So far we visited Mary at the end of her years after Jesus’ resurrection, and a little earlier at the cross. Now we’ll journey back even further, when Mary was in her 20’s and she and her husband Joseph had taken their 12 year old son Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
We’ll look deeper at why this was the only story of His childhood recorded and what was so amazing and astounding about His words then and His words now.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 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, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching 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 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.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
The story of their trip is fascinating for several reasons.
- One reason is, that it’s the only story from Jesus’ childhood that we have in all the Gospels. We have the beginning at Christmas, and then the Gospels skip ahead to Jesus at age 30; except for this story.
- Another reason this story is fascinating is that it’s the last time we read about Joseph alive. After this, we no longer hear about him. It’s assumed that Joseph died somewhere between the time of this story and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
- And lastly, this story includes the first recorded words of Jesus, preserved from when he was just 12 years old. Think about that for a moment…Jesus’ words at just 12 years old.
Since this is the only story in the Gospels about Jesus’ childhood, we can’t help but ask, why this story? Why did Mary pass it on the apostles, and of all the stories she may have told, why did Luke choose this one?
REASON #1: why I think Mary told the story of young Jesus in the Temple and why Luke recorded it
My Mom has a similar story. When my sister was just a few years old, she and my mother were in the clothing section of a department store. As my mom looked at a garment, my sister disappeared. My mother’s heart sunk, immediately thinking the worst. She frantically looks around. A store clerk sees her and began to help search. What seemed like a very long time was only a few minutes. As my mother walked around a clothing rack, she heard it. My sister began to giggle as she was hiding in the center of the rack. You may have a similar story and can understand just how my mother felt, maybe a little frustrated with her young one, but full of relief.
Let’s take a closer look at Mary and Joseph’s story. They had taken Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover. Every male Jew living within a reasonable distance of Jerusalem was required to be there for the holiday. It’s estimated that more than 300,000 people poured into the city for that week.
Mary and Joseph and all their family and friends from Nazareth made the long, strenuous journey. It would have taken over a week by caravan. When the Passover ended, Joseph, Mary and the entire Nazareth community headed home together.
After traveling for about ten hours, they arrived at their camp. Mary found Joseph and said, “Where’s Jesus?” Joseph said, “I thought he was with you.” Can you imagine their faces? Hear Mary shout and panic? They had literally just lost the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the Son of God?
Mary and Joseph hurried back to Jerusalem, probably shaving off an hour or two on the trip. Their panic grew as they searched the city – not just for a few minutes, like my mother, but for THREE days!
They went to the market; he wasn’t there. They went from house to house; he wasn’t there. They checked among the sick and injured; he wasn’t there. They checked everywhere they knew; he wasn’t there. Do you understand why, for the rest of her life, Mary told that story over and over again? It’s the stories like this that stand out in our mind. Probably because she was scared to death for THREE WHOLE DAYS!
Parenting is hard. Don’t get me wrong, at times it is filled with great joy, but at other time it’s just down right hard. We love our children so much and want the best for them always. When my son, Josh was little, I would worry about him. In fact, my biggest fear was that someone would steal him – then he would let go of my hand in a busy crowd, and really make my heart drop. One day when he has his own children, he’ll realize why mom got so upset with him for doing that.
And I thought as he got older some of that might get easier. But then comes the driver’s licenses, the girlfriends, friends I don’t know, heading off to college – where I had no idea what he was doing, what harm he might suffer, what decisions he could make that would have lifelong consequences. Then he went off to the military! Well, that didn’t get any better! Then comes the questions of faith. I can’t be there all the time, I can’t give him all the answers, as some he’ll have to discover for himself. Adolescence – what an awful invention!!!
It’s not just us, it was hard for Mary and Joseph too who were raising the Christ child. And we think it’s hard for us. Can you imagine not wanting to mess that kid up!?! There comes a point when all that’s left to do is pray, keep loving them, and put them into God’s hands and trust.
We have this image of Christmas and of life that it’s supposed to be easy, peaceful, and beautiful. “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” Life does have those moments, but it also has periods of grief and pain and hardship. Our scripture reminds us that even Jesus gave his parents fits. Remember how long it took them to find him – 3 DAYS!
# 2 REASON: why I think Mary told the story of young Jesus in the Temple and why Luke recorded it
So one reason I think Mary remembered this story was undoubtedly because it was traumatic, but there was another reason I’m sure. Often in our lives and our children’s lives, the most traumatic moments are also defining moments.
When Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus in the Temple, Mary said to him, “Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
And then we hear them…the earliest recorded words of Jesus: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
I don’t believe Jesus said this in a disrespectful way. He saw the worry on their faces, he heard it in their voices. He knew. I also don’t believe He said it is a way like he was ashamed for being there. He is 12 years old. Mary is believed to have been 13-15 years old when she was expecting Him as a baby. Jesus was certainly old enough to know better than to stray from His parents.
