41 Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. 43 After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them.
Today historians are often interested in the early years of famous people because it helps us understand how they developed into the people they became. Up to this point, Joseph and Mary had checked all the boxes. They birthed a miraculous baby, had him circumcised, and carried out purification. As the firstborn he was presented and dedicated. They received amazing blessings and prophecies over the child. Then, after doing everything required by the law, they returned home to the obscurity of Nazareth. This story foreshadows Jesus’ teaching mission and reveals His unique relationship with the Father. Within the context of Luke’s Gospel, it represents a transition to Jesus’ ministry. Luke’s intention was to show that Christ knew that He was the risen Lord by the age of 12. Because Christ was fully human, He did need to develop and mature into manhood. Yet, let us not forget that Christ was and is fully divine. He knew who He was long before anyone else recognized it.
At the age of 13 a Jewish boy was obligated to observe the law. This story represents not only a coming of age for the person of Jesus, but for God’s people as well. Passover was 1 of 3 annual feasts that Jews were required to celebrate in Jerusalem. This was done in commemoration of God’s deliverance or Exodus of his people out of Egypt where they were enslaved. Joseph and Mary most likely would have been traveling in a caravan and would have thought Jesus to be with the other children. After what must have been 3 agonizing days, they find Him in the temple complex among the teachers. Those who heard him were astonished at his teaching. His parents were also astonished, but Mary’s words convey distress as she says “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” His answer is almost flippant as he says, “Why were you searching for Me?” He asked them, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” This probably confused the young parents as Jews did not think of God as the father.
There is a strong sense of divine causality in the statement “I had to be.” Joseph and Mary did not understand what their son was saying. Similar misunderstandings occurred throughout Jesus’ ministry and would only be remedied by the resurrection. The Passover is symbolic of Christ’s victory over death. Just as the Jews were set free from bondage in Egypt, Christ was free to set humanity free from eternal damnation. It is no coincidence that Jesus’ ministry was foretold at the celebration of the Passover. And when His precious blood shed on the cross at calvary, He conquered death once and for all. The theological emphasis of this passage is Christological. Luke reveals that long before He began His public ministry Jesus was aware of His unique relationship with the Father. His calling is revealed when Jesus enters into the presence of like-minded believers. This is an illustration of how we grow through community and fellowship with fellow believers. Our identities in Christ are often revealed to us through these shared experiences. Checking all the religious boxes was not enough for Jesus. I believe that his desire for us is to be in relationship with other believers. Think about the people in your life that are helping you to realize your God given identity. It may be a teacher, co-worker, friend, sibling, or spouse.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Can you identify at least 3 people in your life that are helping you realize your God given Identity? What are you doing to intentionally build relationships with these people?
- We were all created with a unique purpose to serve God’s Kingdom. Our individual journeys of self-discovery are all different. Asking the world to show you who you are is like asking to be lied to. Have you asked God to show you how you are?
- Our view of who we think God is, has everything to do with how we live out our faith. You can know everything about God, without knowing God. Building a relationship requires spending time with someone. Are you building a relationship with God on a daily basis?
Reminisce with children about yours and their favorite teachers (school or church) over the years. Discuss qualities that made these teachers so special and memorable. In the passage today, we learn how Jesus was listening and asking questions to the teachers in the temple. We see that Jesus was learning about His Father, God, even as a young boy. While Jesus did know He was the Son of God, talking with the temple teachers confirmed what He already knew. Take time to thank God for the teachers in your lives who have supported or continue to support you. If your family feels led, write a letter to a teacher thanking them for their contribution to your life. (And if you’re able, include a small gift card as an extra “thank you!”)
Pray for Samuel and Shadai, global workers in our church family. They and their two children serve in Mexico, working in Christian education to disciple and equip children, teen-agers and school staff. Pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading in every area.