When boys reach adolescence, they feel a growing need to assert their autonomy. As they drive toward independence, their mothers cling to closeness and sometimes the mother-son relationship stretches and shifts.
In Jesus’ time, the cultural expectation was that at age thirteen, Jewish boys would be considered an “adult,” officially responsible for their actions. To prepare for this momentous occasion, they received intense instruction during their twelfth year. Jesus may have been in the middle of such training at the time of today’s passage, when Jesus’ family traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. That year, when Mary and Joseph started the journey home to Nazareth, Jesus stayed behind in the Temple. A whole day had passed before they discovered His absence!
Imagine the shock and concern his parents felt. They returned to Jerusalem and looked everywhere for their son. Three days later, they found Him in the Temple, intently listening to the teachers and asking questions. His exceptional understanding of the law was evident to all, but Mary was not impressed. She immediately unleashed her anxiety, calling His actions a personal affront (“Why have you treated us like this?”). She said they had been “anxiously searching” for Him, revealing her deep mental anguish and pain (v. 58). Her comments won’t seem unusual to any parent who has experienced the trauma of searching for a child.
Jesus responded with twelve-year-old boldness. He articulated a growing understanding of His own identity and mission (v. 52). The time was approaching when He would step out on His own to do the work that God had set for Him. Mary added these events to the others that she stored up in her heart.
>> This passage will strike a chord with all parents, teachers, and mentors as we train the next generation. We must do our part in raising them to love and know God, then we release them to God, trusting them to His care and service.
Father, the lesson of equipping the young and helping them transition into independence applies not only to parents but to mentors and teachers. Guide us through this process, to Your glory!