We only have one story about Jesus from his childhood after the narrative of his birth. During the silence of the thirty years until he begins his ministry, only this one incident gives us a brief look at the boy, Jesus. Then silence again for the next eighteen years.
Luke tells this story most likely from his interviews with Mary. Jesus’ family, and even extended family, made the same trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year that his Mother and Joseph had made at his birth. They came with thousands of other pilgrims from all over for the Passover. The temple was fully staffed with hundreds of additional priests to accommodate the long lines of devout Jews who came to offer their Passover lamb. Jesus, with Joseph, would have been in one of those lines to offer their lamb to God and then would have carried the sacrificed lamb back to the family to eat for the Passover meal. Jesus would have heard the explanation of the first Passover in Egypt long ago as God’s means of protecting his people from the final plague. At this Passover, more than any other, Jesus began to connect the dots of what Passover meant for everyone, and especially for him.
When the Passover was over, the family began their almost one hundred mile journey home. However, without realizing it, they left Jesus behind. It wasn’t until the end of the first day that his parents realized he was missing, since they were traveling in a large company of relatives. Jesus, being a real adolescent, most likely forgot about everything but what he had just experienced and had become enthralled with what was going on in the temple. Apparently, his mind had begun to realize that he was to be the ultimate Passover Lamb.
When his parents realized he was not with them, they traveled back and found him in the temple, “…sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Mary demonstrates her anxiety with these words, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you” (Luke 2:46-47).
Jesus’ answer was very astonishing to his parents, but also is extremely enlightening for us. Jesus answered, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48).
Jesus’ answer shows he realized that the temple and the Passover were his Father’s house and his father’s business. Jesus had come to realize his special relationship with his Father. From this time forward he never used any other term for God other than Father. His answer indicates he had come to realize that his life needed to be occupied with his Father’s business.
When we realize who our father is, then we will comprehend our purpose in life. This is the ultimate connection of relationship with purpose. It is also interesting that when Jesus went with his parents back to Nazareth, his astounding revelation of who he was did not change his relationship to his parents. He was obedient to them and grew in wisdom and grace (Luke 2:49-52). True understanding of who God is makes us submissive and obedient, not arrogant and rebellious.