I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but there is a fair part of Jesus’ life that is shrouded in mystery. I say that not create a crisis of faith, so don’t get too worked up. But there are different moments and time periods in Jesus’ life that we just don’t have a complete picture about.
Today’s readings reflect this.
First there’s the Wise Men. These three apparent royal astrologers who follow a start to pay Jesus homage and present him with gifts. While I always like to consider the Magi from the perspective of their gifts to Jesus and lead that into pondering what gifts we bring to Jesus (typical pastor type of thoughts), it struck me as I was reading about them this time just how mysterious they are. We don’t know their names. We don’t know exactly what country they are from. We’re not even sure that there were three of them (we just assume as much because there were three gifts…and you know what it means to assume 🙂 We’re not even sure when they visited Jesus. I know we place them in our manger scenes, but I think that is more out of a need to keep things simple during our Christmas pageants. It’s kind of difficult to have the manger scene with the angels and shepherds and then do a quick set change to show the Magi visiting Mary and Jesus in some house. The truth is that the second description is actually what Matthew tells us. Matthew 2:11 says: “entering the house…they worshiped him.” Stable and house are two very different places.
The passage from Luke 2 offers us another mystery because it contains the only mention of Jesus’ childhood between the Magi visit and his baptism. A brief glimpse into a 12 year old boys trip to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, a trip that finds him schooling the religious experts at the Temple. Side note: did you notice in those verses from Luke 2 that it is said that Jesus was asking the teachers questions, but it was the teachers who were astonished with Jesus’ answers. That pattern will continue all through Jesus’ life as the religious elite try to trip Jesus up by asking him questions; questions he always has a very clever answer to. Just thought I’d point out to you.
So much of Jesus’ early years are shrouded in mystery. Even some events during his ministry years are passed over with little to no detail. For instance we know that Jesus made it a habit to get up early and go away to a private, quiet place to pray. But what did that look like? Was he visited by the Holy Spirit? What did he pray about? We just don’t know.
I point this out for two reasons, well one reason split into two I guess. God uses the Gospels to tell us everything we need to know about Jesus in order to put our trust in him. We are told who he is, what his life was like, what his main teachings were and how he fulfilled is mission to seek and save that which is lost (that’s you and me by the way). The second part of that reason, I believe, is that faith required us to believe in what we do not see or fully comprehend. Jesus says to his disciple Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Part of believing in Jesus is accepting the mystery, the parts that we don’t understand or even fully see yet.
So don’t get caught up trying to figure out where or why the Wise Men appear on the scene, and don’t try to figure out where Jesus was from his birth to 12 and then from age 12 to 30. It’s not worth it. Let the mystery be, trust that God will fill in those blanks when the time comes. Trust that we know everything we need to know.
Take 2 Peter 1:3 to heart: His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3