Summary: Sometimes we lose sight of Jesus, and imagine that He must be lost to us. This is not the case. If we trace our steps back towards the point in our lives where we last encountered Him, we will find Him.
THE BOY JESUS COMES TO HIS TEMPLE
It was obligatory for men to attend the three main feasts in Jerusalem, but it is evident that Mary and Joseph went up as a couple (Luke 2:41). They also took Jesus with them “according to the custom of the feast” (Luke 2:42). Habits set in youth remain with us throughout life - and we will find Jesus later, as an adult, going into the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day “as His custom was” (Luke 4:16).
Holy days were also holidays, and a party of extended family and friends would make the arduous journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem in caravan together. This explains the circumstances of Mary and Joseph ‘losing’ Jesus: they each presumed that He was with someone else (Luke 2:44). ‘Home Alone’ in reverse!
Sometimes we lose sight of Jesus, and imagine that He must be ‘lost’ to us. This is not the case. If we trace our steps back towards the point in our lives where we last encountered Him, we will find Him (Luke 2:45). In fact, He has never left the precincts of the Temple (Luke 2:43; Luke 2:46).
“After three days” (Luke 2:46) is sometimes thought to be a covert anticipation of Jesus being ‘three days’ out of sight in the tomb. There may be some symbolism here. However, Luke usually refers to the resurrection of Jesus under the motif of “the third day” (Luke 9:22; Luke 13:32; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:21; Luke 24:46).
The Rabbis understood the age of twelve to be the threshold between childhood and adulthood: the enquiring mind is beginning to prepare for the day when the youngster must leave the nest. Yet Jesus was not asking questions of those with Doctorates as one who does not know (Luke 2:46) - but rather as a method of teaching them! It was His answers, not His questions, which caused the astonishment (Luke 2:47).
Joseph was not the father of Jesus, as Mary had briefly suggested in her frustration (Luke 2:48): yet we may understand her consternation. The first recorded words of Jesus (Luke 2:49) may appear stern, as do those which He spoke at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2:4). However, Jesus’ attitude to His mother is not without its tenderness (John 19:26).
This incident in the Temple was a precursor to the fact that Jesus would one day be leaving the comforts of home (Luke 9:57-58), in order to be about the affairs of His heavenly Father (Luke 2:49). For the time being, Mary and Joseph could not understand what Jesus was telling them (Luke 2:50).
So Jesus returned with them to Nazareth, and continued to submit Himself to their ‘parenthood’ (Luke 2:51). Mary, for her part, treasured all the sayings about Him in her heart. Not just what He had said (Luke 2:49), but also the words of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35), and of the angel (Luke 1:32-33).
The incarnate Jesus continued to grow (Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52). This is Jesus subjecting Himself to human limitations: part of the mystery of His self-emptying (Philippians 2:6-7). He has been through all the stages of human experience needed to qualify Him as our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16).