Understanding; December 30, 2022


Luke 2:49-50 “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.

It’s my personal opinion that the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel are one of the main reasons Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years. (Acts 24:27) Luke needed time to do personal research for his Gospel while Mary and other first-person witnesses were still alive. I’m sure Mary never forgot this particular incident, even though it says she didn’t understand it at the time. And actually, that lack of understanding is what speaks to me right now. We often don’t understand the significance of events while they are happening, and only grasp them later – if at all. We shouldn’t feel bad about that, because, as here, many people in the Bible were the same way. Like Mary and Joseph, sometimes we are too close to events to understand their significance. They were frustrated and worn out from three days of searching for Jesus, and probably couldn’t have accepted anything He might have said, other than perhaps an abject apology. Not getting that, this went right over their heads. However, Mary never forgot the words themselves, and was able to recall them to Luke. I don’t know that Jesus Himself particularly remembered these words after He became an adult, because that too is a common human experience. God might speak something profound through us, and we ourselves aren’t paying any particular attention. I’m reminded of the famous quote from Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” That quote became unforgettable when he was killed trying to communicate the Gospel to a South American tribe, but I’m not sure he himself remembered those words particularly. It all comes back to the fact that God is omniscient but we certainly aren’t. Very few people remember every detail of their own lives, and those who do seem to consider it as much a curse as a blessing. We need to submit everything, past, present, and future, to God and ask Him to show us what we need to hold onto, and what meaning it has for us in our walk with Him.

At this point in my life I’m very aware of the unreliability of human memory! That applies both to external information and personal experience. I’ve had someone thank me for something I had said to them some years before, that, they said, transformed their personal ministry, when I myself didn’t remember having ever met them before! I’m not to run around “seeking to be profound,” but I am to keep myself available to God for however He wants to use me, whether I’m aware of being used or not. I am to ask Him for understanding of whatever I need to understand, and not be anxious about the rest. I have already had many experiences that seemed less than pleasant at the time but later proved to have been real blessings, for me or for someone else. I need to be willing to spend two years in jail, like Paul, so that someone else, like Luke, can do what God has for them to do. That can get difficult! However, I’m continuing to grow in giving all I know of myself to all I know of Christ, and that should be enough for me.

Father, thank You for this reminder. You know how much I like to know things, both temporal and spiritual. Help me keep learning, without demanding to understand more than I need to. Help me indeed trust You fully, as an example to others and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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