by John R Ecob DD
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 46-49).
The birth of Christ was revealed to Zacharias when he was told that Elizabeth would have a son, John, who would “go before” the Lord their God and “prepare the way” for Him.
Later, Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to “the Son of the Highest” and that “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:32,35).
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leaped in her womb and Elizabeth exclaimed that Mary was “the mother of my Lord”!
The miracle of the incarnation created problems for Mary and Joseph for Joseph was a just man and was espoused to Mary but the angel of the Lord told him that this was of God and that Mary’s child would be the Saviour who would “save His people from their sins”. He would be Emmanuel, “God with us”.
The night Jesus was born in Bethlehem angels had appeared to shepherds declaring that this baby was “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord!”
After the Roman census was complete the crowds had gone from Bethlehem, Joseph found a house and stayed a while rather than take the newborn baby and mother back to Nazareth. Then one day wise men appeared at the door. They had followed a star from the East; they travelled from Babylonia for many weeks looking for the new King of the Jews! Then these imminent persons actually “worshipped” the young child! Only God can be worshipped!
There could be no doubt in the minds of Mary and Joseph as to who Jesus was yet it was kept secret and as far as the nation was concerned He was just another Jewish boy living in the town of Nazareth but that is what Isaiah had prophesied:
He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2).
There is an early 2nd century writing entitled, The Infancy of Jesus Christ, which claims to record many miracles of Jesus up to the age of 12 years after which it states Jesus stopped doing miracles until He began His ministry. These miracles included idols in Egypt falling over in His presence, devils coming out of people, clay birds flying away when Jesus clapped his hands and that Jesus turned his playmates into goats and back into boys!
These stories are fantasy and fabrications. The book is not an inspired writing or part of Scripture. It is part of the superstition that arose in the 2nd century among the Gnostic heresy which denied the true humanity of Jesus and taught that Jesus only “seemed” to be a man; a superman. The Bible has a different story: Jesus Christ was who He was revealed to be; the Son of the Highest, the Son of God, Emmanuel, the Saviour of the world but He was also a perfect human being, the man Christ Jesus.
We know Jesus did no miracles when He was a child because the Scripture states that when Jesus turned the water into wine,
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him (John 2:11).
The Twelve Silent Years
Joseph’s family was just a normal Jewish family for 12 years after the Lord was born in Bethlehem. The first year or two was spent in Egypt where there was a large Jewish colony and a Jewish Temple.
During those 12 years Jesus was learning in the same way that any child would. He grew in wisdom and knowlege. He studied the Law of God and attended the synagogue in Nazareth. Joseph would have educated him and taught Him the carpentry skills.
After the death of Herod, Joseph had brought Mary and Jesus back to Israel and they lived in Nazareth in obscurity: Just normal people in a Jewish town. Each year it was their custom to journey to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast and when Jesus was 12 years old, He was taken with relatives, and friends for His first Passover. This was the custom for sons when they turned 12 years.
The seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread passed and the family began the three-day journey back to Nazareth.
At the end of the first day Mary looked for Jesus and He wasn’t in the company. She had assumed He was among the large company of friends and relatives, but Jesus was nowhere to be found. Next day Joseph and Mary frantically went back to Jerusalem and arrived about dark. It was too late to search the city so the next day they began the search. Where could He be? Who gave Him accomodation for the past two days? Where did He sleep? Who fed the boy? Mary and Joseph were greatly disturbed. A 12-year old boy alone in a big city with all types of people; anything could have happened.
What Did Mary Tell Jesus?
We have already noted the message of the angel to Zacharias, Mary and Joseph. We have seen Elizabeth’s amazing claim that Mary was the “mother of my Lord”! Simeon and Anna had declared who Jesus was and Joseph and Mary could have had no doubts about the Deity of this child: that he was God manifest in flesh. Shepherds and wise men had proclaimed Him the King and Saviour of the world!
Then there was the behaviour of Jesus as a child. This was a sinless child! A perfect child who was always obedient, loving, curteous, righteous. This is not normal for any child no matter how good the family is. The very character of Jesus must have reinforced all that Joseph and Mary knew from the time of His birth.
Now at the age of 12 years they find Him in the Temple with the most learned of the men of Israel asking questions and amazing them with His answers and His mother says,
Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
Jesus corrected Mary:
wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
Mary knew that Joseph was not Jesus’ father but it was too soon to admit it and others would not understand which seems to indicate that Mary had not discussed all the events surrounding the birth of her Son with Him.
Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).
Was Mary still trying to fathom the mystery of the incarnation or did she understand that His time was not yet come? She certainly did not make it public; she kept it to herself and we are not even told whether she told Joseph what Jesus had said.
Those words of the Lord must have been ringing in her ears, “My Father’s business…” “Mother, don’t you know?”
Of course Mary knew! This 12-year-old boy was the Son of God! God was His Father! He would be the Saviour of the World and the promised Christ of God! How could any mother cope with such a revelation? All she could do was “ponder it in her heart” for it would be years before He would be revealed to the nation as the Son of God and “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” The words of Simeon would come flooding back
This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2:34-35).
This young boy would one day be the King of Israel but first He must be despised and rejected. And before He could sit upon the throne of His Father David the nation of Israel must fall and rise again in the last days. The nation must reject her son and suffer the awful consequences. Centuries of antisemitism and pursecution would follow the destruction of the Temple of God in Jerusalem before her beloved people would humble themselves before her Son and He would reign, “whose right it is” (Ezekiel 21:27) on David’s throne!
Nothing was said about Jesus’ Deity but Mary hid the matter in her heart. Joseph had died by the time Jesus began His ministry and at the wedding in Cana of Galilee when they ran out of wine she knew Jesus could solve the problem and so she said,
Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it (John 2:5).
Mary knew the time had come. The years of waiting were over and John the Baptist had declared who Jesus was. The Holy Spirit had visibly descended on Him as He came up out of the Jordan and the time of His rejection was imminent. Soon that sword would pierce her soul but in a coming day He would reign and many would rejoice in the Saviour of the world!
The long wait was over!