Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. (Luke 2:41-43)
I first taught this passage at Summer Camp. I was a Junior Counselor for children in elementary. I chose it because I thought they could relate. Jesus was a boy, he was doing what was right, and his parents didn’t get it.
Neither did the elementary kids.
“Why did Jesus sin, Ms. Shannon?”
Umm … What? Something had just gone terribly wrong. I had a sinking feeling in my teenage gut. Where is an adult when I need one?
“Jesus was obeying God,” I said. Not good enough.
The children were going there much to my dismay. Someone, get me out of this mess!
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 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.” (Luke 2:46-48)
Every child in the room could imagine Mary’s tone, the same one that their parents have used on them when they were afraid and angry, all rolled into one. It was NOT a tone of voice that came with good news.
The children could imagine themselves uttering the next words filled with some good-old-fashioned pre-teen attitude – in self-defense, of course.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)
“So, Ms. Shannon, did Jesus sin? Or, did Mary sin for being mad at Jesus?”
Some questions are more complex than either/or. We ask questions that the text was not intending to answer. If we reframe the question, we might find the nugget worth remembering.
What if Luke didn’t write this passage to show that twelve year old Jesus was more connected to his Heavenly father than his earthly one?
What if Luke wrote this passage because he wanted to reinforce what all good Jews knew? There is a time and place for a person's calling to be fully realized as that person's vocation.
Twelve year old Jesus was just coming to the age in which he would be nurtured and trained to become a mature Jewish man - a process which was typically realized at age 30.
Jesus was already drawn towards his ministry calling. So, innocently, he stayed at the temple. His heart was ready. Culture was not. Quite possibly, his maturity was not ready, either. It is a confusing thing when our heart is drawn towards ministry but the time is not right.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)
Jesus submitted and was obedient to his parent’s wishes – as those that had authority over him. In this moment, Luke foreshadows Jesus's vocation, while reminding the reader that Jesus was a devout Jew and still needed the time that all Jewish young men needed.
How often have we had a burning passion for ministry but found a closed door? Frustration wells up. Friends may encourage, “All in God’s good time” but do we really believe that it’s in God’s time or our own?
Jesus accepted that God’s timing is everything. Until then, we grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and people. If you are waiting to lean fully into the giftedness and calling that God has put on your heart, don’t fear. Talk with Jesus, share with him this experience, and have no doubt that he fully understands how it feels to wait until God’s time has arrived.
Shannon Rains Children and Family Minister Kingwood Church of Christ