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Why Did Jesus Go to the Temple at Age 12?
"After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers." - Luke 2:46-47, ESV
Today, we come to one of the most unique and puzzling passages in the Gospels. This is really the only incident we have from the childhood of Jesus. It is also the last glimpse we have of Joseph in the life of Jesus. It is also the one time we see Jesus do something that looks like it could be considered wrong. It does appear that his parents thought he was wrong. To help us in further study of this unique passage, I recommend these resources:
See G. Campbell Morgan's Explanation of this passage
See John MacArthur's message on this passage
I'd like to consider why Jesus did this and what it shows us about Him.
1. Jesus was maturing and was entering spiritual manhood. At age 12, boys in the Jewish culture were marked out as men before God, expected to enter into their own study of Torah and to mature beyond the childhood basic teaching of their parents. As Jesus was making this transition, He was also passing from the temporary guardianship of Joseph into the direct care of His Heavenly Father.
2. Jesus was demonstrating His knowledge and understanding. Jesus was putting on a display for the religious leaders in Jerusalem as a sign. One of the signs of Messiah was to be great wisdom in understanding.
3. Jesus was showing His devotion to the Law of God. Jesus was a devoted student of Torah, and He was demonstrating how much He had studied and how much He understood.
4. Jesus was showing His full humanity as well as His position as the Son of God. Jesus was truly human, and He grew in wisdom and in understanding, He did so perfectly, of course, unhindered by sin. Nonetheless, He still had to learn and grow. He is showing us this here. As He grew in His understanding of Scripture, He also grew in His self-awareness as the Son of God, understanding His position and His call.
5. Jesus was embodying Psalm 1, as the man who is blessed because He delights in the Law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. He was doing this as the Man who was to redeem humanity in Himself.
There is much more we could say about this passage. We could also speculate on what Jesus might have asked or said to these leaders. Some things we can't know, but we can know this: Jesus was fully human and grew in the knowledge of God and His word, only did so in a way that was so much more perfect and wonderful than anyone else ever has. This should encourage us to walk in His footsteps!
Prayer Based on Psalm 104:
Psalm 104 is a beautiful creation hymn, celebrating God's goodness in His rule over creation.
Fernando Ortega has a beautiful rendition of this Psalm, "Creation Song"
From Pray All the Psalms:
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord, my Triune God, you are very
you are clothed with splendour and majesty.
You are the one God:,
the Father from whom all things came
and for whom I live;
and you are but one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things came
and through whom I live.
When the earth was formless and empty,
darkness was over the surface of the deep,
you are the Spirit of God who hovered over the
I will praise you for you wrap yourself in light as
with a garment;
you stretch out the heavens like a tent
and lay the beams of your upper chambers on
You make the clouds your chariot
and you ride on the wings of the wind.
You make winds your messengers,
flames of fire your servants.
You set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with deep oceans as with a
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
I will praise you for you make springs pour water
into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
You water the mountains from your upper
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of your work.
You make grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.
The trees you plant, O Lord, are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that you planted.
The lilies of the field grow.
They do not labour or spin.
Yet not even Solomon in all his splendour
was dressed like one of these,
for you clothe the grass of the field.
The birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.
The birds of the air do not sow or reap or store
away in barns,
and yet you feed them.
Not one sparrow will fall to the ground
apart from your will.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys.
The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from you, O God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then man goes out to his work,
to his labour until evening.
How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and the whales and dolphins, which you
formed to frolic there.
These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send the Holy Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
May your glory endure forever, O Lord.
Rejoice in your works, O Lord.
When you look at the earth, it trembles,
when you touch the mountains, they smoke.
I will sing to you, O Lord, all my life;
I will sing praise to the Triune God as long as I
May my meditation be pleasing to you,
as I rejoice in you, O Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more,
by the triumph of the gospel, O Lord,
that they may no longer destroy this world.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord.
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