We are Better Prepared for the Future When We Listen to Our Children

We are Better Prepared for the Future When We Listen to Our Children

Luke 2:48

You’ll be better prepared to endure family turbulence if you pay attention today to what your sons and daughters say and keep their words. “Keeping their words” is the seat belt that will keep you secure in your seat when future storms hit your family. It’s a pattern you can trace in Scripture.

Mary Prepared for Future Storms

Mary endured Jesus’ turbulent future because she didn’t dismiss her Son’s grandiose statement. She kept Jesus’ words. She rode out the storm of Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion because she had her emotional seat belt on.

Are You Keeping the Words?

Are you keeping your children’s words? Or, due to the destructive role social media plays in your life, are you listening to but losing their words? You’ll be better prepared for future family storms if you keep the words your children speak, even the grandiose claims they might make. It’s a pattern we can trace in both Old and New Testaments.

The Case of a Mother

Follow me as I trace the pattern. Mary scolded Jesus. She had a motherly right to scold her twelve-year-old son. Instead of returning home to Nazareth with the rest of his family, and without informing his parents, Jesus remained behind in the Jerusalem Temple. Mary’s twelve-year-old engaged in a question and answer session with religious leaders (Lk 2:46-47). As far as Joseph and Mary were concerned, Jesus was lost.  

It took Joseph and Mary three stormy days[1] of searching to find him (Lk 2:46). Loving parents can identify with the sheer terror associated with this storm, this three-day manhunt. Jesus’ mom, out of love, scolded Jesus, “Child, why have you treated us this way?” (Lk. 2:48). It was emotional.

Jesus’ Grandiose Claims

Twelve-year-old Jesus responded with a grandiose claim: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you[2] know I had to be about my[3] Father’s business?”[4](2:49). Seems rather presumptuous, doesn’t it? “My Father’s business?” Huh? Joseph was standing right there, for Pete’s sake. But young Jesus’ words were a weather forecast, a signal of stormy days ahead. In a few years, Jesus would once again be lost for three days. The storm would be much darker then.

Mary Kept Jesus’ Words

Luke remarks that while his parents were clueless about what Jesus meant, Jesus’ grandiose words gave his mother pause: “Mary[5] kept all these words in her heart” (2:51). “Kept” is διατηρέω[6].

Most of us dismiss the grandiose statements children can make. But Mary wasn’t offended by them nor did she discount or forget Jesus’ words. She kept them. She may not have understood them. But she pondered them over a period of time.[7] By doing so, she fastened her emotional seat belt. Turbulent times awaited her and her Son.  

The pattern appears twelve years earlier. After hearing the startling report about the significance of her newborn son through the shepherds’ grandiose report, Mary “kept [8] all these words in her heart…” (2:19). Mary listened and pondered what she heard. Rather than forget or take their words lightly, Mary retained the grandiose announcement about her newborn Son given by the shepherds. Their words weren’t brushed aside. She may not have fully understood them. But she kept them. Wise move for stormy days ahead.

A Father Kept His Son’s Words

Alert readers of this pattern -- “she kept all these words” -- might recall the same pattern played out by another parent. A father scolded his young son for his equally grandiose claims, and this father also was given pause: “But he kept the words.” “Kept” is διατηρέω. Same word used to describe Mary’s response in Lk 2:51. See the pattern?

That father was Jacob. Joseph, his teenage son, had reported grandiose dreams signifying his lordship over his family (Gen 37:11). Father Jacob scolded his son for his presumptuous claims (Gen 37:10). While Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, his dad chose a better path: he “kept the word.”

Joseph’s words seemed presumptuous. But rather than dismissing them, Jacob kept them. He may not have understood them. By pondering Joseph’s words, he was preparing himself for a parent’s worst nightmare.

You see the striking pattern and parallel connection? At the beginning of each story, a father and a mother responded to a precocious son’s grandiose claims by “keeping the words.” What are we to make of this striking parallel?

