Reader: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature”
Response: “and in favor with God and all the people.”
Scripture: Luke 2:41-52
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.
Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.
Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of this but we know virtually nothing about ninety percent of Jesus’ life on earth. There are a few snippets apart from the last three years and a significant portion of each of the gospels covers just the last week of his life. We know a little bit about the first forty days of his life and then, the above passage. That’s it until he was about thirty years old (Lk.3:23). (We assume that Luke got this information from Mary as all the disciples were little boys along with Jesus at this point! She is the only one who would know this story. No one had ever heard of Jesus except a few people in Nazareth. Only Luke mentions this story.) This particular passage is interesting and insightful on a couple of levels. What did you notice about Jesus’ parents?
Joseph is still living at this point. He apparently died at some time between when Jesus was twelve and prior to him beginning his public ministry at thirty. This is the last reference to Joseph. That means Jesus experienced the loss of a parent at a relatively young age. We also notice that Jesus’ parents were very observant Jews in that they made a practice of attending Passover every year. That means Jesus was very well acquainted with all the details of the festival from his childhood on. Considering Mary and Joseph’s character in dealing with her pregnancy, it is not surprising that they would be devout Jews following the Law which required the ninety mile pilgrimage from Nazareth to the Temple in Jerusalem each year. By Jesus’ time, those living far from Jerusalem were only required to make the pilgrimage for Passover. Those people living closer would also attend Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles.
In those days the long journeys would be made in large groups of people for safety and for fellowship as they walked along. It would not be uncommon for the whole village of Nazareth to travel together―uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors all together. So it is not surprising that Jesus would not be at Joseph and Mary’s side as they headed back home. It may be that Jesus was doing a “dry run” for his Bar Mitzvah which would have occurred the following year when he was thirteen.
When the entourage came to a stop for the evening, Mary and Joseph discovered that their eldest son was missing. Sometimes groups like this returning home would divide with the women and children heading out first and the men and older boys following with all coming together in the evening. Mary and Joseph may each have thought he was with the other one. We don’t know. But you can imagine the panic as they furtively moved from group to group before heading back in Jerusalem asking if anyone had seen Jesus during the day only to hear the same answer again and again, “No, we haven’t seen him” or “we thought he was with you.” So Mary and Joseph took another days’ journey and headed back to Jerusalem. Having been separated from him for three days, they finally found him in the Temple among some Jewish doctors of the law having lively theological discussions and debates. Jesus was taking part in asking and answering questions. His depth of understanding and insights as well as the questions he was asking amazed these learned men. This was a humble seventh grade boy amazing the Ph.D. professors of systematic theology with his questions, answers and insights!
I love Luke (and Mary’s) honesty. “His parents didn’t know what to think!” We have an expected response from his mother. Why did you do this to us? (We were worried sick. You should have told us you wanted to stay behind.) You can almost hear Jesus’ puberty-age voice cracking, “Why did you need to search? Didn’t you know I’d be at my Father’s house?” Since neither parent understood what he meant, I’m curious as to how the following conversation went. We’ll never know. At any rate they returned home and Luke (Mary) makes a point of saying that Jesus was obedient to his parents. It is important to note that Mary and Joseph did not have hindsight in raising Jesus. They knew who he was and where he had come from but that did not mean that they understood everything about him any more than we do.
There is this little phrase, “Mary stored all these things in her heart.” My guess is she had some sense of the importance of remembering specific events in Jesus’ growing up years. Then we have the final statement about Jesus growing in wisdom and stature, a line reminiscent of what was said about Samuel (I Sam.2:26) and John the Baptist (Lk.1:80). Though he was God, Jesus developed in mind and body in his human nature and character, though his wisdom was remarkable at a young age as this pericope gives evidence.
You may be thinking this all is interesting but how does it help my walk with the Lord. Consider the humanity of Jesus, of Mary, of Joseph, of ordinary events that produce crisis moments and the calmness of Jesus in all of it. The family of Mary and Joseph had mishaps and misunderstandings! Our Savior is well acquainted with everything with which we deal. He was and is completely human in every way. He has wisdom to help in our time of need. He needed to be in his Father’s house, to grow in wisdom as do we.
Music: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” arr. David Willcocks Choral Society of Grace Church, New York
Lord Jesus, this story of Mary’s gives me comfort and hope in many ways. I’m reminded again of how very human Jesus and his family were. Hearing about him as a twelve year old boy being separated from his parents helps me understand his humanity. I can identify with this story as it makes him not so far removed from a normal life. Not everything in Jesus’ life was miraculous. May I be faithful in being about my Father’s house. May I be zealous in searching the Scriptures and ask searching questions that I might know you better and grow in wisdom. Lord God, how I love you and your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.