The Book of Luke, The Disappearance, Discovery, and Declaration
of Jesus -
Luke 2:39-52, And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. 41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? 50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
There is a popular movement among some folks that centers around the question “What would Jesus Do? and that question is asked, and the answer is considered before deciding what to do in a particular situation.
The question is asked in an attempt to follow Jesus.
But this act of Jesus as described by Luke is one in which you would not want most 12 year olds to follow.
There is not a parent who would understand if their child went off without permission for over three days and in doing so put them through much grief and anguish before they found him safe
And the reason is that your 12 year old, my 12 year old is not God.
I remember a time in the life of our family when an occurrence happened to us similar to that which happened to Joseph and Mary and Jesus.
There was a time in our life when we had a multitude of children in our charge and getting them to church on time and leaving together after the service was quite an exercise.
We would gather them and all pile in our trusty 1971 brown and cream Dodge van and head for home.
But on one or two occasions, I don’t remember exactly, we found upon getting home that we did not have the right count of children and had to turn back to retrieve the child that we had forgotten.
So we crept back with embarrassment and found some faithful saint waiting for us at the church with the errant child.
When you have one or two children this shouldn’t happen to you but if you have a large number of children like we had it is not hard to do.
Now Mary and Joseph had several children at this time and they were all in a caravan most likely and their children were intermingled with other families in the caravan so it would be an easy thing to miss a 12 year old boy for a lengthy period.
Now this passage that we have just read is unique to Luke and it is the only inspired, biblically recorded incident in the youthful years of our Lord.
Matthew records the incident of the wise men and the attempt of Herod to kill the baby Jesus, and the flight to Egypt, which Luke does not record.
But other than this incident in the very young years of our Lord the account in Luke chapter 2 of the incident at the temple when our Lord was 12, there is no other biblical record of any incident in the growing up years of Jesus Christ.
But we are glad that Luke gave us this record for it is important to us to know that even Jesus Christ had a time of development.
We also have in this account the first recorded spoken words of the Lord Jesus Christ during his incarnation.
All but these words of Jesus Christ were words recorded in His later ministry.
Though the words be few they are very important words.
Because they describe the mission statement of our Lord and it is also our mission if we are to be Christ like, that is to be Christian.
For the first recorded spoken words that we hear from the incarnate Jesus is:
“How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? “
That word “must” is derived from a word that means to be in bonds, to be bound.
Jesus Christ was saying to his parents that he can do none other than to be about his father’s business.
In Jesus mind he could do not do any thing else but to be involved in the business of his Father, and the father was refering to was clearly not Joseph.
Also this is the last time Joseph is ever mentioned in the life of our Lord.
It is commonly felt that Joseph must have died sometime after this incident, before our Lord began His public ministry.
Jesus Christ, while on the cross, told John to care for his mother, and this in itself indicates that Jesus was caring for her up to that time.
There was no Joseph in the picture.
Finally, the actions of our Lord, by the response of, Mary and Joseph, appeared to be wrong.
The words of Mary to Jesus clearly imply an assumption of His wrong-doing, and thus convey a gentle, but obvious rebuke.
Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
If this child were any person other than Jesus, we would all agree that He was wrong.
What is it, then, that makes Jesus’ actions proper, when they would not have been for any other 12 year-old?
How is it that His actions here, which were regarded as wrong by His parents, are not wrong because we absolutely know that Jesus was without sin ever?
Why can Jesus’ actions not be wrong for Him, when they would have been wrong for any other Jewish or Gentile boy?
The story is really very simple.
The parents of our Lord had gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover, just as they had done every year (2:41-42).
One commentator has written about this:
“At the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles every male had to go up to Jerusalem (Ex. xxiii. 14-17, xxxiv. 23; Deut. xvi. 16). But since the Dispersion this law could not be kept; yet most Palestinian Jews tried to go at least once a year The International Critical Commentary Series, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), p. 74.
“All male Jews were required to attend at the Temple three times in the year, at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Ex. 23:14-17). The Mishnah expressly exempts women from the obligation (Hagigah 1:1), but some rabbis appear to have thought they should go up and some, of course, did. Attendance at all three festivals was difficult with Jews scattered all over the Roman world and beyond, but many made the effort once a year. It was the custom of Joseph and Mary to go up at Passover, the feast that commemorated the deliverance of the nation from Egypt (Ex. 12).” Leon Morris, The Gospel According To St. Luke, The Tyndale Bible Commentary Series, R. V. G. Tasker, General Editor (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 90-91.
