Jesus lost in the temple
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances,45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching 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 who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Observations & Reflections
Luke is pretty faithful in representing the Jewish customs but it is unclear which “custom” lead Jesus and his family to head to Jerusalem.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. (Luke 2:41-42)
Did they go up when Jesus was 12 because of the Passover or because of another custom? It seems as though Luke is referring to Jesus’ last year as a youth, since his next visit (at age 13) would be his first visit as an adult, and accountable to the yoke of the law. However, the Greek reading of the text is more informative. The Greek would read, more literally,
they (αὐτῶν) having gone up (ἀναβαινόντων) according (κατὰ) to the (τὸ) custom (ἔθος) of the (τῆς) feast (ἑορτῆς) …
Thus, it is clear that Jesus and his family appeared in Jerusalem for the Passover. It seems as though just a few English translations identify this accurately, most likely assuming that English readers will assume based on the context.
However, it should be recognized that Luke included Jesus’ age for a reason. It is no surprise that Luke points out that this even happened when Jesus was only 12. Essentially, Luke is pointing out that Jesus was wise well beyond His age. At age 12 Jesus was zealous for the law even though He was not yet accountable to it.
One will also note that it’s a bit strange for a modern parent to lose a child while traveling. But we must understand how these events occurred in the 1st century. The travel would have been a caravan of people, usually grouped by family. Mary and Joseph would have likely had a dozen or two family members present as the journey was underway. The children would have floated from one family member to another as they travel. This seems evident with Luke’s description of events,
supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances.
Thus, it is not out of the ordinary for parents to have a stretch of time with out the child specifically in their possession. One should no t assume that they were being irresponsible or careless.
Even from a young age, Jesus wasted no time in beginning His ministry and teaching those who were around Him. However, despite the fact that yes, His goal and purpose was to spread the Gospel, He was still the earthly son to Mary and Joseph and had a responsibility to obey His parents as young child. Jesus never tried to overrule His parents at a young age. He still behaved and acted the way a child should be.
This is a wonderful display of how Christ was fully submissive in His role as a child and also in dong the work of God. We can look to this passage as proof that Jesus Christ understood what it meant to be human and understand human emotions and what we go through.
Here we see Jesus setting the example of what it means to be obedient. Throughout the course of His life on earth, He displayed obedience towards His earthly parents and more importantly, to God. Mary and Joseph also had to understand that He was sent here for a greater purpose. Jesus depicted the perfect example of what it meant to first serve God and also show obedience towards His parents.
Mary and Joseph were distraught at not being able to find their son. Yet, as worried as Mary was over loosing her child, she was even more touched by the fact that her son was beginning to display His role as the Savior of this world. Jesus did ultimately live the perfect life and He showed it through His time spent as a young child and into His ministry. There was never a moment in which Jesus wasn’t changing lives and touching those who were around Him.