Vacation time had come again and we were headed to the Northwest, where we would be visiting family and friends. It was a long trip, especially with five girls, and so much preparation was required. As usual, we worked late into the night, in fact early into the next morning, and finally loaded all the kinds into the car about 4 a.m. The kids were asleep in the back of the station wagon as we started to get under way. My wife suggested that we make one more “head count” before we left. Sure enough, we were one short. A trip back into the house revealed that one of the children had crawled out of car undetected and back into her own bed. It could have been hours down the road before we had realized our error.
I imagine that most of you could share a similar kind of story, about how a child or family member was left behind, or almost so. We may therefore tend to look at the account of our Lord’s absence from the family in that caravan as just another one of those kinds of “disaster,” the kind families talk about for years to come.
The story of Jesus’ absence is different in a number of significant ways.
First, let us remember that this is the only inspired, biblically recorded incident in the youthful years of our Lord. Matthew records the incident of the magi and the attempt of Herod to kill the baby Jesus, and the flight to Egypt, but other than this incident in the very young years of our Lord the account in Luke chapter 2 of the incident at the temple when our Lord was 12 there is no other biblical record of any incident in the growing up years of Jesus. It must be that Luke felt this story was very important indeed, to be the only childhood incident reported in his gospel.
Second, in this account are recorded the very first words of our Lord Jesus. Naturally, no words were recorded from the birth and infancy of Christ. Many of our Lord’s words were recorded from His later ministry. But the words of our Lord in this text are His first recorded words, and very important words they are indeed.
Third, this is the last time Joseph is ever mentioned in the life of our Lord. It is commonly felt that Joseph must have died sometime after this incident, before our Lord began His public ministry. It may well be that this last mention of Joseph is also a clue to the importance of our text, and of the incident it records.
Finally, the actions of our Lord, in the minds of His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, appeared to be wrong. The words of Mary to Jesus clearly imply an assumption of His wrong-doing, and thus convey a gentle, but obvious rebuke. If this child were any person other than Jesus, we would all agree that He was wrong. What is it, then, that makes Jesus’ actions proper, when they would not have been for any other 12 year-old?
The “tension of the text” (that tension which grows out of the details of the text, and which proves to be the key to its interpretation) is to be found here. While we must grant that Jesus was without sin, how is it that His actions here, which were regarded as wrong by His parents, are not wrong? Why can Jesus’ actions not be wrong for Him, when they would have been wrong for any other Jewish (or Gentile for that matter) boy?
I must inform you that this is one of those “collie dog” texts. When I was growing up, we had a collie. Unlike a bulldog, which would just run straight up, look you in the eye, and bite you, our collie would sneak around behind you, very quietly, and then suddenly you would feel his teeth making contact with your hindermost parts. This story is like that. Initially the story seems to have little impact. Granted, it might say something important about Jesus, but that would appear to have little application to us. Watch out! This text will soon sneak up on you, and teach a most important lesson, with tremendous implications.
The story is really very simple. The parents of our Lord had gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover, just as they had done every year (2:41-42).45 It is not clearly stated, but I am of the impression that Jesus was taken along on throughout the years of His growing up. This year, He was twelve. Depending on the commentator you are reading, it was either at the age or 12 or of 13 that the Israelite lad was made a “son of the law.”46 The pilgrims who made journey to Jerusalem and back would often travel together in caravans. Thus, family, friends, and other acquaintances from Nazareth and the surrounding area seem to have formed such a caravan.47 The Feast having concluded, the caravan began the journey home, and among them were Mary and Joseph (with perhaps some of their children), but not Jesus.
Jesus was not discovered to be missing immediately. This was probably for several reasons. First, Jesus was an absolutely trustworthy and reliable child. As the Son of God, He was without sin, and thus His parents did not have the same concerns other parents might have. Also, the men and the women may have traveled in groupings which were separate. We are told that the women and children were often in front, with the men at the rear. Each of the parents might therefore have assumed that Jesus was with the other parent. Eventually, Jesus’ absence was noted, and after searching among those in the caravan and finding Him missing entirely, Mary and Joseph went back to Jerusalem, which may have been a day’s travel.
