Like many Bible stories, the finding of Jesus in the temple is familiar to my ears. It is most particularly called to mind whenever I pray the rosary. However, as I begin to study Scripture in more depth, I find myself with the awe of a child. As I reread and hear the stories contained in Scripture, they become real and form my life. God speaks through His written word, using it to communicate with us and give us His guidance.
Luke 2:41-45 gives an account of the setting of the finding of Jesus. We learn that it was a custom of the time to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover and find the Holy Family making the journey. Through the journey and celebration we recognize the vitality and presence of Jewish culture in their everyday life. When the feast was ended, Mary and Joseph sought Jesus among the company of the travelers; when they could not find Him, they returned to the Holy City.
On our journey of life, we must take into account the culture that we are a part of. Creation is unfolded through the development of culture, and the celebrations and customs are part of the expression of God’s plan. At times, though, in the midst of the celebrations we lose sight of Christ. We move on our way, searching among our “fellow travelers”; yet it is often necessary to turn back to find Him.
Mary and Joseph found Jesus 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) In this I find a strong correlation to the public life of Jesus. He taught by asking questions rather than giving dissertations on what was right. Engaging the reason of those who asked for His wisdom, He guided their conclusion. In Jesus’ presence in the temple among the teachers we find a brief glimpse of His perfect guidance and respect; by asking questions He draws the freedom of each person to choose right from wrong. This example shines through all His work and gives a precedent for teaching all through the ages.
Jesus remained in Jerusalem for three days. Just as He would be hidden for three days in the tomb, He is hidden for three days from the sight of Mary and Joseph. When we lose Christ in our lives, we are allowed to taste a bit of the anxiety of His parents; but we will always find Him in the Eucharist as the temple that was raised up in three days (cf. John 2:19, 21).
Mary and Joseph did not understand when Jesus asked them “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Yet even though He was the Son of God, He went back to Nazareth and submitted to their authority. It is amazing to really think that the Son of God Himself would obey the authority of human parents; it gives us a model for obedience that should form our very being.
There are many lessons that can be learned through meditation on the simple stories of Christ’s life. In the story of the finding in the temple, we find both a model of teaching and obedience as well as a glimpse into the mystery of salvation. In each passage of Scripture, God speaks to us to give us guidance for everyday life. Many times it is just a whisper in our heart, reminding us of the little virtues; sometimes it is a voice that tells us to glance towards the larger picture of life. In all things, Scripture leads us to Christ—the living Word who dwells among us and brings us to the fulfillment of life.