Scripture: Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:41-52 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Luke concludes his unique account of the temple purification ceremony with yet another spirit-filled spokesperson of the Lord, the prophetess Anna. An elderly and childless widow, she relied on the care of the Lord and sought his presence through daily temple worship, fasting, and prayer throughout her day. And she, similar to Simeon, approached the baby Jesus and his parents, thanked God, and pronounced to those gathered around the child the redemption of Jerusalem (i.e., through Christ). And once Mary and Joseph fulfilled all the purification rituals according to the law, they returned to Nazareth.
Today’s reading is found only in Luke’s Gospel and provides our only glimpse of Jesus’ childhood. The setting is the Feast of Passover. With friends and family, Mary and Joseph trekked from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the eight-day celebration (a 91-mile journey that would take at least three days). Luke tells us Jesus was age twelve at the time. With the feast’s conclusion, the train of family and friends returns to Nazareth. The next day, amid the hustle and bustle of excitement, Mary and Joseph realize Jesus is not with the other caravan members. Panicking, they rush back to Jerusalem, and three days later, they find him sitting in the temple among the teachers, attentively listening and asking pertinent questions. And those observing Jesus are amazed at his level of understanding—including his parents.
Still, like any concerned mother, Mary expresses her anxiety and consternation over Jesus being so engrossed in rabbinical teaching that he would be unaware of being left behind. Jesus, perhaps not fully grasping his mother’s concern and anxiety, questions why they would search for him anywhere other than in his Father’s house. But Mary and Joseph, likely overwhelmed with feelings of anger and relief, missed Jesus’ point. Nevertheless, Jesus submits to their direction and immediately sets off for Nazareth with them.
As an epilogue, Luke adds that Jesus submitted to his parents’ authority and increased in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and fellow Israelites. And, once again, Mary treasured all these things in her heart.
Takeaway: There are two. First, Jesus’ response to his mother (that he must be in his Father’s house) parallels a poignant post-resurrection moment. As Luke notes, the ladies who had attended to Jesus during his ministry searched for his body at the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea (and Nicodemus) had laid him to rest. As they peered into the empty tomb, two men in dazzling apparel (angels) asked why they sought the living among the dead, for Jesus had risen (see 24:1-7). The irony of this juxtaposition is striking. The boy Jesus sits among the spiritually dead who will one day reject him as Israel’s Messiah. But those who wholeheartedly seek Jesus will find what they yearn for: the One who prepared a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:3).
Secondly, as mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Focus, in comparison to Anna, Jesus did not merely live an exemplary life but the supreme life, always doing the will of the Father and his parents (when theirs aligned with the Father’s). Still, being fully human and having emptied himself of his divine prerogative (see Philippians 2:7), Jesus would have to mature in knowledge and wisdom like any other boy—but without failure. And this is where the word “stature” (Greek hēlikia) comes into play. Its meaning can refer to physical growth or personal development (maturity). The latter is likely in view here. And in time, Jesus would garner the favor of godly men and women who, in turn, would devoutly follow him—and not just his generation but all who pursue him until his return. For when we find favor in Christ, his Holy Spirit will lead us to an exemplary life—not sinless but abundant in the riches of his grace (John 10:10).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who lived the Supreme life of perfect obedience to your will, culminating in his substitutionary death that emancipated us from the tyranny of sin. Still, we struggle to live abundantly in the riches of his grace. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit to die to our selfish ways and rise to your perfect ways so that we might live an exemplary life that attracts others to your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling