And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:49
The first recorded words uttered by Jesus in the scriptures! These are two questions that are both fascinatingly insightful and simple. The context of these rhetorical inquiries is of a son who was inadvertently left behind by his parents who were returning home from a journey. Apparently this was not like some day trip to the beach, it involved a caravan (implying many people) and several days of travel. And on this journey they noticed they left without Jesus.
For three days Joseph and Mary were without Him. They searched; no doubt, anxiously looking everywhere until they finally discover Jesus in the temple. There can only be inferences as to how and who took care of him for the time. What can be confidently confirmed was His interest in spiritual matters and His astonishing understanding of the Old Testament. And why not, He was the Word become flesh dwelling among the men.
The story of this incident intrigued Luke so much that he considered it important enough to include in his gospel. In fact, Luke gives the only record of this incident and it stands as the unique reference to the words of Christ at a young age. The verse is intriguing as it describes the mental growth and development of the Savior. Amazingly, that at such a young age, twelve years, He is perceptive and very much spiritually aware of His identity and calling.
What twelve-year old understands and communicates their purpose in life, with intent, as the Savior did here! In fact, His two questions are revealing about just how forgetful Joseph and Mary had become in their stewardship as guardians. Had they pressed out of thought the unique presence of the angels who spoke personally to them of His birth? Or, had they failed to remember the visit of the kings and shepherds coming with gifts to accent the significance of that day in Bethlehem? It’s a good question He asks, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
As a father I’ve experienced this age group four times with hands on experience. And each child, at twelve, was filled with undeveloped direction and a juvenile sense of understanding as to their own identity. This takes time and careful tending to see happen. None of my children, at the same age, had the capacity to know who they were and understand what they were born for at twelve years old—nor should they have! We are talking about the Eternal Son of God who highly developed in self-awareness and rapidly understood His mission and calling. What adolescent understands so completely their connection to spiritual things and appreciates so toughly the Father’s business, or “the [things] of My Father¹”?
Youthful Spiritual Awareness can happen and this passage gives us that hope. What we can do, as parents, is pray, talk about and relate uncompromisingly spiritual insights to our children. We can present a holy spiritual culture and Godly attitude as they grow up in our homes. Maybe we will not experience the speed and veracity the Savior demonstrated as He became aware of both His purpose and mission, but we can present an environment conducive to enhancing spiritual growth and awareness of God the Father’s plan for our sons and daughters! Teaching children can be fun!
J. Robert Hanson