41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When he was 12 years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to their custom. 43 After the festival was over, they were returning home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. 44 Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. 45 When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple. He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and putting questions to them. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed by his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were shocked.
His mother said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”
49 Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they didn’t understand what he said to them.
51 Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart.
This is the only story we have about Jesus’ childhood in the canonical (that is, biblical) gospels. However, there were several other gospels written about Jesus’ life, and some of them tell very strange stories of Jesus as a child. Though we don’t regard these as authoritative, they are fascinating.
The Infancy Gospel of James, in particular, paints a picture of Jesus as a very peculiar and precocious child. It contains the story told above, but also several others, including Joseph’s multiple ill-fated attempts to secure a tutor to teach Jesus reading and writing. In each case, Jesus proves more intelligent than his teachers, to the point where one by one they give up in frustration. One actually raps Jesus on the head.
We love Jesus the baby. We are impressed by Jesus the adult. I’m wondering how we would have responded to Jesus the teenager?
I have a friend who randomly finds and sends me pictures of myself from high school. They’re funny. I was more than a little awkward. But I totally thought I was brilliant, hilarious and cool – or at least wanted others to see me that way. Looking back, in my insecurity I did and said so many things that now I regret.
But in all that uncertainty there were also flashes of what I might become – who I would eventually be. It sounds like that was true for Jesus, too.
It’s easy for us to be dismissive of the young people in our lives – of their feelings, insights and struggles. This passage reminds us that Mary, the mother of God, didn’t feel that way. Oh, I’m sure she rolled her eyes from time to time, as all parents must, but it’s also true that she saw Jesus for who he would be. She “cherished every word in her heart,” and remembered with grace her son, the Son of God, at twelve. I pray we can show the same grace to the young people in our lives!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you ever considered how God was at work to shape your life during your teenage years? What were some of the experiences, thoughts, and relationships in that time that helped form you?
Is there a young person in your life that you have been too quick to dismiss? How could you be a better listener?