Was Jesus capable of exercising bad judgment? According to most Christian teaching, no. Bad judgment sounds too close to sin. We explain away everything Jesus said and did, even when it grates on us in some way. We focus on his “divine” side. We portray Jesus wandering blissfully through Israel, pious and smiling and always saying and doing the exact right thing.
In the words of Philip Yancy, we view Jesus “from above.” But when we view Jesus “from below,” legitimate (in my view) questions arise.
Like the one story from Jesus at age 12 (which I read yesterday), when he stayed behind in Jerusalem and inflicted a three-day panic on his parents as they frantically searched the city for him. Imagine Mary praying, “God, we have lost your Son. Please help us find him.” And it took three days, during which Mary and Joseph no doubt considered every possibility, including the very bad ones.
They finally locate Jesus in the Temple. Perhaps they had already looked there–maybe even started there. Jesus surely didn’t spend three days straight at the Temple, but spent part of the time elsewhere. Mary rightfully scolded her 12-year-old boy: “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Jesus replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” That explanation always seems sufficient in modern sermons. But I’m guessing it didn’t satisfy Mary. Perhaps she immediately responded, “I don’t care! Don’t you ever do this to us again!” But when Mary (let’s assume) told the story to Luke, she left out that part.
Was Jesus oblivious to his mother’s concern? Or did he realize he had done something (dare I say it?) wrong? Did he apologize? There’s not story of him repeating that behavior in subsequent years.
Jesus was 12, and he was human. Was he not capable of bad judgment, even in the midst of righteous intentions?
In the next chapter, Jesus is teaching in his hometown of Nazareth. Initially, people respond positively. Then he takes it too far, crossing a line into heresy, and he alienated people who had no doubt played important roles in his life. For what purpose? Was this just the human side exercising poor judgment? A case of saying more than (he should have known) they were ready to accept?
There are other examples where, looking at Jesus “from below,” we could conclude Jesus didn’t ALWAYS know the exact right thing to do and say. For me, it doesn’t make him any less God. But it goes against the view of Jesus we normally teach and portray.