This incident of Jesus’ parents losing their 12 year old son and eventually finding him in the templein Jerusalem sitting at the feet of the teachers is unique to the gospel of Luke. He has a purpose in including it. It is one of the most amazing and intriguing incidents in Jesus’ life and ministry. It contains some of the most important teaching in the whole of the Bible about Jesus Christ.
Every year v41 his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of the passover - when the Jews remembered God’s rescue of them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. Every year - we get an insight here into the religious devotion of Mary and Joseph - committed to their faith, nurturing their children in the ways of God. And this particular year is very significant because v42 Jesus is 12 years old. This year’s passover will be a rite of passage into his 13th year - that period of life in the Jewish education of children when a boy is beginning to prepare for the special responsibilities of growing into adulthood. This event takes place in Jesus’ life just as he is going through that transition. And we, though we are in a very different culture, we recognise the significance of this transition don’t we? the big difference between being 12 and being 13 a teenager! It is particularly a transition in your relationship with your parents. For any of us parents facing this quite scary transition in our children it is wonderful that Luke has included this account of this incident. But what this incident reveals to us of Jesus Christ will be a great comfort for us all whatever our age or stage of life.
v43 After the feast was over. They stayed the whole 7 days which was quite unusual - another sign of Mary and Joseph’s serious devotion. Maybe it was because Jesus was at this special point in his life.
After the feast is over the 80 mile 3 day journey home to Nazareth begins but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem but they were not aware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and friends … and they could not find him.
It might sound a bit shocking to our modern ears to make a whole days journey and only then realise your child is not with you. But it’s not too difficult to see how this could happen in that culture. The long journey back to nazareth is in a large caravan of people. Necessary for safety on relatively dangerous roads where you’re camping out at night. Many friends and relatives are there. All the kids playing with each other. It’s likely that the women and childern would walk up front the men would walk towards the back of the caravan. And i guess during the day Mary might have assumed the 12 year old Jesus was with Joseph and the men while Joseph might have assumed that Jesus preferred to be with Mary and the other kids. It’s only at the end of the first day’s travel when they’re pitching tents settling for the night calling for Jesus to come and sleep that they realise that Jesus is not with them..
Children lost on the southbank. Festival Hall to Borough Market - stop off in St Paul’s cathedral. Colourful coats. Scooters.
Concerned. Looking. Jog ahead. Deeper concern. split up.. looking. retracing our steps. phoning. it’s getting darker. running. call the police. phone call. found! perfectly happy. anger and relief “how could you do this to us?!”
Our kids were gone for about 45 minutes. Jesus was gone for 3 days!
Whether those 3 days include the day of travelling or not - it’s a long time for parents to be v48 anxiously searching. There must have been tears each of those nights - where was their son sleeping? was anyone looking after him. Or had something terrible happened. Feelings of awful pain and dread. Surely they had checked the crowded temple courts? Maybe they had just missed Jesus’ comings and goings there because that’s where he had been and that’s where they eventually found him v46 sitting among the teachers and listening to them and asking them questions. And Jesus has been the cause of much interest for the devoted in the temple, there’s no shortage of people to look after him practically though i guess they must have wondered where his parents were! v47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished. Because he’s so unconcerned? His Mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been searching anxiously for you.” It rings so true, Luke’s account, this is exactly what a mother would say - grabbing and hugging her son - fear and anger mixed with total relief!
and Jesus’ reply …is astonishing. This 12 year old boy. Almost could at first seem insensitive and a bit rude!
“Why were you searching for me?… Didn’t you know i had to be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he was saying to them.
There’s almost a sad moment here. Because Jesus hadn’t worried about his parents worrying because he had thought - oh well they’ll know where I have to be now. They’ll understand - oh .. he’s in the temple. But his parents didn’t understand. That’s why they’d searched frantically rather than returned to the temple and waited patiently. And so there’s a sadness in Jesus words. They didn’t need to be so worried and hurt. so the incident ends v51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.
So why does Luke include this incident of Jesus’ boyhood at this significant stage in his gospel?
What is it that is being said here about Jesus?
The answer is there in the bookends of the passage in v40 and v52
This is the Jesus at this point of transition who is v40 growing and becoming strong, filled with wisdom and the grace of God upon him. growing v52 in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men.
did you take that in. Jesus is growing. Like children do. And he’s growing in wisdom, stature and he is growing in favour with men and amazingly he grows in favour with God.
That’s what Luke wants us to see
Jesus who has come into the world and taken on our full humanity with all our infirmities and weaknesses, excepting sin over the course of his life grew in favour with God.
That’s a provocative idea. God’s opinion of Jesus, his favour, his admiration, his love for Jesus grows. If it wasn’t there in the NT you might think that was a bit unorthodox
Surely Jesus, the eternal son of God is eternally favoured by God. How can Jesus grow in God’s favour?
He does so according to his humanity. As a growing human being. Fully human Jesus grows in favour with God.
Theologians have found it helpful to distingush between Jesus’ full divinity - his divine nature and his full humanity his divine nature. So for example in answer to the question: If Jesus created and sustains the cosmos moment by moment by his powerful word (Hebrews 2) How was Jesus doing that when he was an embryo in Mary’s womb or a weak baby or even more so when he died and was buried?
Well.. according to his divinity Jesus never ceases to uphold all things, he is never off the throne of the universe, he is One with the Father. But according to his humanity he is truly a weak baby, just as you and i once were, he lives and serves God in the power of the Holy spirit just as we must, he weeps and suffers and dies according to his humanity. And through his human life he grows in wisdom and stature and favour with God and men.