For three days they searched for the boy Jesus.48 Some think that the three day search included the time required to search for Him in the caravan, as well as the time spent traveling back to Jerusalem. I am inclined to read Luke’s account as indicating a three day search took place, commencing at the time they arrived back at Jerusalem. This would indicate a long, intense, search, which would lead to growing concern and consternation, as well as growing frustration, which seems evident in the parents’ first response to Jesus, once He was found.
Finally, almost as a last resort it would seem, the parents looked for Jesus in the temple. And there He was, sitting in the midst of the teachers, busily engaged in conversation. His role was principally that of a learner and a listener, who asked many pertinent and penetrating questions. It is evident that He also gave some responses, for those nearby who overheard Him marveled at His answers.
Imagine yourself as one of the parents of Jesus at this point. Be very honest, now. Imagine your growing sense of concern as the time passed, and as the child was not found. Consider your fears intensifying as you recalled the absolute reliability of Jesus and His wisdom. And then when you find Him, seemingly aloof to all the consternation He has caused, discussing theology (perhaps as He often had done in Nazareth) in the temple. Admit it, now, you would be angry with Him, just as I would have been.
All the concern and anxiety and intensity caused by Jesus’ absence now turns, I believe, to frustration and anger. His mother scolds Him, gently perhaps (in front of the teachers and those looking on), but nevertheless her words are intended as a rebuke. At this moment in time, Mary may have almost entirely forgotten that Jesus was any different from any other child. All of the strange and wonderful things she was told and had seen, the things she “treasured in her heart” were probably momentarily overshadowed by her frustration. “How could you have done this to us, Jesus!” seems to be the essence of her first words. “Your father and I have been looking for you for days, and we were just about at our wits end.”
One would have expected the lad to have looked downward, stung by the rebuke and His foolishness and thoughtlessness. Such is not the case, however, for Jesus’ response shifts the focus from His error to their own. In response to the rebuke of His mother, there is the gentle rebuke of His own question. “Why would you have had to look for Me?” He seems to have said. “Would you not have known where you could find Me?” And perhaps pointedly in response to Mary’s reference to Joseph as His father, Jesus stated that He was in His Father’s house, just where the Son should have been.
There was no resolution, the reason being that neither Mary nor Joseph really grasped what was happening, nor what “their” Son, our Lord, had said. The incident ends with Mary (along with Joseph) once again perplexed at the events occurring in her life related to this child. All she could do was to place these things alongside the others she had previously experienced, waiting for that day when the meaning of all this would become clear. If the memory of the mysterious events of Jesus’ birth had begun to fade in the minds of Mary and Joseph, this incident would once again bring them vividly to mind.
The matter was over as quickly as it happened. Jesus went with them, back to Nazareth, to live with them, and in submission to their authority. Nevertheless, things would never be quite the same, I suspect. Jesus continued to grow, physically, spiritually, and socially. Years would pass until the public ministry of Jesus would begin, but during this time Jesus was continually growing, ever being prepared for the day of His public appearance as Israel’s Messiah. His sense of purpose and calling toward this destiny can be seen, even in this childhood incident.
It is tempting to look at this text casually, without struggling to grasp its meaning. Remember, this is not just one of many stories we have heard of a misplaced child, it is Luke’s only account of an event in the growing-up years of Israel’s Messiah, our Savior. There are several ways in which this story can be explained. Let’s consider our options and then seek to determine which one points to the meaning of the text.
(1) Our first option is simply to take this as a kind of anecdote, an incident in the life of Christ with which we can all identify. If have already suggested that there are too many things each gospel writer could have said to think that a trivial incident would be included, if not significant to the gospel as a whole.
