When I was very young, my parents took me to watch the Oakland A’s play. I don’t remember much of the game (if any) but this event sticks out in my mind for one reason. Midway through the game, my dad and I went to the concession stand for some refreshments of some kind. Somehow, we got separated – I think I started following a guy who looked like my dad or the line moved I didn’t. Whatever the case, I got lost. But I didn’t panic right away; I just thought I would walk back to our seats, no problem. But as I went back to the section I thought was ours, I realized to my horror that is wasn’t. I had no idea where I was and now the panic came. All kinds of thoughts probably filled my head though now after the passing of time I can’t remember. But I remember crying and being afraid.
The way the story ends is classic. My dad is shouting at the top of his lungs, “Beebees” (what he affectionately called me as a boy) and “Nick!” Someone apparently hears my dad, sees a little boy crying and connects the dots. “He’s over here!!” This good Samaritan calls to my dad. He finds me and hugs me and the crowd around us all says, “Ahhh.”
Reading the account of Jesus in Luke 2.41ff, my mind goes back to this event in my life. Jesus is lost. His parents frantically search for him, but they do not find a crying boy.
Trips to Jerusalem
Every year, Jesus’ parents visited the captial of the Jewish world: Jerusalem. Whether Jesus is with them on these trips is uncertain. Perhaps he was and if he did accompany them on these excursions, he no doubt had seen the “doctors” (KJV) or the “teachers” (NIV) sitting int he temple courts and reasoning. If he had gone with them, then no doubt he had seen the Passover lambs and the smelled the smoke of the sacrifices and the blood of the sacrifices flowing from the temple. This is the only account we have of Jesus as a young boy have some conscious knowledge that he is destined for something great. But I wonder if this event is prompted by previous journeys to Jerusalem. I suppose we will never know for certain these things.
What we do know is that when Jesus was twelve years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Feast. But after the seven day Feast (see Ex 13.6), Mary and Joseph head for home. According to what we understand about the travelling customs, women went ahead of the men in the caravan with the young boys and the men followed with the older boys. So it is not necessary to assume Mary and Joseph are negligent parents. It seems Mary assumed Jesus was with Joseph and vice versa. Whatever the case, when the camp stops for the night and the group is together, Mary and Joseph realize Jesus is not with the group. Jesus has stayed behind in Jerusalem.
I imagine the parents are frantic, much like my dad was when I got lost in the stadium. They search among their friends, the whole panic welling up in their throats. Maybe some feelings of angst and anxiety flood their senses. And when the boy is not found, they realize they must return to Jerusalem. Already a distant “day’s journey” away, when they arrive at Jerusalem they cannot find Jesus until the third after their departure from Jerusalem. And it would seem that during these three days, Jesus has been in the temple courts, reasoning and discussing with the “doctors.”
It was common practice that after a Feast (such as Passover), that the rabbis and teachers would gather together in these “disputation groups.” Similar to our small groups, these teachers dug deep into the word and would ask each other certain questions concerning matters that may or may not have been involved in the preceding Feast. It was also a time when pupils would come and learn from the teachers. And therefore to find out Jesus is not only asking questions but also answering question posed to him is really a comon thing in their culture – that was how the pupil learned, by asking and answering questions.
Everyone is amazed at the skills of Jesus. He demonstrates some kind of knowledge that astounds not only the people gathered around, but even the “doctors” are surprised by his answers. When Mary and Joseph find him, though, the question posed to him by Mary appears to have hurt behind it. She explains their situation over the past couple days as they have frantically searched for Jesus. But unlike my dad who found a crying boy, Mary and Joseph find their son content where he is and bit surprised at their response.
Notice the contrast between Jesus’ response and Mary’s statement. She states that “your father” and she have been looking for Jesus. But Jesus replies that he must be about “my Father’s” business (see KJV). Here we have the first appearance of Jesus’ consciousness about his divinity. He is the “Son of the Father,” that is God’s Son. And so the we see the first affirmation by Jesus himself that he is the Son of God.
Naturally, like his disciples that he will select during his ministry, his parents do not understand. They do not understand what he means nor what the implications of his statement are. It is intersting to note that the first words words in Luke’s gospel are affirmations that he is the unique Son of God. As one commentator has written conerning this, “[Jesus] so clearly refers to His divine Sonship, and…He points to His life’s vocation to be about His Father’s business…These words indicate a divine inevitability: Jesus must be busy with the interests of His Father.”
What all Jesus knew about his divine position and calling is uncertain. But it would appear he had some knowledge and consciousness about his divine assignment. We should also note that while he does have some cognition concerning his divine mission, he may not have been aware of the angst and anxiety of his parents who were search for him, a trait that Luke will show us Jesus had (i.e. to know what is within a man, reveal the thoughts of many hearts, cf. Luke 2.35). This ability will probably not be endowed to Jesus until he is empowered by the Holy Spirit at his baptism and begins his ministry.
Back to Nazareth
Following this “traumatic” experience, Jesus and his parents head back for Nazareth where Jesus will no doubt learn the skills of Joseph in carpentry. Scripture tells us that Jesus was obedient to his parents from then on. However, there will come a time when he cannot obey the voice of his mother (See Mark 3.21, 31) and he will have to obey God rather than man (or women). Again, Mary is treasuring up all these things in her heart, no doubt the reason they are recorded in Luke’s gospel. Mary was probably the source of these accounts of Jesus boyhood and birth in Luke 2 as the historian gathered data and information from various sources as he prepared to write a treatise for Theophilus.
The last statement in Luke 2 is what happened between Jesus’ boyhood and when he began his minstry. Very simply Luke summarizes 18 years of history in one verse. These may have been words from Mary herself as she recalled the other events in Jesus’ life following this event. She may have been familiar with the story of Hannah and the blessing she received and perhaps as she recounted the account to Luke the words of 1 Sam 2.26 came to mind. This is of course mere speculation.
What happened during these years, very little is known. Most agree that during this time Joseph died and Jesus became the provider for his mother, brothers and sisters as a carpenter (cf. Mark 6.3). Carpentry during the time consisted of erecting houses, making furniture and other household requirements and also some farming tools. Surely it was his time in carpentry that shaped his teaching when he began his public ministry; some of his parables have carpentry-esque themes (house built on sand, etc.). What we know is that Jesus grew up, adding to his wisdom more wisdom, he matured, he was favored by men but more importantly by God.