There is only one Scripture passage of Jesus as an adolescent. What does it tell us about Jesus’ adolescence? What can we learn for parenting and youth ministry? Read here part 3 of a 4-part series. Continuing from Part 2 of “Lessons from Adolescent Jesus”…Click here if you missed Part 2 or Part 1.
Dialogue and Reverse Mentoring
46 And it happened that after three days they found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those hearing him were being amazed at the understanding and his answers.
Unlike what you’ll see in just about all the paintings of this episode, Jesus wasn’t in the middle of the teachers as if he was the only faithful pilgrim in the Temple. He was also in the midst of the crowds. During different moments of the year teachers spread out all over Solomon’s Portico, and each had its circle of faithful pilgrims willing to lend them an ear, interested in asking questions, and eager to expose their own ideas. Various teachers could also come together and debate their points of view, while the crowd listened on, and yet even at times some in the audience would chime in. Jesus was by and large immersed in this environment for almost three full days.
The passage makes the case for sincere intergenerational dialogue, the importance of small groups, and the value of “reverse mentoring”. This passage invites youth mentors to take a second look at how the Temple teachers of the law (the best and brightest teachers of all Israel) transmitted their faith and traditions through frank, and at times poignant, dialogue. The education of Jewish children emphasized strict and repetitive memorization, as well as listening to narratives about God and his role among the People of God. But notice the adolescent Jesus isn’t learning that way. On the contrary, this passage shows us that from about 12 years of age the boy was considered an adult. He entered as an equal into the discussion of the adults, learning from them in a lively way that engages the whole person in deep, prolonged, respectful, and sincere conversations about God and life as a son of God. So the next time you want to organize a retreat with an endless number of talks and presentations, ask yourself if you’ve understood the value of small groups discussions and dialogue.
And what’s this about “reverse mentoring”? Notice that the teachers of the law were amazed at Jesus’ understanding and answers. Reverse mentoring is all about what adults can learn from the younger generations so as always to improve their youth ministry. The only difference between mentoring and “reverse mentoring” is the direction. In both cases the adult mentor seeks to actively and patiently seek out young persons, except that in reverse mentoring the adult accompanies young people so as to learn from them.
I’ve written more on this particular topic here: Reverse Mentoring: Tools for Consultation and Feedback.
Accompaniment, Discernment, Empowerment
Verse 43 tells us something about his character, choosing to remain in Jerusalem while his parents returned home, at first unaware of his absence. It’s the first deliberate decision Jesus makes in the Gospels. It’s a decision that opted in favor of his Heavenly Father’s will; one of the first echoes of his upcoming passion. Verses 44 thru the first part of 46 reveal a lot about the spirit of freedom and trust within the holy family, the habits of those ancient caravans, true “pilgrim communities”, and the diligent searching of his parents for their son and principal love in this life.
Then, in the latter part of the text, Luke provides us with a glimpse into the deep faith of his parents, particularly Mary. Verse 48 makes it clear that his parents didn’t understand his actions, likely also a direct reference to us nearly 2,000 later as we continue to try to understand Jesus’ actions in this passage.
We are placed in the shoes of Mary in verse 51. We see Mary as a woman of deep faith and diligent obedience, as she treasures all these words in her heart, setting the bar high as an example to all future Christians of how we are to respond to the words and actions of God in our lives.
So we see that the text invites parents, teachers and any youth mentors, following the example of Mary in particular, to be deeply interested in accompanying their teens. “Being there” for them during their adolescent years is more than just providing them with the essentials of life, transporting them to school and to all to all their activities, making sure everything is going according to plans at school or at youth group, etc.
It also means discerning. That is, it means trying to understand all the significant events and manifestations in the life of adolescents through the eyes of faith, in light of God’s will, regardless of how odd they seem. It means actively searching to meet them where they’re at, as much as possible, without ever losing faith or hope.
And then it means empowering them to live their own faith journey. It means putting aside one’s own plans for their lives, sincerely helping them discover and embrace God’s unique plan for each one of them. And then it means helping them to experience God in their life through personal testimony and a sincere and open faith sharing of one’s convictions.
I write about the role parents and all youth mentors play with regard to teens in this article: Equipping Families to Disciple their Children.
I also have an article to help parents and leaders mentor teens: A New and Effective Tool for Mentoring Teens.
You can also read my article on empowering teens to be young apostles: 6 Steps to Equipping and Launching Young Apostles.
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