This is what we are being told here. That Jesus’ humanity is exactly the same as ours apart from sin.
[Jessica Jones. Netflix adaptation from marvel comics of lesser known superhero Jessica Jones. She’s a New York private investigator with a troubled past. she has superhuman strength and fights baddies with superhuman powers with the help of a man with unbreakable skin. They look just like anyone else.. More than human. Less than human. Something else in human skin]
But that’s not Jesus. Jesus is not God hiding in a man suit. Looks the same on the surface but totally different underneath. No, Jesus’ humanity is exactly the same as our apart from sin. The road that we all must walk, he walks.
And you see - that is absolutely crucial for our salvation
Jesus saves us by uniting himself to our humanity and living the perfect human life that we should have lived for us and dying the death before that we deserve because we haven’t lived perfectly for us.
So that when we are united to him by our faith - his perfect life for u becomes ours and his saving death for us becomes ours.
In order to do all that. Jesus had to be fully human
If Jesus had a different human nature to you or me he would never be qualified to be our saviour.
But Luke tells us he IS human
and He IS perfectly human for us
Jesus grows in obedience and love for God and favour with God
At aged 12, at every age and stage of life he covers and carries our humanity perfectly. He is able to be our saviour as he lives humanity for us.
Briefly see 4 things about the 12 year old Jesus that already gives us deep confidence in and worship filled wonder for our Saviour
- Jesus’ desire to be taught by the word of God vv46-47
sitting at the feet of the best teachers of the day. day after day. saying ‘Please teach me from God’s word. I want to know God and his will and how to live for his glory”
By this age Jesus would have memorised whole sections of the OT and he engages in this question and answer teaching of the rabbis and he so impressed the rabbis by the penetraton of his questions.
That’s often true of youngsters isn’t it? It’s not just the answers they give but the questions they ask! How extraordinary it would have been to hear the growing wisdom of Jesus. “Everyone was astonished at his understanding and his answers” Remember his wisdom is not is because he is God, but bacuse he is perfect humanity for us.
In the third servant song in the book of Isaiah which speaks of the Messiah, the servant says “Morning by morning as I am awakened i listen to your word and this is why i am able to speak a word in season t those who are weary”
This is why Jesus’ teaching and his words were so marvellous because he had waited on God’s word to be taught by God’s word.
2. Jesus’ growth in the knowledge of God.
Psalm 119 - the longest Psalm. But a Psalm that is designed for young people to memorise. Each section begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Right in the middle of the psalm vv99-100. 2 verses that would have delighted young people
As i learn your word
You make me wiser than all my teachers
that’s what you want don’t you when you’re a kid?
and it’s true
the boy and girl who really knows the word of God may well be wiser than their teachers because they are growing in the knowledge of God. To really know him.
we’ve just appointed Nic as our children’s and families worker.
we need to take the spiritual development of children very seriously. children everywhere have spiritual questions. it’s part of being a child. the opportunities that i have had to receive children’s questions in schools. they ask the most penetrating questions that can be asked. Who made God? How can God be everywhere? How can God be 3 in one? Why suffering? What happens when we die? How can i know God loves me? These are the questions that theologians pore over in their ivory towers! And in all the confusion of our age many parents say to their children in answer to their spiritually searching questions ‘you shouldn’t be interested in those things” which basically means ‘I don’t have any answers and i’m terrified to admit that to you and so i am going to squash your spiritual interest. It’s a very grown up thing isn;t it to say that children aren’t interested in spiritual things. Those grown ups are basically talking about themselves. Hiding.
Jesus shows us the sheer joy of a youngster growing in the knowledge of God. He is true humanity increasing in favour with God and man.
3. Jesus’ love for the presence of God.
“Oh mum and dad” he says “why have you been anxiously searching all over Jerusalem You should have known i would be in my Father’s house”
This is the place where you have brought me year on year. Where you devoted me to God as your firstborn son. This is what you’ve been preparing me for and now at this age of transition.. I’m here!
But Mary and Joseph didn’t understand. They weren’t banking on this level of devotion. What is it like if your children are more zealous for God than you. This zealous! It gets in the way, rocks the family, challenges the status quo. Are you embarassed? Annoyed? How could you do this to us?
But Jesus is growing in true humanity which entails a deepening growing love for the presence of God. Seeking and enjoying God.
Ps 27 One thing i ask of the Lord this is what i seek that i may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. …
where we fail to seek God, to be truly human
jesus succeeds perfectly for us. on our behalf. to bring you to God
So that you and i too with the Psalmist
My hearts says of you “seek his face”. Your face, Lord, i will seek
4. Jesus’ beautiful awareness that he was the Son of God
My …. Father’s …. House
Jew’s didn’t speak of the temple in those terms. These are Jesus’ words
In the midst of Luke emphaising that the Lord Jesus did not come into the world with some kind of superman humanity. He shared your humanity and mine apart from sin. and he grew in favour with God.
however he did so as one who is the very Son of God. Living to please his Father. Obedient to death. Even death on a cross for us he came to save.
And as he moves forward in his humanity he grows and grows in favour with God.
just like a blessed friendship or marriage - you can’t imagine liking or loving or appreciating that person more than you already do and yet over the years of being together that love and bond of affection is deepened.
So as Jesus grows in wisdom and obedience and devotion to his Father through his life so the Father’s favour grows. “This is my Jesus. This is my son whom i love. with him i am pleased. Listen to him.” Love him. Put your confidence in him. He is the saviour of humanity.