A Midrash on Parenting

12-year-old Jesus “gets lost”

Midrash is a practice borrowed from Judaism of re-exploring and expanding parts of sacred scripture to keep the sacred scripture fresh and vibrant. One way to create midrash is to picture the story told in the Bible from a different viewpoint, such as another character in the story, or a bystander. The story in Luke 2:41-50 is well known: at age 12, Jesus went missing in Jerusalem and was later found teaching the elders in the temple. What follows is one take on what an outsider may have thought about the episode.

"Christ Among the Doctors" by Master of the Catholic Kings, circa fifteenth century.
“Christ Among the Doctors” by Master of the Catholic Kings, circa fifteenth century.

All I’m trying to say is that you can’t let your kids walk all over you. They need to have some respect for their elders, and if they don’t learn that when they’re young there’s going to be trouble later. The scriptures tell us about raising children. “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” that’s what it says for anyone to read right there. I didn’t get to be this age without knowing a thing or two, and mark my words, they’re going to have trouble with that kid, and they asked for it. They let him get away with this kind of stuff now, sooner or later there will be bigger and bigger problems, and one day the centurions come knocking on your door and you won’t know what he did now!

Lots of us go to Jerusalem for Passover. It is a time to get together with your family and remember the old times, to re-live our heritage. It’s a tradition, and tradition is important. The old ways are the best ways. This year I went to spend Passover with my son, who is an important rabbi in the city. We had a wonderful Seder with our whole family in the oldest part of the city. Even my cousin Rebah came.

A few days later, on the road back home; there was quite a big to-do over the kid who “got lost.” Everyone was in an uproar; lots of people even went back to Jerusalem to help the parents search for him. All that panic because of a 12 year old lost in the big city! But you know what? I know he wasn’t really “lost” at all—that little brat planned the whole thing and was cheeky enough to not even deny it!

The day after Passover there had been lots of us in the streets getting ready for our journey back down the road. There were people and livestock everywhere and you could hardly move. I was near Mary when her boy, Jesus they call him, came up to her. I heard him. He said “Mom, Dad says I should walk back with him and the other men because they have a lot to carry, so I’ll just see you later in the trip.” Mary was busy with getting all her things together, making sure she had the food she needed, and all those things we women have to worry about that the men just assume will happen, so she didn’t pay much attention. I don’t fault her for that. But that Jesus had it all planned. I bet he gave the same line to his father, too, and they both thought he was being honest, but no, he was conniving even then.

So sure enough, it takes crowds of people searching for days until they finally find him. He tells them he’s been in the Temple that whole time and they swallow it hook, line, and sinker! I mean, how dull can they be! This kid just plotted to hide out in the city for days, lied to his parents, and they believe he was in the Temple? Riiiiight. I may be old but I’m not that old. I’ve been around the block once or twice and I still have my marbles! If my boy had tried that stuff when he was that age he wouldn’t have sat down for a week! My husband was one to follow scripture, and it says “spare the rod, spoil the child!”

I can understand their being so relieved to find him and all, maybe even can see why they didn’t scream at him right at that moment, but did he act like he was sorry? No! Not even a bit! Instead he comes out with some sort of line about needing to find his real father! IN PUBLIC! In the TEMPLE!! I was just floored. I mean, we women all have talked about the timing of Mary’s having the baby less than nine months after the wedding, and there have been plenty of heads shaking over her explanation of “angels;” but we would never had said something in public, let alone in the Temple. So here was this smart-alec kid saying this to his parents in God’s house. I was shocked, and so were those around me, I can tell you. That’s when I knew that they’re going to have big trouble with that kid. They let him get way too far out of control.

I know plenty of mothers who think their child is God, but they still know how to teach them right from wrong, teach them respect, and teach them manners. You have to keep them in control, I say. I can’t go with these new ways: teach them to do whatever they want, think however they want! Do that and then you’ll get what you ask for. I’m sure happy my son didn’t get raised that way. No sir, my Caiaphas is already a well respected rabbi at his young age. We taught him respect! He learned not to challenge the old ways. He is going to make a good name for himself. He will be respected by people. He will be remembered. But that Jesus will just be trouble. You raise them with too much freedom, and you’ll see how it turns out, mark my words.

Ron Pudlo

Ron Pudlo is a pediatrician and a proud parent of three wonderful children. He lives in Greensboro, N.C., where he is a member of New Garden Meeting. “Writing Midrashim at Pendle Hill” was published in the August 2011 Friends Journal.

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