He’s Only 12-Years-Old!

Luke 2:40-52

The child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

And when He became twelve, they went up there (Jerusalem) according to the custom of the Feast; and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it…

Then after three days, they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers.

And He (Jesus) said to them, ‘why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house? But they (Joseph and Mary) did not understand the statement which He had made to them.

This is such an interesting and somewhat confusing passage. As a parent, I don’t like what Jesus did at all. It seems to me to me disrespectful, thoughtless and cruel to his parents. However, I know Jesus was without any sin from birth to death, so there must be more to the story. 

Okay, now that I’ve said what most of you are thinking, let’s figure this out.

I checked out some of the cross-referenced scriptures for this passage found in the middle column of my study Bible. (Note: my blog is not about me dispensing my pre-set knowledge. Rather a journey of discovery). As I reviewed the cross-referenced verses, my first thought went to the need for Jesus to fulfill Old Testament references/prophecies about Him.


Here’s Some Important Context

What influenced the radical change of the fearful disciples before the resurrection to the bold and courageous disciples after the resurrection? One influence was the Spirit-led opening of their minds? The awakening or epiphany that the disciples had post-resurrection was the realization that Jesus had fulfilled ALL the Old Testament scriptures that had been written about Him.


Luke 24:44-45 says “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the scripture.” 


Back To The 12-Year-Old

The 12-year-old Jesus said to His parents, Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?

I don’t take this the same way that I’ve heard my kids use the phrase, ‘I had to...’.

For example, when your teenage daughter sneaks out of the house at night, is caught and says, ‘I just had to see him.’ Or, ‘we just had to be at the party. Everyone is going to be there.’ This is not how Jesus used the phrase.

When Jesus said, I had to be in My Father’s house, I believe He meant He had to…He had to in order to obey His Heavenly Father and fulfill scripture.


Did You Not Know?

The other side of it is that Jesus tells his parents that they should’ve known. This statement infers that, well, they should’ve known. But how??? 

It was written in the prophets. 

In Jesus’ adulthood, He was known for scolding the disciples for not understanding the scriptures, (Matt 26:54), and condemning the Pharisees for not believing the scriptures, (John 5:38-47). Perhaps Jesus simply meant, ‘parents, you should have known because it is written in the scriptures’.

The 12-year-old Jesus was obeying His Father in heaven and fulfilling scripture when He visited the temple. His visit made quite an impression on the priests. The word spread, I’m sure. Jesus’ impact of three days in the temple at only 12 years old was part of the plan. 


How Did He Fulfill Scripture?

Micah prophesied Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, (5:2) and it happened. Malachi speaks of the appearing of the Lord in the Temple, and it happened. I believe this Malachi prophecy is initially fulfilled by the 12-years-old Jesus as a foreshadowing of its ultimate fulfillment when He comes again at His second coming.

Malachi 3:1 reads “Behold, I am going to send My messenger and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”


Father, what can we learn from this passage about the 12-year-old Jesus? Perhaps You are simply teaching us the importance of obedience; perhaps the importance of knowing and obeying You Word. Your Word is full and expansive but Your application for us is always simply. May we love You more, obey You more, serve You more and live an abundant life indeed! Amen.