Luke 2:41–51 (NRSV): 41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When 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.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
I realize that Luke told his story in a particular way for particular reasons. That said, I can’t help but read this story through modern cultural lenses.
OJesus was 12 years old – not a little child. In other words, he knew full well what was expected of him in this scenario. The parents would likely have taken an inventory of their children upon leaving Jerusalem and trusted they would stay with the group. Leaving the group, even to study with the rabbis, would not have been okay. The fact his parents had to leave the group, walk for a full day back to Jerusalem, then search for three days would have compounded Jesus’ guilt. He did not honor his father and mother in this story, in my opinion. One could make the case Jesus sinned here.
48 When 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.”
We’re this my mother, this would have gone down much differently. There may have been words involved, but there would have been some corporal punishment included between each word. “Child! (whack) why! (whack) have! (whack) you! (whack)…” You get the idea. I think it’s possible this kind of thing happened to Jesus too, but was not included for posterity. 😉
49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
In my day, this sort of statement would have been considered back talk. Not only would it have failed to satisfy my mother, she likely would elevated the vigor of her response at that point.
51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.
This, however, sounds more like it. Jesus was chastened and got his act together. He was probably grounded for a month to boot. No video games or cell phone!
Lord, passages like today’s remind that you really are human as well as divine. Amen.