41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents* saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ 49He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’* 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years,* and in divine and human favour.
Jesus’ family was devout – every year they went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Remember, we have said that this would have been a 9 or 10 day journey, by foot! We see in Luke’s account that they traveled in a group, with friends and relatives from their village. When Jesus was 12 years old, they made the usual journey. As they started for home, after the festival had ended, they assumed the boy was with his friends. But when they stopped for the evening, they could not find him. Any among you who are parents, or who have ever been responsible for a child, can imagine their panic at that moment! I can remember becoming separated from one of my children in a department store, and having a moment of absolute panic! And so, Mary and Joseph, and some of their friends and relatives, rush back to Jerusalem. I imagine they looked into every ditch and at the bottom of every cliff as they went back! And then they searched Jerusalem for 3 days – all the places where they and the boy’s friends had stayed; the places they had visited. Finally, they go to the temple – now, who would think to look for the boy in the temple? He says they should have known that was where he would be.
His mother scolds him – isn’t that what we do when a child has scared us nearly to death? We say, “Why did you do that to me? I was worried sick!” as if the child’s purpose had been to frighten us! Don’t you love that Mary sounds like any of us? But Jesus responds, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He had been there, all those days (3 or 4?), listening to the teachers, asking questions, excited to be learning. And those who heard him had been amazed at his understanding and his answers. He was coming to realize who he was, and who he was to be – his vocation, that for which he had come. But for the time being, he went home with his parents, was obedient, and grew in wisdom and in favor with both God and his neighbors. And again, his mother treasured these things in her heart.
This is all we have of Jesus’ boyhood, this one short story that Luke tells. There were Gnostic gospels that told strange stories of the boy Jesus turning clay pigeons into live ones, or harming his playmates with inadvertent miracles. But these did not sound much like the Jesus we know – or whom the Apostles knew, and these “gospels” were rejected. When we come back to Jesus with Luke he will be 30 years old, and ready to enter his ministry.