)
“And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49).
The phrase, “in My Father’s business” or “about my Father’s business” mean the same thing. It is a matter of prepositional usage (in or about). Therefore, Jesus’ reaction to the mother’s troubled question: “…son, why have you done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought you anxiously’ (Luke 2:48), by no means was not rude nor did it play down the anxious moments in the parent’s heart. However, hidden in His answer is the reason why He came – to do the Father’s business. Remember, Jesus says “my food (meat) is to do the will of Him who sent Me”, (John 4:34). He also noted that “I must work while it is day, a night comes when no one can work”, (John 9:4). We can appreciate His reaction in John 2:16 “And He said to those who sold doves, “take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” These suggest that Jesus was cautious of His mission and He expects us to have the same attitude. This therefore calls for diligence, commitment, devotion, selflessness and sacrifice in the things of God.
Notice, according to (Leviticus 23:4), Israel has seven feasts celebrated namely: Pesach or Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-fruits , Shavuot the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost, Rosh HaShanah or Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement and Sukkot or The Feast of Tabernacles. However, of these feasts, three have been identified as the most essential. (See Deut. 16:16): The feast of weeks/Pentecost, The Feast of unleavened bread and the feast of Tabernacles.
Indeed, all male Jews from 12 years and above are expected to appear before the Lord at least three (3) times in a year for annual festival. In this respect, Jesus and His parents attended the Passover feast in Jerusalem. It is important to note that the Passover is 24 hourly celebration but dove tails into the feast of unleavened bread which lasts for one week (seven days). However, the Passover feast marks the escape of the children of Israel from Egypt. Also, it reminds them how the Lord killed the first born in Egypt and the Lord Passed over His children, (Ex. 12:21-36). Note: God is gracious, kind, loving, merciful, yet, He is a consuming fire, (Hebrews 12:29). More so, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, (Hebrews 10:31). God’s punishment to Egypt ably demonstrated this. Also, the story of Adam and Eve in Gen 3 is highly illustrative here. There, God did not spare them alongside with the serpent for the sin of disobedience. Therefore, this is a wake-up call for us as we do our Father’s business.
At age 12, Jesus was considered almost an adult and so He didn’t spend a lot of time with His parents during the feast. Those who attended those feasts often travelled in caravans for protection from robbers along the Palestine roads. It was customary for the women and children to travel in front of the caravan, with the men bringing up the rear. A 12-year-old boy conceivably could have been in either group and both Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was with the other one. But when the caravan left Jerusalem, Jesus stayed behind, absorbed in His discussion with the religious leaders.
The temple courts were known throughout Judea as a place of learning. The Apostle Paul studied in Jerusalem and perhaps in the temple courts, under Gamaliel, one of its foremost teachers (Acts 22:3). At the time of the Passover, the greatest rabbis of the land would assemble to teach and discuss great truths among themselves. The coming Messiah would no doubt have been a popular discussion topic, for everyone was expecting Him soon. Jesus would have been eager to listen and ask probing questions. It was not His youth but the depth of His wisdom that astounded these teachers. Remember, Jesus was there as a learner but was later to be involved fully in the Father’s business.
Mary had to let go of her child and let Him become a man, God’s Son, the Messiah. Fearful that she hadn’t been careful enough with this God-given child, she searched frantically for Him. But she was looking for a boy, not the young man who was in the temple astounding the religious leaders with His questions. It is hard to let go of people or projects we have nurtured. It is both sweet and painful to see our children as adults, our students as teachers, our subordinates as managers, our inspirations as institutions. But when the time comes to step back and let go, we must do so in spite of the hurt. Then our protégé can exercise their wings, take flight and soar to the heights God intended for them.
This is the first mention of Jesus’ awareness that He was God’s Son. But even though He knew His real father, He did not reject His earthly parents. He went back to Nazareth with them and lived under their authority for another 18 years. God’s people do not despise human relationship or family responsibilities. If the Son of God obeyed His human parents, how much more should we honour our family members! Don’t use commitment to God’s work to justify negligence of family.
Jesus’ parents didn’t understand what He meant about His Father’s house. They didn’t realize He was making a distinction between His earthly father and His heavenly Father. Jesus knew that He had a unique relationship with God. Although Mary and Joseph knew He was God’s Son, they didn’t understand what His mission would involve. Besides, they had to raise Him, along with His brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55, 56), as a normal child. They knew He was unique but they did not know what was going on in His mind. Therefore, He says: “…..Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business”, (Luke 2:49).
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,