(2) A second, but unacceptable, option is to understand that Jesus was wrong to remain behind in Jerusalem, at least without informing His parents of what He was doing. Since Jesus was the Son of God, in whom there was no sin, then He cannot have done wrong here, even as a child.
(3) A third option is to view Jesus as a kind of “absent-minded” Messiah, who is so preoccupied with the temple and the Scriptures that He simply missed the Caravan, and was thus left behind. This seems to be the view of at least one commentator.49 I know of several “absent-minded professor” stories from my years in seminary. One such story is about a professor who stood at his own back door, deep in thought, knocking for some time, without realizing that he had not yet gotten outside his own house and at the door of his neighbor, where he intended to go. Another story is told of the professor who drove his car to Houston, Texas, where he spoke, only to fly home, forgetting that he had driven there.
Jesus, it is suggested, was just caught up with “His Father’s business,” and the rebuke of His parents came as a shock. This is a bit hard to believe, however. I hardly think that an “absent-minded Jesus story” is fitting immediately after Luke’s comment that Jesus was increasing in wisdom. Jesus’ words indicate that He purposefully remained on in Jerusalem (“I had to be,…” v. 49). We know that Jesus was the oldest child, among several others (Matt. 13:55, 56), and thus He may have had the task of watching over them, and perhaps of getting them situated in the caravan. Also, when that first day in the temple came to an end, it was obvious that He was separated from His parents, yet He showed no concern, made no effort to be rejoined to them, and was apparently not looking for them. Absent-mindedness may not be sin, but it isn’t all that smart, either. Jesus was not absent-minded here.
(4) The fourth option is that Jesus’ parents were negligent, and were solely responsible for leaving Jerusalem without Jesus. How could they have left Jerusalem without Jesus? How could they have expected Him to assume such responsibility? This doesn’t square with the story, either. If Jesus had made this trip with His parents before (as I take it He did), then He must have been accustomed to the way it was done, He must have proven Himself capable on previous trips. An oversight on the parents’ part still does not explain the purposefulness of our Lord in remaining behind. Even if He had not succeeded in staying behind, He intended to do so, and without asking their permission or informing them of His intentions.
(5) Our final option is that Jesus was right in what He did, and that His parents were wrong in being angry with Him and rebuking Him. Jesus purposed to stay in Jerusalem, without His parents’ permission, and without informing them of His actions. The question is, why?
In the light of the rest of the life of Christ and of New Testament revelation, I believe that we can identify several reasons for Jesus’ actions, reasons which Mary and Joseph were not able to grasp at the moment.
First, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to learn of God. I cannot explain how our Lord, who was fully God and fully man, needed to learn, needed to develop in His grasp of God’s Word, but I believe it to be true nonetheless. The verses which introduce and summarize this section make the growth of our Lord one of the highlights of the text:
And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).
It is much easier to believe that the Lord Jesus grew physically than it is to believe that He grew intellectually and spiritually, but the text tells us that He grew in all these ways. The interchange of our Lord and the teachers at the temple reveals both our Lord’s eagerness to learn (for He was asking questions and listening to them—the posture of a learner), and the depth of the wisdom He had already attained.
Second, it appears that Jesus remained in Jerusalem to learn from the teachers at the temple those things which His parents could not teach Him. There is a broad sense in which every person needs the ministry of others in the “body of Christ,” and thus parents surely cannot and should not jealously guard the teaching their child by keeping him or her from the ministry of others. Here, however, I believe something more involved is taking place. Jesus was in Jerusalem during the observation of the Passover (Luke 2:41). I an inclined to think that He was particularly interested in the meaning of the Passover, especially as it applied to Him. The teachers at the temple could answer our Lord’s question more academically, more objectively. Our Lord’s parents surely did not allow their minds to ponder the sacrifice of their own son. Jesus therefore remained in Jerusalem to learn from others what He could not learn from His parents.