Joseph Prepares Us for Jesus

The story of Joseph’s grandiose claims to his father was designed to prepare us for the story of Jesus’ grandiose claims to His father and mother. The story of Joseph and the turbulence he experienced in the Hebrew Bible prepares us for the story of Jesus and the turbulence he encountered in the New Testament. The two stories are twins, double accounts of parents who listened to grandiose claims by a son, but who prepared for the future by keeping the words.

Observe the twin-like characteristics of these boys. Both Joseph and Jesus were favored sons. Both boys were the objects of special favor, introduced as “beloved sons” of their fathers. Both sons are marked out for suffering due to their special status. Both boys suffered rejection from family and are expelled. Blood was shed in both stories.[9]

Both Joseph and Jesus made rather grandiose claims about their futures while still young. Both young men appeared to be presumptuous. Both of their claims qualified for dismissal. Both boys were scolded by a parent. Both boys then encountered storms: severe rejection and suffering. The storm's impact on their parents would be devastating.


Will Joseph’s Words Come True?

In Joseph’s story, we wonder if his grandiose claims will come true. Will youthful Joseph be vindicated? Will he actually exercise lordship over his entire family? Will his dreams come true?  

Or will the turbulence of suffering and rejection be final? Is Joseph just another presumptuous young man? Is this teenager just another young male madly in love with himself? Is he fond of taking selfies?

It takes years for the entire story to unfold, but Joseph’s grandiose claims about himself did eventually come true. His prophetic dreams of lordship over his family were realized, but not before he endured severe turbulence. Joseph’s claims, while grandiose, were vindicated. And because Jacob kept his words, he as a father weathered the storm, living to see Joseph again.

Fasten Your Seat Belts

When turbulence lies in the route of a passenger airliner, the captain of the aircraft asks us to buckle up our seat belts. Turbulence lies ahead, but there is no reason to panic. Buckle up and stay calm. Keep the captain’s words. We’ll get through the storm.

“Kept the words” became the means by which Jacob and Mary buckled up emotionally. By pondering their words, they prepared themselves for stormy weather. Turbulence lay ahead for Joseph and Jesus, but no reason for parents to panic; just buckle up and stay calm. Your sons will make it through the storm. Joseph made it through the turbulence. And his father survived the storm. Jesus endured the storm of rejection. And Mary, His mother, survived a mother’s worst nightmare.

But we could be forgiven for reading the life of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and concluding, at the foot of the cross that His grandiose claims crashed and burned. After all, He was eventually rejected and crucified on a cross between two criminals. Where was His Father now? How can He survive the storm of crucifixion?

To make matters worse, we can still hear the mocking voices at the cross, “He saved others; let him save himself” (Lk. 24:35, 36, 39). In other words, “What happened to your grandiose claims, Jesus? Where is your Father now?” Even the soldiers and the criminal jeered at him, “Save yourself and us!” But he stayed on the cross. He didn’t save Himself. End of story, right?

Not so fast. Keep your seat belt on. We must not forget the prior story of Joseph. He also made grandiose claims, was rejected, disappeared into the bowels of a foreign country, ending up in a prison cell; but he was vindicated eventually. He became lord of all his family. His father endured and was able to enjoy the vindication.

Joseph’s storm prepares us for Jesus’ storm. “Kept the words” on Mary’s part, then, is a signal to us of hope, a signal to keep reading the life of Jesus. Rejection of Jesus would become his family’s darkest storm, but rejection will be overcome by triumph and vindication. Just wait for three days.

So, by observing Luke’s signal, “kept the words,” we can confidently anticipate that Jesus will indeed return after His crucifixion and be vindicated. It would again take three days for Jesus to be found after being lost in death. But He will be found!

Like Joseph, Jesus, too, will eventually arise and return to a position of authority. He will rise from the dead and be declared Lord of all. That presumptuous claim made by twelve-year-old Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple came true. Jesus was doing the work of His Father in heaven. And His Father raised Him from the dead.

