Encountering Jesus’ desire
to Test and Refine Our Faith
By Chelsey Duncan
In reading about Mary and her encounters with Jesus, here is what stuck out to me about Mary and her faith: “She believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
In the first encounter we read together, found in Luke 2:41-51, Mary and Joseph have started their journey home after the Passover Feast. Since they were traveling with their family and several friends, they did not realize Jesus was missing until a day into their journey! Being a mom myself, I can’t imagine the way Mary’s heart must have dropped in worry and fear in that moment when she realized her son was missing.
After three agonizing days of searching, Mary and Joseph find Jesus back in the temple, sitting among teachers, listening to them and asking questions. As any good parent would be, they are astonished and distressed that He had not left with them and their relatives. Mary immediately goes into mom mode, questioning her son’s actions and intentions: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (2:48). But Jesus’ response to his worried, relieved, and probably slightly angered mother is surprising, or would be if this were an ordinary child. He says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (2:49). Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but Mary treasured up all these things in her heart (2:51).
As I read this passage, I certainly related more to Mary as a mother worried for her young child. But what I, and we, must remember is that Jesus is no ordinary child. And this is not the first time Mary has “treasured up” things about her unique son in her heart. Earlier in chapter 2, Mary “treasured up” what the shepherds who came to see her newborn son said to her concerning Him. They said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (2:10-12,17). While others wondered at what the shepherds told them, Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart (2:19).
Also prior to this temple encounter, while Jesus was still very young, Mary and Joseph took Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as all were commanded to do with every firstborn child, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. They were greeted by Simeon, a righteous and devout man whom the Spirit of God rested upon. Simeon approached Mary and Joseph “in the Spirit,” lifted up young Jesus in his arms, and said of Him, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word: for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (2:29-32).
Simeon also said just to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (2:35). In encounter after encounter that Mary has with others as they see her son, she is given news about who her child is and what He will do in His life.
Even in His conception, Mary did not have an ordinary experience, and she was told some shocking things about who her son would be. In Luke 1, an angel visited Mary to tell her she had found favor with God. (What kind of amazing woman do you have to be for that!) The angel said to her, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (1:31-33).
Mary had known since the day she was told she would have a baby that this baby would be special. Not special in the sense that every mother thinks her little one is “special,” but in a more real, true sense, the child she would bear would be the promised Messiah from the covenant she holds dear. This child would be the new King she and her people have been waiting for for hundreds of years. This child, her child, would be the fulfillment of all that God had promised.
So back to Mary and Joseph with their 12-year-old son in the temple. Mary knew this was no ordinary child. Although for a decade, she had no further recorded promises made to her about her son, and although she had no further recorded visits from an angel to remind her the child she was raising was the Son of God, Mary had treasured up what was said to her about her son in her early days of motherhood. And now in the temple, her son reminds her that He is no ordinary child. He is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the long-awaited new King from the line of David, the Savior of the world.
Was it hard for Mary to accept the identity of her son as more than just her son? Absolutely! Especially in moments like this, when He is still young and has been under her care and protection since the day He was born. But as Jesus began His transition from a young child to a wise and strong young man, I think God the Father gave Mary this worrisome moment with her son to remind her of all that she had treasured up in her heart. She knew that her son had an identity more encompassing, more important, and more exciting than just being her firstborn son. He was also the firstborn Son of God Himself, sent as the promised Messiah, the long-awaited King from the line of David, the Savior of the world.
Chelsey Duncan is married to Sean, an associate pastor at UFC. She is a mom to one daughter with a baby boy on the way. Before leaving her job to be a stay-at-home mom, she worked in an architecture firm designing custom homes and interiors. She has been attending UFC for almost 10 years and is so grateful for the way the Lord has grown and shaped her through this church in that time.