The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.
Very little is said about Jesus as he grows up. All the fascinating details about his playing out with friends; relating to his parents; getting along with brothers and sisters to say nothing of teenage rebellion and acne, nothing. One minute he is a baby and the next, a thirty year old healer and teacher.
Actually it is not complete silence. There are a few snippets to point us in the right direction, but before looking at them we have to know one or two things about his background.
So here are three pointers to the world in which Jesus grew up, and the influences which helped to shape him. Firstly it was an agricultural world of tiny villages. Nazareth probably had a population of about 400 living in small half cave half house dwellings. This was a desperately poor world where Jesus’ family and everyone else in the village struggled to survive. They were the underclass. Secondly, his was a Jewish world, where the teachings, songs and characters of the Old Testament were inscribed in his memories. A world of special foods, of the Sabbath and of the Jerusalem Temple. Thirdly, Jesus grew up in a strong family world. Mary and Joseph, four brothers and several sisters and Jesus all held together by love and loyalty. So, Jesus was born into:
- A village world
- A Jewish world
- A caring family world
Back to Jesus. Twice here we read of him as a boy growing physically, intellectually and spiritually in strength, wisdom and grace. Sandwiched between these two verses we have the captivating little story of his visit to the Temple.
Mary and Joseph losing Jesus is not quite as crazy as we might think when we realise that men and women often travelled in large caravan type groups. They were long straggly people convoys wandering there and back to Jerusalem. Sometimes the boy Jesus would have hung on to the men’s group and sometimes to the women’s group. There was a big crack for him to fall down.
Suddenly the Temple, and not Nazareth, is his natural setting. He needs to be not with his mum and dad, but in his father’s house. He is hungry to learn and explore with all the other spiritual teachers. He is a child prodigy of spiritual awareness. For the first time we glimpse a space, a difference and a breakdown in understanding between him and his family. Mary and Joseph did not understand, he is odd, different, not normal; he is Jesus.
As we have seen Jesus was living in a poor village, Jewish, tight family world. That was his setting, his context, his place. That was his outer world. He also had an inner world. This ‘inner world’ of a father, temple, spiritual learning world. This was his inner context, his inner place. As we journey with Jesus we shall keep seeing him stealing away to special places. Empty, silent places away from the crowds, where he can be with the Father.
Jesus is still a young boy, he is not yet ready, much preparation lies ahead, but he is getting there. He is ‘growing in favour with God and man’.
Here are a big couple of questions for you to think about and maybe discuss with someone:
How much have you grown?
Are you still growing?
Help me also to find a place in your fathers’ home.
Help me to find my own place.
Help me to find a place in my life with you,
That I too might grow in favour with God and man.