“After this He went down to Capernaum, with His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.”
Nestled between a marriage in Cana and a Passover in Jerusalem is a mundane statement, “After this He went down to Capernaum…and they stayed there for a few days.”
What was Mary thinking and pondering about this son of hers? He is her son and He isn’t her Son; mystery of mysteries. He is fully God and fully man, but it isn’t likely she knows this, she is on pilgrimage – the mother is instructed by the son, she is learning from the son,
“And when His parents saw Him [the boy Jesus in the Temple], they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”” Luke 2:48 – 49.
There is no acknowledgment of His parents’ distress, though perhaps He did acknowledge their distress but Luke did not record the acknowledgement. After all, Jesus knows distress over the missing, the lost, the wayward. Jesus comes to seek and save those who are missing, those who are lost. “Did you not know…?” Perhaps these words of Jesus clarified things for Joseph and Mary? Perhaps they put the pieces together for them? More likely the clarification was progressive, more likely the pieces came together slowly, but perhaps this statement from the twelve-year old Jesus was a watershed of sorts which is why Luke recorded it.
When Jesus is around thirty years old He says to Mary in John Chapter Two, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” What’s a mother to do? When Jesus is twelve she is supposed to understand that He needs to be about His Father’s business; when Jesus is thirty she is supposed to understand that His hour hasn’t yet come. Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38) are an attitude that she carries with her throughout her life, a life tethered to the Mystery of mysteries, tethered to the Incarnation; “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
It is presumptuous for those on pilgrimage to think we have it figured out. If we are tethered to the Mystery of mysteries, to the King of kings and Lord of lords; to the Lion Who is a Lamb; how is it we think that we can figure it out? Better for us to say with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Our calling is to be with Jesus, to follow Him wherever He goes. When He sends us out we go; when He calls us in we come. If He attends a marriage we are there, if He visits a hospital we go with Him. A funeral? Well let’s see what life we can bring. Sometimes a word from Jesus may clarify things after the fact; sometimes His word may help us put the pieces of His teaching and our experience together to see a measure of His plan and purpose. At times His word and leading may give us a prospective sense of the path ahead, but let’s be careful to keep our focus on Him, not on what we think we have figured out – there is always that side of the moon that we don’t see.
And what about these disciples who are with Him in Capernaum? Who are they and what are they thinking and how many of them will be with Him in three years? We read in John 6:66, “After this [a particularly mysterious and perplexing teaching of Jesus] many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” Those who remain echo the words of Peter in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
We don’t understand everything He says, we don’t understand everything He does, we don’t understand everything He asks us to do, and we surely don’t understand everything He leads us to and puts us through – we most certainly don’t have it all figured out; but here is what we do know, and we know it well – Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life, He is the Holy One of God.
We worry too much about knowing it all, we put too much stock on answers to the “what ifs?” and “whys?” and “what is going to happens?” of life; and not enough emphasis on knowing Him who has the words of eternal life. Knowing and following Him, the very nature of the experience, is a pilgrimage of twists and turns and surprises and unanswered questions and realigned expectations.
The journey of those who remained with Jesus was a journey of surprises – how far removed from our insistence on codifying the Christian life into predictable pathways and social mores.
James, John, Philip, Nathanael, Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Simon the Zealot…they all had their preconceived notions; we have a better guess at Simon’s than anyone else’s – he was politically oriented, he had a political agenda – but they all had agendas, just like we do – they all had a way they wanted life to be, and likely a way they wanted Jesus to be. It’s easy to confuse the way we want Jesus to be and the way He really is – there were many surprises and shocks in store for the disciples. Many left Jesus, but because some remained with Him we’re reading these words today; some were willing to be shocked and surprised and to live with unanswered questions…as long as they could be with Him.