Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Have you ever been to crowded shopping centers or anyplace where there are huge crowds of people and seen parents with their toddler on a leash? It used to be, every now-and-then, you'd hear an announcement, "Will the parents of little Billy please report to mall security." It's been a while since I've heard that. Probably because more parents are leashing their children. It can be scary for a parent to misplace a child or for a child to misplace a parent.
In a moment, we're going to read a story about lostness. But before we do, let's set the scene.
At the time of Jesus, it was customary for Jewish families to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. This was a roughly 65 mile, four day journey. It was part of the regular rhythm of life for faithful believers. Establishing a pattern of worship and devotion was, and is, a good thing.
That's what Jesus' family did. For years, they went down to Jerusalem to worship and to celebrate the Passover.
This was a big deal. They usually traveled in large groups. There's safety and companionship in numbers, right? Finally, when it was time to head home, they again traveled in a large caravan. Now, you're with family and friends and acquaintances, so it makes sense that if you have an older child, you don't have to keep an eye on him or her at all times. Since there were no helicopters 2000 years ago, I doubt there were helicopter parents. So, with older children, you might not see them for hours. Only when setting up camp for the night would the family regroup.
That's the context for today's passage. Let's now look at Luke 2:41-50:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
There's so much we could explore in this passage. It speaks to Jesus' parent's slow understanding of who he was. Even after what was revealed to them at his birth, twelve years later they seemed to have lost their grip on understanding those things. That happens to us, too. We forget things or we become lazy in our thinking or both. That's certainly at play here. Also, we could talk about how Jesus understands himself at this very young age. Or we could talk about what the insiders in the temple thought about Jesus as he spent time with them. Lots of possibilities.
We're going to spend time on one point…a point that is especially impactful this time of year. In this story, here are four specific ways Jesus related to the teachers in the temple: