Luke 2:41-52 Jesus at Twelve
Bible Background: This is our favorite story of Jesus as a kid-because it’s the only story we have! We meet a precocious 12 year old, who is showing his independence and worrying his parents. He’s also amazing the group of teachers at the Temple.
Digging Deeper: 1. This scene reveals much about Jesus’ family: They are a faithful Jewish family. Every year they go to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration (probably the most important Jewish festival). Jesus is 12, just shy of the age of a boy’s Bar Mitzvah-coming of age ritual.
2. Luke always has a wider audience in mind, namely the Gentile world. Those in the Roman Empire would be familiar with the legendary stories of great leaders like Augustus, who at age 12, reported gave the funeral message for his grandmother, Julia Caesar-sister of Julius Caesar. This serves notice that great things should be expected of Jesus in years to come!
3. Artists typically paint a picture of the boy Jesus teaching the teachers in the temple. That’s not exactly what Luke describes. Luke shows Jesus as an attentive listener and as a good questioner. The adults are indeed amazed at his understanding! This amazement will only grow as Jesus grows.
4. How did Mary & Joseph “lose” Jesus? It’s thought that groups of families traveled together on a pilgrimage like this. It’s easy to imagine a group of 12 year olds ‘hanging-out’ together. It’s that first night when they realize he’s not with them, and panic sets in. What does the phrase after three days remind you of?
5. Mary scolds Jesus, as you would expect. Jesus sort of ‘talks back’, which you might not expect. Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house? is a saying that puzzles Mary & Joseph. Whatever they do know about their son’s full identity, they don’t seem to know fully yet. But the real Jesus is being revealed to them, and to the wider world. As Luke describes young Jesus “growing in human and divine favor” we get another sense that Jesus-at birth, at 12, fully grown-is 100% human and 100% divine! Such a mystery!
6. What ‘faithful parenting’ practices can we learn from Mary & Joseph? For one: the importance of practicing faith as a family. In today’s terms, Christian education, worship, and service connect a child to the larger family of God. Combined with faith conversations, and learning Bible stories and prayer at home, we give kids a chance to grow into a mature faith in God.