But They Did Not Understand Him
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Chan Gin Kai
After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. (Luke 2:43-45)
It hurts when our loved ones don't understand our faith. But you're not alone. Jesus experienced that too.
As a boy, Jesus discussed Scriptures with the rabbis at the Temple, but his parents thought he was lost. As an adult, he preached the word of God, and his family thought he was crazy. So why are we surprised if our loved ones do not understand our faith?
Like all devout Jews, Joseph and Mary made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover, and they brought Jesus along. On one of those trips, when Jesus was 12 years old, something scary happened – they lost Jesus.
There were lots of pilgrims and those who had come from the same towns travelled in big groups, looking out for each other. On the return trip, Joseph and Mary assumed that Jesus was with the group. Imagine their shock and panic when they discovered at the end of the day that Jesus was not with them. They must have feared the worst as they rushed back to Jerusalem to search for him.
They finally found Jesus sitting with the teachers in the temple courts, in deep discussions. “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). The training that the Jewish teachers had to go through was intensive, and the position of a rabbi was never lightly conferred. What Jesus did, was akin to a pre-teen discussing rocket science with experts from NASA. Was Jesus exercising his omniscience, or had he diligently studied the scriptures from a young age? Whatever it was, we see his deep passion for the word of God. But that wasn’t Mary’s immediate interest or concern. Her reaction when she finally found him sounded exasperated, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48)
The panic and exasperation was natural. Messiah or not, he was after all still a boy, and who wouldn’t have been upset after searching in fear and desperation for three days? They must have blamed themselves for not noticing that he was missing; and at Jesus too, for not following them.
But Jesus’ reply intrigued them. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (Luke 2:49-50)
They had of course never forgotten how angels had appeared to them, how Jesus was conceived, and that he is the Messiah. But why didn’t they understand him?
It didn’t turn out to be the only time that Jesus’ family failed to understand him. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5)
At one point not long after Jesus started his ministry, they even tried to stop him because they thought he was crazy. “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mark 3:21)
Imagine how Jesus felt in his heart when he said, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.” (Matthew 13:57)
Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus is special, and must have told his siblings about it. He would also have been a perfect son growing up, and the most awesome brother too. But somehow, Jesus’ family could not understand him despite their proximity to him. Or perhaps, they could not understand him BECAUSE of their proximity to him.
We, human beings, are strange. We are more willing to listen to outsiders than family members who have our best interests at heart. We are more easily convinced by others, even if our family members come to us with stronger logic and better proof. We take the people closest to us for granted. Haven't we all been guilty of these before? So why are we surprised if our family members behave in the same way towards us? And why should we be discouraged if they do not respond to the gospel despite our best efforts?
The good news is, Mary and Jesus' brothers became his disciples (Acts 1:14). Jesus’ brother, James, became a prominent leader of the Jerusalem church and he wrote the Epistle of James. Another brother, Jude, wrote the Epistle of Jude.
Don’t give up on your family and friends. Keep praying for them and find ways to share the gospel with them. Be a good example in the way you lead your life and do not lose heart. Remember that Jesus’ parents once thought he was lost, and his family once thought he was crazy.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".