Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was directly asked an emotionally charged question that echoes the hearts and sentiments of many who have suffered from senseless tragedies, painful loss, and crushing disappointment.
“WHY have YOU treated us like this???”
Don’t gloss over this. Listen again and pay attention to the deep pain and bewilderment that Mary was suffering from in this moment.
“WHY…have YOU…treated us……like this???”
What happened, and what do the Greek words tell us about what Mary was really feeling? The story is found in Luke 2:41-52
After anxiously losing Jesus for three days and nights, His parents, Mary and Joseph were extremely upset. Can you imagine? Being a responsible child, they surely thought that his disappearance was the result of some unfortunate circumstance. When they discovered that He had stayed behind by His own choice, their emotions suddenly took a different turn.
When his parents found him, they were “astonished”. Astonished may not be the best translation to use here. The Greek says they were “thunderstruck with shock”. They had thought that something had happened to Him during those three days of frantic searching, but now they discover that it was HIS ACTIONS AND INACTIONS that had brought about all of this needless stress. They felt shocked and bewildered by His decision. They felt that their trust in Him had been broken. Jesus clearly admits His decision to remain, but He had not shown them the courtesy to discuss it with them, nor given them any indication about His decision. He didn’t even ask for their permission.
Now we can see more clearly that Mary was probably feeling a lot of pain and betrayal of trust when she says, “WHY have You treated us like this???”.
She goes on to say, “Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Again, the words show they felt that something unfortunate had happened to Him. The Greek calls it “intense emotional torment”.
This was a time of extreme and bare emotion. Her choice of words are indicative of people who are trying to understand what could they have possibly done to deserve this kind of treatment, this result. They are words which express feelings of betrayal and bewilderment. They seem perplexed by this thought: How could the person who they believed He was, act in this uncharacteristic manner? What have we done, and how could the Christ child do this to us? If anyone knew better than to act in this wholly inconsiderate manner, certainly Christ did. How could You do such an incomprehensibly painful thing to us?
It goes even further. Understanding all of this, I can hear what Mary is really asking. When Mary asks, “Why have you treated us like this?”, I hear her asking, “Why are you punishing us like this? Why have you broken our trust? Why did you abandon us? Why have you made us feel so unloved? Why would Love do this to us? ”
Jesus loves me this I know…
Mary wasn’t feeling it right then.
Many of you have felt the same way towards God. Why have you treated us like this?
It was a legitimate question both then and now. God’s decisions, actions, and inactions can affect us very personally and sometimes painfully. That was the truth for Mary. Notice that Mary didn’t vaguely ask, “Why did this happen”? She knew WHO was responsible and so she had a direct confrontation with Him. This event also lends to the legitimacy and veracity of Scripture: Why would you write such a thing about the Son of God unless it really happened?
What happened next was very revealing. Many of us want answers to our personal tragedies in the hope that it will bring some comfort or at least a portion of understanding. Mary got her answer, Mary got the truth. But the answer from the mouth of the Son of God did not help them understand any better…“But they did not understand what he was saying to them”. It was not a satisfactory answer for them. Nothing was resolved. I’m sure they were relieved that He was safe, but they were left with a feeling that this didn’t have to happen in this manner, and they clearly expressed they felt overlooked and mistreated in this event. “But they did not understand what he was saying to them”. After this unresolved event, would they continue to trust Him to always act with their best interests in mind?
Let’s take a look at His answer to them.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Until now, I have not understood what Jesus was really saying. I have always interpreted this as Jesus saying, “Couldn’t you figure out that I would likely be hanging out in the Temple? Isn’t that the most likely place I would be? It had to be there, right?” That was the wrong interpretation.
Jesus was saying, “I had no real choice. I HAD TO BE in my Father’s house. It wasn’t a whim that could wait. I ‘had to be’ means I was absolutely required to be there.” For Jesus, this was a must. If he had asked His parent’s permission to stay for 3 more days, they would have likely said, “No”. He could not take that risk. He could not ask their permission because he would have been put into a position of having to openly rebel against his parent’s authority to meet the demand that was placed upon Him. It would have ruined everything for eternity!
The best He could do was hope that they had remembered the prophecies over Him, and could somehow understand everything that was required of Him as Messiah and the Passover Lamb. Jesus had turned 12 and needed to become a “Son of the Law”. Perhaps his parents had overlooked this needful ceremony. As a young man “growing in wisdom”, perhaps Jesus had pertinent questions concerning the Passover that went beyond his parents ability to answer. We could speculate forever, and we may never understand why Jesus’s parents had to suffer such personal pain and have the feeling of their trust being broken and sorely tested. All we know for sure is that according to Jesus’s own words, he saw this temple stay-over as something HE HAD TO DO.
Knowing all of this, when Jesus says, “…I had to be in my Father’s house”, I hear him saying, “You may not understand this, but when I tell you that it is something I had to do, I’m asking you to trust me on this”.
If you look in the light of eternity and the mission of Jesus, we can see that His devotion to the Father’s business resulted in the best interests of the world…and His parents.
I don’t profess to fully understand why Mary and Joseph had to suffer so needlessly at the time. It seems to me that the same God who spoke to Joseph in a dream saying, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him”, could have easily spoken to Joseph in a dream saying, “Let the boy stay at the temple for three more days. It is something He must do”. Whether I like it or not, God allowed them to suffer. God loves people, but the accomplishment of truth prevails above all. Scripture shows that God loves truth more than people. This is a good thing. You can read all about it in my first post God is Love…For What?
What I’ve learned from this:
- God’s decisions, actions, and inactions can affect us very personally and sometimes painfully. Just look at Job. If He didn’t spare his own Mother from the trial of senseless pain, should we all expect to walk through life untested?
- It may seem senseless to us, just like it did to Mary. We may say like Mary, “Why have you treated us like this?” This is a legitimate question from Scripture. Mary was allowed to ask this to His face, and was not struck dead.
- Even if God did answer all of our questions, the truth would not always comfort us and we would often walk away from the crisis just like Mary and Joseph “But they did not understand what he was saying to them”. Maybe some questions are better left unanswered for now.
- When Jesus said, “…I had to be in my Father’s house”, it was another way of saying, “You’re just going to have to trust me on this one, even if it hurt really bad”.
- Although Mary walked away not understanding, we know she found a way to trust Him again. The Scripture says Mary treasured these matters in her heart. To say that she “treasured” does NOT mean that she found this matter to be precious. It simply means she took something away from this and held fast to it. I tend to believe that she eventually chose to focus and believe the words, “I had to be in my Father’s house”. Her heart heard him say, Trust me in the pain and misunderstanding. How do we know this? Her life shows it!
- When senseless pain enters our lives, I hear the Lord saying to us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
- Joseph the Son of Jacob suffered needlessly, and yet he held on until it was used for good. He said to the brothers who sold him into slavery, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”. God can take our painful ugly mess and make something positive from it. It doesn’t make it feel any better, but we can either wallow in pity or put it to purpose.
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