The Boy Jesus in the Temple
by Bill Haley
His first great love was always the Father, from before the foundation of the world. To come from heaven meant a strange separation for a season, from unmediated spiritual union in glory to now a strange thing in between on earth, his own body. Born as a baby, he would grow into a man and not be spared a bit of the human experience, including the adolescence of a ‘tween’, God in a 12-year-old boy’s body. While he sought to be obedient to his earthly parents, there was the deep, deep draw to be as close to his heavenly Father as he could on earth. Therefore, the draw of the temple, his Father’s house, was strong. So there he stayed, for love’s sake. It felt good to be close to his Father in his Father’s house.
His mother and father on earth didn’t understand this yet, while they continued to try to understand the strange identity of their boy, and parent through his strange behavior. They reacted as normal parents would. They were worried for their son who’d gone missing - lost for three days. Three days is a long time for a mom and a dad to not know where their child is.
When they, exasperated, asked Jesus why he’d left them, or rather stayed behind, he thought they knew him better than they did. He thought they of all people would know where he was. He thought they’d know that, in fact, he’d never been missing, that he’d been Home the whole time, “in my Father’s house”.
He’d have been torn, between the love of his mom and dad, the love of his Father. Mary and Joseph were trying to figure it out, and so was Jesus.
As a 12-year-old boy still living in Nazareth, he went home, as he should have. As it says, “he was submissive to them.” The time to return to Jerusalem would come, another time to return to the temple. But not yet, and not yet finally. Jesus had some growing to do, which is what he did, increasing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Here we see the God-man as a 12-year-old boy, sinless, and yet still an adolescent, and figuring out how to love his earthly parents while knowing the perfect love of his heavenly Father, and wanting to be with Him.
It is a lot to ponder, a lot to try to understand. As we reflect on Jesus in every stage of his life and don’t always understand everything, a good posture to adopt is that of Mary, who treasured up all these things in her heart, and loved Jesus as best she could. More would come to be revealed.
Lord, let it be to us according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
Bill Haley is Executive Director of Coracle and the Associate Rector at The Falls Church Anglican. You can learn more about his work with Coracle and The Repentance Project by clicking here.