One baffled frown mirrored in the face of another. A skip of the heart. A tremor of terror.
I thought he was with you.
The caravans of pilgrims returning from Jerusalem reached camp for the night and families had begun to look for one another. The men travelled in one group. The women and children in another. Jesus, at age twelve was just between boy and man. The next year, at age thirteen, he would officially join the men. He had spent much of this year’s time in Jerusalem in question and answer sessions in the temple as he practiced for his approaching bar mitzvah the following year. It is easy to understand why each parent thought this in between boy was with the other.
They began searching the camp. Surely, he was with one of their relatives or friends. With each new empty campsite their hearts beat faster. With each negative shake of the head, their hope faded. At last, they were forced to face the unthinkable. Somehow, they had left their son a day’s journey behind in Jerusalem.
The caravan would need to proceed on to Nazareth without them. Mary and Joseph turned to walk back toward the Holy City. Once there they grew sick with worry as they searched for him for three days in market places and alleyways. Then, at last, they spotted the top of a familiar head sitting among the teachers of the law in the temple courts “listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46) Their boy was quite the temple sensation. Luke 2:47 says “everyone who heard him was amazed”.
They must have been weak with relief. Surely, they were angry with him for frightening them so.
“His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48)
The word translated “anxiously” here is the Greek word “odunao”- “to grieve, sorrow, torment.”
His response is stunning.
“Why were you searching for me? he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
He was so young, but there was no doubt in him as to who he was, or why he was here. It is the first reflection of one of the most definitive facets of his character; He was forever intentional in his mission. There were no missteps, no spontaneous decisions, just a relentless pursuit of his Father’s will straight to the foot of the cross and the redemption of all mankind.
But at this moment, he is a twelve-year-old sensation in the temple courts and his timing is impeccable.
By the first century, the number seventy in Judaism had become synonymous with “rescue”. The destruction of the temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC was devastating to the Jews. It was rebuilt seventy years later in 517 BC. “Thus the number seventy became connected to great acts of divine rescue.” – Dr. James Martin, A Visual Guide to Bible Events. The Romans seized control of Israel in 63 BC. When the boy Jesus stayed behind at age twelve in “his Father’s house” it was just approaching the seventy year mark.
As Jesus was stating his purpose to his frightened parents, it was the very moment when the faithful would have lifted their eyes from their calendars to begin to look for signs of a deliverer. The Deliverer indeed had come, and at even so young an age he was clear about his purpose and his Father’s will.
His name was Yeshua- “The Lord Rescues”.