Third, I believe that Jesus remained on in Jerusalem because He would not have been given permission to stay there. Think about it for a moment. What do you think Mary and Joseph would have said in response to this request: “Can I stay on in Jerusalem for a few days to discuss the Old Testament and theology with the leading teachers of Israel?” More than now, children were to be seen and not heard. I can’t imagine our Lord’s earthly parents giving Him permission to do what He needed to do. Thus, He did not ask them.
Finally, and most importantly, Jesus did not ask permission to stay on in Jerusalem because He was God. On one level, the level from which Mary and Joseph saw it, Jesus was but a young boy, a boy incapable of making such critical decisions, a boy who was not old enough to stay by Himself in Jerusalem, a boy who was too young to be discussing the Scriptures with the finest teachers in Israel. But while He was a human being, a 12 year-old boy, He was also God incarnate, just as the angel had said to Mary and Joseph years before (Matt. 1:20-25; Luke 1:32, 35). On the divine level, God did not need to have man’s permission to act any way He saw fit, nor was it required of God to explain His actions to man. Indeed, God is even free to do those things which cause men pain and consternation. It is only the fact that Jesus was fully God (as well as fully man) that explains how He could act as He did and not be wrong for so doing. If it were any other child, we would have sided with the parents, but since the child is the Son of God, we quickly acknowledge that He was right. Jesus, unlike any other 12 year-old in history, was God.
Hopefully we can now understand why Jesus did and said what He did in the incident at the temple. The question still remains, “Why did Luke record only this event in the childhood of our Lord? “What is so significant about this event which makes it worthy of becoming a part of the divine record of the life of Christ? The passage serves several important functions, as I currently understand it.
(1) The passage affirms both the humanity and the deity of our Lord. In Christ humanity is added to deity. Throughout the history of the church (beginning very early in church history), men have often emphasized one side of our Lord’s two natures (His deity and His humanity) at the expense of the other. One form of error (e.g. Docetism) tended to stress the deity of Christ, but to minimize His humanity. The other extreme (e.g. Adoptionism) stressed the humanity of Jesus, but minimized His full deity.
In Luke chapter 2 Luke emphasizes both the deity and the humanity of our Lord. That Jesus was fully human is evidenced by the fact that He was born and that He was a child, who grew and developed as any normal child would, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Jesus stayed on at the temple to learn, not to teach50 (although His answers to questions put to Him astounded those who witnessed this event). That Jesus was God is also evident in our text. The wisdom of Jesus is contrasted in this text with the ignorance of His parents, that is their inability to grasp who He was and why He acted as He did, even with the revelation about Him which they had been previously given. Jesus referred to God as His Father, and was in the temple because this was where a significant portion of “His Father’s business” was carried out. The amazement of those who witnesses His wisdom, as well as that of His parents, was further testimony to His uniqueness. That He could do and say what no other 12 year-old could have done and been right in so doing is also proof of His divinity. Whatever debates and disputes there would be in the history of the church, it must be agreed that Luke’s presentation of Christ was intended to represent Him as the God-man, even as a 12 year-old child.51
(2) Our passage reminds us of the principle of growth. In His perfect humanity, our Lord grew, physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Jesus did not come to the earth and immediately begin to minister. We know from the gospel accounts that it Jesus would be nearly 30 years old or more before His public ministry commenced. The event at the temple occurred after 12 years of growth on the part of our Lord. His public ministry required another 18 years of growth.
If it was necessary for God incarnate to grow and to mature, in preparation for His ministry, why is it that we are so interested in instant spirituality, instant maturity. There are those who would have us think that some momentous event, some spectacular spiritual experience, is the key to instant maturity and service. If it were not true of our Lord, it is not true for us either. We may have glorious and monumental experiences, but these do not produce instant growth or maturity. Let us not expect or demand more than our Lord Himself experienced. Even God did not hurry.
