41 Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When He was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. 43 After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it. 44 Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him. 46 After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. 48 When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and 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 them. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what He said to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
In John Ortberg’s book Who Is This Man?, which describes the impact Jesus made on the world, he recalls a story about the fictional Hercules, where “he grabbed two poisonous snakes while in the cradle and killed them with his bare, chubby little hands.” Now THAT’S the kind of story you want to ascribe to a hero in a bio pic!
In Luke’s day such fanciful and spectacular feats of super-human strength or power were often written into heroic stories. There are even some fanciful stories of the boy Jesus turning clay birds into real birds, but these apocryphal fictions were obviously rejected by the early church fathers. No fiction or fanciful tales were necessary in the story of Jesus.
In our passage today we read many things worth talking about, but our focus here is on learning.
Jesus, at twelve years old, was amazing the teachers of the law and all who heard Him with His questions and His answers. Luke, gathering eyewitness accounts for his Gospel (1:2), most likely got this story from interviewing Mary herself. Her question to Jesus was answered with a question to her about how she understood Him and His reason for being on earth. The passage ends with Jesus returning home with them, being “submissive” to their leadership as earthly parents.
It’s easy to say, “Yeah, but He was Jesus. Of course He knew all the answers to the teachers’ questions!” But I believe the point of the passage for us here is the emphasis that Jesus both listened to and answered the teachers. This likely wasn’t the first time He had done this (listening and answering), even at twelve years old. But what amazed everyone was His understanding. The path to understanding is found in both listening and answering—especially to God.
We sometimes tend to think knowing a lot of stuff is the same as understanding all that stuff. It’s not. Understanding comes from not just knowing important things, but in owning that knowledge personally—how that knowledge plays out as we apply it and test it, consider it and question it, handle it and testify to it. This is certainly true of theological and biblical understanding: they come through listening and answering God—by the means of prayer, the Scriptures themselves, our believing friends, family, and mentors.
Luke included the account of this event in Jesus’ early life because it was the turning point from the Christmas story earlier in the chapter to the rest of Jesus’ ministry. It defined Him in such a way that when He replies to the hypocritical teachers of the law later on, when He teaches the disciples to pray, or when He forgives the thief on the cross next to Him, we know His words and actions come from a deeper place—a place of understanding. And we are called to be more like Him! Let’s strive with His help for understanding in our prayers, relationships and Scripture study.
- Have there been Scripture verses that have really caused you to stop and think? Did you listen and talk with God and others about them to gain understanding?
- What does it mean to talk about something you understand as opposed to something you know about?
- What about Jesus do you want to understand more? For example: the cross, His resurrection, His work through the Holy Spirit today, the purpose of the church. Along with asking God and studying Scripture, who can you talk with to gain more understanding today?