Finally we get our first glimpse of the guy Jesus. The set up is preparing us for some real pot-stirring, so let’s see what happens. This is the famous “Boy Jesus in the Temple” story, and unfortunately it’s the only story we have of his childhood. A couple of things are worth noting, though.
He was obviously raised in a God-fearing, obey-the-Law home. Mary and Joe earlier in the chapter had him circumcised at the right time, presented sacrifices according to the Law, and presented him in the temple. The idea behind that was the Jewish tradition that the first-born was the family priest. Hmmmm, interesting tidbit there. They paid their money according to the law, though they only paid what the poorest of folks had to pay. At that time a fascinating prophecy is given: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against.’ He’ll bring life to some and ruin to others, and he will experience opposition, and ultimately be rejected. In the process, all of men’s hearts will be laid bare, and Mary will feel the sharp and intense pain of her son’s suffering.
Here we find the parents in Jerusalem at the Passover, just like any conservative, obedient, God-fearing Jews would be. Again, a testimony to their Lawful obedience.
In any case, Jesus is the one we’re looking at, so let’s get to it. I’m convinced the story is telling us that Jesus had to grow up by natural means, just like you and I and everybody else did. God didn’t zap him with special knowledge, but, then again, he didn’t need to. Jesus, I believe, had written the Bible, though he had to get acquainted with it through a human brain. It makes sense to me that he had to learn just like everybody else. (You know, that he didn’t know complex math at age 2, or had read and could discourse on the works of Plato by age 3. That’s what I mean.) I think the story shows us, though, that he had devoted himself to the study and mastery of the Bible, and by special insights given to him by the Spirit through his reading, he had an astounding grasp of the Word. In other words, I don’t think God just blopped it on him. I’m convinced Jesus had to read, study, query, pray, read some more, converse, and meditate to get to where he was in understanding. And the Holy Spirit rewarded his devotion with insights. The result was that at merely 12-years-old, he could astonish these greatest of all teachers in Jerusalem by the questions he asked and the answers he gave. His knowledge of the Scriptures, and his insight and understanding, were not automatic, but were hard won through the work of the Spirit in his life and his own diligence in studying God’s word. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (52) day by day and year by year as he grew into full adult life.
Again the stage is set. Whatever we discover from now on, it’ll be coming from a man who has a tremendously deep and wide grasp of the Word of God, has enough confidence and authority to go tete-a-tete with the best of country, and he has phenomenal insight and understanding. Already, again, I’m on the edge of my seat to hear what he’ll say and observe what he’ll do.
The whole set-up (background of the story) is a tribute to the Judaic religion and “religion” in general. All the references to their following the Law, and Passover, “according to the custom,” Jerusalem, the temple, and more, all speak to “systematic, traditional religion.” Jesus, so it makes clear, doesn’t stay behind by accident. This was no “oops,” but an act of intent. Jesus is found sitting, an act through all the gospels that was often a posture when he was teaching. He shows a messianic consciousness (“My father”), authority, and understanding. He confronts the religious establishment with his questions and answers. The point, metaphorically, is that He was there to supersede religion with truth.