Can One Family Truly Be “Separated and Together”?
When I think of the union and separation of families, several scenes immediately come to mind: at different corners of the departure hall, those departing and family and friends who see them off hug and bid farewell to each other in tears (including grandparents and grandchildren weeping together); fathers hugging and sending their wives and children off tearfully to leave themselves and their homeland for neighboring countries to flee the war; during the peak of the pandemic, infected seniors in nursing homes are sent to hospitals with families unable to visit them nor even see them for one last time when they unfortunately pass away. The joys and sorrows of separation in life and in death is the reality that every family has to face.
Yet, after separating with family members, when will there be reunion? I can think of two “separated and reunited families” in the Bible.
(1) Jacob had lived with his parents and elder twin brother Esau since birth. But at the suggestion of his mother, he deceived his father and secured the blessing that was intended for his elder brother. To preserve his life, Jacob fled home to live in a foreign land. Twenty years later, he brought all he gained in the foreign land back home to reconcile with his elder brother who was then a nation and was able to bury his aged father. Just when he thought he could spend his last years joyfully at his home, his beloved son Joseph did not return after leaving home to visit his brothers (he was sold by his brothers). Jacob thought he would never see Joseph again. But God was gracious to Jacob’s family and led Joseph who was sold to become governor of the foreign land. When his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, there was joyful reunion of father and son after 22 years of separation (Genesis 25-47).
(2) At the age of 12, Jesus followed His parents to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. When the festival was over, He did not follow His parents home. Three days later, His parents found Him at the temple and expressed how anxious they were at the separation. On one hand, Jesus responded with a question: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” On the other, “he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:49, 51). It was 18 years later that Jesus left home to fulfil the gospel mission from the Father. At His crucifixion, He first entrusted His mother with His disciple before committing His spirit into the hands of the Father and returning to “the Father’s house.”
The two separations Jacob’s house experienced originated from deficiencies on the part of the family. They were inappropriate. But God turned the separation caused by man into reunion and put what was broken back together. As a teenager, Jesus knew that His real home was the temple, “the Father’s house.” It was appropriate to stay there. Nevertheless, He attached equal importance to His family on earth and was therefore willing to return with His parents to Nazareth where He grew up, to spend 30 years with them. That was also appropriate. Finally, when the time came, Jesus separated with them and returned to the heavenly home to be with the Father. Not only Jesus, but family members who have died (fallen asleep) in Him can also reunite when the Lord comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Whether together or separated, dead or alive, a family in Christ will always be one family.