At 12 years old, the Son of God, Jesus, could follow the caravan with Joseph and the men or with Mary, the women, and children. When evening comes, the absence of Jesus forces them to leave the group’s safety. In the Gospels, the three days indirectly recall the death—resurrection of Jesus. The time of in-between, of loss, of mourning. Mary’s question is not directed toward Jesus, like “What are you doing here? Why did you stay?” Inhabited by her anguish, she formulates a reproach: “My child, why did you do this to us?” The weight of Mary’s word is to bear on the relationship of generation and belonging. We could translate “my child.” A word which, in a certain way, ‘captures’ Jesus, a parent’s comment that defines the child’s identity through his family ties, is indeed the case in the Jewish world. So Jesus in the temple at 12 years old is an excellent example of faith.
There is a certain harshness in Jesus’ response. Not “sorry, mum, I forgot to tell you.” But rather: “Why were you looking for me? You do not know?”. Jesus in the temple at 12 years old evokes the identity of adult Jesus, defined not by his family but by His relationship with God. Jesus’ answer expresses a rupture. Mary and Joseph do not find ‘their’ Jesus. We already hear here his future words: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”
Jesus in the Temple at 12 years old
A Christian theologist uses this story to evoke the mission of Jesus. His first word calls God’ Father’, like his last word on the cross:’ Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. ‘ The first initiative of Jesus is in Jerusalem, the place of the apparitions and Pentecost. Some researchers point to the young Jesus’s intelligence, who listens and asks questions. People are surprised by his answers (and not ‘ecstatic’ as one often translates). His way of thinking surprises and disturbs; adult, his teaching will cause much more controversy than admiration. The prophet Simeon announced it just before this story (2.34).
Christians underline the astonishment of Mary and Joseph when they found Jesus in the temple at 12 years old. Do we think they knew everything? They don’t even understand Jesus’ answer! These good practitioners have performed the Passover rites well but are being forced to leave the familiar road and are lost. It can happen to anyone, right? Knowing what you have learned as information is one thing. But understanding the reality from within is something else.
In faith, what one ‘knows’ is never indeed acquired, according to Luke. This is why the path theme is so important in his book. Like Mary and Joseph, we wait for God based on our experience and our images of him. But now, he is no longer with us as we imagined. It arises elsewhere. It surprises us and removes us from our routines as good practitioners and our fixed knowledge. He will never have finished ‘confusing’ us, taking us off the beaten track, which we follow in caravans out of habit. This story invites us to venture on other roads to continue to seek it.
The Story of Jesus in the temple
There was great excitement everywhere. It should start the next day. The final travel preparations have just been made. Food was prepared for the journey. After all, they were away for a few days. Clothes were packed. Everyone was excited. Everyone has been looking forward to this trip for the whole year. Because every year at the same time, there was almost a migration of people in Israel.
Jesus was excited too. He was now 12 years old and went to the temple. And he was allowed to come too. Yes, it was a long journey from Nazareth. They would have to walk for a few days, but that didn’t matter. It would be worthwhile. Jesus diligently helped with all the preparations. “Jesus, can you get some grain quickly?” asked Joseph. And Jesus went. Even if he just wanted to do something else. Jesus obeyed his parents. Do you know why? Because Jesus was without sin. Jesus came to earth and was a human just like us. But Jesus never did anything wrong. He never sinned.
He never disobeyed God. God’s commandment says that children should be obedient to their parents. After all, the parents have to take care of the children. If your parents tell you something, they say it because they love you and know what is good for you. That is why you must obey your parents. Jesus did that too. For Jesus always followed all of God’s commandments. So Jesus went obediently and helped prepare for the journey. And soon, everything was ready.
The Son of God at 12 years old
It started early the following day. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were not traveling alone. Many relatives were there and many neighbors and friends. It was much safer when you traveled together. And of course a lot funnier. The children also had a lot of fun together. Sometimes Jesus ran forward with his friends. Sometimes he stayed with his parents to talk to his father. In the evening, everyone’s feet hurt, but we had to start the next day again.
And so, after a few days, they arrived in Jerusalem. The great temple could be seen from afar. The next day, on Passover, everyone went there to the temple. Each family brought a lamb or bought it in Jerusalem. Because every family had to sacrifice a lamb at the festival. A lot was going on, and thousands of people flocked to the temple. The streets of Jerusalem were also packed. Those were memorable days.
