Evidence of the King Grows in a Twelve-Year-Old Boy
The roads were overcrowded as hundreds of thousands of Israelites made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. Family and friends traveled together so no one, or any of their possessions, would be lost.
The Passover was a grand celebratory reminder of God’s deliverance and independence for Israel from Egypt. It reminded them of His provision and protection, which carried on through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Over a thousand years later, the Israelites had mixed feelings as they journeyed towards the festival once again.
Israel lost their independence and were now under the control of the Roman empire. Their hearts weighed heavy because they knew what they were supposed to be – a privileged nation under God’s rule alone. Yet, as they travelled toward Jerusalem for the yearly Passover, they held onto hope that the words of the prophets of Yahweh would soon come true. Little did majority of the people know that year that the Deliverer was already in their midst.
“Every year [Jesus’] parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.” Luke 2:41-44
In a sea of hundreds of thousands of people, Jesus would have been Mary and Joseph’s last worry. He was a perfect child and now, according to Jewish custom, was pretty much considered an adult at that age. They would have had other children of their own to protect and care for as they made their way out of the claustrophobic city and onto the continued crowded roads back towards Nazareth. Reliance on family and friends to watch out for one another would have been necessary. So, it is not surprising that they hadn’t noticed Jesus wasn’t with them until they set up camp for the night.
“When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Luke 2:45-46
As a parent, I’d imagine Mary and Joseph’s hearts would be in shear panic after three days of searching. They knew He was the Messiah, but He was still their child. At least by the lack of information in Scripture, it was a fairly routine and quiet life for their family for the past nine years; no significant words of prophecy, strangers coming to visit the Messiah, or even enemies pursuing to take His life. Just a typical family growing together. So, the fact that He was missing from them this long would have most certainly brought about all humanistic tendencies to be fearful of what might have happened to Jesus.
The fact that they found Jesus in the temple probably seems natural to you. If it were you, that would have been the first place you would have looked. But you have the entire Bible to guide you. But for Mary and Joseph, perhaps this was quite unusual for them. How often did Jesus frequent the synagogue in/near Nazareth on His own? No one knows. It might not have been beyond their standard requirements. In the end, there He was sitting among the religious leaders, safely kept in the temple.
Did He eat or drink anything during that time? Did He sleep? Did the priests provide for Him until His parents returned? It’s interesting to think about. Part of me thinks He didn’t do any of those things, but continued to absorb all He could in that moment.
“And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. 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.’
‘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?’ But they did not understand what he said to them.” Luke 2:47-50
Evidence began to surface of God’s teaching and work within Jesus. His divinity slightly unveiled by the wisdom and understanding exuding Him. The religious leaders knew something was special about Him, though they didn’t know what exactly.
It makes me wonder who was all in attendance at that time. Was Nicodemus or Caiaphas present? If so, did they have flashbacks of this moment when Jesus stood before them during His time of ministry wondering if it was the same person; His wisdom and understanding far beyond what His twelve-year-old self had shown them?
Can you relate to Mary and Joseph’s response, “Son, why have you treated us like this?” There in the temple, an incredible moment was unfolding before them – the first evidence of Jesus, the God Man, rising up as King in His earthly castle, and yet, Mary and Joseph were missing its significance because of their own emotional crisis. They had panicked about His whereabouts losing sense of God in the situation. Jesus was at peace. The Father and Spirit was at peace. But they were not.
The separation of parents and child began at this moment; a dividing line that Jesus was being raised by God the Father and was no longer in need of their consistent care. This would have torn at their hearts and yet it was needed. The King was rising and was gaining wisdom and insight from His Father, the Lord of Armies. The time was soon approaching for their roles to reverse from parents to children. From caregivers to partakers. From teachers to students.
Greater trials would come for Mary and Joseph as Jesus grew. The Lord knew this and was gently preparing them for the harder journey ahead. God knew what they could handle, and so not to overwhelm them too much, He brought peace for another while between this moment at the temple until Joseph’s passing, and then again until Jesus’ time of ministry had come. I’m sure there was tension between Mary and Joseph’s other children with Jesus as the war between flesh and spirit, sin and perfection were ever before them. But as far as outward degrees of preparation for Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, the peace was appreciated from the grander scale.
“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:51-52
The people’s admiration of the rising King grew as they witnessed the favour of God upon His Son. Tell me, friend, are you like Mary and Joseph, overwhelmed by emotion of the factors happening before you, or are you at peace, trusting in the King of Kings?