In today’s reading we hear the only story recorded in the Gospels that gives us a glimpse into Jesus as a child. Apart from this passage we go directly from infant to adulthood. There are some interesting stories that appear in the apocrypha and other writings that are not included in the Bible. So why the importance of this particular event? What is Luke trying to show us by including this story in his Gospel?
I have participated in the Susan G Kolman 60 mile walk over a three day period and I could barely walk after day one, which was 20 miles. We should also note that only men were required to make the journey, so the presence of Mary being included in this shows her commitment to Jewish tradition as well as her family and raising Jesus in Jewish teaching and traditions.
The age of twelve in Jewish practice is when religious instruction became more intense as they reached a more mature understanding of their faith., very similar to how we begin confirmation classes around the same age as young adults are ready for a deeper understanding of religion and faith.
The Passover feast celebration lasted seven days. At the end of that time we see Jesus’ family pack up and head home.
Upon first reading this scripture I was struck by thinking “how could Mary and Joseph not be aware that Jesus was not with them before they began their journey back home? And how in the world did they not have a clue until after an entire day that he was missing?” Well, imagine that you are traveling with a HUGE caravan of families. Husbands chatting away, women talking together and all the kids of many different ages playing, skipping, running about. There was a lot of activity and commotion. It truly was an “it takes a village” type of atmosphere. And Jesus at the age of twelve, I’m sure his parents believed him to be able to realize “seven days is over, that’s my village packing up and heading home, I best be on my way.” I don’t think that Jesus’ parents leaving him behind just like the movie Home Alone is the point of this scripture even though for those of us who have momentarily lost their child in a store can recall the sheer panic of the situation and yes, it is slightly comforting to know that the parents of the Son of God have done the same thing.
After heading back to Jerusalem and searching for Jesus everywhere for three days, they finally find him at the temple listening to the teachers and asking questions of them. Three days…perhaps foreshadowing the mission of Jesus’ life., just as the moment when Mary Madeline and the other women go back to the Tomb three days after His death and are shocked to not find Jesus where he is expected to be. Jesus is twelve and all those who listened to him asking questions and giving answers “where amazed at His understanding and His answers.” Perhaps Luke was giving us a glimpse of who Jesus truly was and how it was emerging at such a young age.
Finally Jesus’ parents find him and Mary asks “Why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” I can tell you I would have had some more choice words for my child than Mary did. But Jesus’ response gives us even more of a glimpse of how much this young man was tuned in to the calling on His life. He responds with “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” In the original Greek, he actually says Dei…which translates to “it is necessary” for me to be in my Father’s house. This is the first time that Jesus begins to reveal a little bit of His true self right in the center of Jerusalem not only to His parents but to those around them listening. The very place that later would put him to trial and crucify Him.
This is also the first time we read where Jesus refers to God as HIS Father. There was no disrespect to Joseph when this was said but Jesus was making it clear that there was a special relationship and intimacy between Him and His heavenly Father and at this moment in time we realize that Jesus is fully aware of his mission here on earth. At the age of 12, this young man so in tune with the calling on His life that He must make his parents aware. We see his parents struggling with this as the verse states “they did not understand what he said to them.” Jesus was making it clear that He knows who He is and what his mission on Earth is but His parents still were unable to fully comprehend it all. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Mary takes it all in once again just as she did before Jesus’ birth…she pondered all these things in her heart.
So in the next verse we see that Jesus models a respect and obedience to His earthly parents for the remainder of his young life…Jesus goes home with Mary and Joseph as He awaits God’s timing to begin his ministry.
As I was reflecting upon this passage and connecting it to the beginnings of our New Year, I had some thoughts and challenges for us all. How are we called to be about our Father’s business today? Jesus at such a young age felt the call of God on His life of ministry. Take a look at our own life. Even if our job is mundane, we have the opportunity to be about our Creator’s business each day by showing grace, love, peace and kindness to our coworkers….and yes extending that grace, love, peace and kindness even to ourselves. As Jesus stated “it is necessary” for us to do this. It is necessary for us to be learning and growing in God’s word. It is necessary for us to show grace, love, peace and kindness to others and to ourselves. Just because our church building is closed, we can still be in God’s temple wherever we are. Create a space in our home where we can study and meditate so that we may grow in wisdom. Say yes to that virtual Bible study, say yes to sending in that video of yourself reading the scripture or sharing your musical gift. Grab yourself a daily devotional and start your day off setting your mind on God.
Another question raised to me was “what do I need to let go of so that I can seek Jesus fully?” Just as Jesus’ parents searched and searched for three days to find Him. Perhaps those of us with young children need to acknowledge that they are growing up and needing to spread their wings. We need to slowly release that protective bubble we keep around our kids for safety and shelter. As Jesus revealed his true self to his parents we need to be open to listen to our children’s own path of growth and maturity even if it is hard to let that control go and trust that they will be okay as they make their way in this world.
Maybe it is a job that we have been struggling with but haven’t had the courage to open ourselves up to new opportunities. Or perhaps it’s as simple as needing to let go of the worry, anxiety, struggles and pain that 2020 may have caused us.
It is a New Year for all of us. Yes, we still have some time before hopefully things will come to be somewhat back to a sense of “normal” but let us take today and the days forward to set our minds on being about our God’s business. Let’s remember to look for God in the unexpected places. We may think that Jesus should be here in the church building or with us during choir rehearsal but think of where Mary and Joseph found Jesus. He was not with relatives or at the place His family had all been staying. He was at the temple amongst teachers and elders, those who his parents thought he would have the least in common with. Maybe it is our neighbor who we put up with for the sake of civility that God is trying to use to bring us closer to Godself. Maybe we just need to look out the window at the beautiful snow on the green branches to remind us of God’s hand in the beauty of creation. Perhaps it is in the fresh perspective we have after the loss of a friendship or relationship that we thought we couldn’t live without. Clearing our hearts and our minds to make way for ourselves to be about the business of our God on a more consistent basis. Let us let go of the past year or years of whatever we have been dealing with and look for Jesus in our every day lives. Let us seek this week to find the Jesus that we may have lost along our caravan of life.