There's just one story in the Bible from Jesus' childhood. It's about
a traditional family and a 12-year old with questions. Sound familiar!

When they [Joseph, Mary and Jesus] had performed all things
according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their
own city, Nazareth. The Child grew and became strong in spirit,
filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of Passover.
When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem
according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the
days, as they returned, Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. Joseph
and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been
in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among
their relatives and acquaintances.

When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking
Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the
midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them
questions. All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding
and answers.

When they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him,
"Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have
sought You anxiously." He said to them, "Why did you seek Me?
Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" But
they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was
subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.
Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God
and men.

                                                        Luke 2:39-52 NKJV, condensed

                       Jesus - Strong, Smart and Covered 

Jesus grew strong in spirit, full of wisdom and covered in God's grace.
And then there was the experience which everyone
remembered; a
rite of passage some have called it. Each year the family made the
pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. They traveled according to
custom, with neighbors and strangers. But when Jesus was 12, he
neglected to follow the custom, and chaos ensued.

That particular year when the festival of Passover had ended, Jesus'
parents assumed Jesus was old enough he didn't need to be told
that when its over, we go home. They trusted Jesus to follow the
established pattern. At age 12, Jesus had made this trip enough
times to know how it was done.

Then as now, people were predictable. In Jesus' family, just like in
ours, everybody knew the routine: how far to travel each day, where
to stop, the chores each one does, what time to get up next morning,
who would be ready first and who they would have to wait for.

Jesus knew the rules and what was expected of him. Yet the Bible
says, when it was time to go home, Jesus "lingered behind." He
stopped following tradition. He didn't do what he was supposed to
do. His parents were in for a surprise.

At the end of the first traveling day family members gathered together
to eat and retire. That's when they realized Jesus was not with them.
Had they expected too much of him? There's a sense of betrayal
when you trust a child and they show themselves untrustworthy.
There's also that sense of fear, what if something happened to him.
And panic. . .guilt. . .anger. . . .

Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem, to look for one child in the
big city. They searched for three days, then finally looked in the
temple. Of course, that's where he would be. How could they be so
slow to figure it out? Jesus was growing up and they had not noticed.
Here he was, amazing all who watched as he sat with the teachers
and scholars of their religion, listening and asking questions.

Mary had a question of her own right about now, "Jesus, why have
you done this to us? Shame on you. You let us down. We've been
worried sick and looking for you for three days."

Jesus gave it right back, "Dear parents, why did you seek me? Why
would it take three days for you to find me? Didn't you know I would
be here at the temple, in my Father's house, doing my Father's
business?" In a sense, Jesus rose above them. At age12, he had
outgrown childhood and made his point. He was God's child, and
you, my parents, need to trust God.

Jesus needed Mary and Joseph to set him free to be God's son.
Already independent within a limited circle, now he needed their
blessing to go much further. He was on the move. Life is big; his
calling was huge. Jesus was a divine work in process with the goal
of becoming the light of the world and the glory of Israel.

Having made his statement, Jesus went home with them to Nazareth
and was obedient to them. His submission was voluntary, a gift
from one person to another, out of love and respect. While Mary
pondered all these things which she couldn't understand, Jesus
increased in wisdom and favor. And those who took notice, saw
a brightness in him.

At age 30, Jesus left his home and continued his life of submission,
this time serving his heavenly Father. At age 33, when Jesus
returned to Jerusalem for his final Passover, he gave up his life to
save the world. He died, but the brightness lived on.


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker:  Recount a story from your childhood which family members
                     or friends will not let you forget?


Jesus grew up in a home where religious traditions were very important.
Did your parents take you to church regularly?
How did church attendance, or lack of it, affect the person
                        you are today?


The Passover Feast was a spiritual pilgrimage and a social event
enjoyed by both adults and children.
Do you attend annual religious events? Or celebrate religious holidays?
            If so, how important are those days for you?
In what ways does your congregation recognize children as they mature?


How do you react to the part of this story that says Jesus lingered behind?
Did you cheer this streak of independence?
Did you sigh, "Oh no, that's trouble"?
Why would Jesus have stayed behind without telling his parents?
Is there a reasonable or justifiable explanation?


What did you want to know when you first started asking questions?
How did your questions change as you grew older?
What happens to family traditions when someone starts asking why?
What questions would you like to find answers for at this point in life?
What do you think Jesus asked when he was a boy of 12 in the Temple?
Share something memorable which you heard from the lips of a child.


Hindsight is so clear! Joseph and Mary should have known to look in
the temple first. There were probably a lot of regrets.
            Did you ever have a situation which you wish you could erase
                        and do over again, this time getting it right?
If so, share anything you would like to about the experience.


How do you respond to Mary's anxiety level? Did you expect more from her?
Where was her "Fear Not" angel when she needed him?
Are you comforted to know that even Mary lost her cool amid stress? 
                        Is this OK, or should we expect our faith to do better than that?
Discuss your opinion--Did Joseph and Mary handle this situation well?
How might Joseph have reacted when Jesus started talking about his
heavenly Father? (Sadly, when the Gospel story picks up again, Jesus is 30
and Joseph is not mentioned any more.)


What does it mean to love someone in the way they need to be loved?
How did the child Jesus need to be loved?

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