Reading Ramblings – January 4, 2015

Date:  Second Sunday of Christmas —January 4, 2015

Texts: 1 Kings 3:4-15; Psalm 119:97-104; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52

 

Context:  This is the final Sunday of the Christmas season.  Next Sunday will be in the season of Epiphany.  These two seasons reflect on the two natures of Christ.  Christmas emphasizing his humanity, and Epiphany emphasizing his divinity.  The twelve days of Christmas refer to the season of Christmas, from December 25 to January 6.  The readings today emphasize wisdom and the source of that wisdom in God the Father.  As we conclude the season of Christmas, we must affirm that God the Son incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth was just as dependent on wisdom from his heavenly Father as we are.  While we cannot plumb the depths of the two natures of Christ (human and divine) fully, we must assert that if He is fully human, than He is reliant on his Father’s wisdom.  This does not contradict his divine nature, but harmonizes it perfectly.  The Son who is perfectly obedient to his Father must trust perfectly in his Father’s wisdom rather than his own. 

 

1 Kings 3:4-15 — Solomon recognize his own inability to the task of ruling God’s people.  It isn’t that he hasn’t been prepared for it—he is 40 years old or so when he assumes his father David’s throne.  However, despite his royal preparation, he understands in a way that Saul certainly didn’t, that the king is to rely on God, as the king is truly only God’s human agent to oversee the people of God.  God answers Solomon’s humility in typical fashion—abundantly.

 

Psalm 119:97-104 — This is the longest of the psalms—an acrostic where each eight-line section is represented by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and emphasizes the centrality of the Word of God.  This section emphasizes that the Word of God is the worthy subject of study and ingestion, and that in doing so, one gains wisdom that those who reject God cannot hope to have.  This passage is not a flaunting of teachers, or experience (the aged), but rather affirms that one with the wisdom of God is necessarily wiser than any other source of knowledge and wisdom of purely human origin.

 

Ephesians 1:3-14 — Paul also speaks of God’s wisdom, the wisdom which plans salvation and then offers to humanity the gifts necessary to receive this gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.  We do not find Jesus, God reveals himself to us through Jesus Christ by the efforts of the Holy Spirit.  As with creation, salvation is entirely a gift of God.  We do not congratulate ourselves for being clever enough to believe in Jesus.  There is no grounds for boasting in our faith because our faith itself is a gift from God!  This faith is further ensured and protected by the Holy Spirit of God at work within us.

 

Luke 2:40-25— We know very little of Jesus’ childhood.  Most of what little we do know is in this brief passage from Luke.  While we are accustomed to modern ideas of biography, ancient biographies are very different.  Today, we expect a lengthy discourse on the extended family history and pedigree of the subject.  Not just parents and siblings but grandparents and distant family—anyone who might have an impact on the subject, because we assume that we are only the compilation of our influences and experiences.  To explain someone in modern terms, we must know their background.

For the Gospel writers, what matters most in their account of Jesus is what they heard and experienced personally.  His teaching and miracle-working is the emphasis of the Gospels because it is in these things that Jesus’ identity is to be seen.  Culminating his ministry and the most important element of it is of course his last week of life, his betrayal, arrest, conviction, execution, and resurrection.

What we know of Jesus is that He is apparently raised by Mary and Joseph, although some passages lead us to suspect that perhaps Joseph is dead by the time Jesus begins his ministry.  As the son of a modest (if not poor) carpenter, Jesus would not likely have had the opportunity for advanced formal education.  He would have learned Aramaic (the everyday language of the people), Hebrew (to read the Torah, which Jesus is able to do), and at best a little Greek (the large city of Tiberias was being expanded during Jesus’ life and He may have found work here, where learning a bit of Greek might come in handy.

This particular account in Luke raises interesting questions.  Is Jesus being disobedient?  It seems clear that Jesus doesn’t see it this way—and perhaps his parents don’t either.  He sees his actions as consistent with his identity.  His parents are mistaken in expecting that He should be just like any other twelve-year old boy.    They don’t necessarily understand the reason that their expectations are incorrect, but Mary at the very least may have some inkling that even in this confusion, the nature and future of her son are being glimpsed.

Luke makes it clear that Jesus is obedient to his parents.  His divine nature—to whatever extent He is or is not aware of it—is not an excuse to disregard the respect and love due his parents as part of the Fourth Commandment, which is just an extension of appropriate family dynamics.  Jesus is submissive, implying that it might be expected that He would not be—or that it at least might be possible that He would not be.

The net result though is that Jesus grows.  He moves through childhood as any of us might, and as all of us should.  His maturation is a cause for respect and admiration of all people—and unlike us, also the admiration and approval of God the Father, something only possible to the Incarnate Son of God who can obey his heavenly Father perfectly.

 

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