If your children could look through a magic View Master and see the past, what events would they see? Would most of the images be of things you did well, such as showing love, being an encouragement and making sacrifices for them? Perhaps there would be too many pictures of times when you were too busy, too impatient or too insensitive? If we’re honest, most of us would probably have to admit it would contain a mixture of both.
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding and challenging things we will ever do. It’s a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week job that instantly switches from being joyous and happy to being nerve-wracking and stressful. And the job never ends – even after our children are grown. Thankfully the Bible does give us some principles that will help us be the best parents we can possibly be.
Let’s look in Luke 2:41-52. It says, “41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 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.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The Old Testament law required all males to go to Jerusalem every year to attend the celebrations of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Sometimes their families went with them so the group could be quite large. Apparently, this is happening in this passage. Here we see the first important point. Godly parents teach their children to worship God. It would have been much faster and easier for Joseph to go on his own. He didn’t. He took the whole family with him, including his children.
Parents, take your children with you on your journey with God. Let them help with devotions. Help them learn to pray for others and to give thanks at mealtime. Teach them why we do what we do.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Obviously, this passage is talking about the Old Testament law. We now live in the covenant of the New Testament. However, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. While we’re no longer bound by it, we are still required to live by the precepts we see in it. We must teach our children the Bible if we want them to be faithful to Jesus.
After Passover was completed, the family of Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem and headed home. Both of them thought Jesus was travelling with the family. He wasn’t. He had stayed behind.
Can you imagine the fear and perhaps even guilt that Mary and Joseph felt when they realized he wasn’t with them? It’s terrifying to realize your child is missing. Imagine the extra burden they felt since their son just happened to be the Messiah. While we have no way of knowing what they said to each other at this point, I can’t help but wonder if the pressure didn’t get to them and their conversation went something like this:
Joseph: (angrily) “Mary, I thought you made sure Jesus was with us.”
Mary: (frustrated) “Why is it up to me? It is because I’m the mother? Am I’m automatically expected to know these things? You could have checked on him too!”
Joseph: “Well, you should have made sure. I have a lot of other things to worry about. Now we have to spend time going back to Jerusalem.”
Mary: “I’m so sorry we have to waste your precious time. I know you’d rather be working than taking time to look for your missing son.”
Joseph: “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have to spend all my time being a carpenter. I was a tisdiq. (I’m seeing if you remember my sermon from last month.) I was a rising star in both our community and our faith. They threw me out because I married an adulteress.”
Mary: “Well, excuse me for saying “Yes” to God. It hasn’t been easy for me either. Even though I come from a poor family, no one else in my family ever had to lay their newborn in a manger. Really Joseph, that was the best place you could find for me to give birth? And then, those creepy shepherds showed up to see the baby. All I wanted to do was rest but, no, I had to entertain them.”
Joseph: “That wasn’t my fault. I didn’t invite them. Besides, that time wasn’t easy for me either. Even though we were married, I had to wait until he was born before we could consummate our marriage. Do you know how frustrating that was for me?”
Mary: “Really? That’s where you’re going with this? Is that all you ever think about? By the way, do you know what frustrates me? Your mama. She’s never liked me. I can tell she thinks you could have done better!”
Joseph: “Here we go. I’m so glad you said that. I was afraid we were going to make it through a whole argument without you dragging my family into it.”
Mary: “Let’s just drop it. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”
So, they made their way to Jerusalem to find their son. But this time they weren’t going with their large family. They were alone. Just the two of them, trying to right their wrongs. No doubt it put tremendous pressure on their relationship.
This brings us to our second point. Parents have to work through the stress to take responsibility for their mistakes and work to correct them. No parent is going to do everything right. It’s ok to admit this. However, we need to take responsibility for it.
One time when our oldest daughter, Katie, was a teenager, she became very upset with me about a parenting decision I’d made. Being true to her Grimes nature, she told me why she thought I was wrong. As I listened to her, I realized she was right. After she finished, I looked at her and said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. But just as you make mistakes as you grow, we make mistakes as parents. You’re our firstborn so, with you, your mom and I are faced with things we’ve never faced before. Sometimes we make the wrong decision. I was wrong and I’m sorry.” After I said that, she looked at me and replied, “That’s OK.” She never mentioned it to me again.
Parents, you will mess up. Don’t be too proud to admit it so everyone can learn from it and move on.
Luke tells us Mary and Joseph searched 3 days for Jesus. We can only imagine the terror they felt while they looked. Jerusalem wasn’t a place where people would want their 12 year old son to be alone. Eventually they found him. He was in the temple. Mary and Joseph did what most parents would do at this point. After no doubt feeling a tremendous sense of relief, they scolded him. “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” But Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me?” … “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” His parents didn’t comprehend what he meant. How could they?
There is no way Mary and Joseph could have understood the type of Messiah Jesus was going to be. They probably envisioned him to be a great warrior king who would be honored with wealth and power. Instead of training in the art of war and politics, he stayed at the temple to train in the art of love and self-sacrifice. His parents didn’t realize what he was doing but they didn’t try to stop him.
We need to follow their example. Parents must allow their children to follow the path God has ordained for them. The problem is most of the time God’s path is much more difficult to walk than parents want it to be. Mary and Joseph wanted Jesus to be a Messiah who had authority and prosperity. God made him a Messiah who suffered and died alone on a cross.
Most Christian parents encourage their children to get an education, work hard and plan so they can have a prosperous life. Yet, how many Christian parents actually teach their children to make serving God first in their lives?
Some parents try to live through their children. It comes out in attitudes such as, “I got A’s in school. You should too.” “I never won a beauty pageant but I desperately want you to win one.” “I’m building this business up for you.” And the list can go on and on.
As parents, we have to accept the fact God has given our children different desires, personalities and spiritual gifts than he has given us. Our children might not have the ability to get straight A’s. Let’s be honest about children’s beauty pageants. They’re far more important to the parents than they are to the children who participate in them. As far as the family business goes, our children may have no desire to keep it going. This isn’t an insult to the hard work of the parents who built it. It’s simply an indication that God has created them to do something different. Trying to force them to be who we want them to be isn’t fair to them.
The last point we’re going to pull out of this passage today is also the most important. Parents need to teach their children to search for Jesus. When Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem the first time, they thought Jesus was with them. But he wasn’t. We can’t automatically assume Jesus is walking with us as we go about our daily business. Yes, he’s always there to love us. However, he doesn’t automatically bless us in everything we do simply because we’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer. He blesses us when we’re obedient to him. Many times, we have to search in order to find the things Jesus wants us to do. We find it in reading the Bible, praying, listening to the Holy Spirit, taking council from others and simply spending time in Jesus presence.
We know there’s no magic View Master that shows our children clips from their past. They do, however, have memories. Hopefully these memories are full of Jesus.