Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. –Luke 2:41-52
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was like growing up? Jesus is God himself come to live with us as a person. And God knows everything, and is all-powerful, and perfectly holy. But even though Jesus is God, he is also fully human—a perfect human, but human nonetheless. He got tired, he had to eat. As a baby he had poopy diapers. He learned to talk, just like you did when you were little.
So what does it look like to be fully God and fully man? What did God act like as a toddler? (I have a two-year-old at home; I am willing to bet that Jesus was much better behaved than him). What was God’s first day of school like? Did Jesus have to learn anything as a kid, or did he already know everything because he was God? What would it have been like to have Jesus in your class? Or for him to be your older brother? To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the answers to those questions are.
I kind of wish the Bible told us more (because I’m curious!), but we only have one story of Jesus as a kid. The reason we only have one story is because it was what Jesus did when he grew up that is really important for us, not what he did as a boy. But we do have this one glimpse of Jesus as a twelve-year-old. This is Jesus as a sixth-grader. If you’ve ever wondered what a perfect sixth-grader looks like, this is it. And it’s not quite what you would expect.
It’s actually kind of a funny story. Jesus’ family went on their annual family vacation to Jerusalem, to celebrate Passover (maybe you go to the beach every year; Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem). While they were there, Jesus’ mom and dad accidently misplaced Jesus. Maybe dad thought he was with mom, or mom thought he was with dad, or they both thought he was with the cousins from Nazareth. They were halfway home before they realized he wasn’t with them. (Can you imagine how they must have felt? They lost God! Whoops!)
So where had Jesus wandered off to? The toy store? The movies? The football game? The mall? Maybe that’s where you would wander off to, because you really love those things, but Jesus loved something else much more. He went to his heavenly Father’s house, the temple. Because even as a boy, what Jesus loved more than anything was his heavenly Father (that, by the way, is exactly what it means to be perfect: to love God more than anything else).
When Mary and Joseph finally tracked down Jesus, they found him in the temple asking all the religious leaders brilliant, probing questions. All the religious leaders were amazed by this kid. He asked questions they didn’t have answers to, and it seemed like he wasn’t asking just because he was curious, but because he somehow know the answers already. It almost seemed like this sixth-grade kid was trying to teach them. They had never met someone like this before.
When Mary and Joseph, flustered and exasperated, asked Jesus why he hadn’t gone home with them, he answered, “Didn’t you know I’d be here, in my Father’s house?” like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And it should have been obvious: Jesus loved his Father more than anything in the world. Where else, after all, would he want to be?