(3) Our text reminds us of the relationship between deity and sovereignty. Jesus could do what He did because He was God, and as God He was sovereign. His sovereignty entitled Him to do that which His parents did not approve of. His sovereignty entitled Him to rebuke them for their lack of faith and understanding (they should at least have understood from all they had been told that He would be in the temple). His sovereignty also entitled Him to do that which inconvenienced them and caused them considerable distress.
(4) Our text informs us of the relationship between sovereignty and authority. If Jesus was God, then He was also sovereign. If He was sovereign, then His authority was ultimate, and the parental authority of Mary and Joseph was of a much lessor type. The authority of Jesus, as God, far surpassed the authority of Mary and Joseph as parents. That is why Jesus could override and overrule parental authority. (Let me hasten to add, for any child who might wish to take this in the wrong way, that only the boy Jesus could do this, for only He was God.)
It is quite easy to justify the actions of Jesus in our text, and to wonder why Mary and Joseph could not have grasped what was happening. But let me suggest that you and I respond to the sovereignty of God in precisely the same way, and all too often. When God brings adversity into our lives, when He causes us agony and distress, we become angry, too. When He does things which we do not understand, we are frustrated and upset. We want God to explain His reasons and His purposes to us, just as Mary and Joseph expected Jesus to justify His actions.
Mary and Joseph were wrong because they forgot that as mere men (I speak generically) their authority was vastly outranked by the 12 year-old child God had temporarily placed in their custody. And though there was just this one incident reported in the childhood of our Lord when the authority and identity of Jesus were asserted (the text tells us that He returned with His parents and lived in submission to them after this, v. 51), He was fully God and thus could sovereignly act independently, if He chose to do so and if it were in accord with the Father’s will. Jesus reminded His parents that He was, first and foremost, the Son of God, in obedience to Him, and called to carry out “His Father’s business.” The time would come when Mary would probably not have permitted this “son” of hers to go to the cross, but this He must do, in obedience to His true Father.
Whenever you and I question the working of God in our lives, whenever we are angry (which we are usually to “spiritual” to admit) with God, we reveal that we have reversed the divine chain of authority. All to often we act as though God were to be in submission to our will, rather than to acknowledge that it is we who must submit to His, even if that brings pain, or inconvenience, of if we cannot understand what He is doing or why. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God means that God may act as He chooses, without having to explain His actions to man, or to ask our permission.
Job temporarily forgot this, and in the midst of his pain and suffering he began to question God. To do so was to forget, as James Dobson says, “who is in charge.” It was only when Job was reminded of God’s sovereignty that he quickly ceased his complaints and protests, and asked for forgiveness. Let us do likewise.
We need to be very careful in the way we apply the teaching of this passage. For one thing, we need to distinguish between those things which are unique to our Lord, as Immanuel, God Incarnate, and those things in which our Lord is an example to all. A little probing of this may prove helpful. Let us do so by seeking to establish some principles from what we have learned, and then exploring their implications.
Only of our Lord could it be said that He was God and man, and thus able to act contrary to the permission and preferences of His parents, as He did by remaining on in Jerusalem. Our children dare not make Jesus the model for their actions in the sense that whenever they think their parents are wrong they are free to follow their own inclinations. The on-going submission of our Lord to His parents after this incident rule against such conclusions.
And yet there is a principle involved here, a principle which governed our Lords’ actions, and which should govern ours as well. The principle is this: If God is our Father, then our ultimate obedience must be to Him, and not to any earthly authority, when the two conflict.
When men choose to follow God, they must do so by following Him as the absolute, sovereign authority of their lives. When earthly authority directly commands them otherwise, they, in the words of the apostles, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Our Lord made this clear, I believe when He required that His disciples follow Him, above all other earthly attachments and authorities:
“For from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:52-53).
Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:25-26; cf. also Mark 10:7:29-30; Luke 9:59-62).
This principle has application to parents, as well as to children. It means that those of us who have children must, like Mary and Joseph, recognize that God may be leading them in a way that is painful and even costly to us, but which is nevertheless His sovereign will. As such, we should not stand in the way of our children following God. Let us seek not to force our children to obey God against our instructions (implied or stated).