Joseph: lord and savior

Joseph returned as lord of all his family. But he also became a savior; Joseph offered life-giving help to keep his family and Egypt from starving to death. Joseph fed the world with bread. Joseph’s suffering prepared him to become a savior to his world. His father Jacob lived to see it. His seat belt was fastened.

Jesus: Lord of All and Savior of the World

Jesus also returned from rejection and the cross through resurrection as Lord of all. But he also became a Savior. His suffering on the cross prepared Him to offer life-giving help to both His national family (the nation of Israel) and the Gentiles. Jesus became a Savior for the world. Jesus feeds the world with His life. In His name, repentance and forgiveness of sins can be proclaimed to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Lk 24: 47).

His mother lived to enjoy the triumph, too. She buckled up emotionally by keeping Jesus’ words.

Are You Prepared?

Parents should anticipate stormy days. But parents can be better prepared for dark days by keeping the words of Jesus and pondering the significance of the words their young children speak. It’s a pattern in the Scriptures.

Is it a pattern in your experience? Are you buckled up for stormy days ahead? Are you keeping the words of Jesus and pondering the words, even the grandiose statements, of your children? Do you ponder them, think long and hard about them? Or, do we treat them like other social media notifications, deservedly dismissed and forgotten after five seconds?

Buckle Up Today

Let me suggest that the time to fasten your seat belt is before the storm hits. Pay less attention to trivial social media and more attention to Jesus’ words and the words your children are speaking, despite their grandiose claims. Make a habit of keeping their words. You’ll endure the storms of parenting.

Thank you for reading and keeping these words.



[1] Luke is careful to inform us of the three days, the three days it took to find Jesus. Not a coincidence or an unimportant detail. The three days are a prelude to the three days after Jesus’ crucifixion when Jesus was lost a second time. In both cases, those who searched for Jesus were searching in the wrong places.

[2] The verb “know” is plural. “Didn’t you both—Joseph and Mary—know…?” The idea is, yes, they should have known.

[3] Luke is showing us that Jesus is aware of and driven by a higher family commitment, a commitment to His Father in heaven. His parents were searching for him among His earthly family members, rather than His heavenly family. His earthly family was the wrong place to search for Jesus. At the end of Luke’s Gospel (bookends), the same fruitless search for Jesus occurs. After three days, the women in Jesus’ life search for him at the tomb. Just as Jesus asked Joseph and Mary, “Why were you searching for me?” so also the angel asked the women, “Why are you searching for the living among the dead?” The women were searching for Jesus in the wrong place, in a tomb for departed earthly families. People keep searching for Jesus in the wrong places, earthly families and earthly cemeteries.

[4] The Greek word here is unclear. It is literally, “my Father’s things.” English translations handle this in various ways: “my Father’s house” or “my Father’s business.” But Luke is intentionally vague. The focus is on Jesus’ commitment to a heavenly Father in contrast to his earthly family. From this point on in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus redefines His family: Jesus’ family consists of  people who hear and obey God’s Word. Family is not defined by blood relationships, but by faith-based obedience.

[5] I’m tempted here to highlight the value Luke places on a woman’s ability to think and reason about the words of Jesus. But I’ll pass up the temptation so as to keep this blog under 100 pages. But why don’t you ponder it for yourself. It is the mother who ponders the words of Jesus. If you are a mother, why not begin to follow Mary’s example. Use your mind to ponder the words of Jesus. Be like Mary.

[6] To retain, to hold onto, to grip, rather than to let go and lose and forget.

[7] The tense of the Greek verb is what is termed “the imperfect”; this means Mary kept the words for a period of time. She mulled over them for a while, pondered them for months and years, and thought about them over and over again. She didn’t lose them. She kept them.

[8] The Greek verb is συντηρέω, a derivative of the verb used in Lk 2:51; it has the same idea.

[9] The blood of a goat was shed in Joseph’s case; Jesus’ blood was shed as God’s Lamb.