Was Jesus ‘rebellious’ in His tweens?
Was Jesus ‘rebellious’ in His tweens?
Scripture References: Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2:41-52
Let me begin by accepting the fact that being in tweens, teens and youth is not easy. The struggle starts way too early in the morning as you have to wake up every weekday for school, college or work. There is always someone you can’t wait to see and someone you can’t stand to see. Then there is that homework or project or presentation that is due. Then there are all the rules: no standing in the hall, take those earphones off, switch off your mobiles and so on and on it goes. And there are the other rules; the rules unwritten but they determine your social status either as a freak, an eccentric, a wild one or at times even as a popular person who everyone wants to be seen with. I have gone through all that, just as you are going through it at present. And when you act otherwise, not according to the expectations of various players, you are quickly classified as disobedient or rebellious. This topic is of interest both to the young and their parents. We will, therefore, meditate on the question: The teens and youth, are they rebellious?
We often hear from parents that teens and youth can tend to be rebellious. I am sure this is something that is somewhat exaggerated by the parents most of the time and it is just that they don’t understand their kids. At the same time when we look at the youth more closely, we will realize that most of them have a bit of themselves that rebel. Perhaps they are talking back to their parents and on the face of it, this may seem that they are disrespectful to their parents. Perhaps they run away from home. Perhaps they hang out with people they should not. What the elders miss out in most instances is that the young ones want to define themselves as different, unique, special and therefore they do things to show this. When we think about ourselves in our youth, we will recall many instances when we kind of rebelled against parents, teachers and even peers. But such rebellion, in most instances, may not have been intended to be seen as disobedience or disrespect to them.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like as a teenager or a youth? Well, all of that, unfortunately, is missing in the Bible and I am not willing to speculate. The closest we have is the narrative when Jesus was twelve years old or in His tweens, the in-between years from 10 to 12, read to us from the Gospel account of Luke. Listening to the narrative the lingering question in the minds of many of us would be ‘Was Jesus rebellious when He was in His tweens?’ You might think I’m stretching the point a bit too far, but truly, when you look at the twelve-year-old Jesus, you see that His action is one about rebellion against the “normal” life He is living, as He longs to move on and define Himself.
Jesus did not run away from home as He travelled back from Jerusalem, after the festival, with His family. At the same time, one cannot argue that He was just absentminded or too caught up in the world of the temple to realize that it was time to go. Jesus chose to be ‘rebellious’. He chose to hang out in Jerusalem with a crowd of teachers and temple leaders, instead of going home with Mary and Joseph. And then He is pictured as if He talked back to His parents. “don’t you know where I should be?” When they did finally find Him, He acted as if it was perfectly natural that He would be where He was. He acted as if they were the ones who had messed up and not Him… and there is something to support this argument. After all, they should have checked to make sure He was with the group before they left the city. But what really catches the eye is what Jesus says when they do find him. He was not, perhaps, talking about the obvious that it is natural that He is in His Heavenly Father’s house. But His response is a clear hint at the fact that Joseph and Mary did not understand Him. We give Joseph the benefit of doubt. He may not have been fully in the know. Let us understand this clearly. Jesus knew what He was up to and in all probability, Mary would have guessed what He was up to. Seen in that light Jesus was not talking back to her but He was subtly reminding her of what she should have known or guessed.
From a family perspective, we all know that children normally get upset with their parents because they fail to understand them. Parents normally fail to allow space for the children to define themselves. Parents want the child to be something the child is not. In many of the arguments between the parents and children, we see a thought process that went like this, “If you truly understood and accepted who I am… you would understand what it is I’m doing.” Effectively that was what Jesus was telling His mother Mary.
We know from the Scriptures that He is constantly, throughout His ministry, longing for people to understand Him. Being God the Son, being the Messiah, being the promised Savoir, He had to deal with people’s misconceptions and misunderstandings of who He is and He has to constantly work past them. There are people who followed and still follow Him around expecting Him to be something that they have decided He must be. They expected Him to heal them… they expected Him to feed them… they expected Him to entertain them with His miracles…they expected Him to kick Romans out of Israel… they expect Him to rule. But these are not the things that Jesus is about. It may sound a bit far-fetched to think of Jesus as a twelve-year-old crying out for Mary and Joseph, to understand Him. But I think it is even more difficult for us to realize that Jesus is calling for us, today, to truly understand Him. Are we ready for that life of understanding?
The family is important as stressed upon in the Epistles- Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and Timothy. Epistles talk about relationships between husband and wife, and parents and children. Paul stated in Colossians 3:18-21, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” We will deal with the tricky husband and wife relationship on another occasion and stay focused on parents and children. I would interpret what Paul stated as his advice for mutual trust, love, and respect between the parents and children. In such a state, no one is above the other but all are levelled under Jesus to whom they should submit prayerfully. If this is accepted in a family there can never be a conflict of interest.
I accept the fact that being a teenager is very difficult. Growing up is not easy. Living with our mistakes and the consequences of our choices can be embarrassing, awkward, uncomfortable. The parents get upset and are hurt. Remember Mary and Joseph worried about Jesus for two days. Because they care for him. Your parents are very valuable to you. They love you. They support you. For the most part, their advice is good and in right earnestness. Think about all the things your parents do for you. When you establish a trusting relationship, you will be able to tell them where you need space to define yourself. That is when the parents will not try to make you what they want you to be and allow you to evolve as an individual you want to be. Life is not a tug of war with parents on one end and children on the other. There is also a time for everything. Jumping back into the Gospel we find that child Jesus went back to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people. Luke 2:50-52 AMEN
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