It is not clearly stated, but most likely Jesus was taken along throughout the years of His growing up.
This year, we are told, He was twelve.
Depending on the commentator you may read, it was either at the age or 12 or of 13 that the Israelite lad was made a “son of the law.”
Leon Morris, in his commentary on The Gospel According To St. Luke, has written:
It was at thirteen years of age that a Jewish boy could become a ‘son of the law’ or full member of the synagogue (cf. Mishnah, Aboth 5:21; Niddah 5:6). He would then assume all the responsibilities implied in his circumcision. For some observances at any rate the Mishnah provides that a boy should be taken to the observance a year or two before he turned thirteen so that he might be prepared (Yoma 8:4), and there may have been something of this on the present occasion (though it is equally possible that Jesus went up every year; we do not know).” Morris, p. 91.
And from .” Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke he writes:
“Whether Jesus had already gone with His parents to Jerusalem at an earlier date we do not know. In any case, Luke relates that He did go when He was twelve years old. That was probably in order to be prepared for the ceremony of the following year, when He would be permitted as a young Jewish boy to join the religious community as a responsible member—i.e. as “son of the commandment” (Bar Mitzvah). This important event takes place when the Jewish boy is thirteen.” Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament Series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975 [reprint]), p. 126.
The pilgrims who made the journey to Jerusalem and back would often travel together in caravans.
Thus, family, friends, and other acquaintances from Nazareth and the surrounding area seem to have formed such a caravan.
From Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke he writes:
“The inhabitants of a village, or of several neighbouring villages, formed themsleves into a caravan, and travelled together. The Nazareth caravan was so long that it took a whole day to look through it. The caravans went up singing psalms, especially the “songs of degrees” (Ps. css.-cxxxiv.): but they would come back with less solemnity. It was probably when the caravan halted for the night that He was missed.” Plummer, p. 75.
The Feast having concluded, the caravan began the journey home, and among them were Mary and Joseph (with perhaps some of their children), but not Jesus.
Jesus was not discovered to be missing immediately.
This was probably for several reasons.
First, Jesus was an absolutely trustworthy and reliable child.
As the Son of God, He was without sin, and thus His parents did not have the same concerns other parents might have.
Also, the men and the women may have traveled in groupings which were separate.
We are told that the women and children were often in front, with the men at the rear.
Each of the parents might therefore have assumed that Jesus was with the other parent.
Eventually, Jesus’ absence was noted, and after searching among those in the caravan and finding Him missing entirely, Mary and Joseph went back to Jerusalem, which may have been a day’s travel.
For three days they searched for the boy Jesus.
This would indicate a long, intense, search, which would lead to growing concern and consternation, as well as growing frustration, which seems evident in the parents’ first response to Jesus, once He was found.
Finally, almost as a last resort it would seem, the parents looked for Jesus in the temple.
And there He was, sitting in the midst of the teachers, busily engaged in conversation.
His role was principally that of a learner and a listener, who asked many pertinent and penetrating questions.
It is evident that He also gave some responses, for those nearby who overheard Him marveled at His answers.
46And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
Imagine yourself as one of the parents of Jesus at this point.
Imagine your growing sense of concern as the time passed, and as the child was not found.
Consider your fears intensifying as you recalled the absolute reliability of Jesus and His wisdom.
Had he been taken? Was this the sword that would pierce through Mary’s soul that Simeon spoken of?
You know how it is natural to fear the worst.
And then when they found Him, he is seemingly aloof to all the dismay He has caused, discussing theology in the temple.
Certainly if this had been your child you would be angry with Him, just as I would have been with my child.
Certainly they we happy to find him but now all the concern and anxiety and intensity caused by Jesus’ absence now turns to frustration and anger.
His mother scolds Him, gently perhaps (in front of the teachers and those looking on), but nevertheless her words are intended as a rebuke.
Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
At this moment in time, Mary may have almost entirely forgotten that Jesus was any different from any other child.
All of the strange and wonderful things she had been told and had seen, the things she “treasured in her heart” were probably momentarily overshadowed by her frustration.
“How could you have done this to us, Jesus!” seems to be the essence of her first words.
The normal reaction of a child would have been a head hung in shame, a boy stung by the rebuke of His foolishness and thoughtlessness.
Such is not the case, however, for Jesus’ response shifts the focus from His error to their own.
In response to the rebuke of His mother, there is the gentle rebuke of His own question.
49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?