But then the holidays passed too. Slowly many people made their way home. Joseph and Mary also packed everything up, and soon, they were on their way to Nazareth again. “Where is Jesus?” asked Mary, looking around. “He’s probably with his friends and running with them,” Josef replied. Joseph and Mary were not worried because they knew they could trust Jesus. Jesus had always been obedient. Are you always respectful to your parents? I don’t know, but I know what the Bible tells us about us humans, for it says that we are all sinners. That we are all disobedient to God time and time again.
Was Jesus obedient to His parents?
None of us manages always to do the right thing. So what do you think? If we can’t make it anyway, it’s not that bad. Yet. Unfortunately, it is awful when we disobey God. Because then we cannot live together with God. God is perfect, and nobody who does terrible things can be with God. Are you always obedient to your parents? No? Then God has still devised a way for you to come to him. You can ask him for forgiveness. Tell him you’re sorry and can’t be good on your own. And then ask him for forgiveness.
Jesus was always obedient to his parents. Because he never sinned. His parents could count on him. But there was still a problem. Because when evening came, Mary and Joseph were looking for their son. Everywhere they looked. They asked the other travelers, but no one had seen Jesus. Where could he be? It was already getting dark. There was nothing they could do now. But early the following day, Mary and Joseph got up and walked back to Jerusalem. They arrived in Jerusalem in the evening. Here, too, they searched until it got dark without success. Jesus could not be found. So they had to wait another night before they could continue their search. Mary and Joseph got up early the following day.
They walked the streets of Jerusalem. “Jesus,” they cried again and again. “Let’s go to the temple,” Joseph finally said. He remembered how excited Jesus had been about the temple. Again and again, he had stopped there and listened to the teachers who were talking about God’s word everywhere. So Mary and Joseph quickly ran towards the temple. Many prayed there. In a corner, some teachers sat and talked. “There,” Mary called suddenly, pointing to the group of teachers. Joseph also took a closer look now. And both were very surprised. For amid the teachers sat Jesus. Jesus listened to what they said and kept asking questions.
Mary and Joseph search for Jesus and find Him.
Mary and Joseph quickly ran to Jesus. “Jesus,” cried Mary. Jesus got up and went to his parents. Mary hugged her son tightly. Tears ran down her face. But they were tears of joy. She was so worried. “My child. Why did you do this to us?” she asked. “We have been looking for you with concern.” What happened? Had Jesus disobeyed? No, Jesus had always obeyed his parents. But there was a misunderstanding here. Joseph and Mary thought it was clear that Jesus was going with the other travelers. But it wasn’t. “Why were you looking for me?” he asked now. “Didn’t you know I have to be where my Father is?” Joseph and Mary looked at each other. What did Jesus mean by that?
Jesus’s Father was God in heaven. Jesus was God’s son. On earth, Joseph cared for Jesus as a father. But his birth father was God in heaven. And Jesus obeyed God in everything. Jesus always wanted to learn more about and be close to his Heavenly Father. That’s why Jesus went to the temple. But now Jesus went with his parents again and returned to Nazareth with them. And the Bible says (read Luke 2:51): “And Jesus obeyed his parents.” Jesus was willing to obey both Mary and his foster father, Joseph.
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“The parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year, at the Passover feast. According to the feast’s custom, they went there when he was twelve years old. Then when the days were over and when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem. His father and his mother did not notice it…” Luke 2:41-43. After a day on the road, Mary and Joseph worry about not seeing their child Jesus. They look for him among the parents and acquaintances but do not find him.
The child Jesus remains in Jerusalem without them realizing it! Imagine, They are walking for a day thinking that Jesus is among the returning travelers! They begin to look for Jesus among their parents and acquaintances but do not find him. So they go back to Jerusalem to look for him. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they searched for him for three days!… So they hadn’t heard from their child for four! But where is he?
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Maybe people told them where Jesus was. At last, they find Him seated among the law teachers in the temple. They listened to him and asked him questions! His intelligence and answers struck all those who listened to Jesus while Jesus was preaching in the temple at 12 years old. When Mary and Joseph find him, Mary is surprised and says to him: “My child, why did you do this to us? Here is your father and I; we were looking for you in anguish” (v 48), And Jesus told them that the will of his Heavenly Father was most important in his life: “Why did you seek me so? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (v 49) “Then he went down with them to return to Nazareth, and he was subject to them.”