St. Luke tells the story of the birth of Christ when the shepherds, having been informed by an angel, came to adore Him in Bethlehem where he was born. This astonished Mary but she “kept it in her heart.” Soon after Jesus made his first journey to Jerusalem where his parents give thanks at the temple. When they arrived a man called Simeon saw the boy and at once thanked God that his eyes had seen salvation. Likewise, a prophetess named Anna declared the baby her redeemer. Jesus’ parents marveled at this but when they had performed their religious duties they returned to Nazareth where, St. Luke tells us, the boy grew strong.
When Jesus is twelve they again travel to Jerusalem, this time as part of a large group of relatives and friends to celebrate Passover, the festival celebrating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Since the Temple of Jerusalem is the center of these celebrations, the Passover ceremony revolves around the sacrifice and consumption of sheep. Jesus would have participated in that meal since he has not yet reached the age at which he is required to fast. The sacrificial sheep would later come to symbolize the lamb of God, or Jesus Himself, who was sacrificed for the sake of all humanity.
After the seven-day festival has ended his parents return to Nazareth but one day into the journey they discover their son is missing. They retrace their steps and begin to search all through Jerusalem for their son. Three days later they find Jesus in discussion with the temple priests and amazing everyone with his understanding of the scriptures. This event is known as the Finding in the Temple, or Jesus Among the Doctors and is one of many signs that Jesus would grow up to be a man of destiny.
When Mary and Joseph first catch sight of their son he is absorbed in his debate with the scholars. How could Jesus abandon his parents for three days, five days including traveling time, and not realize that they would be “in great distress.” When his mother chides him for absenting himself, Jesus answers her coldly, saying, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Jesus had reached the age when Jewish boys took up their father’s trade, or be “about his father’s business” so she should have known where he would be. Adam Clarke comments that “the design of our blessed Lord in staying behind in the temple seems to have been twofold. 1st. To prepare the Jews to acknowledge in him a Divine and supernatural wisdom: and 2dly. To impress the minds of Joseph and Mary with a proper idea of his independence and Divinity.” This is the first instance in which he distances himself from his parents, though not the last. As Jesus tells the crowd in Mark 3:34-35, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother,” knowing that his mother stands among the listeners.
However, he rejoins his parents and returns with them to Nazareth where he submits to them as a child should and disappears from view for eighteen more years. Mary’s simplicity and faith is evident in this simply told story, since she witnessed a succession of miraculous events in her lifetime, beginning with the visit from the Angel Gabriel, yet she continues to love her son as her son, rather than as the future Savior. As St. Luke puts it, she treasures his performance in the temple in her heart and never speaks of it again. As T.O.D. Johnson says, “it was probably not until after His resurrection and Ascension that Mary realized fully who He is” (25). He also points out that Mary must have spoken of the incident in Jerusalem at least once – to Luke himself (26).
Clarke, Adam. “Clarke’s Commentary – Luke 2.” Bible Explore.com.
Johnson, T.O.D. A Layman’s Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Scribd.
Standard Version International Bible , Luke 2:41-52.
The Boy Jesus at the Temple
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Festival, according to the custom. 43 After the Festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” [a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people.