COMING OF AGE – KNOWING YOUR IDENTITY
BY PS. HENRY PILLAI
SCRIPTURE OF THE WEEK: LUKE 2:41-52
Coming of Age is a tradition practised by all cultures. Whether it’s for a boy or a girl, it’s a great celebration acknowledging the transition of a child into adulthood. These traditions bond the family and the marriage and it is something God ordained, even in Scripture.
In the coming of age, the child goes through many changes physically and emotionally and sometimes they may think these changes are bad. In celebrating the transition, we give the child confidence and assurance to embrace his/her growth. In Malaysia, we recognise this by giving the child their own identity card at the age of 12.
An Israelite child in Bible times had three teachers: 1) The mother was the child’s teacher until weaned, 2) The father was the child’s second teacher until he/she reached puberty, 3) The Scriptures was the third and final teacher for each child.
‘Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.’ (Proverbs 1:8-9)
This Coming of Age celebration notes the change of ‘teacher’; from one’s earthly father to his/her Heavenly Father.
In the Jewish faith, Boys reach religious maturity at the age of 13 and become a bar mitzvah (“bar mitzvah” means “son of the commandment” literally, and “subject to commandments” figuratively).
Girls mature at 12, and become a bat mitzvah (“bat mitzvah” means “daughter of the commandment”).
The origin and the roots of the ‘Bar/Bat Mitzvah’ celebration go back to the day of the second Temple. The celebrant, be it a boy or a girl, would be brought to the Temple courtyard to receive the Priests’ and Elders’ blessings.
(Luke 2:40-52) ‘And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was 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. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.’
We see here, Jesus not only received blessing, but He was also a blessing to all who heard Him. His relationship with God and the Word of God was perfect in every way that He was able to teach with authority.
Central to our identity in Christ is that we are children of God and it is God’s desire that we continue to grow in maturity with full understanding of our authority as heirs of the Almighty God.
‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ (John 1:12-13)
‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.’ (Romans 8:14-17)
The Greek word used in John 1:12-13 is “teknon” and it refers to :
– newly born believer.
In contrast, the Greek word “huios” used in Romans 8:14-17 denotes :
– a mature, adult son
– an heir to his father’s name, authority, his possessions, his responsibilities.
FREEDOM TO BE WHO YOU ARE: THE GIFT OF KNOWING YOUR IDENTITY
‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’ (Galatians 5:1)
Freedom to be who God created us to be is an integral part of our Identity in Him. Freedom is autonomy, independence, and the power and authority to make wise choices, which will lead us into an abundant life in Jesus Christ. True freedom comes from knowing who God is and knowing who we are in Christ.