41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When 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?" 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (NIV)
A few things worth mentioning about vv. 41-46
"Passover" - one of three main Jewish festivals (the other two being the Feast of Tabernacles and the Pentecost). Passover was celebrated in commemoration of God's deliverance of Israel from His judgment on Egypt (Ex 12). How interesting it is that one of the attendants of the Passover should be the Very One who will, a couple of decades later, provide the ultimate deliverance from God's judgment for God's people!
Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the rest of their family likely arrived in Jerusalem as part of a big caravan of people (notice verse 44 - "among their relatives and friends"). This helps to explain why, upon leaving the city at the end of Passover, Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was with them even though he actually wasn't.
"After three days they found him" (v. 46). This probably doesn't mean that it took Mary and Joseph three days to find Jesus once they arrived back in Jerusalem. It's more likely that what Luke means is this: they had been out of Jerusalem for a day, so it took them a day to get back, and then it took them one more day to locate Jesus within the city.
Things to Note from this Passage
1. Jesus' relationship with God the Father is unique, and so it provided the impetus for His life's ministry and mission.
"Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (v. 49)
The aim to glorify God the Father is Jesus' highest aim during his mission on earth (Jn 17:4-5; Heb 10:5-7; Jn 20:17)
- We should not conclude that Jesus desires our fulfillment above all; what He cares about most is that God is glorified in His mercy to sinners.
2. Jesus submitted to his parents. (v. 51)
How is this significant?
a) Jesus' submission to his parents showed His perfect fulfillment of God's Law (Eph 6:1-2; Mt 5:17). This is crucial for us to appreciate, because it is Jesus' perfect record of obedience to God while on earth that constitutes the righteousness which is "credited" to the Christian's account - i.e., the righteousness that puts him or her "in the right" with God (Rom 5:18-19; 2 Co 5:21).
b) It also showed how He was made to be like us in every way, so that He could be an acceptable human substitute to pay the penalty of sin in our place (Heb 2:14-17).
c) Since those who profess faith in Christ are challenged by the Apostle John to "walk in the same way in which He walked" (1 Jn 2:6), this account of Jesus' submission provides a good self-examination test for children and youth who claim to be Christians.
d) By his submission to his parents, Jesus affirmed the authority structures that God has placed in the world (Rom 13:1-2).
3. Mary provides, once again, a good example of "Christian meditation" (recall Lk 2:19).
In verse 51, Mary heeds the instruction - as we all should - of Deut 4:9-10: "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live."
4. Jesus' growth and development shows his true humanity (v. 52, Heb 2:17).
This description can also provide a small outline how Christians ought to grow in their faith:
cognitively (wisdom) - e.g. Prov. 2
physically (stature) - e.g. 1 Co 6:19-20
spiritually (God) - e.g. Deut 10:12-13
relationally (man) - e.g. Eph 4:29
Discussion Question 1: What aspects of Jesus' character does this passage serve to remind you of?
Discussion Question 2: How can we develop the kinds of growth exemplified by Jesus in v. 52?