Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lord and Teacher

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. (Luke 2:41-52)

This unique glimpse into the childhood of Jesus is also a double-edged sword.  In our fallen states, we tend to want to speculate as to what the "lost" years of Jesus entailed.  Many theories abound.  Prior to this scene, we have gnostic writings that show Jesus bestowing life on clay animals and allowing them to run and fly off.  We also have a scene in which a disgruntled teacher argues with little Jesus, because our Lord is not allowing himself to be taught.  Instead, he is doing the teaching.  Disgusted with the teacher's argumentative nature, Jesus finally ends his life with a wave of his hand.  Sounds like a brat, doesn't it?

On the other side of this passage, there was a theory going around that Jesus spent the eighteen years before his ministry in India and/or studying at the feet of Buddha.  This is, of course, roundly rejected today, but it shows where our imaginations take us when we are given the ammunition.  The point is, when we don't know who Jesus is, we come up with all kinds of nonsense.

So, who is Jesus?  We know he is the savior of the world.  That was the reason for the incarnation.  But if we understand what roles he played in our world, we will learn to reject false teachings and embrace the truth.  What are the roles he played?  Jesus tells us himself in John 13, after washing the disciples' feet.  He tells them, "you call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am."  In the healing of blind Bartimaeus, the blind man calls out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  This appeals to Jesus' role as Lord, the only one who is able to have mercy.  When Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants from him, the blind man responds, "My teacher, let me see again."

We tend to think of Jesus as a miracle man, but his miracles were only the supporting proof that what he taught was true.  All of the healings and miracles in the gospels are connected with some teaching.  The miracles give the teaching strength.  Many people died in the three years of Jesus' ministry.  He didn't heal everyone.  It was not his purpose.  His reason for coming was to have mercy on us, fulfilling his role as Lord, and his purpose for coming was teaching, fulfilling his role as Teacher.  The miracles told us that he was not lying.

What does this mean for us?  Two things.  First, it puts Jesus into our minds in his rightful place.  We know that he is Lord and Teacher.  If we think of him outside those two roles, we are believing in a false god and we remain lost in our sins.  John 3:16 reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  If we are thinking that Jesus bestowed life on clay animals or learned at the feet of Buddha, we are not putting him in those two roles, and we are not believing in him.  So, by keeping Jesus in his two roles, we are believing the truth about him.

Secondly, how we treat our neighbors is affected.  Today, we get in our heads that the miracles and the healings are the important parts of Jesus' ministry, and so we try to perform our little miracles each day.  We clothe the poor and feed the hungry, and those are good things, but we forget that Jesus never did these things without the use of his primary role--teaching.  Even the Apostles continued in this vein after Jesus left earth.

In Acts 3, Peter heals the paralytic at the Beautiful gate.  The man is begging for alms, and Peter tells him, "Silver and Gold I have none, but what I do have, I give you in the name of Jesus Christ."  The man is healed, and he gets up and walks.  What we forget is that the crowd who knew that man come forward and crowd around Peter who then gives A SERMON.  The healing is associated with teaching, and the teaching is the most important part.

Today, we go to the poor who ask for gold and silver and we say, "gold and silver?  Sure!  Here you go!"  We shelter them and then allow them to watch Scarface.  We set up the cable TV ourselves!  We allow them to remain dead in the culture, lost in their sins.  We don't open the Bible and teach them from the scriptures.  Even I am afraid to do such, for that may drive them out into the cold, for I think they would rather be there than to hear the word of God.  So we let them return to their own vomit, with no change in their hearts, but at least we have given them the silver and gold.  We've given them food, shelter, and clothing.  We can feel good about ourselves.

Lord, help us keep the roles of Jesus Christ ever present in our minds, so that we can have the correct relationship with Jesus, believing in him, and the correct relationship with our neighbors, helping AND teaching them.  AMEN.