NOTE: After a several month break in posting “Questions Jesus Asked,” I am starting up again devotionally considering questions from Luke’s Gospel that weren’t included or were worded differently in Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels. I hope to share my thoughts with you once or twice a week.
Luke 2:49-50 – “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. NIV
Twelve year old Jesus addressed these questions to his parents in connection with a trip that involved traveling with other families from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Luke shares this account of the events leading up to Jesus’ questions:
Luke 2:41-48 – Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” NIV
Those of us who are parents can identify with the concern, fear, and exasperation that Mary and Joseph must have had in searching Jesus who had been out of their presence for four days by the time they encountered him sitting in the Temple asking questions of the teachers and elders. They were glad to find him; but they seemed more than a little put out by his actions. If one considers his answer on a parent to child level, it might have even aggravated them more. To Jesus the answer seemed obvious , but to his parents it would have been his responsibility to inform them where he was going and what he was doing.
After all the questions, Luke adds: “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Jesus wasn’t speaking on an earthly parent to child level. The fact that Luke mentions that Jesus was twelve is probably significant because he had just become or was going to become a “Son of the Law” or experienced his bar mitzvah. He was exploring his relationship to his Heavenly Father and His business or mission. In order to do that he needed to seek clarity from those who taught the Law and the Prophets.
Let’s apply this to our own spiritual journeys in seeking God (Jesus) and serving Him. Although God is present everywhere, people seek to know Him and His will in a variety of places and ways. Some people seek Him in nature (His creation) and nature’s laws. Other people seek Him in the context of culture and what’s right in the eyes of civil law. Others seek to know Him in a variety of spiritual exercises or disciplines that they randomly encounter throughout the world. Others just wait for Him to get their attention in some miraculous or dynamic way.
Jesus would ask us the same questions: “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” He is implying that our search for Him should begin should begin in a place that honors God (Yahweh) and teaches from the Scriptures about Him and His work (mission) throughout history. As we learn about God’s mission, we can ask questions from those who are farther along on their spiritual journey if we are a part of a group of fellow seekers and travelers. This doesn’t exclude having “God sightings” in all sorts of places; but it certainly helps us to know how to recognize Him when we encounter Him.
Many years ago my wife and I hiked the Grand Canyon. It was in the days before digital photography and not wanting to take a really good camera into such a dusty environment, I took an inexpensive pocket camera to take pictures. On the trail we encountered a mule deer, and I took a picture of her. When we got the pictures back, we looked at one and wondered why I had taken a picture of a bunch of rocks. However, after more careful examination, we spotted the deer whose camouflage was working perfectly. We just had to know for what we were looking. It helped that we had been there. It’s the same with our search to know Jesus better. It helps to know something about Him as we search for Him and/or seek to follow Him.
Some questions to consider: How actively am I searching to know God / Jesus? Where am I looking for Him? If I am a follower of Jesus, is He in my line of vision? Where is He working in my life, my community, and the world? How can I join Him in His mission?