The gospel for the first Sunday after Epiphany tells the story of Jesus going into the temple at the age of twelve. Like any other twelve year old, he was curious and wandered away from his parents. Jesus spent his time in the temple listening and asking questions of the temple elders. When Mary and Joseph discovered him missing, they immediately returned to Jerusalem to find their beloved son. No doubt Mary and Joseph were beside themselves with worry. I would imagine, even two thousand years ago, the thought of a young child alone on the streets of a city would have brought panic to his devoted parents. I can imagine the horrors Mary and Joseph thought about while searching for Jesus. This biblical story ended well with Jesus being found safe and sound. When questioned, Jesus simply said he was doing his Father’s business. Mary and Joseph had no idea what Jesus was talking about at this time but of course we all know what he grew up to become—our Saviour.
When I was twelve, I went to Europe on a school trip. My father was the chaperone and we went to Amsterdam, Paris, and London. I had never seen such grand buildings before, large streets, and crowded cities. I was particularly taken with London and all it had to offer. We went to Westminster Abby, a huge cathedral where kings and queens and famous people had been buried. I remember looking around at the grandiose surroundings and being amazed. I remember thinking to myself, who walked up this aisle? Who listened to the sermons in this building? And who were the great ministers who preached to royalty? At twelve I couldn’t imagine all the possibilities.
Shortly after visiting the Abbey, we went shopping on the streets of London. I was in paradise! So many shops, so much to look at, so much to buy! Just about everything I saw, I wanted to buy. I had no real concept of money at the time and was unaware of the cost of things. Dad quickly reminded me that I had bought many souvenirs already and I couldn’t possibly have it all, yet I continued to look and continued to ask for purchases. Dad was looking for a new pair of shoes so we were spending a little too much time in one place for my liking. I decided to explore the shop next door to the shoe store without my father’s knowledge. As you can imagine, I lost track of where I was and forgot that I was in a very large city. In my excitement, I wandered further until another lovely souvenir caught my attention and I turned to ask my father once again if I could purchase it. But my father wasn’t behind me when I looked around. In fact, my father wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I was alone, in London, without any money and without the knowledge of the name of our hotel. I was lost!
Being twelve, I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. I didn’t panic. I just knew my father would come find me and all would be well. I knew my father couldn’t be too far away and all I had to do was wait. I believed whole heartedly he would come and keep me safe. I stayed where I was and waited. Of course, in time, dad did come frantically up the street, calling my name. We were reunited and all was well, just as I knew it would be.
Looking back now, I can only imagine what my father must have been thinking. Only the day before, a newspaper in London reported that the body of a 14 year old girl had been found. She had been taken and murdered. The worry on my father’s face when he found me was clearly visible. My father, much like Mary and Joseph probably were, was very relieved to find me unharmed.
When I think of Jesus at the age of twelve and compare my twelve year old experiences, I can see that Jesus knew right from birth that he was meant for greatness. He knew he was the son of God. Mary and Joseph probably knew Jesus was meant for greatness too but parental worry is instinctual and they no doubt had been very frightened for him.
This story is the only one recorded of Jesus during his growing up. The Bible records his birth, his baptism, this day at the temple and then begins again when Jesus was an adult. One story of Jesus’ childhood and what lesson do we learn? I believe this story reminds us of Jesus’ humanity and not his deity. It is sometimes hard to imagine Jesus being the son of God and the son of man. Part of him was just like any other twelve year old boy of his time or mine. He got lost in his excitement and did not think of the consequences of his behaviour. Jesus felt safe because he knew he was the son of God and he believed his parents would keep him safe. His curiosity and thirst for knowledge caused him to stay and listen to the temple elders, forgetting about the very real dangers of wandering off from the protection of his parents. This short glimpse of Jesus as a child reinforces his humanity. I would imagine, at some point in all our lives as children, we all experienced being separated from our parents and we all had faith our parents would rescue us. We all felt at the time there was nothing to worry about. When I read about Jesus as a boy, I feel closer to our Saviour. I feel like we all had a shared experience of being lost and found. Although the story doesn’t show Jesus being in any way concerned about his well being, just knowing both he and I shared a similar experience makes me feel closer to him.
Jesus felt safe in the knowledge his heavenly Father and his earthly parents were always protecting him. We should have that same faith in our heavenly Father. He keeps us safe and protects us from dangers. As long as we have faith in our heavenly Father, we will never be lost. And that is something we believers can always count on.
God bless you all in this new year!
– Melanie Clarke