“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
This is the only mention of Jesus’ childhood in the gospels. There are some extra-biblical sources that record
fanciful tales of Jesus as a rambunctious young miracle worker. But such accounts should be rejected. For reasons
we may not understand, it pleased God to give us few details about our Lord’s childhood. But this one event
described by Luke offers helpful insight into Jesus own self-understanding from his childhood.
It is clear from this passage that Jesus was raised in a pious Jewish home. His parents were faithful to the religious
expectations placed upon them. All male Jews were expected to attend the Jerusalem temple at least three times
year at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. This was a challenging expectation given that many
Jewish families were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. As Jewish pilgrims tended to travel in large
caravans for these events it is not especially surprising that Joseph and Mary lost track of their son during the
return to Nazareth.
Luke’s brief account of this event reveals that Jesus clearly knew that he was the Son of God. This matters in part
because of challenges from liberal scholars who deny that Jesus claimed to be or ever thought of himself as
Divine. Jesus’ rather abrupt answer to his mother’s plaintive, “Why have you treated us so?” demonstrates his
awareness of his unique relationship to God. As his miraculous conception proved, Jesus was the eternal Son of
God. And while Joseph and Mary knew this on one level it is clear that their son’s divine nature presented many
unique challenges to the family.
As we learn throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ status as the Son of God was not in conflict with the fact that
he was also flesh and blood. Through the miracle of incarnation God had taken on a human nature. Jesus came
into the world to save sinners. A part of that was to identify with those he came to save. And so even as he
reminded his parents of his loyalty to his divine mission, he willingly submitted himself to the authority of Joseph
and Mary. And just as with the visit of the shepherds in Jesus’ infancy, Mary treasured up in heart these