I feel like the passage in Luke 2 where we read of Jesus in the temple at the age of 12 often gets overlooked.
After all, Jesus hasn’t walked on water up until this point. There’s been no restoration of sight to the blind. He hasn’t even turned the water into wine at this point. However, I believe this passage sets the scene for how Jesus would come to teach others throughout his ministry.
Mary and Joseph were devout in their Jewish customs. During that time, Jews were required to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem at least three times a year for Passover, Pentecost and the Tabernacles.
In Luke 2:41-52, Jesus is traveling with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. After those days were over, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They were traveling back, presumably to their home in Nazareth, after the festival was over and did not discover that Jesus wasn’t with them until they had traveled a day’s journey.
Now, if you’re like me you’ve always questioned how in the world could it be possible to not notice your child isn’t traveling with you until you’ve traveled an entire day into the journey? Surely they would’ve noticed that sooner, right?
Well, you have to remember that back in those days you didn’t travel alone. Especially when the Passover Festival was taking place, it wasn’t uncommon for entire towns to travel together on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So you’re talking about hundreds of people traveling together at that point.
Another important insight I’ve recently learned is that you were considered a man in the Jewish culture at a much earlier age. Jesus would have been right around the age where he wouldn’t have had to travel exclusively with the women and could’ve traveled with and been recognized as a man. That sounds crazy to think about for someone who was 12 years old at the time, but that’s just the way of the culture.
In Luke 2:46-50, the action picks up after Mary and Joseph have returned to Jerusalem and are searching for Jesus.
After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and 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 them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.
Isn’t it interesting that the first recorded words of Jesus in the New Testament were of him asking a question in response to a question? How many times do we see that sort of an answer from Jesus as we read through the New Testament? A lot.
Growing up, I always thought that was strange. Our western, American minds are trained to search for a bullet-point styled answer. We want to know exactly what the answer to each question we have for God is and how we can immediately apply it to our lives. That’s not how the culture operated back in the days of Jesus.
When Jesus responds to questions with questions, he’s not being difficult. He’s teaching. He’s often getting to a much deeper point than the person asking the questions even realizes is there.
I challenge you to read through the New Testament and identify when Jesus responds with questions. What messages is he trying to get across? How much do his questions challenge you personally to consider what God is saying in your life?
In Luke 2, Jesus lays the foundation for how he’s going to teach throughout his ministry. It’s still incredibly effective more than 2,000 years later.