Posted: 11 December 2015

Advent: Did Jesus have good parents?

Today’s Advent calendar instalment looks at Jesus’ parents, and asks: did they do a good job?


Bit of an awkward question isn’t it?

They left their Son, the Saviour of the World, behind for a whole day without even realising. Hardly model parenting. Even more awkwardly, Luke decided to mention it in his account which has since gone on to be part of the bestselling book of all time.

That’s seriously awkward, a bit like our campaign for 16 and 17 year old teenagers. 

The reason — I read excuse — that we are given for why it took so long for them to notice is that they assumed Jesus was being looked after by the rest of the group they were travelling with. If we accept the excuse, it appears that both the parents and the wider community should bear some responsibility.

That sinking feeling

In my imagination it was like that infamous scene from Home Alone, when Kevin’s mum finally realises they have forgotten Kevin. Making it one of the few times in history someone has legitimately been able to shout ‘Jesus!’ without blaspheming.

But by the time they had gone all the way back to the Temple, Mary’s attitude was a little different from Kevin’s mum. In Luke 2.48 she opens by asking, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this?’ It seems a little harsh a question to ask a boy who was only just entering adolescence and had been forgotten by his parents and community.

But Mary continues, ‘Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety’. Their deep love and concern is behind this outburst. Their parenting skills showed their broken humanity. Even parents God specifically chose to look after His Son fail. What a relief. But that should not lead us to say they weren’t good parents, because we all fail at times.

Protecting teenagers

Perhaps the bigger problem is when no one feels that anxiety for neglected adolescents. When no one shows them any care or love.

Growing up you should be able to step out confidently, safe in the knowledge that someone is there to catch you when you fall. Mary and Joseph’s anxiety shows that they were good parents after all.

Far too many adolescents today don’t have that reassurance. Our research has found that 16 and 17 year olds are more likely to go missing or be victims of violent crime than any other age group, as well as being a high risk group for sexual exploitation and domestic violence. Yet they are the least protected in our society from abuse and neglect.

Jesus’ wider community was those he travelled with. They failed to notice his absence.

Today, in our wider society are we failing to take notice of those growing up staring these difficult issues in the face? For example, 44% of the estimated 16,500 children and young people experiencing or at risk of child sexual exploitation are aged 16 or 17, whilst one in four 16 and 17 year olds do not feel optimistic about their future.

Failing to listen

As a society, corporately, we are failing to listen, notice and act.

But Jesus transformed this experience for good.

Some of the most powerful of Jesus’ parables, like the lost sheep or the prodigal son, come from the experience of being the one looked for, and found by those who love us. Jesus’ personal experience of being lost and found gives added depth to those parables.

Today there is also potential for transformation.

We can speak out for those most at risk in our community as part of the campaign.

We can wrestle with the deep theological issues behind the reality that faces teenagers in our society today.

And, right now, as you stare at these pixels, I urge you to pray. Pray for young people without the safety of someone who protects, cares and is concerned for them.

Growing in wisdom

The final sentence of the brief insight we have into Jesus’ upbringing is perhaps the most important, ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour’. The loving, caring environment that Jesus grew up in allowed him to flourish, even occasional parental forgetfulness couldn’t stop that.

So questioning whether Jesus had good parents is an important question and they certainly showed the necessary concern to be good parents despite their well-publicised lapse. But we must also ask ourselves, as individuals and a society, if we are being good parents to the most vulnerable in our society?

It certainly appears that there is work to be done.







By Ben Palmer - Church team

Help us stop child sexual exploitation this Advent

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Posted: 10 December 2015