Most individuals know the story of Jesus being separated from His parents because they accidentally left Him behind after observing the Passover. He was only twelve years of age, but this event shows just how sincere and devoted a preteen can be to God. Too often we overlook the ability of those of this age to be devoted to the Lord.
Look carefully at the words used to describe this time in the life of young Jesus. We sometimes think that this was the first trip Jesus made to the holy city, but Jesus grew up in a family in which from infancy God was first in the family. He had been circumcised on the eighth day just as God had commanded (Luke 2:21). The firstborn son belonged to God, for He bought them by the blood of lamb in the last plague in Egypt (Ex. 13:2), so forty days after His birth Jesus was brought from Bethlehem to the temple in Jerusalem and presented to God “according to the law of Moses” (Luke 2:22). The proper sacrifices were made “according to what is said in the law of the Lord” (Luke 2:24). “So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to…Nazareth” (Luke 2:39).
Jesus grew up knowing the importance of consistently doing what God said. “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover” (Luke 2:41). Think of the impact this had on Jesus in contrast to a modern child saying, “Are we going to Bible class this Sunday?” From infancy Jesus had been taught to do what God says all the time.
After three days of searching, Joseph and Mary found young Jesus in the temple. Read the text carefully. Mary said, “Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (Luke 2:48). Now look at how Jesus reminded them that He had another Father who had first claim over Him. “I must be about My Father’s business.” It is remarkable that “they did not understand the statement He spoke to them” (Luke 2:50). Twelve-year-old children really can have deep understanding of spiritual truth.
In response to Mary’s words about their anxiety, Jesus simply implied that they could have avoided this anxiety and found Him much sooner had they realized that they had trained Him well. It is as though He said, “You should have known where I would be.” The ESV reflects the impact of the Greek language when it says, “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
Let me appeal to those who have younger children. Make sure the daily conversation in your home includes talking about God. Teach them by example the importance of worship and Bible study. Never underestimate the ability of preteens to have great spirituality. Make sure you do not lose your child.