41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Today we read the story of Jesus as a young boy. We don’t usually hear much about what Jesus was like growing up. In the Gospels, we first get the story of Jesus’ birth, then the story of Jesus starting his ministry at age 30. Only Luke gives us a glimpse of what Jesus was like as a boy. His story fills the gap between Jesus’ birth and his adulthood.
What kind of impression do you get of Jesus as a boy? A troublemaker? Wise beyond his years? Rebellious? Perhaps. But one thing is very clear. We see that as a young boy, Jesus lived with a desire for God.
Festival of the Passover was one of the major Jewish holidays. It was held around spring time. It was a big celebration. The whole thing lasted about seven days. Jewish men in particular were required to observe the festival. People travelled a great distance on foot to get to Jerusalem. Because they lived in Nazareth, it took Mary, Joseph and Jesus a couple of days to get there.
People travelled in large groups. Men gathered with other men. Women gathered with other women. Children played together on their own. So it’s understandable that Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was with them when they were going back home. They weren’t being neglectful or careless. It’s just as understandable how frustrated and worried they might’ve been when they realized their son was missing. It would take them another few days to get back to Jerusalem. A lot could happen during that time alone.
Where did Mary and Joseph find Jesus when they came back to Jerusalem?
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.Luke 2:46
Jesus was sitting with the teachers, listening to what they taught and asking them questions. He never had left when Mary and Joseph did. He stayed behind when most people went home. Remember, Jesus was only twelve here. You were only obligated to observe the festival when you turned thirteen. So what does that tell us? He chose to stay behind. Because he had the desire to know more about God.
Reading today’s story, it might be easy for us to assume that Jesus was inconsiderate and immature as a child. It seems like he didn’t care how his parents felt. How he responds to his mother sounds that way.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”Luke 2:49
I wonder what I would’ve said if my child answered this way. “What ‘Father’s house’?? I’m your father!” Mary and Joseph were just as flabbergasted. They couldn’t understand their son.
But when we look at Jesus’ words closely, we can understand what he was getting at. His words can be also translated this way.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I had to be about my Father’s interests?”Luke 2:49
Jesus loved and respected his parents. He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to them. Later in the story, we read that after this he went back home with them and “was obedient to them”.
But his love for his parents didn’t distract him from his love for God. His hunger and desire to know God. Perhaps he should’ve told his parents that he was going to stick around a bit. He followed his desire for God. He stayed behind when he didn’t have to. Later, Mary came to realize this about her son. It pleased her very much.
But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.Luke 2:51
Desiring God is the most important thing in life. We have competing desires that pull us in different directions. We are usually driven by desire for success, security, pleasure and comfort. But I believe having a desire for God is more important and necessary for our life.
God gave Israel the Ten Commandments for a reason. They weren’t meant to be “rules” that you needed to keep. They were an expression of God’s wisdom for good life. The first five commandments have to do with keeping God at the centre of our life. The remaining five commandments have to do with how we relate to one another. The sixth says, “Honour your father and your mother.” What does this tell us? Unless our life is firmly rooted in God, all other aspects of our life will be out of place. Without a desire for God, all other desires will take its place. I’m sure Jesus understood this well from a young age.
Desiring God means wanting to be closer to God. To be after God’s own heart. To be more deeply connected with God. It is not about just gaining knowledge and information about God. “God” is not an academic subject we study and master. It is about having a deeper understanding and love for God.
Do you have a desire for God? Do you long to know God more and more? Or, is your heart lukewarm and indifferent towards God?
Cultivate a desire for God. Recognizing your lack of desire for God is the beginning. Without desiring God, we will never take ownership of our faith. Most of us grew up in a family of faith. Your parents brought you to church from when you were a baby and they helped raise you in the faith. Your community helped raise you in the faith. You didn’t get here all on your own. If you were baptized as an infant, your parents and community made that commitment at your baptism. But there comes a time when we have to make our own choice when it comes to growing in our faith. We can’t always expect the people around us to make those decisions for us. Those who support you will always be there. But they cannot be your ‘excuse’. Otherwise, you will never grow and mature in faith. You will only come to church because your parents tell you to do so. You will just come to see your friends. You will tune out everything you see and hear. It will be difficult to know God in a meaningful way.
When you have a desire for God, you will start taking more responsibility for your life. You will care knowing more about God and growing in the faith. You will be filled with curiosity. You will worship and engage with God’s word more actively, not because you are forced to but because you want to. These things will keep the flame burning in your heart. Your openness will allow God to lead you in the right direction. God will fill you with wisdom, insight, and understanding. I don’t believe that only old people are wise. Young people can be just as wise and insightful. God does not discriminate when it comes to his wisdom. Jesus showed us that.
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.Luke 2:46
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and all the people.Luke 2:52, NLT
You all went back to school this week. Many of you will be entering into a busy time of exams. I pray that you will do well on your finals. But I also pray that you won’t get swept up by your desire to succeed in the midst of it all. Make sure to spend time with God each day. Don’t lose sight of God. Desire God. Find rest and comfort in God. Know that he cares for you and will be with you.