Mercy in Disguise

I as I said before, my notes on the nativity are thin. But I do have a couple things I’d like to point out at the end of the story, after all the angels and shepherds have left the scene. And for me, this is when things really get interesting. Remember, friends, the Beloved Physician shares this sentiment with me. Unlike Matthew, Luke spends little time on the details of Jesus’ birth, focusing instead on the prophecies beforehand and the resuming of life after. Luke doesn’t even mention the Magi, which is one of the best parts of the narrative. Instead, Luke moves quickly from the stable to the temple. It’s Jesus’ early relationship to the temple and its purpose that interest Luke most, and he spends almost 300 words more talking about Simeon, Anna, and the 12-year-old Jesus than he does about the not-so-silent night in the stable.

Simeon is fascinating as a one-off character, a guy who steps on stage out of nowhere, hangs around for a few verses, and disappears forever. Much has been said about Simeon’s faithfulness and patience, and great applications can be drawn from it. But what I want to focus on here are Simeon’s last words, possibly his very last words on earth, since he is to be dismissed in peace now that he has seen the Lord’s Messiah (Luke 2:26).

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” – Luke 2:34-35 (emphasis mine)

What this says to me is that Mary will not be immune. That even though she has given birth to the Son of God she is not more than human. That she will be just as subject to the falling and rising and revealing of hearts as the rest of us. As I mentioned in the last post, Mary does not follow Jesus during his ministry, and may have even struggled with it, as will John the Baptist when we get to Luke 7:18-35. Like you and me, Mary is free not to follow Jesus, and the particulars of her Walk will always remain a mystery.

And now, fast-forward 12 years. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover, and Jesus stays behind at the temple (Luke 2:43-46). Yes, even the mother and father of the Son of God have bad parenting moments, which is a great comfort to me. But there are two things that strike me here.

First, Mary and Joseph seem to be missing something, and Jesus calls them out on it:

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” – Luke 2:48-49

How could they miss this? Despite all the angels and prophecies, despite all the seers and kings taking notice, did they forget? Have they lived their lives so normally once all the hubbub died down that they’ve even forgotten how the child was conceived? What his purpose is? Who his true Father is?

But they did not understand what he was saying to them. – Luke 2:50

I think they forgot. Or were incapable of remembering. The messiness of ordinary life got in the way. There were still diapers to change, spit-up to clean, income to generate, food to prepare, beds to make, clothes to wash. And they forgot.

I wonder what was expected of them. Were they really expected to know where Jesus was, or simply not worry about where he was? Or should they perhaps have stayed with him and sat at his feet? But what happens next is what interests me the most:

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. – Luke 2:51a

In other words, Jesus stops being weird. He stops being extraordinary. He eats his vegetables and learns his father’s trade and holds his tongue for 20 years. Why? I think it’s nothing less than an act of mercy. Living with the Son of God is too much for Mary and Joseph. It’s too much for any of us.

Christ have mercy.



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