Between his infancy and the age of 30, the Bible describes only one event in Jesus’ life. We are told that it was His family’s custom to attend the Passover festival in Jerusalem. The distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was about 70 miles and would have taken several days. But the journey was probably a happy annual pilgrimage in the company of many family and friends. In his 12th year, Jesus was so preoccupied by activities in the temple that He missed the family’s departure when they left for home. He remained instead in the temple where the teachers were astonished at His knowledge.
Twenty years later, the temple would become a very dangerous place for Jesus. It had ceased to be His Father’s House of Prayer having become instead, a massive money machine. The conflicts that Jesus had there had a lot to do with His eventual trial and crucifixion.
President-elect Trump recently invited a number of leaders from the technology industry to a roundtable conversation. During his campaign, Trump had been vocally critical of the technology industry on a number of fronts. Tim Cook, head of Apple, accepted the invitation even though many criticized him for it. He responded by saying, “I’ve never found being on the sidelines a successful place to be. The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena… And we engage when we agree and when we disagree…You don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing why your way is the best.”
That was certainly Jesus’ philosophy. He didn’t just stand outside the temple yelling. He went right on in to show that His way was the better way. It did, of course, cost Him His life, but in the end, the loss of His life has given us life.
Richard Rohr says that it is always a lot easier being over and against than being in love. It is tempting to believe that we have done something constructive and creative by simply being critical. But Jesus teaches us that if you want to really make a difference, you’ve got to engage at the level of love. That’s why the summary phrase of the Christian faith is this:
For God so love the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.
Merciful God, you know my hot-buttons and the places where I can get really worked up and self-righteous. I ask that you prompt me to love instead. This will require a great deal more energy and creativity from me. It may not even seem as satisfying as simply railing against another. But I do believe this is the better way, the way that accomplishes the work of your kingdom. Amen.
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.
There are times when we want something, and as much as we hope, and pray, and long for it, when it finally comes true, we just can’t believe it is real. The people of God longed for the Messiah—and when Jesus came, he was all that had been promised—even to us: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.