But he also knew something else. Did you notice it? Mary said, “Your father and I have been searching for you.” Jesus replied, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Some believe it was there, at age 12, that Jesus became aware that God was, in a profound sense, his Father in a way that Joseph was not. Calling God “Father” is not introduced in the scriptures until this very moment. Until Jesus starts doing it.
Now for Mary, Jesus’ words might have taken her back 12 years earlier when the angel Gabriel said, “you found favor with God…you will conceive a son…He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Meaning the Son of God.
Just before the scripture that was read today, Luke says from a baby, “Jesus grew up heathy and strong; he was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.” Then this story begins.
Jesus gained understanding over time, until at age 12 he became clearly aware: “I am God’s son and he is my Father in a unique way, unlike anyone else.” Now Jesus had to decide if he was going to trust in that knowledge and go with it.
Interestingly enough, the next time we see Jesus in the Gospels, he is 30 yrs old and getting baptized by John the Baptist. And Jesus hears a voice from Heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved.” And his public ministry begins.
*I want to pause for a moment and recognize that some people have had earthly fathers who were abusive or absent or unloving, and therefore addressing God as ‘Father’ may not be comforting. Instead it may lead to associating God with a painful figure, one who cannot be trusted.
So it may serve for those people, to associate God with the many other names and images we find in Scripture. And that’s OK. But it is also possible to redefine what Father means and to see God in a new way that may have profound new insight.
For me, the way I see God as Father, has been shaped by the men in my life. My dad made sure my sister and I knew he loved us (not by telling us but by showing us he was there for us in every way – birthday cakes, pink bulbs on the Christmas tree, dinner for dates before dances)…But my earthly father isn’t the only man to shape my life. My dad died as I was young, only 19, so as an adult, my male influences came stronger from my grandfathers, a few uncles and my step dad. All men who stepped up greatly when my dad died. All men who overflow me with love, who would do anything for me.
That’s the picture I have of God as our Father – a God who would do anything for me and overflow me with love. No matter what your earthly father was like, you have a Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb, who loves you more than you can possible imagine, who walks with you, cares for you, and is relentless in his love and mercy and grace towards you.
That’s part of what I hear in Jesus words, when he calls God his Father.
Jesus felt an intimate connection and relationship with God. But he also invites us to do the same – to consider God as our Father and parent, and ourselves as God’s children.
“To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
# 3 REASON: why I think Mary told the story of young Jesus in the Temple and why Luke recorded it
There’s a third reason why I think Mary told the story of young Jesus in the Temple and why Luke recorded it. And that was the response of the people to Jesus’ words.
Now bear in mind, he was 12 yrs old. Picture a 12 yr old you know reading Scripture and then preaching a sermon. Imagine that when he or she is finished, your heart is deeply moved by the message; the spiritual and theological insight surprise you. That’s the response people had to Jesus that day in the Temple.
After 3 days of searching, Mary and Joseph found Jesus and Luke says. “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.” The Greek word Luke used for “amazed” here doesn’t simply mean people thought he was a smart kit. No, they were blown away! There were astounded! Maybe even a bit unnerved, because clearly this was no ordinary child.
And again and again, people responded strongly to Jesus’ words all throughout his ministry. Many times the Gospels say, people were astounded and amazed by Jesus’ words. His words had the power to change history and they still have the power to change the future.
- His words call us to live for God and to love others.
- They call us to be light for the world.
- To love not only our neighbors, but our enemies.
- Jesus asks us to forgive and show mercy even to the person who doesn’t deserve our mercy.
- He asks us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger.
- His Sermon on the Mount provides us with a code for life.
- His parables illustrate what the Kingdom of God is meant to be like.
The real celebration of Christmas is Jesus came as a Savior who sacrificed His life to save you from your sins…But there is more.
He lived on earth to show you what it means to be human. He lived to teach us who God is. And he lived to call us to a different way of life. He came to show us the way, teach us the truth, and invited us to find life. The earliest followers of Jesus were not called Christians. They were actually called followers of “the Way.”
This is what we celebrate at Christmas – not only the hope of resurrection and the gift of salvation, but the map that helps the lost find their way, the light that helps illuminate our darkness, the truth that’s worth giving up everything to have it.
John says it this way:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and the life was the light of all people…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
The Word is powerful. And our words are powerful. Let’s me explain it this way:
When we talk about Jesus as SAVIOR, we’re referring to the cross and the Resurrection. When we talk about Jesus as LORD, we’re referring to His call for us to follow Him and to do as He commands. Follow His ways.
Do you remember Jesus’ last words before he ascended to Heaven?
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
At Christmas, we’re not only celebrating the hope of resurrection and the great, beautiful gift of salvation. We’re celebrating the birth of the One who came to teach us how to live, to show us the way, to be the truth and the life. The words of Jesus, Mary’s 12 year old son, amazed those who first heard him the Temple. His words should still Amaze, Astound, and Astonish us today.