Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.
Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with G‑d and all the people.
The number three is very important in Celtic tradition. In fact, it’s considered the perfect number. It represented the three elements — Earth, Sea, and Sky. It represented the “middle path” — the balanced way of navigating the intertwined reality of this world and the Other world. It represented their understanding of the phases of the moon and the stages of one’s life.
When The Way of Jesus came to Ireland, it’s said that Patrick used the shamrock to represent the Trinity, the Triune G-d. And, because of the Celtic peoples understanding of the sacred number three, it made sense to them. They recognized their religious tradition as their “Old Testament” — it pointed to the reality of the Realm of G-d revealed in Jesus the Messiah.
For them, the number three represents completeness; wholeness.
You can understand why, then, “Three days later…” shimmered out to me. Luke’s the only one who tells us this story; that Mary and Joseph found Jesus’ “three days later…” And that phrase — “three days” — should call out to us. It harkens us to the end of the story. And Luke’s telling of the end of the story is also marked by a couple (possibly husband and wife) returning home from a three days journey from Jerusalem. They encounter the “found” Jesus (who was “lost” for three days). Yes, Luke is definitely bringing his story to completeness; to wholeness.
And in the middle?
In the middle we find Jesus. He’s challenging the religious institutions of his day, even from a young age. And then, at the end of Luke’s story, Jesus is again challenging people’s understanding of Scripture and reality and justice.
So, in the middle, Jesus.
How is Jesus challenging us today? Are we content with the way our societies are? Are we satisfied with how we relate to people who are different from us — whether it’s the color of their skin or their socio-economic status or their sexual orientation? Do we see others as our sisters and brothers?
Are we challenged by the way we are destroying our planet? Are we pleased with the way things are as long as it doesn’t affect us?
What about our religious and political affiliations? Are we being challenged by the way we seem to be ever divided and never united? Are we challenged about how the powerful seem to be getting more and more powerful and the weak and poor seem to be getting weaker and poorer?
In all of these ways, Jesus is challenging us. He’s challenging us to not settle for anything less than equality and justice and peace for everyone. And then, the way Luke tells us the story, things will be complete. Things will be whole. We will be One.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.