Luke 2:41-45 – Where is Jesus?
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was 12 years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
It has been 12 years since Jesus’ birth and we find Joseph and Mary on their way to Jerusalem. They are headed to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, which they attended annually. Passover was one of three Feasts which men were required to return to Jerusalem for each year according to Deuteronomy 16:16. These Feasts included Passover, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). The Passover represented the night on which the Lord went throughout Egypt striking down the firstborn of both men and animals. However, the Israelites celebrate this event because the Lord passed over the houses which had blood on the wooden doorframes; the blood of a year old lamb without defect (Exodus 12). The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost marked the end of the wheat harvest and is associated with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 16:9-12). The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths is to celebrate how God brought Israel out of Egypt and how he had them live in booths throughout their journey (Leviticus 23:42-43).
At the time of Joseph and Mary, the custom for those living a significant distance had become a single trip to Jerusalem each year for the Passover. It is fitting that of the three major feasts, the one which was of most importance to the Israelites was Passover. Don’t get me wrong, all three are of great significance. The Feast of Weeks that celebrates the giving of the Law, by which we can know God’s standard of holiness in our lives.
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates how God provides for his people despite the difficulty of life’s circumstances. Yet the Passover is more significant! It celebrates the night God graciously spared the firstborn children of those who obeyed God’s command to mark the door-frames of their houses with the blood of the lamb. Every family in Egypt, whether Israelite or Egyptian, deserved the judgment of the Lord which was coming. Yet God spared those who had faith by the sacrifice of a spotless lamb, they would be delivered from the wrath of the Lord and from bondage to Pharaoh.
Aside from the historical nature of it’s annual celebration, I believe Luke purposely uses the Passover in his writing. His gospel covers over 30 years, but there are only two times the Passover is mentioned, here and the night before Jesus is crucified. Luke is clearly portraying Jesus as the spotless Lamb. Though we are sinful and deserve the wrath of God, His Blood spread on the cross of wood saves us from God’s judgment and frees us from bondage to our fleshly desires.
"After the feast,” Jesus’ parents head for home with their caravan of travelers. They were likely traveling with a large group who came from Nazareth to celebrate the Passover. Jesus is apparently not with the group when they leave for home which his parents are unaware of. The text simply tells us the reason they were unaware was because they supposed him to be somewhere among the company they were traveling with. We are not sure how many people are with them, but it is not just a few. You can probably imagine the scene pretty clearly. The Feast is over, thousands upon thousands are leaving Jerusalem for their homes. Joseph and Mary may have asked around; a friend may have said they saw Jesus with cousin. Of course, this is all speculation… the fact is that the text says they left and were unaware that Jesus had stayed. Luke does not place any blame on Joseph and Mary and he doesn’t place any blame on Jesus. He simply gives us the facts. At the end of the day (2:44-45), they start to look more seriously for Jesus as they prepare to stop for the night. When they don’t find Him, they are frantic and immediately turn back for Jerusalem (2:45).
Luke 2:46-50 – Patros Mou
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
There are a couple of views about what Luke means by “after three days.” He could have meant that it had been three days since Joseph and Mary began their journey from Jerusalem or it could have meant that after returning to Jerusalem it took them three days to find Jesus in the temple court. Either way it is clear from Jesus response they did not need to be “anxiously searching.” Jesus believes they should have known where He was (2:49).
There is a question about whether the phrase in verse 49 says, “in my Father’s house” or “about my Father’s business.” “In my Father’s house” emphasizes Jesus’ actual proximity, whereas “about my Father’s business” emphasizes the things Jesus was doing. The weakness with the first view is that the word for “house” or “temple” is not used, the strength is that it seems to answer Mary’s searching more clearly. The strength of the second view is that there are some literary parallels (Mark 8:33; I Cor. 7:32-34; I Tim 4:15) which give precedent for the phrase “about my Father’s business.” Although, the commentary I am reading by Darrell Bock seems to think these literary parallels are weak. To me it doesn’t seem like much of an issue, what is important about Jesus’ statement is his self-awareness. He knows God as “My Father” (patros mou).
