The birth of Jesus recorded in Luke revealed a dilemma for Mary and Joseph; who is Jesus, Mary’s baby? The truth was that Mary had become pregnant, not by Joseph, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. In their world, as today, this is not a credible explanation. This reality left Mary and Joseph with a dilemma, do they insist on the truth and be considered demented laughing stocks or do they let people believe the logical conclusion, that Joseph was the father of Jesus? The rest of Luke’s gospel indicates that the latter was the approach they followed. Luke later mentions that Jesus was “thought to be Joseph’s son.” Twelve years later at the temple, Mary chastised Jesus for staying at the temple telling him that she and his father, meaning Joseph, had been worried about him. Jesus on the other hand took a different approach. His response here and later was to affirm that God was his father. He told Mary that she should have known that he had to be in his Father’s house, not Joseph’s house, but God’s, the temple. Luke comments that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus had said to them. His comment is thought provoking. Both Mary and Joseph had received an explanation from the angel Gabriel on who Jesus was. Both Mary and Joseph knew that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, so the question remains, why didn’t they understand Jesus’ words that he had to be about his Father’s business? If it was difficult for Mary and Joseph to comprehend what Jesus had said, imagine how difficult it would have been for others to do so.
Nevertheless, while the truth, for many people was impossible to believe, John would reveal later that Jesus’ affirmation that God was his father was one of the reasons that the religious leaders plotted to kill him. Others would consider him out of his mind, even some family members came at one point to take him away, because they thought he had lost his mind. In other words, Jesus would eventually die because he refused to deny the truth of his identity. Mary’s practice of presenting Jesus as Joseph’s son could have caused her to forget who Jesus really was and possibly created an obstacle for her other children who Scripture tells us didn’t believe in Jesus during his lifetime, although later two of them, Jude and James, would later become leaders in the church.
Mary’s example while logical, is in contrast to the way Jesus lived. Both of them cause us to reflect on how we will live. When we choose not to live authentically, we run the risk of believing a lie and leading others to do the same. On the other hand, living out the truth can be costly, so we have a choice. We can either let people believe what they will and not correct them with the truth, as Mary and Joseph did, or we can pay the price and walk in the truth as Jesus did. Scripture teaches us that the way of living a free life is to walk in the light (truth) as Jesus walked in the light. In that way, while we may be ridiculed, which by the way, Jesus said we would be, we live in the freeing knowledge that we are living authentic lives as Jesus did.