Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jesus In The Temple

Something happened the year Jesus turned 12. The Passover was always held around the time of His birthday, the flocks lambing in the fields, the warm sun bringing up the spring’s first buds. Usually this spring trip would joyful time, preparing to go up to Jerusalem, to join family there and celebrate the Feast.

But perhaps there a sense of sadness in this trip. Perhaps Mary, who had always been a quiet, thoughtful, inward person was pensive and distracted. Already well on in years when they had John, its probable that at least Zechariah, and possibly also Elizabeth had died, and that John, now thirteen, who always loved the outdoors, had moved into the desert with a sect of devout and ascetic Jews, the Essenes.

It may have been that at this time Mary and Joseph went to stay with other family in Bethany, where Mary’s sister had married and moved to. Jesus would have been without his beloved cousin and companion, John, and the faithful Zechariah to share the things of the Lord with Him. As Jesus went with family to the temple, perhaps His heart would have been heavy, lonely and longing all the more for God’s habitation.

The Feast of Passover would hold special significance for this boy. It was His Feast. The Holy Spirit must have quickened in Him a desire to know more, to probe deeply about the meaning of the lamb, the unleavened bread and the shed blood. We know that this time, instead of following Mary and Joseph at the end of the day, He lingered until the sun set, talking with the rabbis.

His family moved on, packing things up to go, looking around for their Son, but, not seeing Him, turning their thoughts inward again, assuming He must be around. All day Mary and Joseph walked, heading home to the dailies of life. Finally, at the end of the day, they realized Jesus was not with them.

Did they turn around right then and there, as the caravan continued towards Nazareth? Did they reverse their steps at that very moment and walk through the night, back towards Jerusalem? Luke tells us it took them three days to find Jesus; three days of panicked searching. Perhaps first to where they had been staying, then asking all the neighbors. Maybe they retraced their steps to the shepherd from whom they had purchased their Passover lamb.

Perhaps they visited all of their family’s favorite places. Finally they thought to go back to the temple, to hurriedly ask of those who remained, those who lived at the temple, if they had seen a twelve year old boy recently. A priest must have overheard them and asked them, “Is His name Jesus? A very remarkable boy has been with us these three days, let me bring you in to the rabbis...”

Mary and Joseph were stunned to see Jesus there with the rabbis. “Your father and I...” were Mary’s words. Jesus must have truly wondered at how little His parents knew Him. How little they had paid attention to His love of the temple, of Torah, of His heavenly Father, Whom He knew well. And Luke tells us frankly, “They did not understand what He was saying to them.” As the apostle John noted at the beginning of his gospel, "His own people did not know Him." (John 1)

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