30 April 2014

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.” (Luke 2:41-45)

Terri and I are blessed to have five beautiful children. We have a tradition when we load up the car to go somewhere of "counting-off" one through five so that we don't accidentally leave someone behind. Asa is only two and hasn't mastered his counting yet. So, after each child shouts their birth order number they all shout "five" together to let us know that Asa is buckled up and ready to travel. It is difficult to travel with a family of seven. I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to take a three day journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth with my family, extended family, and probably most of the small town. It is no wonder that Jesus' absence wasn't noticed until bedtime after a long day's journey.

Joseph, by law was to present himself in Jerusalem for three festivals a year. Passover was one of those festivals and it occurred in the early Spring around late March or early April. Mary was not required to go but had liberty to observe or not observe each of these feast days.

“Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty:” (Deuteronomy 16:16)

At age twelve or thirteen, a Jewish male was customarily required to begin living according to the ordinances of the law. It is not certain whether Jesus was fulfilling this “custom” of the Jews or if He was simply attending Passover with His earthly parents. The latter is most likely. I believe His age is mentioned simply to show the amazing power and wisdom that Jesus could display even at a young age.

Jesus did not ask permission to stay behind nor did He give a reason to to Mary and Joseph for doing so. This was not a matter of ignoring their authority for He had already subjected Himself to that and will do it again after He goes to the Temple for the discourses and debates.

It was common for families and communities to travel together to the feasts in Jerusalem. There is no indication of how large a band of people came from Nazareth but it was large enough that they could travel a day without noticing Jesus was not with them. At the age of twelve, it would also be common for a child to travel with other kin or friends of the family. Nazareth was about 3 days journey north of Jerusalem. When they stopped for the night they did not find Jesus among them so they headed back to Jerusalem the next morning.

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Tags: family, harmony_of_the_gospels, jesus, joseph, luke, passover, temple

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Elder Bryce Lowrance

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