There is a second principle evident in our text: Nothing should hinder us from access to those things which contribute to our spiritual growth.
While I do not pretend to fully grasp how or why our Lord grew, it seems evident to me that being at the temple and having the opportunity to ask questions of the teachers was essential to the growth of our Lord. This was so important to Him that He found it necessary to act contrary to the wishes of His parents.
If our Lord’s growth was so important to Him, should our spiritual growth not be as important to us? Being at the temple, exposed to the teachers of that day, was one means of our Lord’s growth, among many others (exposure to the Scriptures, parental teaching, etc.). What means has God provided for our growth, which we should not allow other things to crowd out? I would suggest several for your consideration, to which you may be able to add others. The Scriptures are essential to our growth, so that nothing should keep us from them (Ps. 19:7-14; 119 [whole psalm]; Acts 20:32; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Heb. 13:9; Jas. 1:21-22; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 2:2-4). So, too, is the edification and instruction provided by others in the body of Christ, which requires regular attendance and participation in the worship of the church (cf. Psalm 73:17; Rom. 14-15; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4:1-16; Heb. 10:23-25). Prayer is another vital means of fellowship with God and growth (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thes. 5:18). Finally, obedience to what we know to be the will of God is a key to our further growth (cf. Matt. 7:24-27; Mark 4:21-25). Nothing should keep us from these vital means of growth.
There is another principle which is valid and pertinent to the Christian life, which is evident here: It is extremely difficult for those who believe in the divine and the human to recognize the two without sacrificing one or the other.
The parents of our Lord struggled as to how to put together the facets of our Lord’s nature, His humanity and His deity. In our text, the humanity of Jesus had so dominated their thoughts that they forgot to reckon with His deity, which was the basis for Jesus’ actions and response to them.
God is somehow able to intertwine the human and the divine. Thus, in the outworking of His divine plan and promises, God was able to use the decree of a pagan potentate to arrange for the arrival of Messiah in Bethlehem, rather than in Nazareth. God will later use the religious leaders of Israel and the Roman government to bring about the substitutionary, sacrificial death of His Son.
More problematic to us is the way God intertwines the human and the divine in our own experience. You and I have the same struggle, I believe, in recognizing both the divine and the human elements in our Christian lives. One illustration of this is in maintaining the tension between the element of divine sovereignty, along with that of human responsibility. You see, the struggle of Mary and Joseph is not so unique as it might first appear. There is a kind of incarnation which is going on in the life of every Christian. Let us not deny the divine nor the human in what God is doing in our lives.
One final principle remains to be stated, which I believe is the key to the whole passage: The most important issue, which determines all else in life, is the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?”
Establish the fact that Jesus Christ was fully God, as well as fully man, and everything in our text makes sense. It is easy to see why Jesus must be in His Father’s house, and at the same time easy to identify with the struggle this caused Mary and Joseph.
The acceptance or rejection of the Lord Jesus in His adult earthly life and ministry can be boiled down to the answer to but one question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The rejection of Christ by the scribes and Pharisees, who engineered His death, is explained by the fact that they rejected His claim to be the Son of God (cf. John 8). They persisted to challenge His actions and teaching by demanding to know by what authority He was acting. Jesus, likewise, asked His disciples who He was (Matt. 16:13-15).
Grant the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and all else is but a logical outflow, all else that He said and did is reasonable, rational, undeniable. Reject this one fact and you must reject Him entirely. May I ask you, “Who is Jesus Christ?” Who do you think He is? The answer to this question will settle the matter of your eternal destiny, and will establish once and for all the matter of authority in your life. It will utterly rearrange your priorities and values. The answer is, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God Incarnate, who become a man and who dwelt among men to reveal God to them, to reveal their sin, and to pay the penalty for their sin by His death on the cross of Calvary. The answer to the identity of Christ also determines your identity, whether you are of your father, the devil (cf. John 8:31-47), or whether your Father is the God of the universe (Romans 8:12-17).
