Parenting Jesus

Jesus in the templeTheir eldest son had never given them a bit of trouble. Obedient, loving, respectful, they watched Jesus grow and became strong. His miraculous birth and identity never left Mary and Joseph’s thoughts, even as they raised him like any other Jewish boy. But their boy was different, filled with wisdom and with the grace of God upon him.

This year the family’s annual pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover held special significance as Jesus had reached twelve, the age when he could fully participate in the religious life of the synagogue. Up to this time he was under the tutelage of his parents concerning Jewish religious law, but now he was a bar mitzvah, a “son of the commandment,” on the brink of manhood.

After the Feast was over, they made ready, along with their large company, to travel home. Mary’s hands were full with packing and caring for her younger children so she assumed Jesus was among the company. She believed in his good judgement and had no reason to worry. Joseph came to the same conclusion, for he too implicitly trusted Jesus to behave responsibly.

“After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” (Luke 2:43 NIV) Jesus had stayed behind in the temple, a logical place for his parents to look for him when they were ready to depart. However, they did not come because it appears both thought him to be with the other. Once they realized Jesus was not with their company, they spent another day returning to Jerusalem to find him. Their conversation as they hurried along may have been somewhat accusatory of each other’s negligence or surprised at what appeared to be Jesus’ defiance of their authority. They may have momentarily forgotten that this was the Son of God they were looking for, but they soon were reminded when “they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (vs. 46-47)

Mary’s anxiety came out in her reproving questions of Jesus’ perceived disregard for their concern. But his reply held no insolence, only genuine amazement that they did not know where to look for Him. “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (vs. 49) In other words, ‘you shouldn’t have had to seek at all. For you know, don’t you, that there is within me an inner necessity to be about my Father’s business?’ This should have been an epiphanous moment for Mary and Joseph, when Jesus declares his unique sonship to God, which takes precedence over his closest earthly family ties. Yet the scriptures state they did not understand what he was saying to them.

In spite of who they knew him to be, he was still just their boy whom they had raised as best they could and who brought them much joy. Their lack of understanding might be attributed to their familiarity with this child they lived with daily, and perhaps a reluctance to acknowledge the beginning of his independence away from them toward his divine ministry and his true Father. Gifted with the singular privilege of parenting Jesus, his mother would come to treasure all these things she knew of him in her heart, (vs. 51) just as she did when he was born. She would do so for the rest of her life , until welcomed home to heaven by her son and Savior.

Bring the Boy to Me

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The desire of a parent to do whatever it takes to protect and care for their child is a primal one.

A Mother’s Ponderings


for Greg's wedding_0007Prone on her pallet, Mary listens to the night sounds. A small breeze rustling through the streets of Nazareth, the soft breathing of her slumbering family close by. She gazes up at a cool shaft of moonlight slanting through a window and ponders why the One who made the moon would choose her to be the mother of His Son. Spreading her hands over her stomach, the fear which woke her gradually yields to adoring wonder at this treasure growing deep within.

From before His conception, Jesus’ mother Mary, lived with the knowledge that her child would be the Son of God. She kept this knowledge, revealed to her by an angel, to herself early in her pregnancy, until God made it known to Joseph, her betrothed, and her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary carried the child foretold by Isaiah, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. (Isa. 7:14 NIV) This simple peasant girl, especially chosen by God to be the mother of His incarnate Son, must have spent many a sleepless night pondering the immensity of what was to come.

No doubt Mary was distinguished among all mothers throughout history, yet she exhibited several traits common to those who have borne children. One trait, revealed in portions of Luke 2, was her inner contemplation about her child. After the shepherds came to see the infant Jesus lying in a manger, just as the angels said, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:17-19)

From the moment a mother knows she will have a child, she begins to think about who her baby will be and what their future holds. Perhaps she dreams about them achieving fame or accomplishing humanitarian deeds. But she really has no idea what they will become. Mary did know, because her child’s identity and deeds were revealed by the Holy Spirit through the prophets and angels. She knew He was the Son of the Most High, a Savior, Christ the Lord. Certainly the meditations of her heart must have been filled with awe and exaltation!

When her adolescent son stayed behind at the temple in Jerusalem after the Passover, Mary heard about His amazing interaction with the teachers there, and again she held these things dearly, deep within herself. (Luke 2:51 Msg.) But did she also think of earlier words spoken in the temple about her son soon after his birth? Moved by the Spirit, a devout man named Simeon said her child was destined to be a sign in Israel so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too. (Luke 2:35) She would not know the meaning of those words until decades later when she saw her precious son crucified on a cross. Then came the unspeakable joy of His resurrection, confirming all that had been foretold about Him.

Mary was favored by God to be the mother of His Son. Every mother is given a child chosen for her by God. Not all are dedicated mothers, yet those who are share the heart of Mary in pondering the things they treasure about their child and the desires they have for them. Pondering and prayer go hand in hand, the highest calling of a mother.

A Mother’s Influence

Mom_0041 When I was six I wanted to be a ballerina, so my mother enrolled me in dance classes. A few years later when I developed an interest in music, my mother drove me and my heavy bassoon case to every band practice and lesson. Discovering I had a gift for writing, she prompted me to apply to the best journalism school available. New motherhood became an adventure with the gentle guidance of my baby’s loving grandmother. She was terminally ill when she came to hear me give my first public talk. Her face was already gray and gaunt, yet her warm brown eyes shone with love, emboldening me to confidently address the audience. My mother was my most avid cheerleader, always encouraging me with her steadfast support.

The Bible’s King Ahaziah, was not so privileged. His mother, Athaliah, did encourage him, but not in a positive way. “Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri. He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong.” ( 2 Chronicles 21:2-3  NIV)

Athaliah had selfish motives for encouraging her son, King Ahaziah, in wicked ways. She held contempt for the faith of her husband’s country, so now that he was dead she exerted all her evil influence on her young son. During his short reign “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done.” (vs.4)

The Lord brought judgment on Ahaziah for his wrongdoing and had him killed. His mother’s wicked counsel brought about his destruction. After his death, desire for power drove her to kill her own grandsons so she could usurp Judah’s throne. The Lord spared one of  her grandsons, who was kept hidden from her. Upon his coronation, she was put to death.

The story of Athaliah and her son Ahaziah gives insight into how much influence a mother has, whether for good or evil. Children respond better to positive encouragement than to negative dissuasion. A mother is in a prime position to see the potential in her children and foster their talents and gifts. When a child knows someone who cares for them  is cheering them on in their endeavors they gain confidence and strive to do well.

A Christian mother’s desire is to see her children personally embrace faith in Jesus Christ and grow to spiritual maturity. Her influence during their impressionable early years has a big impact on their faith as adults in years to come. Encouraging a child in their faith can come in many forms. Deuteronomy 11 says to teach spiritual truths to children by talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. In other words, faith is imparted in all aspects of life. Children are inspired to pursue their faith through the example of those closest to them. When a mother maintains a vibrant relationship with Christ, her children will be encouraged to grow by seeing the fruits of her faith.

My mother was the opposite of  King Ahaziah’s mother. Her desire was to see me be the best person I could be, and she never ran out of ways to encourage and support me. When she came to faith in Christ in later years, her encouragement broadened into our shared belief. What joy it gave us to know we were fellow believers in Christ as well as mother and daughter. Though she is gone now, I often remember her heartening words and her faith in my ability to accomplish whatever I set out to do. If  I can  be such an encourager to my children, her legacy will live on.

(from our church bulletin archives, written May 2008. Photo of my mother and I, circa 1996)