Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.…
We now proceed to the solitary circumstance in the Child-life of Jesus which is given in the Gospels. He had been growing for twelve years in strength and in spirit, and the Lord loved him. The Child in Nazareth redeemed in God's eyes all the world. It was the one absorbing interest in the Divine outlook upon our race. And now he is taken by his pious parents to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. It is his second visit to the temple; this time he comes himself; the first time, as we have seen, he was presented. The following points deserve attention in this narrative.
I. THE PARENTAL CARE EXERCISED OVER JESUS. The pious pair, Joseph and Mary, went, as we are told, every year to Jerusalem to the Passover. And they had given the holy Child committed to their charge such advantages as Nazareth afforded. The home school especially, not to speak of synagogue services, to which he was doubtless regularly taken, evidenced their interest in the welfare of the Child. No sooner, therefore, has he reached the age of twelve, at which time little ones were deemed able to become "children of the Law," than he is taken up by them to see the Passover at Jerusalem. Their pious, consistent life was an excellent preparation for the solemnities of the great feast. Jesus came face to face with the ceremonies after experiencing most tender home care. And the history before us affords ample evidence of the parental consideration. If it was not perfect parental care, this is only to allow that neither Joseph nor Mary was sinless. Indeed, one of the German preachers bases an admirable discourse on parental duty upon this history, finding in it six separate hints upon it. But let us pause a moment over the care with which they must have explained to him all the ritual. Doubtless he saw more in it than they did, but he must have received gratefully their help in the circumstances. To them the Passover spoke of a great deliverance afforded to their fathers; to him it spoke of a great sacrifice yet to come. His insight must have been a deeper thing than they could then appreciate. And now let us pass to the oversight of which the parents were guilty. Their care was great, but it was not absolutely perfect. In the bustle of preparation for the home-going, the parents started with the caravan under the impression that he must be in the company of the boys who were in considerable numbers attached to the procession. They' should have made sure, and not left such a Child to the chances of travelling. We have no right to impute the separation of Jesus from his parents to any lack of dutifulness on his part, but solely to an oversight on theirs. What were all their bits of baggage and their acquaintances in comparison with the safe custody of "the holy Child"? And in consistency with this view, it has been suggested that underneath Mary's apparent expostulation and reproof there is a latent confession of her fault, which she and Joseph tried to atone for in their diligent search for the missing Boy.
II. THE LONELY BOY TURNED INSTINCTIVELY TO THE TEMPLE. The seven days of the Passover Feast had been a rare feast to Jesus. The priests and ritual and all the varied life which thronged the temple court must have been a revelation to him. He brought the consciousness of a Jew instructed in the Law to bear upon the temple and its services. We must look into his mind through the Old Testament. We there find the idea of God's Fatherhood in relation to his people several times referred to (Deuteronomy 14:1, 2; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:9, 20; Psalm 103:13, etc.). To the little thoughtful Boy, therefore, the temple was regarded as the home of him who was a Father to all who trusted in him. And this general idea of fatherhood became specialized in his deep, reverential musings, and he could not but feel towards God as no Jew had ever felt before. Whether he had as a Child the further revelation yet made to him of his peculiar relation to God as the Only Begotten, or reached this in the progress of the years, is what we cannot be certain of. At all events, the temple was the Father's house. To it the lonely Lad turned. He felt drawn to God irresistibly, now that his earthly guardians had gone away. "When father and mother forsake me," he could say, "the Lord will take me up." The orphan Child, so to speak, turned to the temple, as to his real home.
III. HE BECAME A HOLY LEARNER THERE. Not only was the temple the scene of the sacrifices; it was also the place of learning for those interested in the Law. Schools were established within the sacred precincts where the scribes discoursed to such pupils as chose to sit at their feet. The method seems to have been by dialogue - the question and answer which once were so prized. Here the Boy believed he would get light about the will of the great Father who dwelt there, and who had given his people the Law. As a faithful Son, he wished to get all possible light about his Father's business, and so he frequented the schools. He was a "model catechumen," as a suggestive writer on this whole passage calls him. Although he must have seen through the shallowness of some of his teachers, and had doubtless deeper insight than any, he was content to sit at their feet and get all the good from them he could. It was an instance, surely, of great diligence in embracing every opportunity of improvement which came his way. He wanted to learn all he could while he had the chance. And most naturally did his answers and questions astonish the doctors. They had never had such an apt scholar before. His insight led them along lines they never had traveled hitherto. And as for the Father's business, it at least embraces such elements as these:
1. The understanding of the terms of access to his presence. The significance of the ritual which was celebrated in the temple, the meaning of sacrifice, of bloodshedding, of incense, and of approach by the appointed priests into the Divine presence, - all this belonged to the Father's business.
2. The understanding of the meaning of his commandments. The Law as the expression of the Father's will, and read consequently in the light of love.
3. How far the knowledge of the Father was to be extended. The kingdom of God in its universal range, as distinct from a narrow nationality, - this was part of the Father's business. Hence the lingering of the holy Learner about the temple schools. His apt answers would procure him lodging and food during the season of separation his parents. Having put God first, all these things were added unto him (Matthew from Matthew 6:33).
IV. HIS RECOVERY BY THE ANXIOUS MOTHER. Joseph and Mary, on discovering at the end of the first day's march the absence of the Child, set out for Jerusalem to find him. They doubtless inquire all the way back, and then they go hither and thither through the city, and at last think of the temple. There, in the midst of the doctors, he is found and recovered by Mary. Her words are apparent rebuke, but really confession upon her part of the oversight. She had never before had any reason for fault-finding; it comes all the more surprisingly upon her now. Jesus defends himself on the ground that he was looking after his Father's business. In other words, he insists on putting God first, before Mary or Joseph. We get an insight into what godliness is. It means making God's business supreme. God claims first place, and this is what the Boy Jesus gave him. The Revised Version translates the words," Wist ye not that I must be in my Father's house?" This would simply refer to their folly in not first seeking him there. The Authorized Version is as near the Greek, and of wider import. But Mary and Joseph did not understand his meaning. These are the first recorded words of Jesus; and how they harmonize with the last, when on the cross he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"!
V. HIS OBEDIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT. He has got all the doctors can meanwhile give to him. It would not have been profitable for him to have remained longer in their schools, and to have merely witnessed their powers of disputation. He is to have collision with them soon enough. Besides, he will be safer out of their reach in the quiet of the northern home. And so he recognizes in his mother's call the voice of his Father in heaven, and in the privacy of Nazareth his Father's business. He has to wait as well as work. Hence without a murmur he goes away with them and is subject unto them. But this subjection and reverence did not hinder, but really helped, his development. "He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." As a person under parental authority, he found his reward in wisdom, and became beloved of all around him as well as of the Lord above. It was a beautiful example to set us of being subject under God to parents and superiors. His growth in wisdom was also so considerate. He would take wisdom as others have to get it, gradually, and pass from the known to the knowledge of the unknown. And God's favor will rest as well as man's favor upon all who follow in the footsteps of his Divine Son in this beautiful subjection. There is no truth more important at the present time than this of realizing our development in due subjection. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.