(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 to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. (43) And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. (44) But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. (45) And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. (46) And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (47) And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.Luke 2:41-47
There are not many stories in scripture of the boyhood of Jesus. Only Matthew and Luke record anything surrounding his birth. The others almost exclusively cover his ministry. So this narrative in Luke about Jesus coming to the temple with his parents is unique. It gives us a glimpse into the growth of Jesus, and into his relationship with his mother and step-father while on this earth. We see a theme of maturity in the passage as this is what is emphasized in verse 40 at the beginning of this narrative, and in verse 52 at the end. What does growth in maturity look like? Well among other answers, we can see three traits of growing maturity in Jesus in this passage. If we grow in these areas it will help us to grow up in the Lord as well.
Trait #1- Prioritization- Maturity prioritizes the eternal. v. 41-47
(41) Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
Jesus grew up in a home that took the scripture seriously. This is a continued theme about Joseph and Mary in the Gospel of Luke. Going to Jerusalem would have been a trip that cost some money. This would have been a similar journey in distance that they took to Bethlehem.
Why were they going? They were going to celebrate the Passover as the law commanded. What was the feast of the Passover? The Passover was the celebration of what God did for the children of Israel the night before they were brought out of Egypt. The last plague was the death of the firstborn son from each family.
God gave to Moses a word for the people. He said there firstborn sons would live to see another day.
When they put blood of a spotless lamb on the doorway of their homes, the death angel who passed by each home would pass over their home and the child would be spared. They ate specific foods for their Passover meal. At the time of the exodus they were supposed to eat the meal in traveling clothes with their sandals on, an expression of faith in God’s deliverance from Egypt.
(42) And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Notice it says that they went “up to Jerusalem”. This is a statement of altitude and not direction. They went south, but if you are walking from the surrounding areas you are going up in altitude.
This particular story happened when Jesus was 12 years old. This age would have been approaching the year at which Jesus would have been when Jewish children were considered to have the moral responsibility and compass of adults. This may have been the first year that he went to Jerusalem for the event. It would have been the first time he had to by the law.
(43) And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
The text seems to indicate that they traveled as a community. Everyone making the trip would have gone together. There are “strength in numbers”. Traveling this way would have kept them safer from thieves than if they were to travel alone. In Jewish life, family was very important, and a community of people who were valuing religious observance like this would provide a great help to the individual families in raising their children- even down to being a help on a trip such as this.
We do not know if Jesus intentionally or unintentionally tarried behind. We do know though that His tarrying behind is not disobedience to His parents. Some have noted that this was the beginning of him feeling that his submission to his heavenly father was being juxtaposed with his relationship with his human parents. Either way, we see him prioritizing being in the temple and talking about God the Father. We’ll see that in the next few verses.
(44) But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
If you’ve ever been without your children in public not knowing where they were you’ve had that panicked feeling. I’m sure this is how Mary and Joseph would have felt in this moment. They were frantically looking for Jesus everywhere. They were asking family and then even friends and neighbors if He had been seen. Nobody knew where Jesus was.
(45) And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
They were already out a day’s journey, so it would have taken a day to get back to Jerusalem. Do you think they were mad? Probably. Do you think they were anxious? For sure.
(46) And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
The three days would have included a day’s journey there and back, as well as a day of looking in Jerusalem. Did they check for him at the different places they were at in Jerusalem? Maybe they checked the inn, or the house where they had stayed. Maybe they checked the market place.
They finally went to the temple. Imagine their surprise when they found him sitting among the most academic and authoritative teachers in Jerusalem. This would be like finding your sixth grader sitting with the college professors, authors, and pastors.
What was he doing? “Both hearing them, and asking them questions”…He was respectful to those in authority, but was also challenging them by his questions in ways that induced a reaction. When they found Jesus he wasn’t just lagging behind for no reason. He was prioritizing engaging with God’s Word with those who were committed to knowing and teaching it to the people.
Notice the reaction of those that were there.
(47) And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
These “doctors” (the word is transliterated “didaskalos”- instructors, masters, teachers- think discourse, didactic) were “astonished”. What would it take to astonish men like this? Of course Jesus had a mastery of the scripture because He was the author of the Scripture. There was something supernatural in His understanding that caused them to respond this way.
We see in Jesus the prioritizing of that which is eternal. He was prioritizing the Word of God. Part of maturity is the ability to discern between what is bad, good, and best. Choosing the best when it is more comfortable to choose the bad, or even the good at its expense, marks those who are mature. This is the Bible’s command in Romans 12:2.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
As believers, what honors God is prioritizing that thing which is eternal. This was Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:19-21.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21
As believers we should prioritize our relationship with God, and helping others to get saved and grow in their faith. This is what will matter in eternity. This is how we lay up our treasures in heaven.
What are you choosing that prioritizes the temporary or even sinful over the eternal? What should you do to prioritize the eternal?