I Have to Be About My Father’s Affairs —Luke 2:49

Have you ever had to release loved ones to the Lord’s call on their lives—to work that would take them far from you and lead them down hard, dangerous paths?

Countless books are filled with stories of people who left everything to serve God—people like Hudson Taylor, Andrew Murray, C. T. Studd, Isobel Kuhn, D. L. Moody, Madame Guyon, Calvin, Luther… I could go on and on. These models of faith have nurtured my soul through the years, inspiring me to be faithful. Their willingness to leave family and friends, to suffer hardship, endure scorn and rejection, separate from loved ones for long periods of time, and face the possibility of imprisonment and death have strengthened me to take up my cross and follow the Lord’s path of service.

But sending a loved one away with our blessing is another matter. It cuts against our natural instincts, doesn’t it? Especially children! We want them with us, in the security of a single home. We want to see them, be with them, grow up and grow old with them and their children. It’s our nature to shelter and protect them. Yet there comes a time, as in Mary and Joseph’s lives, when we must let our loved ones go to do their Father’s affairs.

When Simeon stood in the temple and took the eight-day-old Jesus from Mary’s arms, he told her, “ ‘Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul…’ ” (Luke 2:34,35). The early years of Jesus’ life would be all the time she had to prepare for this pain.

Twelve years after Simeon spoke this prophecy, Mary, Joseph, and their family made their annual trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When returning, they assumed Jesus was somewhere among their fellow travelers. He was twelve and able to take care of Himself among friends and family, so they hadn’t worried about Him. But after a full day of travel, Mary discovered that He was missing.

If you’re a parent, you understand this, don’t you? Your child has gone to play, to spend the day with people you trust, but when you go to pick him up, he’s not there. Your heart sinks. You look, you call, you ask, but to no avail—no one has seen him. Fear grips your heart. Where is he? You try to think about where he was last. You struggle not to panic; maybe you do.

Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was not in the caravan. He had to be somewhere between where they were now and where they had last seen Him in Jerusalem. Each step back to the city must have brought agony, self-recriminations; possibly even strong words between Mary and Joseph about why the other hadn’t checked on their son earlier. We don’t know. Jerusalem was a long day’s journey back—too long for anxious parents.

After they arrived, they couldn’t find their son in the city. Where should they look? Whom should they ask?

It took three days to locate Him “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.” Mary was every bit the distressed mother when she said, “ ‘Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.' ”

As a mother, I’m impressed by her restraint! Jesus had been missing for nearly five days! His reply is astonishing: “ ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did You not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’ ” In order, the Greek text reads, “in the of My Father.” Because the word “the” is neuter plural (“the things”), the New American Standard gives a literal translation—“in the things of My Father”—in its margin. But the “things” are not difficult to determine from the context—Jesus knew He had to be about His Father’s business, affairs, work, will, plan.

Did Mary and Joseph forget that first and foremost Jesus belonged to God, that He was truly God’s Son, not theirs? This often happens to parents, doesn’t it? We give birth, then pour out our lives, nurturing, feeding, clothing, disciplining, and educating our children. Somewhere along the line, we forget that it was God who gave them to us—He chose the exact sperm and egg to unite; He knit them together in the womb; He numbered their days; He created them for His pleasure primarily, not ours.

Could Mary hold on to Jesus? No! God would give her only another eighteen years. He would return to Nazareth with His parents and be known as “the carpenter’s son.” He would submit to them and grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man in their care. But when He was thirty, He would leave and begin His public ministry.

His Father’s business would bring Him rejection, pain, scorn, false accusations, plots and attempts against His life, betrayal of a close disciple, denial by those closest to Him, separation from His heavenly Father for a time, and finally death—a death, according to the prophet Isaiah, greater than any man has ever suffered before or since.

This is what the Father had for Him, and the Son of God would accept it all—willingly and for our sakes.

What was Jesus doing for the five days He was separated from His parents? Even though He was God in the flesh, He was listening to and asking questions of the great teachers in the temple. What humility! What an example for us! How many of us have rushed into ministry before being prepared, because we did not humbly sit at the feet of teachers? How many of us have not taken the time to formulate and ask questions that would increase our knowledge and understanding?

Have you ever considered that although Jesus was God and fully understood His mission, He did not rush into ministry? Instead, He waited for His Father to move. When God did move, Jesus was ready; He was prepared; He understood the purpose of life—that each of us is born for God’s pleasure. We are here to do His will—whatever it is, wherever it takes us, no matter the cost.

Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51), and when the time came, she and Joseph let their son go. Although we hear no more about Joseph, we know Mary participated in her son’s ministry. She wasn’t cut off from His spiritual life. And neither are we, Beloved, when we are physically separated from our loved ones. Even if they are “absent in body,” they are “present in spirit” (1 Corinthians 5:3).

Yes, Mary’s soul was pierced through as with a sword when she watched evil men jeer and crucify her son. But she also witnessed His resurrection. Think hard, Beloved, when a sword has pierced your heart; think beyond the present to the hope that is yours in Jesus now and to the joy that will be yours in the final resurrection!

If “the affairs of your Father” are the primary purpose of your life, joy will indeed be yours.

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Kay Arthur Host,
Precepts For Life
Co-Founder, Precept Ministries International