Jesus at the turn of manhood
This is the only narrative of Jesus’ life between infancy and His mission starting at the age of 30. Jesus is 12 years old, so this is the the year before His Bar Mitzvah, or becoming a man (being a teenager is a modern invention!). Luke, the only gospel writer to include this story, is showing us that Jesus is now completely self-aware of His identity and mission.
As an adult, Jesus will clash with the Jewish religious leaders more and more, climaxing in their having Him crucified. This passage shows that He and His family were devout Jews. The Old Testament mandated travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, but by the first Century most Jews went once a year due to the distances involved. For Jesus’ family it would have been a 3-4 day journey of 80 miles from Nazareth.
After the festival the extended family begin the journey home and take a day to notice Jesus is not with them. This isn’t quite the opening scene of Home Alone! It would have been a much larger group travelling. After a three day search – a day to get back and 2 days of searching Jerusalem, they look in the temple complex and find Him sitting with the teachers questioning and answering. It may be they look in the normal hangouts of a 12 year old – the ancient equivalents of the ice-cream parlour, playground or shopping complex, but Jesus is in His Father’s house.
Mary tells Him “your” father and I have been looking for you. Jesus says I’m in “My” Father’s house. He is telling them in an unforgettable way He is uniquely aware of His identity and the mission that will take precedence over normal familial ties. A year before manhood Jesus knows He is the Son of God – 100% God and 100% man and yet He will “increase in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.”
This passage helps us make sense of Paul’s Phil 2:6-7 “who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…”. One of the things Christ emptied himself of was His omniscience. He needed to grow in wisdom and He didn’t know the day of his Second Coming (Matt 24:46).
When Luke writes “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them,” that is Luke’s way of telling us that there is more here than meets the eye. This is the point of the passage. Jesus is in His Father’s house. He knows who He is and what He has to do.
Do you know your identity and purpose? Check out our identity in Christ infographic to grasp more of your identity in Christ. Our purpose? To make disciples Matt 28:19-20. Go for it!