“When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on Him.

“Every year Jesus’ parents travelled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents didn’t know it. Thinking He was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for Him among relatives and neighbours. When they didn’t find Him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for Him.” Luke 2:41-45.

What a contrast! Twelve years of trouble-free childhood, and then He goes missing!

Twelve was a magical age for a Jewish boy. Bar mitzvah! He had come of age. He was permitted into the company of the men to take His place among them. Admittedly He was still a “junior” man and had lots to learn, but nevertheless He was still a MAN. As a man He also had responsibilities. He took part in the Jewish “rehearsal” feasts. Did Jesus know at this stage that He was celebrating the ritual of His own death?

Luke pulls a veil of secrecy over the first twelve years of His life – His apprenticeship for manhood. Instead he sweeps it aside with a summary statement that says everything; no intimate details about nappy rash, teething problems, potty training, learning to walk, measles, chicken pox or a runny nose! Did Jesus participate in all these minor details associated with growing up?

A healthy, strong, wise child – that’s all we know. Those of us who are parents can fill in the details against the backdrop of our own experience! His family life must have been chaos; at least six brothers and sisters pitted against Him. Did they victimise Him because He was the firstborn and had to take the rap for everything they did? Did they gang up against Him and deliberately do things to make trouble for Him? Did Mom try to shield Him from their vindictive pranks?

We know that His brothers refused to believe in Him until after the earth-shattering event that took place in Jerusalem thirty three years later. He walked out of a sealed tomb – alive! That shook them to the core. They mocked and ridiculed Him because they didn’t understand. He knew exactly how it felt to be the cause of a split right down the middle of a family. He spoke about it. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” Matthew 10:34b, 36 (NIV).

And then, after twelve years of a perfect record, He goes missing! What was He thinking? Was He aware of the anguish He was causing His parents? This seems to have been the moment when He crossed over from boyhood to true manhood. In the rituals of the Passover He began to see His role in God’s big plan. With His mind filled with the Torah, which He already knew by heart, He pondered the greater truths hidden in the old story of deliverance from Egypt.

His parents had not caught up with Him. They were still Mom and Dad, doing their best to raise this kid who was placed in their trust, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. They didn’t learn that at school! What crazy thoughts went through their minds as they frantically searched through the company for their missing son? Were they thinking, ‘After twelve’s years He’s gone and blown it. Has He been kidnapped? We’ve messed up. It’s our fault. We didn’t keep an eye on Him.’

They were so used to an obedient and compliant Jesus that this shook them to the core. What were they to do now? What if they never found Him? How would they explain that one to God?

Luella Campbell

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