Regardless of whether Jesus said he was in his Father’s house or about his Father’s business, it is clear he was in the Temple court. And this is what He was doing there:
- Sitting among the teachers
- Listening to the teachers
- Asking questions of the teachers
We know Jesus was full of wisdom and that the grace of God was upon him (Luke 2:40). This character was likely reflected in his interaction with the teachers. They are “amazed at his understanding and his answers.” While he was growing in his self-awareness through this experience, I'm sure he also perceived a lot about the spiritual condition of the teachers of the law. Joseph and Mary are astonished at the scene they are seeing. Some suggest this is because they are trying to figure out the connection between Jesus as a regal ruler and his activity at the temple. I am more inclined to think they are simply taken a back by the teachers’ amazement with their son.
There is another parallel in this passage which we should reflect on. Earlier we pointed out that the Passover is talked about twice in Luke; here and the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. It is interesting here on the day after the Passover, Jesus is in the Temple talking about the Scriptures with the teachers. When Luke talks about the Passover again in Luke 22, the next day he is before “the chief priests and the teachers of the law.” But this time they ask him, “Are you then the Son of God?” and he tells them, “you are right in saying I am.” At this they take him to Pilate to be crucified. At their first meeting with Him, they are amazed; at their last they call him a blasphemer. What a difference 21 years can make. They did not have ears to hear the difficult message Jesus’ life would speak to them. Jesus’ message is not an easy one. Though they were averse to John the Baptist’s message (Luke 20:5), they were able to put up with it. John taught repentance, and they were okay with that. Jesus’ message is one of loving your neighbor as your self even when your neighbor is a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)… this kind of teaching was too hard.
Luke 2:51-52 – Obedience
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
After they leave the temple we see Jesus returns to Nazareth with Joseph and Mary and is obedient to them. By his actions Jesus provides a clear teaching that children ought to submit to their parents. It didn’t matter that He was the Son of God, his parents deserved respect and He demonstrates it to them. I like the conclusion Jim Johnson comes to on this text. When considering how to apply this story to our lives he says, “Because Jesus was ‘about His Father’s business,’ we can learn from Him not just be more like Him.” It is certainly true that we can act properly by observing Jesus actions. But it is even more important that we allow our hearts to be changed by reflecting on Jesus’ single-minded pursuit of His Father’s heart, whether as it is demonstrated through His time spent learning at the temple or by His returning to Nazareth in obedience to his parents. The goal of the Chrisitian life isn't to simply duplicate the things that Jesus did, rather the goal of the Christian life is to pursue the Father's heart with the same fervor Jesus did.
For the second time Luke records this phrase, “[Mary] treasured all these things in her heart.” Again it is as if she is reminded of the things that have been shared about her Son (Jesus Birth). I imagine that with each of these events she is gaining a little more insight into what was really meant by the word she was given from Gabriel (Jesus Birth Foretold).
I love the final phrase of this passage… ”Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” God cares about process. He is not a God of perfect efficiency which is so counter to our nature. We strive for efficiency. Increased efficiency is celebrated in business, education, medicine, fitness, etc. We just want to download an APP that will take 10 pounds off our bodies with a push of a button. We want our text messages to send the INSTANT we press send… half a second delay and we are throwing our phones against the wall. God is different from us… He cares about our sanctification, seeing our hearts molded to His. Often times this does not occur by the most efficient of means. By Jesus life we see this truth; God cares about the process. He grew in wisdom and stature. He did so in a perfect manner, but he experienced life’s frustrations, difficulties and temptations and responded in absolute Godliness.
The most impressive thing to me about the whole of this passage is Jesus’ self-awareness. He knew God as His Father, and responded to that truth appropriately. The cool thing is that through Jesus giving up of Himself on the cross as payment for our sin, we are no longer alienated from God as enemies. If we have recognized we are sinners deserving of death (Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23), and we trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and The Life (John 14:6), then we are God’s kids (I John 3:1). God is Our Father; He cares for us; He loves us. My prayer is that God would make me MORE aware of this everyday.
I pray that you are encouraged by the text this week. As always we would love to have you join us as we continue to study through the book of Luke. For more information about when and where we meet, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.