The Return to Nazareth
39 After Joseph and Mary had done everything that the Law of the Lord commands, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40The child Jesus grew. He became strong and wise, and God blessed him.
The Boy Jesus in the Temple
41 Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. 42And when Jesus was twelve years old, they all went there as usual for the celebration. 43After Passover his parents left, but they did not know that Jesus had stayed on in the city. 44They thought he was traveling with some other people, and they went a whole day before they started looking for him. 45When they could not find him with their relatives and friends, they went back to Jerusalem and started looking for him there.
46Three days later they found Jesus sitting in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was surprised at how much he knew and at the answers he gave.
48When his parents found him, they were amazed. His mother said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!”
49Jesus answered, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn't you know that I would be in my Father's house?” 50But they did not understand what he meant.
51Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. His mother kept on thinking about all that had happened.
52 Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people.
This account of the 12-year-old Jesus is not found in any of the other gospels. In the story we see Mary and Joseph’s commitment to their faith as they went to Jerusalem for the Passover every year. Though this was required of every Jew, few could afford the finances and time to make the trip.
According to the Mishnah, the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism, Jesus’ religious instruction would have become more intense at the age of 12. The depth of Jesus’ knowledge surprised “everyone who heard him” (v 47). And when his parents finally found him in the temple, they were amazed. It’s not clear if they were amazed about his knowledge or the fact that he had chosen to stay behind in Jerusalem and caused them to worry. Probably both.
Mary and Joseph may each have assumed that Jesus was with the other parent. He was of that intermediate age where he might have been with the women and children or with the men and the older boys. His progress from child to adult is even seen in the words “The child Jesus grew” (v 40) and “Jesus became wise, and grew strong”(v 52). Jesus’ question regarding why his parents had to look for him, “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?” (v 49) reveals much about what he understood about himself, even if his earthly parents couldn’t understand him.
This story isn’t about what Jesus knew about God but that he knew God, knew him as Father. As we continue to form spiritually, perhaps we can borrow a discipline from Mary who “kept on thinking about all that had happened,” much like she did in Luke 1:19 soon after Jesus’ birth.
Lord God, I confess that I still have much to learn about who Jesus is. I thank you that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I can ponder and wonder, just as Mary did, and come to know and understand your Son more deeply, in whose name I pray. Amen.