Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, in the region of Galilee. In one sense, he was a normal child. He grew and became strong. He increased in stature (size). He was fully human after all. He had a human body.
But Jesus also showed that he was a special child. He was filled with wisdom. That is unusual for a child. Jesus’ intellectual development was not hindered by sin or depravity. He advanced at full capacity intellectually. He was never lazy or rebellious.
The favor of God was upon him, says Luke. And of course it was, for the Father loved the Son for all eternity.
This wisdom and favor would be noticeable in a child. The people of the town would take note that he was not an ordinary child. After telling us this, Luke relates a story to show it to us.
When Jesus was 12, his parents took him to the Passover Feast in Jerusalem. When a boy turned 12, he was considered an adult. This is what the bar mitzvah is about. It means son of the commandment. He became responsible for the requirements of the covenant, such as attending the feast days.
When they returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Likely, many families from Nazareth traveled together. The women walked together and talked. The men walked together and talked. The children ran and played as they walked along. Then at night, the families found each other and spent the night. But on this occasion, Joseph and Mary could not find Jesus. They looked all over the groups of their relatives and friends, but he was not around.
Not finding him in the camp, they headed back toward Jerusalem, looking for him along the road, then in the city. You can imagine how scared they were, wondering if something bad had happened to him.
It was only after three days they found him. He was at the temple, sitting with teachers, listening and asking them questions. Here is where the “full of wisdom” part is shown. He asked intelligent questions, causing the teachers and others listening to be amazed at his knowledge of the scripture and his understanding.
Mary and Joseph were also astonished. They probably had three strong emotions. First, amazement at his knowledge and understanding. Second, great relief that he was safe. And, third, anger that he had caused them this turmoil.
It was the last emotion that drove their response. Why have you done this to us? We have been in great distress! (48)
Jesus’s response is not one of repentance or regret, but wonder. Why did they look for him? Did they not know he had to be at the temple, his father’s house? (49) It was the natural thing for him to do. He likely felt drawn to the temple to be in the presence of his Father, a small semblance to the fellowship he had as the eternal Son in heaven.
There is an interesting play on words here by Jesus. Mary said “your father and I have been searching for you”. She knew that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but had assumed the social role as father and head of the family.
Jesus responded that he was in “my Father’s house”. He, at 12, reminds his mother that his real father is God the Father, and that he has a greater claim on him than Joseph. Jesus knew, at age 12, that he was the Son of God.
Jesus’ words also show that he knew he had work to do on behalf of the Father. Another translation of his words is “about my Father’s business”. You may have this as a footnote in your Bible. Jesus knew he had work to accomplish, given him by his Father, and he was doing that work. Therefore, he was exactly where the Father wanted him to be.
Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus stated this plainly. He said “I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)
He also said “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)
These words of Jesus to Mary, by the way, are the first words of Jesus recorded.
Verse 50 says Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was saying. Mary added this to the things she “treasured up” in her heart. These are things she determines to remember and to think about as Jesus grows up to fulfill what the angel told her at the beginning.
We see here that Mary did not understand all of the details of what would happen with her son. She obeyed God based on a broad outline of what she was told, but encountered many things she did not understand. It is a good example for us. We often do not understand the things that happen to us, but believe God because we know he has promised to be with us and deliver us into eternal life.
Verse 52 tells us Jesus increased:
in stature (size)
in favor with God
in favor with man
Jesus had a human mind, being fully human. That is why he had to increase in wisdom.
But as a human being, there were things he did not know. When the bleeding woman touched him in a crowd, he asked who coached him. (Mark 5:30) He did not know the day he would return, saying only the Father knew. (Mark 13:32)
How then did Jesus know supernatural things at times? The Father revealed them to him through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there were times when he knew what would happen in the future or what someone was thinking.
This is another example of the humiliation of Christ. In heaven, he, as God, knew all things. But he took on human flesh, including the human mind, and had the limits of humans. He did this for us, to accomplish our salvation.