The Boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

The Boy Jesus in the Temple *

41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,p

42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.

43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions,

47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.

48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”*

50 But they did not understand what he said to them.

51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.q

52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.r


Spiritual – Finding the missing Jesus

Let’s try to imagine how Mary and Joseph felt.  They probably had a great visit in Jerusalem, much like us when we have great Holy Week.  Then they set off for home, thinking that Jesus was with friends or family in the same caravan.  After a day of traveling away from Jerusalem toward Galilee, they start setting up camp for the evening.  Let’s further imagine that Mary and Joseph are pitching their tent near their friends and relatives and at one point Mary looks around and sees all the children helping and playing … but not Jesus.  She asks her friends “where’s Jesus?” and they say “I thought he was with you.”  They search throughout the caravan but he is nowhere to be found.

No street lights, no headlights – they can’t travel at night.  So they probably spent a sleepless, worried night in camp and then set off for Jerusalem early the next morning.  After a day’s journey, they arrive and find the population of the large city still swollen with Passover Pilgrims and the search begins.  Finally, they find Jesus in the temple.

Sometimes, this experience is a model for our own lives.  We unknowingly leave Jesus behind and we become so very unsettled.  Why do we leave him behind?  It might be from the distractions of our busy days, or it could be from some worry or concern that plagues our every thought; it could be any number of circumstances.  Whatever it was, we have lost touch with Christ.  When this happens to us, like Mary and Joseph, at first we don’t even know we’ve left Him.  After a while, however, anxiety creeps in and it seems we are ill at ease; we have no peace.

Like Mary and Joseph, we need to stop and look to see if we are still with Jesus.  (Notice that I didn’t say “check to see if Jesus is with us.”  We want to stay with him; we want to follow him.  We don’t want to have the attitude that Jesus has to follow us.)  When we’ve left him, we know exactly where to look.  We already know that we’ll encounter Him in His Father’s house.  For us, that’s not the Temple in Jerusalem, it is the Church.

We know that we have the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but Jesus is also present in His people gathered for the Liturgy.  Similarly Christ is present in His word read in the Liturgy.  Additionally, we encounter Christ through the priest acting in persona Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation.  “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

Spiritual – Mary is a model of prayer

Notice that this is the second time Mary didn’t understand what she had heard and her response was to “keep these thing in her heart” (verse 50, above and Luke 2:19 where Mary encountered the Shepherds).  Like Mary, if Jesus speaks to us (for example, in scripture) and we do not understand, then we should hold on to those words in our heart and keep taking them to prayer.

Spiritual – Except for sin, Jesus is like us in every way.

St. Luke has told us about Jesus’ Nativity and we’re going to hear about his ministry, which began when he was about thirty years old.  But for the thirty years in between, we know almost nothing about Jesus.  These are known as the hidden years (or also the quiet years, or the silent years).  The one incident that breaks the silence of the thirty quiet years is this episode where Mary and Joseph lose Jesus and then find him in the temple. No Gospel, nor any of the other scriptures describe Jesus’ life during this long, hidden period of Jesus’ life.

If you want to try and imagine what Jesus’ life was like in those quiet years, you can reflect on your own childhood and your own young adulthood.  Jesus is like us in all ways but sin.  Although we have no specifics, we can be certain that he led a holy life.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

One Comment

  1. Ed August 19, 2016 Reply

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