45 “At the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles every male had to go up to Jerusalem (Ex. xxiii. 14-17, xxxiv. 23; Deut. xvi. 16). But since the Dispersion this law could not be kept; yet most Palestinian Jews tried to go at least once a year.” Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke, The International Critical Commentary Series, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), p. 74.
“All male Jews were required to attend at the Temple three times in the year, at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Ex. 23:14-17). The Mishnah expressly exempts women from the obligation (Hagigah 1:1), but some rabbis appear to have thought they should go up and some, of course, did. Attendance at all three festivals was difficult with Jews scattered all over the Roman world and beyond, but many made the effort once a year. It was the custom of Joseph and Mary to go up at Passover, the feast that commemorated the deliverance of the nationfrom Egypt (Ex. 12).” Leon Morris, The Gospel According To St. Luke, The Tyndale Bible Commentary Series, R. V. G. Tasker, General Editor (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 90-91.
46 “It was at thirteen years of age that a Jewish boy could become a ‘son of the law’ or full member of the synagogue (cf. Mishnah, Aboth 5:21; Niddah 5:6). He would then assume all the responsibilities implied in his circumcision. For some observances at any rate the Mishnah provides that a boy should be taken to the observance a year or two before he turned thirteen so that hemight be prepared (Yoma 8:4), and there may have been something of this on the present occasion (though it is equally possible that Jesus went up every year; we do not know).” Morris, p. 91.
“Whether Jesus had already gone with His parents to Jerusalem at an earlier date we do not know. In any case, Luke relates that He did go when He was twelve years old. That was probably in order to be prepared for the ceremony of the following year, when He would be permitted as a young Jewish boy to join the religious community as a responsible member—i.e. as “son of the commandment” (Bar Mitzvah). This important event takes place when the Jewish boy is thirteen.” Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament Series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975 [reprint]), p. 126.
47 “The inhabitants of a village, or of several neighbouring villages, formed themsleves into a caravan, and travelled together. The Nazareth caravan was so long that it took a whole day to look through it. The caravans went up singing psalms, especially the “songs of degrees” (Ps. css.-cxxxiv.): but they would come back with less solemnity. It was probably when the caravan halted for the night that He was missed. At the present day the women commonly start first, and the men follow; the little children being with the mothers, and the older with either. If this was the case then, Mary might fancy that He was with Joseph, and Joseph that He was with Mary.” Plummer, p. 75.
48 Note the emphasis on the youth of our Lord in the phrase, “the boy Jesus” in verse 43 (also “the Child” in v. 40). Whatever Jesus did at this time, no matter how remarkable, it was Jesus, the boy, who did so.
49 “It was in accordance with His divine Sonship that He was engaged in His Father’s business in the temple with the teachers of God’s law, and it was genuinely and naively childlike that under the circumstances He had never thought that His parents would be uneasy. But when they came to fetch Him, He went voluntarily, without demurring, with them to Nazareth and was subject unto them, for this also was the will of His heavenly Father.” Geldenhuys, pp. 128-129.
50 “Note that the hearing is placed first, indicating that He was there as a learner; and it was as such that He questioned them. It was the usual mode of instruction that the pupil should ask as well as answer questions. A holy thirst for knowledge, especially of sacred things, would prompt His inquiries.” Plummer, p. 76.
51 While he held to a form of Adoptionism, John Knox nevertheless has to acknowledge that Luke held to a different position. He writes, “The author of Luke-Acts had a higher or more advanced, a less simple Christology than the adoptionism I have described. The whole treatment of the earthly life of Jesus in the Gospel section of his work and many an allusion to it in the Acts section indicate beyond question that he did not think of Jesus’ messiahship as having been conferred on him only after his human career had ended.” John Knox, The Humanity and Divinity of Christ (C. U. P. 1967), as cited by Norman Anderson, The Mystery of the Incarnation (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978), p. 25.